Why Do Females Generally Have Neater Handwriting Than Males?

by | Apr 2, 2019


Females Do Tend to Have Neater Handwriting

Studies confirm that females tend to have better handwriting than males. University of Warwick researchers note that “Girls are generally better handwriters than boys, both on measures of overall quality and of letter formation. Girls also tend to write faster than boys.” A 2003 study found that “untidy handwriting scored high for Masculine Gender Role whereas tidy handwriting scored high for Feminine Gender Role, independent of the writer’s biological sex.”

The gender of a writer can be identified by their handwriting much greater than chance would dictate, with representative studies finding 64%, 64%, and over 90% of participants being able to correctly identify the gender of the writer. Most studies tend to find that gender can be determined with about a 2/3rd accuracy rate.

What are the genders of the below writers? Male? Female? One of each? *


Why Do Females Have Neater Handwriting?

There are a number of potential reasons for females having generally neater handwriting.

First: Handwriting differences may be due to cultural stereotypes. (I am guilty of this as I have commented on a female co-worker “writing like a male” and have marveled at a male co-worker’s extremely neat handwriting.) An experiment from 1991 asked 7 and 8-year-old boys and girls to imitate the other gender’s handwriting. “When imitating writing, boys tried to make theirs ‘smaller and neater’ whereas the girls said almost unanimously that they had made their handwriting larger, and half of them said they had made it less tidy, or more scruffy.” Thus, by a relatively early age children recognize the gender differences in handwriting, which may make it self-reinforcing – do females strive to write neater because there is an expectation they have neat handwriting? Are females encouraged to write better because there is an expecatation?

Second: Handwriting may be affected by prenatal hormones of the writer. During prenatal development, fetuses receive various amounts of testosterone and estrogen with males receiving more testosterone and females more estrogen. One marker of prenatal hormone exposure is the relative length of a person’s index finger to ring finger (called the “2D:4D ratio.”) “There is a tendency for the ratio in females to be above one with the index finger longer than the ring finger and vice versa in males.” Having a ratio above one is indicative of greater exposure to estrogen and lower exposure to testosterone. For example, males with lower 2D:4D ratios tend to have higher sperm counts.

This study found that the higher the 2D:4D ratio for right-handed female writers, the neater their handwriting. The study did not have any conclusive reasons for why amounts prenatal estrogen exposure would have handwriting effects but had a few speculations: that greater estrogen is correlated with a more nurturing personality and thus with less assertive handwriting or that greater estrogen affects body movements, including fine motor skills.

Third, neurodevelopment differences between males and females may account for the differences. According to Parenting Magazine, “During the early school years, when kids are learning to shape letters, the nerve fibers that control fine motor skills in boys’ brains typically haven’t matured as much as girls’ have. So the girls in your son’s class may be better equipped to conquer penmanship. Boys’ brains eventually catch up and their handwriting gets better than their early attempts, but it’s still usually not as neat as that of the girl at the next desk. That’s because women tend to have more nerve connections between the two sides of the brain, which also helps with precision.” Prenatal hormones may be at play in these differences in neurodevelopment.

Two Other Things . . .

I had a friend in law school who had horrible handwriting. Pretty much illegible. He ended up getting a scholarship for his bad handwriting and attended college for free. Here is that story paraphrased: “When meeting with my high school counselor about paying for college she noted that it had recently come to her attention that there were scholarships for people with disabilities that were going unclaimed each year and asked me whether I had any disabilities – anything that I was being treated for. I think she was asking if I had a mental illness. I told her the only thing I could think of is that I used to go to an occupational therapist for my horrible handwriting. She said ‘interesting – let’s try for a scholarship.’ I had to track down some documentation from my doctor and OT and I applied. A few months later I found out I qualified and had been granted a scholarship that would cover my entire tuition and books. For all four years. Crazy. I feel a bit guilty, but I guess nobody with any worse disabilities was applying.”

Finally, note that the practice of “graphology” which is determining personality traits from handwriting has been discredited. No evidence has been found that anything other than gender can be determined from examining a handwriting sample. See here for support of this conclusion.

*The first writing sample is from a male, the second from a female.


  1. I am male and have good handwriting thanks You for listen.

  2. It’s a good thing that I can type this comment because it comes out much more legible than my embarrassingly bad handwriting. I strive to have good handwriting and marvel at those who succeed at it, usually by far it’s women with the attractive handwriting.

  3. When will the differences in the connections between the hemispheres stop pushing anywhere… Well, this is not the reason for these differences. Not only are such differences not found everywhere, but the size of the effect is very weak. But no, they shove these differences everywhere, as the reason for different handwriting.

  4. I’m Arabian, even in Arabic language, females tend to have better handwriting. In where I live there is no expectation at all for girls to have a neater better handwriting, still they write better!

    In my family, I – female- and my sister, have way better handwriting than our three brothers!

  5. I remember thinking at a young age that my handwriting should have the precision of a typewriter (and size?!). I also lived with my grandparents- grandfather was a surgeon. Result: tiny, illegible scratchy cursive. Print looks great albeit small.

  6. I am of a generation where it was expected – both at home and at school – that women should have beautiful penmanship because they were responsible for household correspondence (cards, letters, notes, invitations, etc.) Of course this was also a time when learning to write cursive was a priority and we had dedicated penmanship classes and homework. I also remember there was a GirlScout badge you could earn for penmanship. My mother was always disappointed that I did not have lovely penmanship. In some ways it is unfortunate that writing style has such deep socio-cultural roots — made writing badly a badge of honor for boys and independent-minded girls. Perhaps now it could be treated as a skill and prized by all.

    • Well said, Susan.

  7. I have a higher than one 2D:4D ratio, but such terrible handwriting that I sometimes leave cryptic notes at my desk that even I can’t decipher. I do remember being embarrassed of my handwriting as a kid because it was not “girly.” My vote is cultural stereotypes.


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