Graphology or handwriting analysis is based upon the interpretation of certain signs and symbols to be found in a specimen of handwriting. In the view of a graphologist, the complicated mental, physical, and psychic machinery known as human beings betray so much detail about themselves in their handwriting because the actual process of handwriting begins in the mind, with thought. All handwriting is first an idea that becomes a desire to communicate that thought to paper. Graphologists perceive handwriting analysis as a doorway to the subconscious. As such, not only conscious but subconsciously formed habit patterns and personality traits show up in an individual's handwriting.

Because handwriting reveals the inner person through his or her subconscious, graphologists believe that there are universal symbols that are evident in handwriting, beginning as early as a child's first attempts at writing. For

King Faria, a water witch, holds a divining rod made of weeping willow. (CORBIS CORPORATION)
King Faria, a water witch, holds a divining rod made of weeping willow. (
example, if in a child's handwriting analysts were to observe angular patterns formed like the points of arrows or spears, they would have little difficulty recognizing such formations as likely symbols of aggression. There has been some conflict within the ranks of graphology on the question of whether or not pre-writing scribbles may indicate personality traits in children. A scribble, as defined by graphologists, is a spontaneous discharge of energy. It is not meant to convey a message, and children make them for the sheer joy of it. To children, scribbling is simply a means of expression. They leave on the paper, therefore, a record of their prevailing mood, whether joy or unhappiness. Likewise, if they are angry, they may sit down and make motions on a piece of paper resembling the slashing actions of a knife.

Graphologists are convinced that handwriting analysis can reveal an individual's innermost thoughts, motivations, and desires. The handwriting of individuals with an advanced psychosis and extreme neurosis would differ from that of an "average" person. In psychosis, the analyst would see traits that are considered normal, but they would be exaggerated, amplified, carried to such lengths that they would become, then, undesirable traits. For example, in the case of a schizophrenic, where the personality has separated itself from the everyday world and formed another world of its own, a graphologist would expect to see the handwriting symbols for imagination exaggerated to a tremendous degree. In the case of the extreme neurotic, the differences are again quantitative, rather than qualitative, dealing with a blown-up effect on one trait, and perhaps, a diminished, or totally absent, symbol trait which could balance the overemphasized qualities of the other.

Normal handwriting would, therefore, have to show the balance missing in neurotic or psychotic handwriting. A balanced handwriting would be the outward manifestation of a balanced mind. Leftward movement of the handwriting indicates a writer who has a tendency to live in the past and to be of a passive disposition. Rightward movement usually reveals a writer who is future-minded and somewhat aggressive.

The degree to which individuals have balanced their tendencies and personality traits is an invaluable clue to a prospective employer, and many companies and businesses have begun employing a graphologist on their staff. Graphologists maintain that an employer can get an indication as to how an individual will react under stress and determine whether or not a person in their employ would act in a violent, antisocial manner in moments of excitement in dealing with customers. To illustrate the above point, graphologists have shown how prospective embezzlers would give themselves away by their handwriting. The oval letters—the "o," the "a," and in certain cases, the oval formations on the small letters "p" and "d"—would be opened up at the bottom. It would appear as though someone had come along and erased the bottom of these letters, suggesting that the embezzlers want to fill up the holes with some money.

The above signs constitute a general rule and should not be regarded as universal or absolute. A cautious and discreet graphologist would be careful never to make a definite finding on the basis of only a few signs, but many handwriting analysts believe that company executives in charge of hiring could gain helpful information about prospective employees by looking for such signs as the following.

Small writing shows either the ability or the potential for a high degree of concentration. Narrow, peaked connecting strokes between words are an expression of withdrawal.

Introverted people are likely to sign their names far to the left of the main body of a piece of writing, continuing a general leftward trend.

Graphologists believe that even a glance at the white spaces to the left and right and above and below the written matter provides instant insight into the writer's personality. For example, if a left margin starts out narrow and widens as the lines of writing proceed down the page, the body of the writing should normally reveal, among other things, indications of enthusiasm, optimism, and generous spending habits. The left margin represents the beginning point for the writer's activities. If the lines of writing are begun far to the right of the page's left edge, the writer's pen had to make a considerable "leap" before tracing the first word. Individuals who begin writing in this way are also prone to "leap" enthusiastically into their undertakings.

If the left margin of the writing is overly wide, the writer may have erected a facade to conceal true feelings.

Since the hand must travel from left to right to execute a line of writing, a narrow left margin indicates a reluctance to move into the realm of action. The complete absence of a left margin may symbolize the writer's subconscious desire to return to an infantile state of dependency.

