On Writing: A Lesson in Holding a Pen or Pencil

When I was very young, I had a teacher who took pen posture and handling very seriously. I can't really recall if she was my first grade or kindergarden teacher, but I do recall being forced, over and over, to hold my pencil or crayon the ‘proper' way. While she didn't slap our hands with rulers, she didn't let any of us leave without holding our writing implements properly.

Of all of the things I have learned, this is one of the most valuable things. It's something that impacts my life on a daily basis, as my tool of choice is the humble pen and my not-so-humble moleskine journals.

At the request of a surprising number of people on Google+, I am going to try to teach you how to hold a pen or pencil properly. There are a few warnings that I feel are necessary before I start this exercise. Pay close attention to the photographs. I actually hurt my hand trying to show the common and improper ways of holding a pen. (It seems I strained one of the muscles on the top of my hand.)

Let this be a lesson to you: There is a right and wrong way to hold a pen, and I'm going to try to show you a few. This is for those writing in the right-handed style. While my teacher helped the lefties in my class, I'm not a lefty, and my lefty posture is probably not correct, for all I can write legibly with my left hand.

handwriting positions 001To start, I am going to show you how I hold a pen.

There are several things to note about this position: First, all pressure is evenly distributed between three fingers — the index, middle, and thumb. The index is a guide finger, while the middle finger and thumb stabilize the pen. The pen is resting near the knuckle of my middle finger, while the fleshy bit of the tip of my index finger keeps my pen going where I want it to. The thumb provides stability and support for the pen. When I write, all three of these fingers are in motion.

Note where my fingers are on the pen. In order to prevent hand stress, apply pressure near the head of the pen. The farther away from this point you are, the more pressure you have to put on your hand in order to make the ink flow. many pens have grips in certain locations on them. These are right above the head of the pen in most cases, and should be where you target when you hold the pen.

This, however, can change depending on the type of pen you're using. Felt tip pens, such as a sharpie, often involve the same basic hand position, but farther up the shaft. With pens with superior ink flow or ease of writing, I'll often hold the pen near the middle of the shaft. However, the basic positioning of the hand and form of writing does not change.

handwriting positions 002This is another image of how the pen should be held. I snapped photos with my left hand as I was writing.

There is something to notice about this — as I progress across the card, the angle of my thumb has changed to account for how my hand is moving across the paper. You won't write the same exact position every time — it does change as you work your way across the page or down the page. However, there are a few things that should stay the same. This includes the angle of your wrist and the angle of your pen. If you find yourself writing with your pen sticking straight up in the air, move the book or your hand. You want your pen able to move freely in your grip, moving to all positions as you need it. If you can't write with a fluid motion, you will strain your hand. Straining your hand is a common cause of pain.

A good rule of thumb here is this: If it causes pain, you're doing it wrong. However, however, however, you need to understand that when you're adjusting your handwriting to start, you may feel muscle soreness, experience minor blistering, and develop callouses. This is normal. What is not normal is pain after writing a few sentences.

When you hold a pen correctly, you can write for hours without stopping for a significant period of time. (I always recommend stopping every 5-10 minutes to shake your hands out for a few seconds. This will help keep your hands limber.)

Now that I've talked about the ‘why' and showing what it should look like when you're writing, here are some pictures to show how to get to that stage:

When I hold a pen, I am able to quickly adjust how I grip it — my hand is relaxed. It's easy to turn my pen into a pointing device. It's easy to open my hand up to grab something with my pinky and ring fingers. My pen is an extension of my hand. It isn't something to be clutched at, clawed at, and abused. When you hold a pen in a way conducive for long-term writing, it's just another part of you. It shouldn't hurt, it shouldn't cause discomfort, and it shouldn't slow you down.

You shouldn't have to apply a huge amount of pressure to get the ink flowing, either. The pen should glide across the paper.

When you start out, expect your hand to get a little sore. If you've been holding a pen wrong for years, you have a lot of muscle memory to undo. I recommend holding your pen in the positions I show above in the set of three pictures. These will help your hand get used to holding a pen correctly. When you get to the point you can hold it in ‘writing position' without discomfort, you should be ready to start composing sentences.

Try practicing your letters with the new position, and don't strain your hand. Take it a few letters at a time. You'll have to pay close attention to how you write because you're used to writing in a different fashion. This isn't easy, so don't feel bad if you have to try again over and over. Retraining your muscles isn't an easy task!

Here are some positions that you should not do. And these hurt me trying to write like this, so if you're holding your pen like this, you run risk of blisters and injuring yourself.

These positions are ones that you should be wary of. Gripping the pen between the middle and ring fingers is a common position I see and the one I hurt myself trying to mimic. While I could write with this positioning, it wasn't comfortable, my handwriting suffered on account of it, and I wish I hadn't tried it. I also toyed with holding the pen higher up on the shaft, another experiment that didn't work very well at all — this was a ballpoint, and the pressure needed for this style of ballpoint works better when the pen is gripped closer to the head versus higher up the shaft.

There is another factor in writing by hand that you should be aware of — your body position.

