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Penmanship: A Practical System

With penmanship, persons who desire to acquire a good handwriting cannot pay too much attention to the assumption of a CORRECT POSITION, of which there are three, the FRONT, the RIGHT side, and the LEFT side. The Front Position is most commonly used, and we always recommend it, especially to students learning to write. In this position sit square with the desk, but not in contact with it; keep the body erect, the feet level on the floor; place the paper in front of the body, in an oblique position, and square with the right arm; rest the left arm on the desk, with the hand on the paper to the left, above the right hand, and forming a right angle with it.


Right Side Position. Sit with the right side to the desk without touching it; let the paper lie square with the edge of desk; place the right arm on the desk parallel to edge, and the left hand above the writing, so that the arms form right angles with each other; body and feet are relatively the same as in front position.

Left Side Position.

Sit with the left side to the desk; body erect; left arm parallel to edge of desk with the hand on the paper above the writing; paper square with desk; and right arm at a right angle with the left. This position is recommended especially in the counting-house where large books are used, that have to be placed at right angles to the edge of the desk. The right arm should always be parallel to the sides of the paper or book.

Penmanship: the Movements.

IN writing, three MOVEMENTS are necessary, viz: FINGER movement, MUSCULAR or FORE-ARM movement, and OFF HAND or WHOLE ARM movement.

Finger Movement.

Let the arm touch the table on the muscles only, about three inches from elbow; hold the wrist clear from the table and square, so that a pencil laid on the back of wrist would be in a horizontal position; hold the pen between the thumb and first and second fingers; keep the second finger nearly straight and about three quarters of an inch from point of pen, resting the holder halfway between the end of finger and first joint; the forefinger, which is also nearly straight, rests over the holder; and the thumb, slightly bent with its end against the holder opposite the first joint of the forefinger, keeps the holder in its proper position. Guard against letting the holder drop in the hollow between the forefinger and thumb. The upward strokes are made by extending the first two fingers and thumb, and the downward strokes by contracting them; let the hand glide over the paper on the nails of the third and fourth fingers, keeping them closed above the second joints.

Muscular or Fore-arm Movement.

The same position of arm and hand is used in this movement as in the finger movement, but instead of forming the letters by the extension and contraction of the fingers, they are formed by moving the hand and wrist with the pen, letting the arm roll on the muscle near the elbow, and sliding the hand over the paper on the nails of the third and fourth fingers. This is the proper movement for business writing, and beginners will acquire a good business hand much sooner by constantly practicing it.

Off Hand or Whole Arm Movement.

In this movement raise the elbow from the desk, and move the whole arm from the shoulder with the pen, letting the hand slide on the nails of the third and fourth fingers. This movement is only used in making large Capitals.

Formation is the manner in which letters are made. All letters are formed with straight lines and curves called principles. The straight lines are all parallel and of the same slant. Curves are of three kinds, convex, concave, and compound.


All straight lines in the formation of letters should be at an angle of fifty-three degrees (53 deg), and all curved lines in small letters connecting straight lines should be at an angle of thirty-two degrees (32 deg); when the space between letters is diminished this angle is increased, but in all cases the main slant should remain the same. The above engraving shows the MAIN SLANT (53 deg) and the CONNECTING SLANT (32 deg).


The line on which the writing rests is called the BASE line, that at the head of the small letters the HEAD line; and the line to which the Capitals extend, the TOP line. A space in small letters is the width of the letter u and height of i, excepting the loop letters that have the height of capitals; d, p and t, that are two spaces above the base line; and f, g, j, p, q, y and z, that are two spaces below the base line.


It is better that students in learning to write should make all small letters withoutshading except the letters d, p, and t; and in shading Capitals there should be but one shade in a single letter. After one has learned the formation of small letters, shading may be practiced, making two or three in a word of eight or nine letters.