Handwriting: Horseshoe Style

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sat Dec 20 06:16:25 UTC 2008

SignWriting List
December 19, 2008

Hello Sandy!
Thank you for this message. It is fascinating to read...you have  
really thought it through so well and have spent time thinking about  
readability etc...it is very good information and thank you for  
creating the diagrams and explaining them to us...and it sounds like  
you write by hand frequently, which means that your input and examples  
are based on experience...

The printed-by-computer part of SignWriting is doing really well now  
and feels quite stable...but the handwriting is still new territory  
for all of us....

There are different levels of handwriting too...

On the experimental level, I am really interested in the issues of  
taking away the "base" or "root handshapes", when writing by  
hand...because over the years, I guess because we had good stenography  
experiences with the shorthand...I got used to the idea of slowly  
taking the base or root of the handshape away when writing for speed,  
and leaving the finger-configuration only, since it is the finger  
configuration that holds the meaning most of the time...

Obviously you have to have a plain square and a plain circle for the  
Fist and Circle handshapes, but when the fingers start sticking out of  
those base shapes, maybe the fingers matter more than the base? I am  
just throwing out this idea to you, since that is the idea that  
influenced me...

Recently Andre and Adam found a web page that we had created a long  
time ago and I had completely forgotten about it...I attach it here to  
this message...notice how the shorthand takes the base of the V-hand  
away completely, so only the formation of the two fingers are left for  
the reader...the reader essentially has to assume the base is there...

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Following that idea that the fingers are more important than the base,  
then the flat hand with five fingers would just be five spokes for  
five fingers and the base shape would not be written...essentially,  
the Shorthand would become the cursive form of sw handwriting  
maybe...this was an idea proposed by Dr. Karen van Hoek, who used the  
Shorthand as her SW Handwriting system and loved it...

The information of the base or root of the handshape is clearly needed  
in formal writing by computer, or even formal printing by hand, but  
when we start to shorten the writing, getting rid of the base  
information seems to be ok for readers who know the sign language  

Anyway, I will create a new page on the web for all your input,  
Sandy...and Andre's too...and Adam...want to show us how you write by  
hand? and others too...please write some and scan it in to show us how  
you write a sentence in sign language by hand - and I will post them  
on the web...

Thanks again -

Val ;-)


On Dec 19, 2008, at 12:21 PM, Sandy Fleming wrote:

> 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
> place.
> 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
> <horseshoe.png>
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