Please refer to this lovely diagram on how you should — and shouldn't — write.

stickfigure art - bad posture 001Remember, the things you do with your arms impact your entire body. You can really mess yourself up lying on your desk to write and putting your nose to the page. Try to sit upright. You shouldn't be ducking your head to your chest while writing. A gentle angle so you can see the paper will do. Your whole upper body is doing something when you write, and you can trigger headaches and muscle pain in your back and neck because you're stooped over the journal you're working in.

Treat yourself nicely, and try to adopt good back posture while you write. Also, don't put your eyes too close to the page. You can permanently damage your eyes. Once again, please refer to me for personal experience with this. I had bad posture for ages and now the ‘break point' of my vision is permanently impaired. I have trouble with making my eyes see things held within a certain range of my face. This was directly caused by writing and reading with my journals and books too close to my eyes.

I hope this helps you write for longer periods of time more comfortably!

Leave a Comment:

Writing Challenge 18 – 3 Things That Upset Me | Reading In Between says May 10, 2013

[…] of my heroes, Rebecca Blain, recently posted lessons for proper pen-holding on her blog. And it became painfully clear that I couldn’t. I’m not even posting a photo of my […]

Leah says May 16, 2013

I don’t think I was ever taught proper writing – I somehow have been writing all my life where the pen rests on my ring finger below my nail, with the tips of my middle and index fingers on the pen shaft and my thumb gripping. It’s given me a permanent dent in my ring finger, and it hurts after a paragraph – I’ve never liked writing letters or papers and took well to typing becuase of it.
I’m interested to try and modify this.

    Kaliya says April 28, 2015


      Jeff says October 23, 2015

      I had the same grip and same issues. My hand would hurt so bad after only a paragraph that I hated writing even tho I love the act of writing if that makes any sense..

      I’ve been trying to readjust to using a proper pec grip but my print is sloppy while I’m adjusting. I can’t seem to get good control of the pen. And I hear conflicting things about proper writing techniques. Some say to write with your fingers and some say to write with your shoulder.

        RJBlain says October 26, 2015

        Both ways are right, Jeff–the thing is you have to find the way that is comfortable for you. I’ve been using correct posture for writing for a long time… but it’s an incredible amount of work to retrain your muscles for a different grip.

        Once you’re grip strengthens, you can worry about making your handwriting pretty. Be patient with yourself–and find a way that’s comfortable. That’s really the key thing.

Kelli says August 14, 2013

My father did try to correct me, but I have been holding the pen wrongly for years. I was worried about not being able to change it. But after reading this article, I find t useful. Thank you!

The quality of writing in Mathematics lessons | @SPorterEdu says February 8, 2014

[…] aware by mentioning this to them?  To be honest I don’t know.  If you are interested,  RJBlain provides photographs and details of what you should look out […]

willy says March 17, 2014

Thanks alot its really helpful

OKay says May 10, 2014

You said that the angle of the thumb may change, but the angles of the wrist and the pen should not. How to change the angle of the thumb???

    RJBlain says May 11, 2014

    You’ll shift your thumb and index finger as you write, turning it into more of a full arm motion instead of just your wrist. (There are many ways to write comfortably, but I find the less intenstive, easier on your hand method is to use your entire arm (right up to your elbow!)) to write. Takes a little more room but you don’t have to clutch the pen nearly as hard. There is always going to be wrist movement, but you want to control how much there is.Writing shouldn’t take a whole lot of effort.

ANUP KUMAR SAHA says May 28, 2014


    RJBlain says May 28, 2014

    Try this: Rest the side of your hand in front of you, like you would if you were writing. Keep your hand totally relaxed, fingers a little curled. Rest your thumb against the top of your index finger. Your hand will be halfway between a fist and straight, fingers lightly curled–like you’re writing. Tilt your hand so your palm is facing you.

    Using your other hand, gently put a pen on top of your hand, one part resting on the fleshy bit of your hand between your thumb and index finger. Closer to the tip should rest on your middle finger. Rest the ball of your thumb and index finger on the pen. When you tilt your hand back towards the paper, you’ll pull the pen towards your fingers. If your fist lifts away from the table, that’s fine. When you write, only part of your pinky will touch the table. See if that helps you get better control of how you write.

    Experiment with something that’s easy to grip and comfortable. You shouldn’t have to hold the pen super tightly.

Reavanth says July 22, 2014

tnqs a lot dude

The complete guide to taking notes without a laptop – Quartz says September 9, 2014

[…] for a 50-minute lecture. If you don’t hold the pen correctly, your hand and arm may hurt. The trick is the grip—you should be holding the pen lightly, between your thumb and index finger, with your middle […]

Tariq says September 13, 2014

I m at the point in my life where my classes and exams exceed 3 hours. I’ve always held my pen extremely tight and now my writing hand hurt all the time, even more when I don’t rest it. This problem even affects me during my exams……. what advice can you offer me to help with this.

