Nearly half of Americans struggle to read their own handwriting, survey finds

NEW YORK — How would you rate your penmanship? A new survey finds that nearly half of Americans have trouble reading their own handwriting, leading to problems in the workplace.

The survey of 2,000 adults, commissioned by writing utensil company Bic, found that not only do 45% of people struggle to figure out their own scribblings, but their poor handwriting skills has led to two instance of miscommunication at work with colleagues. Perhaps it’s because one in two say others have told them it’s hard to read their writing.

In fact, seven out of ten respondents agreed that struggling to read a coworker’s handwriting is a common challenge.

The study also revealed some of the underlying pressures of handwriting. When asked what they would feel if they had to write sentences on a whiteboard in front of their peers, a third said it would be anxiety-inducing, while 23% were “terrified” by the prospect.

And yet despite the fact that so many people have trouble reading their own work, many of us still prefer handwritten material much of the time. Overall, 86% said they write notes to themselves as a primary method for organization, with “writing lists” as the most common method Americans use to order tasks in their heads. Even half of tech-savvy millennials still turn to the pen when it comes to planning or note-taking.

“Despite all of the technology available to us, writing remains an important part of daily life, whether it is to communicate with a loved one, organize oneself, or for memory retention,” notes Janel Lewis, Director of Stationery Marketing for Bic, in a statement.

The most common written material to be misread were grocery lists, greeting or holiday cards, and thank-you notes.

Although seven out of ten surveyed said they were taught cursive in school, 64% said they wished more emphasis had been placed on handwriting over the years. Similarly, one in four parents who took part in the survey believe teachers should spend more time focusing on the importance of handwriting in the classroom.

Some additional findings from the survey:


Shopping list (27%)
Note to colleague (27%)
Note to partner (22%)
Birthday card (21%)
Thank you note (19%)


Writing lists (72%)
Reminders (59%)
Planning (51%)
Writing Post-It notes (45%)
Notes for colleagues (35%)
Brainstorms (33%)
Editing/marking things by hand (32%)


Write too small (25%)
Write too big (23%)
Letters overlap (22%)
Isn’t “pretty” (21%)
Write on a slant (20%)

The survey was conducted by market research firm OnePoll in December 2018.

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