The Effect of Hand and Paper Positions on the Quality of Left-Handed Manuscript Writing

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Education, Reading


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Norma Sadler


Stanley F. Steiner


Leona J. Manke


Handwriting of left-handed writers has been a unique concern of educators for many years. The technique that has been long recommended in handwriting literature and in instruction manuals is one in which the left-handed writer holds his/her hand below the line of writing and tilts the top of the paper to the right. There has been evidence in recent years, however, that hand position while writing is determined by cerebral organization, and therefore, this below-the-line (noninverted) hand position is not natural for many left-handed writers. If cerebral organization determines hand position, then requiring all left-handed writers to use a noninverted position is not only incorrect but also possibly detrimental. Educators who allow left-handed writers to use a hand position that is more natural to them need to be able to recommend a paper position that complements that hand position and produces a high quality of handwriting.

This study evaluated the handwriting techniques and quality of sixty-three first and second grade left-handed students. Hand and paper position of each subject was evaluated through observation, video, and interrater analysis, and each subject was classified into one of eight hand/paper position categories. Handwriting samples were rated for quality or writing, based on five criteria: shape, slant consistency, spacing, size, and smoothness. Data were analyzed to determine which paper position produced the best quality of handwriting got each of the three different hand positions: noninverted (below the line of writing), beside the line of writing, and above the line of writing.

The traditionally recommended noninverted hand position was used by only two of the 63 subjects, both of whom tilted the paper to the right and had average or higher quality. The remaining subjects held their hands either beside or above the line of writing (inverted). Those using a beside-the-line position used a vertical paper position or a right tilt, and produced a slightly higher quality with the paper tilted to the right. Those who held their hands above the line used predominately a vertical paper position or a right tilt, with only one subject tilting to the left. These above-the-line writers produced much higher quality with the paper in a vertical position or tilted to the left, and, in fact, produced the overall highest quality of the six inverted positions.

When a left-handed writer naturally uses the noninverted position, the long-recommended technique of tilting the paper to the right appears to be very successful. There was only a slight difference between the two inverted hand positions, and results showed subjects who used a hand position slightly above the line of writing produced better quality than those who used a position beside the line of writing. Therefore, it is recommended that writers who naturally use an inverted position be encouraged to place their slightly above the line of writing and place their papers in a vertical position. In fact, it may be advantageous to tilt the paper to the left, found by previous research (Enstrom, 1957) to be the most successful position for inverted writers. This position has been found to be successful in classroom practice by this researcher as well.

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