    RJBlain says September 13, 2014

    The first thing to do is to get a thicker pen — preferably one with a really soft grip. You can buy soft grips to put over pens. I find clutchers will clutch less on a larger pen shaft. But you have to train yourself out of clutching the pen; it’s a habit, and one you only break but forcing yourself to not hold the pen as hard. Using a good quality pen with ink that doesn’t ‘fight’ helps. Something with free flowing ink, for example. Pilot makes a link of ink pens called the v tech pens. They are very easy to write with, and use very little pressure to get the ink flowing. The more pressure needed to get the ink flowing, the harder it’ll be not to clutch the pen. Felt tips often require little pressure as well. Anything that is easy to get the ink flowing on will help. Bics are notorious for needing harder pressure, as are many cheap ball point pens–so avoid them!

    I know a good pen can be expensive, but if you don’t have to clutch the pen to write, I suspect you’ll feel a lot better.

mmm says October 8, 2014

In the picture u have bent ur index finger from the distal inter phalangeal joint. The proper way is to bend it from proximal inter phalangeal joint so that you get a long straight index finger to guide proper writing. If u bend it distally, u will get a small part of ur finger working.

    RJBlain says October 8, 2014

    As I’ve written many times… write in a comfortable fashion. I’m not going to argue which joint should be bent, because in my method (and your mileage may vary) how I write is comfortable for me. There are different schools of thought on how best to hold a pen; this is mine–that’s all.

    Also, as an aside, it’s very difficult to take you seriously when you’re capable of typing out ‘distal inter phalangeal joint’ but you aren’t capable of typing out ‘you’ and ‘your.’ (And it makes reading what you’re trying to say more difficult than necessary.)

    So, in short: Other folks like you may bend your fingers in different ways, and that’s great. The way I photographed is what is comfortable for me for long-term writing. And that is the main point of the article: Write in a fashion that causes no discomfort, with a side trip on how I do it.

    P.S.: There are many photos, some of which are purposefully incorrect. Which picture are you referencing?

      Erin says February 18, 2016

      Giving this person the benefit of the doubt, I think I might know to what he/she is referring. In your very first picture, you are bending both the proximal (big finger knuckle) and distal (knuckle near your fingertip) joints, which makes the top of your finger rest on the pen. In the next set of three pictures, the one on the right appears to show you bending only from the proximal, which makes the ball of your finger rest on the pen. I have personally found if I hold my pen in the latter position it causes the tip of my index finger to bend in an uncomfortable position. But, as you said, it’s about what is most comfortable.
      I also had a teacher that was big on the proper holding of a pen. I just wish I’d also maintained her lessons on posture. My handwriting varies wildly when I write for long periods of time because I slowly creep down closer to the desk and then, when I look back, I can see the exact moment I realized I was slouching and sat back up.
      Thanks for your post! I ran across it while looking for a new work pen. Do you have any pen recommendations?

        RJBlain says February 20, 2016

        I really enjoy a new Quill brand pen I’ve gotten. It writes really well. I also really enjoy most Levenger pens (They come in ball point, needle point, and rollerball, which is really nice!) Swarovski has a nice line of pens, too. My current favorite are FriXion pens, but they will erase under heat or cold, so NOT good for certain types of permanent work. (Fine if you keep the pages protected! Not for business use.)

        Posture is tough, because most people have the same habit!

GK says November 6, 2014

I have always had bad handwriting, and I was wondering how long it typically takes to make it look better?

    RJBlain says November 9, 2014

    That depends on you, honestly; just handwriting isn’t going to improve the look of your letters. You need to make a concentrated effort to make your writing look better. My suggestion is to find a handwriting look you like, get a lot of notebook paper, and practice writing each letter in the look you want–just like in elementary school. The way your handwriting looks is something you have to intentionally try to change. When I had ugly handwriting, it took me about two months of effort to improve it… but once I did, it became natural to write in nicer handwriting. Of course, how fast I’m writing makes a huge difference on how good it looks. If you want to write fast but make it look nice, practice your cursive.

Joe says November 20, 2014

Hey, thanks for the great article, really helped so far. However, I was just wondering what position do you tend to find most comfortable for you wrist, as throughout my life I have held my pen in the ‘hook’ position (right hand) meaning that my wrist has been at an almost 90 degree angle to my hand, which now results in wrist pain every time I write. Also, another article that I have read recently (link: http://www.paperpenalia.com/handwriting.html) mentioned that “You’ll have better control and a better writing angle if your pen rests over or just forward of the bottom knuckle on your index finger, not between thumb and index finger”. Do you find that the position where you rest the pen helps at all, or does not particular matter in terms of comfort and preventing any damage to your hand? Thanks for all the help in advance.


    RJBlain says November 20, 2014

    I had to check the angle of my writing at current. I write somewhere between a 45 to 60 degree angle. 90 is painful for me to even try for more than a word or two. I hold my pen resting on my middle finger typically, with the index as a guide rather than the main support. I can write without my index finger at all. My writing callouses are on the knuckle near the nail of my middle finger and the ball of my index finger.

