Graphology—the study of handwriting—has long been considered a pseudoscience, in the same family as phrenology (in which a lumpy forehead could mean you’re a psychopath) and astrology (in which Mercury makes you forget your keys). But a new study by the National Pen Association (sure, consider your source) claims that the way you write can indicate more than 5,000 personality traits, as well as tendencies toward serious disorders like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
The results are parsed in an infographic that may offend any intrusive, lazy, and impatient writers out there with narrowly spaced letters, short-crossed t’s, and slashed i’s. Good news for wide-loopers of l’s and e’s though: You are relaxed, spontaneous, and open-minded. If you write with heavy pressure, you might be good with commitments, too.
While there are definitely better ways to get to know people’s personalities (like, say, talking to them), this handwriting analysis adds research to what typeface and graphic designers know intuitively—how the aesthetics of letterforms express information. For example, letters with no slant indicate "logic and practicality," as seen in the straight-up-and-down logos of no-nonsense firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The way graffiti writers play with lettering also reflects the study’s results—rounded letters indicate creativity and artistic talent, and spray-painted tags are rarely angular.
The infographic also demonstrates that unlike phrenology, graphology hasn’t been completely snuffed out by skeptics. There are currently four accredited academic institutions in the world that offer degrees in handwriting analysis, and psychologists report that sufferers of dissociative identity disorder often switch between radically different handwriting styles.
The National Pen Association study showed that schizophrenics vary slant within sentences or the same word frequently, suggesting a lack of "continual contact with reality." Professional graphologists also obsessively analyze the handwriting of serial killers—beware if your new coworker writes in "twisted" or "broken" letters, since Jack the Ripper did, according to the Anna Koren Graphology Center. Books like Finding Mr. Write: A New Slant on Selecting the Perfect Mate suggest that "if you find more than three negative characteristics in your partner’s handwriting," you may want to "bow out gracefully."
If you’re not convinced, consider that in A Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes himself uses graphology to diagnose "moral insanity" in criminal mastermind Moriarty. Fortunately, it’s set in a time before texting.