Females Do Tend to Have Neater Handwriting
Studies confirm that females tend to have better handwriting than males. University of Warwick researchers
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
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.