    Hope that helps a bit! 🙂

Dana says December 21, 2014

I’m trying to teach myself to write with my left hand. I was never taught to write properly, so I write with my right hand with the position you called “The Claw”. Should I try to learn to write with the right position or it’s okay if I learn it with The Claw?

MMSowers says February 1, 2015

I tried the main method of which you described, but no matter how I placed my thumb when actually writing, pain blossomed in the first joint of my thumb. When I hold my pencil, it rests gently on my ring finger, my middle as a secondary stabilizing agent in front of my index finger, my index slightly further down the shaft, and my the pad of my thumb resting gently atop the first joint of my index. Really, all it is is adding my ring finger to my index and moving my thumb. Is this perhaps my use of playing the piano or sports where I use my entire hand?

    RJBlain says February 1, 2015

    It could be–I’m not a doctor, I just write a loooot, but I also don’t play sports or piano. I know some writers use full arm motion with very little motion of fingers and thumb. If the motions involving your fingers or thumb cause you pain, definitely don’t do it–because pain isn’t supposed to happen. Maybe try the full arm motion instead? (It takes a bit of getting used to, but if you have the space to do the full arm motion, that might be best for you.

    This is just what works for me without any pain. The key is finding some way to write that doesn’t cause *you* pain. That’s really the most important thing!

JH says February 4, 2015

This just changed my life, my handwriting (and comfort, I have arm/hand issues) improved dramatically. The hand-shake picture was really what make it click for me. Thank you so much. I also originally had the thumb issue,but it eventually went away once I relaxed my hand more.

    RJBlain says February 4, 2015

    You’re very welcome! Happy writing, JH! 🙂

wallawalla6 says February 5, 2015

Hi! I searched up handwriting posture and found this post. 🙂 I’m having problems with my writing; maybe it is the pressure I write with. Every time I write I start out with the same hand posture that you’ve shown, but as I progress my hand stresses, slowly rotates to the right (I’m a rightie), and because I’m double-jointed my thumb kind of tenses up into a Harry Potter scar kind of shape and my index finger resembles an inchworm in its tensed state. How can I fix this? I prefer writing with pencil and I’ve always written very darkly; writing lightly is a challenge for me.

    RJBlain says February 6, 2015

    I’ve never actually met someone who is double-jointed! I’m not really sure what to suggest for this problem, but my first suggestion would be to experiment with different angles–or make a conscious effort to correct your hand position as you write, resetting to the non-stressed position until you’ve learned that as your habit? The drifting/rotating to the right is probably something you can unlearn if you put enough effort in. It sounds painful to me, just trying to think of writing with my hand rotated that way. (Ouch.)

    Perhaps try using more of the full arm writing method and being careful to watch the angle of your hand? (If you happen to have fountain pens, they’d be great for learning this technique, since they write best that way, and require certain angles in order to write at all.)

    If you need to use more pressure, that’s one thing–but I would really look at breaking the habit of rotating to the right (which is pretty much consciously correcting it whenever you do it until you stop rotating your hand while you write.) I’m always adjusting the angle of my hand as I work my way across the page, but I no longer think about it because it’s been such a long-time habit for me. I really hope you can get your hand to relax, that sounds really painful!

Singh says February 12, 2015

I use a clenched fist like that shown in the last ‘incorrect way’ photograph. The main issue with this is stress on the muscles in the forearm, rather than a relaxed grip and fine motor control from the fingers. This results in pain, fatigue, bad handwriting and low speed. Is re learning correctly simply a question of writing out letters and cursive sentences on lined paper? Are there any exercises to help increase dexterity /fine motor control in my fingers, as even if I correctly grip the pencil, it’s difficult to stop the muscles in my firearm from clenching. Basically it’s difficult to relax my clenched forearm muscles and allow my fingers to do the work.

    RJBlain says February 12, 2015

    I had to sit and think about this one for a bit. Improving finger dexterity isn’t something I really think about much, but there’s one thing that might help–learn to twirl a pen between your fingers. You need a lot of good motor control to do that. (And being honest, I have pretty good dexterity, and I struggle with pen twirling!) That might help you get good movement in your fingers.

    The most direct route might be to practice on lined paper, stopping whenever you feel your muscles tensing, and shaking out the tension, resuming and only writing when your arm is relaxed. (And teach your hand / arm to relax by only writing when relaxed.)

    Either way, I don’t think there’s an easy magical fix for this. (And I’ve been in the tense muscles camp. It really, really sucks–and hurts a lot. I had an elbow injury that caused my forearm to become tense all the time… ouch, ouch, ouch.)

    You might also try things like string tricks — like cat’s cradle. That requires good motor control for fingers, and it’s pretty easy to learn. That might help you improve your motor control–video games are also great for this, especially console games requiring fine movements.

Tara says March 18, 2015


I’ve been writing the wrong way for a while… Recently I’ve been on holiday and came back to work and I am struggling to write++ I write a lot in my job and due to this I have become very nervous to write infront of people. I have found this to be a vicious circle.. The more I panic (ie hand shaking) The more I am unable to write properly. How long will it take me to correct this? Think it’s a consequence of writing in a poor technique for years.

