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Graphology (handwriting analysis)

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 16 June 2008

Can our handwriting tell us about our personalities? Yes! This is what graphology is all about. Graphology is very popular in some countries and is even used for recruitment. Here's our guide.

The meaning of handwriting
Handwriting is perceived as a form of communication and its interpretation can provide information about personality traits. It first came about in France in the 19th century. Although our handwriting is unique to each individual, it is still influenced by various factors, notably culture. So it is usual to assume that writing that is inclined towards the right means being open to the future and to others (in graphology the right represents the future and the left the past.) However, people of Arab origins, for example, write from the right to the left and have a different alphabet, so their relationship to past/future is not interpreted in the same way! This is why a graphologist must know important information about a person before being able to interpret their handwriting correctly.

Multiple uses
Thought of as an approach to personality, graphology has a logical application in psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry. A deterioration in handwriting often reveals a deterioration in the subject's mental balance, so it is used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of a particular treatment, or to see how a therapy evolves, for example. But graphology is mainly used in the world of work, as a organisation tool in HR, in skills reviews or even for recruitment, in some countries.

Graphology and recruitment
In France, close to 80% of companies use the services of a graphologist when they select candidates for employment, while neighbouring European countries only resort to this method in 5% of cases. It may help make decisions, but it's controversial and isn't the only way to evaluate applicants! Opponents of graphology claim there is little scientific evidence supporting its claims. The practice of graphology in fact only lies in the application of a code of ethics, and its random/unpredictable nature does not make it a reliable method. Handwriting varies according to our state of health and can change when we're tired and stressed.

How does it work?
Graphology can only be carried out on a handwritten document that has been signed by the person being ‘analysed.’ But to deliver a complete analysis the graphologist must have a certain amount of information about the person, such as age and sex, their level of education, sociocultural origins, etc. That’s why they often have a copy of the candidate's CV in their possession and other useful documents.

A graphologist studies:
- The general page layout. Handwriting proportions, margins and position of signature.
- The dimension and direction of the writing. The size of the letters, space between the words and lines, use of signs (punctuation, dotting the the letters i and t), angle of inclination etc.
- The shape of the writing. Round or angular, clean, clear lines, etc.
- The pressure on the paper and speed of writing.

Advice on taking handwriting tests (if you ever need to take one!)
Of course there are no real recipes for success, but there are certain traps to avoid. The most important thing is to remain natural and not to try to disguise your writing.
- Stay calm. Avoid holding your pen awkwardly: your writing will be affected.
- Write evenly. There must be a certain balance between the size of your characters, the space that separates each word and the space between each line of text.
- Take special care with signs and special characters. We often ignore these details, but they make all the difference. Dot your is and cross your ts well.
- Don’t align your text. You're not a computer programme! Although it’s advised to leave a reasonable margin on the left, let your writing be free on the right.
- Watch your spelling. During recruitment, applicants might be required to copy a short text. So avoid silly mistakes you don't need to make!
- The signature. It needs to be a reasonable distance from the text and must be in logical proportion with the size of the text. The signature is maybe the most important element, so end with style!

by Sarah Horrocks

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