Handwriting: Horseshoe Style

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Fri Dec 19 20:21:50 UTC 2008

Very interesting to see that some writers speed up their SignWriting by
missing out the bottom of the flat hand!

For quite a long time now I've been using what I call a "horseshoe"
style of writing, which is quite a simple idea. I just write the bottom
two corners as a single curve: I do this in flat hands, fists and
rectangular hands.

See some examples in the attachment, along with arrows showing how
they're written. I start writing at the root of the index finger, or if
the handshape has the index finger extended, I start writing at the tip
of the index finger. This means that I can write faster because the
index finger and palm are all one stroke, and it gives the first stroke
plenty of shape, so that the remaining fingers and thumb are easy to

I also curve the line of the knuckles inward slightly. This prevents the
palm from starting to look like a fist in fast writing by keeping the
two corners sharp.

This actually helps readability a bit: see how I don't need the forearms
to write "coffee" because the orientation of the hands is clear.

The second handshape I've written shows how to write the index, palm and
thumb in a single stroke. Quite good for fast writing but I tend not to
use it because the slightly-misplaced thumb can make it more difficult
to read.

Probably the most frustrating thing about writing SignWriting is that
the spread hand is so difficult to write. This is a nuisance because
it's also one of the most common handshapes in sign languages. I think
it deserves some attention to see how to make it easier to write.

Looking at the examples at the bottom of the attachment, I've written
the standard form followed by a form I saw on a blackboard in a school
photo that was posted to the list some time ago. It's the same thing but
with smaller, more symmetrically-placed fingers. I think this does make
it easier to write.

After that, I've written it with horseshoe writing (though might not
look like it if you haven't tried it!). I could just have written the
five-sided shape with a curve at the bottom, but I prefer to think of it
as an open fist.

But then, I thought, if you can think of it as an open fist, why not
think of it as an open circle handshape? Then you get the very
recognisable and very easy to write symbol that I've written next.

Finally, I've written a modified form where the fingers are merged into
one W-shaped stroke. This means you can write it with only three
strokes, but readability does suffer, especially if you write it with
different orientations.

I think I like the fourth one best. It really looks like a spread hand,
which is good for readability, and is very easy to write, too.

Sandy Fleming

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