    RJBlain says March 19, 2015

    As someone who also suffers anxiety… ugh, I sympathize. Not fun, not easy, and it is a vicious cycle. This may sound particularly weird as a suggestion, but you might want to think about printing out some really fancy print and learn to mimic it; if you can write something really nicely (in a calligraphy style, for example), people will be so impressed with how pretty your handwriting is that they won’t notice if your hands are shaking a little or if you feel nervous–and if you write slower, they’ll see how pretty it is and be distracted. I have a great friend who has gorgeous handwriting, and watching her write is beautiful–so that might be a way to turn a weakness into a strength!

    If you really want to impress people, practice the trace technique with your left hand. (Writing with your off hand is HARD, but it’s really fun when you can show you can do it!) That takes a lot of work and effort though. But, try turning writing in front of others into a game–and something you can be proud of. That’s how I go over my, er, performance anxiety… and people *notice* when I hand write, because it’s so different!

    Good luck, I really hope you can conquer your nervousness. 🙂

Salam M. Elhafez says March 26, 2015

I have really enjoyed your lesson on handwriting. I believe that proper way of hand writing is important in preschool period (kindergarten)to omit any problems that arise during learning process.
I am a professor of biomechanics and Ergonomics. I have done a research on preschool children handwriting to measure wrist angle and MCP angle during correct and incorrect hand writing posture.
I will present the results of my research paper in WCPT (World Confederation for Physical Therapy) conference in May 2015 and I wonder if you could accept using your photos in my poster display.

I would be grateful if you accept that and I am also willing to cooperate with you to carry out publish studies aiming at discovering the ideal angles of writing. so that we can generalize their results in all preschool children.

Thanks in advance for your help

Kind regards,
Salam Elhafez

    RJBlain says March 26, 2015

    I have no problems with you using the photographs for your study, although you might want to find a parent with a child and obtain permission for the angles and wrist measurements to make it more relevant. Good luck with your study and the conference! I hope you have a fantastic time. 🙂

kiki says March 31, 2015

please can u mack a video cos i’m 11 and i still don’t no

    RJBlain says April 1, 2015

    I’ll see if I can make a video–it might take a while, since video recording isn’t one of my strengths, but I’ll see what I can do with my camera. 🙂

manish says April 8, 2015

my index finger and thumb always slips and i can not hold a pen and so i cannot write please suggest me something.

    RJBlain says April 8, 2015

    They sell little rubberized grips for pens. If you have sweaty hands or grip too tight (which can cause slippage) maybe try a pen with grips? A pen with a larger barrel might help as well.

Kevin says April 18, 2015

For me it was my 5th grade teacher that taught me how to handwrite. You are correct that proper handwriting is invaluable. I landed my best job ever because of my handwriting skill.
Later I suffered a stroke and could not remember how to write. Looking at the pictures here caused me to remember how write. I was holding the pen right but I had the angle wrong. This should solve my handwriting problems. Thank you.

ABCD says May 20, 2015

Hello ,
I am not sure whether it is a problem or not but I hold the pen in the way that is suggested by the last(fourth) image , indicating the incorrect ways of holding a pen . The tip of my middle finger also holds the pen which instead should have been used to allow the pen to rest on .
Holding the pen by the method used by me forces me to make my hand stiff,if I want to increase my speed , ultimately leading to strain or aches in my hand .
Is there any way I can transfer the use of the tip of my middle finger from holding to supporting ? Or shall I continue the way I am writing now .

Thank you for posting such a wonderful article , that caters to the needs of many . Waiting for your reply 🙂

    RJBlain says May 20, 2015

    Stiffening in the hand is always an issue with handwriting–even if you’re holding the pen correctly. (Shake out your hand every few minutes to keep it limber.)

    Try various positions… but I’ve found one thing from having written several novels by hand:

    Speed always causes problems. I’m actually a fairly slow at handwriting. If you need speed, I recommend that you learn shorthand; shorthand makes up for the natural slowness of writing by hand. (There are lots of ways to write shorthand, including dropping words, using symbols, abbreviations, and so on.)

    I can get strains and aches in my hands as well–especially if I do not stretch or shake out my hand sufficiently while working for long periods of time. (As your muscular strength improves from writing a lot, this becomes less of an issue.)

mac says June 12, 2015

thanks u this help me a lot

Ragas says July 12, 2015

Hi.Could you please leave behind a picture of how all the alphabets would look like if I use this style.
Thank you.

    RJBlain says July 12, 2015

    While I could write out how my handwriting looks for full alphabet for each style, the way my handwriting looks won’t match how yours looks when you write. The appearance of your handwriting is something you will cultivate as an individual. (I learned how to make prettier letters simply by tracing someone who had pretty letters and kept doing it until I had pretty letters.)

    My suggestion is to do the same; print out a font you like the appearance of and trace it; figure out how to form each letter in the easiest and most natural way, and practice until you no longer have to trace them. That’s what I do!

