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I carry a notepad and pencil with me to jot down ideas. The problem is, my handwriting is so abhorrent that often I cannot decipher what I wrote.

How can I write more legible?

I'm not sure that learning to draw pretty letters will help. In elementary school we had a course that was called "writing beautifully" (Schönschreiben). The kids learned to write well-formed letters and received little presents when they did well. When I was in fifth grade, my handwriting had become so illegible that I stopped writing the cursive script I had learned in elementary and started writing printed block letters (by hand, that was before computers). But my handwriting deteriorated quickly again, and today I can barely read what I write. I'm too impatient to write more slowly than my thoughts pop into my mind.

I have obviously tried the answers to this previous question, and they didn't help. The problem is not that I cannot write legible, but that I don't. Training calligraphy again (for the third time in my life) won't keep my handwriting from deteriorating again once I stop doing the exercises or stop forcing myself to write slowly. These are not solutions, because I don't have the time nor will to do handwriting exercises consistently over the rest of my life.

Other people have legible handwriting without doing exercises. So please don't recommend them, I'll downvote such answers.

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The problem is NOT your handwriting

(well, not primarily your handwriting).

The problem is this:

I'm too impatient to write more slowly than my thoughts pop into my mind.

There are three approaches that I take to overcome this problem:

Use other, non- written methods where possible

  • Type notes instead of writing them (I use Evernote for this, but other tools are available)
  • Take photos on my phone
  • Get a digital copy of people's presentations where I can
  • Make recordings of meetings where appropriate
  • Draw quick sketches

Value your thoughts

If my notes are unreadable, it can worse than not having taken them in the first place. I have, after all, wasted resource (time, paper, ink) in writing the notes, and I'll waste resource in trying to decipher what I've written... all to little benefit.

However, when I value the things I'm taking notes about, I tend to be more painstaking in making my notes more readable. I slow down and make sure the notes are more readable.

Take briefer notes

By using less words to say something, I can take longer to write those words, making them more readable.

Sometimes, I find a single word is enough for me to remember the gist of something. At other times I use a kind of shorthand for certain words and phrases.

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Point 2 especially -- it sounds like he doesn't care to remember his thoughts, because he knows he won't be able to read the notes later, and isn't bothering changing his methods. What's the reason for even taking notes? – thursdaysgeek Dec 26 '13 at 18:57

As the handwriting is the problem, we might find other approaches that will not use it.

Something I do to take notes is using the recorder of my smartphone, as I always carry it around. May not be the best option if you are in a public place, but at least you will not be biased by your handwriting and you don't need to stop walking/driving to take your note.

Later you can listen and write it on the computer, where handwriting doesn't matter, or write the notes in a slower pace. As you already brainstormed, you will not lose any thoughts and may even get new ones!

Another thing, learning how properly type at a computer, using all fingers, makes typing much easier, with time you don't even focus on your fingers anymore. There are plenty of methods to learn it, google can help you here.

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I like the idea of dodging the issue entirely and switching to a medium where it's far more difficult to record unintelligibly. Becoming proficient with a tablet is another option if voice isn't viable in your common settings, I have a coworker who takes notes on one to great effect. – Snagulus Dec 19 '13 at 18:44
tablets are good and texting on small devices is my preference, but nothing is faster than handwriting. – Manuel Hernandez Dec 19 '13 at 19:30
Speed is a non-issue if you have a decent shorthand language or can truncate notes. Also, if your handwriting is borderline useless, it really doesn't matter how fast you can write. – Snagulus Dec 20 '13 at 17:04

The advice given your previous question, namely to acquire respected training material and practice, practice, practice is sound advice and is an excellent answer.

Nobody was born with good handwriting. We all had to learn how to do it at one point. Perhaps good hand eye coordination accounts for some people performing better than others but its more a function of how much practice is necessary rather than whether or not you can or can't write well at all..

After having learned the training material you have to train your muscles. You will have to mindfully apply the techniques you have learned. Begin by writing in a slow and deliberate manner. Guide your hand to apply each curve to each section of a character with care. If an idea is important enough to write down, it is important enough to write legibly. If an idea is important enough to write legibly it is important enough to write it slowly and write it well.

The goal is to develop muscle memory specifically to developing your fine motor skills. There is science behind the saying that practice makes perfect. ( With enough practice you will develop this talent to the point where it comes with little effort. You will be able to write legibly and quickly Good luck!

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Two ideas that I don't see suggested in the other post:

  1. Try writing larger. Seriously. I noticed that my handwriting is clearer when I write twice as big. I think this is because it is harder for things to run together and that it helps me with part 2.
  2. Try writing slower. Rushing often degrades the writing because you don't take enough time for each letter/word. Which makes them run together and look like a scribble.
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