Signature Writing

The signature is a powerful piece of art. It instantly tells anyone who sees it that this is the signature of an interesting, sophisticated person. A person to be held in high regard. In this computer age when penmanship is little taught in schools, a skillfully rendered signature is viewed with wonder.

This is nothing new. Though he was President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock is as remembered for his bold signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Penmen of the past understood the power of the signature and made a business of it. Signature cards, the forerunner of the business card, would be sought by those who needed the powerful introduction that a boldly rendered name could bring.


Anatomy of A Signature

In his book, Lessons in Ornamental Penmanship, Parker Zaner Bloser said that signature writing was considered “the most fascinating part of penmanship” in that it allowed the writer to display more originality than in normal page writing. He outlined several rules for well rendered signatures. 

First, a good signature must be easily read and pleasing to the eye.

Letters should be of equal size and spacing. A problem with amateurs, he noted, is that their capitals become irregularly spaced because they get caught up in the “entanglement of lines.”

Lines should run nearly parallel and cross at close to right angles.

Not every letter has to be joined as some are very difficult to join without making the signature look awkward. This is especially true of certain capitals.

Capitals should form a symmetrical combination or effect.

Harmonious signatures are not the result of hasty thought or action. Each stroke should be planned. Pencil practice is essential to a well-planned signature.

Shades should be the same thickness and as close as possible to the same distance apart.

A Challenge for the Modern Penman

It was the Victorian custom and later to use only the initials and last name of an individual in a signature and elsewhere. Nearly all of the signatures from that era are similar to the Isaac signature above. Usually, this was viewed as a sign of respect, but the practice ended for the most part after World War II. Today, it is rarely seen.

Creating a harmonious effect with capitals becomes a challenge when working with the full first name and occasionally the middle name as well as the capitals are now much further apart. Experienced penmen would regard this as “no problem,” only a chance to become more creative.


Letters and words overlap slightly with thin strokes only to bring the name together as one.


Signatures do not have to be written rapidly. Only fast enough to prevent shaky lines. Quick, short strokes and many pen lifts.


One of the great benefits of signature writing is the chance to practice whole arm movement. These flourishes cannot be done without it.