    But that said, I can work on creating a blog post detailing what letters look like holding my hand in different ways. It’ll take me a bit of time to get to, however!

Mei says August 11, 2015

I’ve been trying to search online for articles that could help my habit while writing. I’m wondering if you could answer my problem.
Over the summer, I’ve developed a habit of tilting my head almost parallel to the table. I’m a lefty, so I tilt my head to the right. Does anyone else have this problem? I’m trying to fix my posture, but my head always has the tendency to tilt.

    RJBlain says August 12, 2015

    Oh goodness. I had a similar habit when I was a teen / young adult. I developed it from writing in bed and lying down, and it took me years of fighting with it to break it. The only way I know of to fix it is to either cheat and use a neck brace (which would probably be expensive and I’m not sure where you’d get one) or just correct yourself every time you do it. I ended up correcting myself to fix it–and stopped writing in bed without a lap desk or something to write on. I do still tilt my head somewhat when I write, but not to the level of being parallel. I think a little tilt is natural, just make sure you’re not hurting yourself!

Josh says August 26, 2015

Thank you very much.

Maryam osman says August 27, 2015

Im 21 year old and i have very bad hand writing ,and when i want to try to hold the pen as the picture i fell like my thumb has no power then i cant contril the pen because of my thumb i feel like there is no muscle in my thumd and my hand , before 6 years i had a nice hand writing i was holding the pen exactly like the picture but now i cant . Please i need help in this what can i do to solve this problem

    RJBlain says August 28, 2015

    Have you tried exercising your hand with a stress ball? That’s a good way to rebuild muscular strength in your hand, especially if you don’t do a lot of physical activities relating to hand strength. Squeeze a stress ball as hard as you can (without hurting yourself) and relax your hand; rinse and repeat until you feel your hand get a little sore. Do that every day until you can hold your pen without feeling weak. I like stress balls (the squishy kind) because it’s a two for one special! 🙂 Good for stress, good for keeping hand muscles in shape!

cres says October 28, 2015

Hi! I really am not comfortable in writing, specially if someone is watching over me. My fingers seemed to froze ang when i forced it to write, the motion went jerky. It looks like im in so much hurry causing my penmanship unreadable. I cannot slow down. how to deal with this?

    RJBlain says October 28, 2015

    Practice, practice, practice. I’m not qualified to help you with your anxiety when someone’s watching you write, but the only way I know of to slow down is to practice. You may want to try tracing the shape of letters you like the appearance of over and over and train your hand to make those shapes; muscle memory might be able to override the jerky motions. Only way to find out is to spend a lot of time trying to correct the behavior. (It’s not easy, but… worth while, at least in my opinion!)

Zoey says November 9, 2015

I’m sorry but I really don’t like this way of holding the pencil, I cannot get a grip on the pencil and it A) hurts to actually write “correctly” because I am trying harder to keep in in my hands, or B) makes my handwriting g ugly and light because I have no control, I fail to see how this is better. You can write however you want as long as it works for you! 🙂 😀

    RJBlain says November 10, 2015

    Yep, if it doesn’t work for you, write in a way that does. If you’ve been holding a pen/pencil in a non-traditional way for a long time, you don’t have the muscular strength for the other position. It’s a common issue. (Where I have zero control problems and a very steady hand when I write, but I’ve also been writing for a long time in this position.)

ashish says November 18, 2015

I used to write good but in the past year I forgot how I used to hold the pen… Its little weird and now I have to be conscious onto how I hold the pen and I am not able to do that… I have to put extra pressure using my thumb and finger and its kind of weired.. I am not able write properly as if I don’t know how to hold pen.. Help!!!

Regie says November 28, 2015

im having problem when i write my handwriting is ugly and sometime .y pinky and thumb hurts any solution?

    RJBlain says November 29, 2015

    Neat handwriting is a mix of having a steady hand and training. Find a style of handwriting you like and practice tracing it until you write your letters that way. As for pinking and thumb hurting, I’m not sure why your pinky would hurt, since the pinky isn’t really used when you write unless you’re putting too much pressure on it while writing. (If you’re resting a lot of weight on the side of your hand, make a conscious effort to easy up and stop putting so much pressure on that part of your hand.)

    Also make sure you stretch your hand every few minutes. Writing for a long period of time can make your muscles ache from being in the same position for too long. Good luck!

Daphne Jenkins says December 3, 2015

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

val says December 4, 2015

have struggled with holding, writing for the passed 20 years, could you help or suggest anything for us left handers> your thoughts would be most welcome.

    RJBlain says December 4, 2015

    Writing left handed is hard! I don’t write with my left hand often (I can do it, but it’s awkward, which is pretty much what all the lefties I know say about it…)

    Sharpie creates a felt-tipped pen that has as close to instant dry as I’ve seen, which helps with the smudging. Beyond that, I haven’t done enough left handed writing to be able to offer any advice on how to comfortably hold a pen in the left hand. (I use the same rules I do when I write with my right hand though, with heavy focus on finding something comfortable.) I only use the sharpie felt-tipped pens when I write with my left hand, otherwise I get illegible smears.