Individuals who set themselves apart from others because of snobbishness or pride leave inordinately wide left margins, but the graphologist must be careful, for such margins are also characteristic of the writing of shy persons.

If the left margin widens as the writing proceeds down the page, it is a sign of haste and a nervous nature. If, on the other hand, the left margin narrows as the lines descend, it shows that the writer suffers from fatigue, physical weakness, or perhaps, illness. Such a margin is also the sign of psychological or physiological depression.

The right margin symbolizes destinations reached, goals achieved, and the writer's attitude toward the future. In contrast to the left margin, which corresponds to the false front individuals may use to hide their feelings, the right margin reveals a genuine desire to be close or distant to the other people they contact in the course of living life. A wide right margin shows that the writer actually prefers to remain distant, while a narrow right margin shows a genuine desire for close relationships.

The idea of graphotherapeutics began in the early part of the twentieth century when a number of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors of medicine, and graphologists cooperated in a study of the reciprocal effects of personality and handwriting. They interpreted symbols in handwriting as having been formed by a sort of feedback process. Not only does the mind influence or shape handwriting, but handwriting can also shape the mind. The flow of electrical energy in the form of nerve impulses throughout the nerves and various nerve endings also returns to the mind along other neural pathways. Working under this premise, when people see what they know to be an undesirable trait appearing in their handwriting, they can change the trait by changing their handwriting.

When handwriting experts in police laboratories examine a suspected forger's signature or an alleged note left by a suicide victim, the first problem they face is to determine the writer's special characteristics. Even skilled forgers may not be able to see the subtle marks, pressures, slanting, and shading that an expert graphologist will perceive almost at a glance. The FBI Laboratory and laboratories of state and city police departments keep on file all extortion and ransom notes, all threatening and defamatory letters, and all messages that threaten bombings, arson, or personal attacks on individuals. As strange as it may seem, criminals of all kinds who once put their demands or threats in writing will most often do so again.

A famous case that demonstrates how graphology can be effective in solving crimes occurred on July 4, 1956, when Mrs. Morris Weinberger, a young mother of two, left her 33-day-old baby, Peter, in his carriage on the patio in the backyard of their home in Westbury, Long Island. Although she had been gone for only 15 minutes, when she returned she found the carriage empty and a ransom note that stated a demand for $2,000 and was signed, "Your Baby Sitter." In spite of her broadcast pleas for the return of their child, no further demands were issued by the kidnapper until July 10, when the Weinbergers received a telephone call and a second note.

Under the law at that time, the FBI could not enter a kidnapping case until seven days had passed. Once that time period had been observed, experts began immediately to study the kidnapper's notes. It was decided that the ransom notes had been written on a piece of paper that appeared to have come from a lined tablet designed for use in writing public records. Among distinctive aspects of the kidnapper's writing, there was a peculiarly looped capital "P," a rounded "A" with a short tail, and a capital "Y" that was strangely bold.

Six weeks after little Peter Weinberger had been taken from his carriage, a group of handwriting analysts managed to match the handwriting on the ransom note to that of a signature by a man who had received a suspended sentence. It was the 1,974,544th document that had been studied during the desperate search for baby Peter.

Tragically, the kidnapper, Angelo John LaMarca, who lived five miles from the Weinbergers, had thought he could solve his money problems by snatching a rich family's child. LaMarca had panicked on August 23rd and left the baby in a dense thicket to die. The kidnapper was found guilty of murder and died in the electric chair.

Although handwriting analysis may provide valuable leads that in some cases may lead to the discovery of the perpetrator of a crime and that person's subsequent arrest, the testimony of graphology by itself has not been accepted by appellate courts in the United States. In spite of the claims made by graphologists, the courts have ruled that it does not meet the requirements of the kind of science

Woman consulting with the book I Ching and using fortune sticks. (FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY)
Woman consulting with the book I Ching and using fortune sticks. (
that may be relied upon in a court of law. In those instances where a person's employment may have hinged upon a graphoanalytical evaluation, plaintiffs may sue an employer who used graphology in an employment decision.


"The Legal Implications of Graphology." Washington University Law Quarterly. [Online] 20 May 2002.

Loth, David. Crime Lab. New York: Julian Messner, 1964.

Lowe, Sheila R. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis. New York: Alpha Books, 1999.

McNichol, Andrea. Handwriting Analysis: Putting It to Work for You. New York: McGraw Hill, 1994.

Santoy, Claude. The ABC's of Handwriting Analysis: A Guide to Techniques and Interpretations. New York: Marlowe & Co., 2001.

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