Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Noteworthy: Kate Gladstone The Handwriting Repairwoman


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Kate Gladstone teaches and remediates handwriting for individuals/audiences in the USA and elsewhere, as CEO of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works. Kate is also Director of the World Handwriting Contest. Her preference for Rhodia (generally the dot-grid format) is on grounds of quality and Kate mostly uses it with 1.5 mm italic pens, often Lamy with a teal ink (Diamine Teal or Noodler’s Squeteague.)

RD What led you on this particular career path?

I came to this career because, at age 24, I was struggling to improve my own (then) slow, painful, illegible, and ugly handwriting — a consequence of dysfunctional education along with some neurological disorders (most of which had not yet been diagnosed) As I improved my own handwriting, people whom I knew encouraged me to teach others.

My success (teaching myself and then others) particularly interested my father, who had experienced lifelong handwriting difficulties similar to mine during and after his Palmer Method childhood. He was the one who most encouraged me. I formally opened Handwriting Repair (now Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works) with classes offered to hospital doctors as part of staff development and quality control initiatives — in several cases, the hospitals had been on the point of losing accreditation, and/or individual doctors had been considered at high risk of facing malpractice charges, because of the consequences of poor handwriting in healthcare.

For over a decade, until electronic prescribing became common (and brought problems of its own), healthcare practitioners composed about two-thirds of my clientele. Today, my clients are anyone from schoolchildren to teenagers — some of whom contact me on their own initiative, having found me on the Internet — to folks of any age who simply want their handwriting to work, for a change (and who therefore are willing to change it so that it will work).

Additionally, many of those aged 35 and under have discovered that they cannot read cursive — and that this has numerous personally and professionally embarrassing consequences. (Fortunately, one can learn to read cursive in about an hour, because one does not have to learn to write cursive in order to learn to read it. I have taught people as young as four to read cursive if they read print — teaching that I do either personally or through the free iPad app “Read Cursive,” on which I collaborated with the educational software company WebTeamCorp.)

Nowadays, I check every new client to see if he or she can read cursive accurately and fluently — or at all. If the client cannot read cursive, then I teach cursive reading along with teaching italic handwriting. (In fact, I teach cursive reading by showing how cursive derived, step by step, from simpler and more legible letter formations such as those still used in italic.)

RD Why is handwriting important to you?

Handwriting matters to me for several reasons:

/1/ It’s useful and important to have a means of making your thoughts, transactions, and communications permanent without an electric power supply. Doctors and others in New Orleans found this out the hard way during Hurricane Katrina.

Just days after the worst of the disaster was being overcome in one Florida town, their largest local hospital flew me in to give the doctors some emergency handwriting training because the hospital’s Medical Records staff couldn’t read most of the handwritten records the doctors created in the four days during which the storm had knocked out the hospital’s power system and therefore the computers.

Handwriting and disaster coalesced in another way on that trip — at the hotel where the hospital had reserved me a room during my visit. Guests arriving, including me, were not being allowed to check-in because check-in depended on electronic key-cards — which weren’t working. Eventually, someone had the bright idea of going out to hunt up old, retired staffers and asking them how people had checked into the hotel before computer. The answer — the hotel’s ledger book — had been in the basement since the 1980s under a thick layer of dust, which the retired ex-staffer fetching the book had to blow off before using it to teach the other staffers how to use a handwritten ledger to check the guests in.

/2/ There is some research evidence (citations on request) that students who write by hand remember more, learn better, and think more actively about their work than students who use only keyboards. PLEASE NOTE that these gains appear in all forms of handwriting, including print-writing. This point deserves emphasis because too many promoters of cursive, when they quote the research, have quietly altered the reports’ findings to generate “scientific proof” of a superiority for cursive. This would matter less if such inaccurate statements about research weren’t made — as they are usually made — to legislators and to other decision-makers.

/3/ A third reason that handwriting is important to me — at school, handwriting washouts (which I once was) are often jeered (even considered unintelligent) by peers, parents, and even teachers. No child (or adult) should be subjected to this still-permitted bigotry.

RD How can one get started to improve their writing?

To get started on improving your own writing would be a column in itself — that subject needs and deserves more than one article. Here, though, are tips that most of us can use:

■ Cross lowercase t’s as you write them. Don’t wait to go back after the entire word is written.

■ Simplify the downstrokes of letters, by keeping them as free from curves as you can, and using only about a 5-degree to 15-degree slant to the right (too much slant causes poor legibility). A slight right slant is easier to read, in a left-to-right alphabet like ours, than a slight left slant.

■ Eliminate loops wherever possible. Simply retrace your initial stroke on ascenders, or lift the pen without looping on descenders. (Most adults who write fast but legibly normally eliminate some or many loops and joiners in their handwriting.)

■ Join letters with straight lines, not curves. For example, join o to n with a straight, short horizontal line.

■ Be aware of the research on speed and legibility. Current research (citations on request) show that the highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting belong to those whose writing is print-like and semi-joined, joining only where the joins are structurally easiest and least accident-prone.

■ Use very simple, even “print-like,” formations of letters, even when writing capitals and/or joined letters. Remember, capitals form only 2% of ordinary prose text (they should not receive 50% of the elaboration and effort).

■ Most people should position the paper so that its center is in front of the writing-arm’s shoulder. To keep it in place, and move it as needed after a few words, use your non-writing hand — perhaps with a paperweight or a stress ball.

■ Even if you do nothing else as you write, quietly ask yourself — for a split-second, as you finish each letter or numeral, “Did I make this letter well — unambiguously legible — and was it easy to do so without risking accidents in the handwriting?” If you can honestly answer YES to both halves of the question, require yourself to wrote the next alphabet-letter or numeral a tiny bit faster. However, if you must honestly answer “No” for both parts, require yourself to write the next alphabet-letter or numeral a tiny bit slower. This — even if just for a few minutes a day — is a powerful means of developing legibility and speed in your handwriting, and an equally powerful means of developing your ability to perceive and evaluate these features of your own handwriting.

Please visit Kate on the web at:Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works.

Read Cursive app is specially designed to help children (and others) learn letters, sentences, words, and stories in different and interesting styles. In short, this app will help the users get familiar with cursive handwriting and this skill is going to help them learn to read even difficult handwriting faster.

0 thoughts on “Noteworthy: Kate Gladstone The Handwriting Repairwoman

  1. Growing up in England I was spared the Palmer method and the Spencerian hand. At first we printed then began to join the letters, all of the letters to begin with and with looped ascenders and decsenders. At age 11 and secondary school, the insistence on loops and ligatures was on the wane. My handwriting was legible but pretty childish ubtil I found Tom Gourdie’s “Simple Modern Hand”. I’m no calligrapher but my writing is neat and readable. Gourdie’s advice was the same as Kate’s and works with any style of pen.

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