    I’m not a good leftie heh

GKJ says December 15, 2015

I write in the style as you stated above. I also follow all the recommendations given by you…… But problem is that i suffer from pain after writing a paragraph only. Plz recommend me …….

    RJBlain says December 15, 2015

    I’m not a doctor, but pain that fast isn’t normal. I’d go ask your doctor about it next time you’re in. (They’re really the best people to ask about pain!)

Nana says December 29, 2015

Hi Mr. Blain, I like to write and I have good handwriting but for years I’ve been writing with a very tight grip on the pen, and with the pen resting between my middle finger and my ring finger. As a result, despite the good handwriting, it really hurts to write for long periods of time (which I love to do) and I’ve developed a sort of dent in my ring finger. I was wondering: once I do the switch to keeping the pen between my index and my middle finger, is there a way to prevent creating a dent in my middle finger? Is it wrong if, when settling my hand correctly near the tip of the pen, my index finger is pointed at the joint in the middle? Is there a way to practice so that my handwriting doesn’t look awkward as I’m making the switch? And also, is it true that cursive is the best way to write if you want to write quickly but also neatly?


    RJBlain says December 31, 2015

    There will be a lot of awkwardness while you’re making the switch. Just practice when you can and switch back and forth initially; not sure what else to suggest. As for the dent, that’s almost entirely from the pressure. You need to make a conscious choice to change that. That said, I get dents too from long-term writing. I consider them a badge of pride. That said, I think switching how you hold the pen will help substantially. (I can’t write with my pen between my middle and ring finger; it’s really uncomfortable for me to even attempt it, so I can’t tell you the difference in severity of the dent between the two positions… but, that said, I don’t get much of a dent, but it depends on the pen I’m using at any given point in time.)

    I do think the dent will be minimized on your middle finger when you write with the new posture, though. (And you won’t need as much pressure to hold your pen, either.)

ⒶⓃⒹⓇⒺⓌ says January 25, 2016

I was taught this in grade 2 but only because i was so bad at it that the teacher made a class just for me and a few other students. xD

Sinta says February 11, 2016

Wowza, problem solved like it never haeednpp.

David says February 18, 2016

Does one really need confidence while writing?

David says February 18, 2016

Does writing has anything to do with gender. I mean most woman seem to write more freely than men

Laura says February 23, 2016

Good article. But there are some “equipment” also to note, that helps to hold the pens – Ring Pen and Ring Pen Ultra are some of them – http://www.ringpensales.com/

    RJBlain says February 25, 2016

    This isn’t a tool I would ever use, but perhaps someone else will find it useful.

parth joshi says March 4, 2016

sir i am lefty . i have used to hold pen 10years with thumb nd index finger only! as a result i write the letters without proper curve .

can i change the my writing style now? please provide suggestion.

    RJBlain says March 4, 2016

    Left handed is hard. I’m a righty, so my opinions won’t help very much, unfortunately. 🙁

    That said, never too late to change your writing style.

MARRION says April 21, 2016


    RJBlain says April 21, 2016

    Sure, it’s possible. It’s a bit harder for lefties, but you just have to work at it and make a concerted effort to change your habits. (Which is, granted, pretty tough.) My sister’s a leftie and managed to make her writing (and drawing) better after high school. It’s totally possible.

Micheal says August 7, 2016

It’s also possible for the correct way of holding a pen to not work. I was brutally (literally) home-schooled by my mother starting at the age of around two and as a result I always hold the pen perfectly. But my hand cramps up so hard as soon as I put pen to paper that it is impossible to write more than a few words without intense pain. If I feel it with the other hand all the muscles go as hard as a rock and there is nothing I can do about it.

Since I am actually a poet and writer by nature and love to write by hand rather than type this is had a pretty disastrous effect on my life. I’ve tried a lot of things to get around it, but it seems that violent experiences at such a young age get hard-wired into your neurons and it is really not possible to change them. Fortunately, she never tried to teach me to type — I learned that by myself, and as a result I don’t have problems with that. But I do very much miss the pleasure of handwriting.

    RJBlain says August 8, 2016

    If you haven’t been to a physical therapist, you may want to make an appointment. And yes, old bad habits can be changed, but if you have a physical issue (muscular or bone) it needs resolved first before you can retrain your hands. (But it can be done. It’s just very difficult.)

Kat says September 23, 2016

Hello – Right now I’m looking into improving my handwriting but I feel pain when I write (which makes me feel a bit discouraged!), where the pen/pencil rests on my middle finger I have a lump, and also when I do write it actually gets quite painful there and gets a dent and goes quite red (I guess the lump came from years of that….) My hand (sometimes forearm also) feels all cramped up soon after writing. I think I’m holding it correctly but I’m gripping it far too tightly? Especially when I’m trying to write quickly. I definitely realised after reading this that when I write I sit hunched over and close to the paper – so that is the first thing I’m going to stop doing.

I just really want to enjoy writing (and for it to be pain-free)!

    RJBlain says September 23, 2016

    Definitely sounds like you’re holding the pen far too hard. Try to loosen your grip and build the habit of using a lighter tough–or get very soft cushions for your pens. Some office supply stores sell little sheathes you can put on your pen to help with the hard grip issue.

Meghana C says November 6, 2016

I hold the pen as you have told but I get pain in my little finger as I keep on writing. How to control this and why is this happening? I write vertically. Is it better to vertically or slantly(right)?

    RJBlain says November 7, 2016

    I write at a slant, usually around 45 degrees.

      Meghana C says November 7, 2016

      I am getting pain in my little finger. Why? Please do help me with this issue.

        RJBlain says November 9, 2016

        Try finding a position that’s comfortable, and if you can’t, go see a doctor. If it’s the discomfort of a stretched muscle, that’s one thing–you’re doing something you haven’t done before, and that involves having to exercise those muscles. (And that can cause some aching.) Actual pain is a different matter, and you should see a doctor to see what the source problem is. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to give you medical advice.

Kayonga paul says November 6, 2016

Thanks for your help please.

N.E.C. says November 13, 2016

Hello, thank you for writing this blog post. It’s one of the top results on Google for holding a pencil and I found it useful. I have spent a lifetime holding writing utensils very badly – I press the side of my hand or ball of my wrist against the paper, clutching the pencil with every finger scrunched together. Nobody ever taught us how to hold a pencil correctly in school.

I’m learning how to hold a pencil with the thumb, index and middle fingers, but one thing that’s confusing is what to do with the other fingers. When I write, my ring finger and pinky get in the way. My handwriting is wobbly because my pencil fingers collide with my other fingers, especially when I reach the right edge of the paper.

May I ask how you avoid this problem? I tried to fix finger-collisions by straightening my fingers out and moving my arm in a larger arc. I find this unreliable. However, from your photo, it looks like you curl your pinky toward your palm and relax your ring finger, so I’ll try that instead. Is there a better way to avoid collisions? I would also like to know, do you ever rest any part of your hand against the paper?

    RJBlain says November 13, 2016

    Yes, I rest my hand against the paper. The trick is to find what you’re comfortable with. My pinky does curl while I write, and I use my hand and pinky resting on the paper to stabilize my writing. Sometimes I use my ring finger, too, if I need it. (This isn’t often, and usually when I’m near the bottom of a page.) Tucking your pinky and index finger towards your palm should stop the collisions and generally be more comfortable for you while you write. 🙂

Md says November 15, 2016

I want to my foundation name pen. How can I get order

    RJBlain says November 16, 2016

    Amazon.com is a good place to shop for fountain pens, as is levenger.com. But, most office supply stores carry at least a few!

Aditya says December 1, 2016

I m trying to change my grip to as you have mentioned. I start off with that normal grip but as after starting I end up with an very unusual grip. My thumb goes extremely back and my other two fingers tighten up. Please help me out. I have also suffered from writers cramp

    RJBlain says December 1, 2016

    I think one of the hardest parts about adjusting something like handwriting is the fact it’s a habit–you have to constantly correct yourself until the new habit takes hold. You will have to constantly readjust your position to the correct one (and your hand muscles may get sore/ache a bit as you stretch them / use them in ways they aren’t used to being used.)

    All I can really suggest is to keep practicing and stretch your hands when the muscles get tight–make sure you always correct yourself when you slide into a bad grip. It’s a lot of work, though, no doubt of that.

Keon says December 25, 2016

What about writing with you pinky and thumb? All of your pictures are index and thumb, maybe index, middle, and thumb. But I have yet to find anything on pinky and thumb.. I’ve been writing this way my whole life and have yet to meet another person to does to. Anyways happy holidays.

    RJBlain says December 26, 2016

    Hi! I’ve never seen anyone do it that way, and I just tried it, and it’s… pretty painful for me. After a little experimenting, I found a spot that wasn’t exactly painful but not comfortable either, so while I *can* do it, but I lack the control I normally enjoy with the index/middle/thumb method of writing. Were you taught that or were you just not taught a better way to write? (Mostly curiosity here, since I won’t be switching to that method for sure…)

aarush says January 5, 2017

great thanks for your experience i will try this and it seeems that my hand pain will improve

samuel orim says July 7, 2017

Very educative and important for parents and teachers. I wish get more of this kind of your lessons. More research to save our kids.

Brittany says August 23, 2017

Thank you for this. I remember my teachers trying to get me to hold a pen the proper way too, and it never sunk in. I now have carpal tunnel and an elbow issue, and while hand writing is definitely not the main cause, it exacerbates it.

I couldn’t even remember the proper way until I stared at your photo for a while. As soon as I moved the pen from between my middle finger and ring finger to between my pointer and middle instead, I felt a tiny bit of relief – it is less cramped. I will keep practicing, and this time it might just stick.

I have read elsewhere that it is also advised to make as many motions as possible with your arm, not your fingers or wrist. For me, this seems easiest with larger cursive, instead of my usual small print. That might be overkill or impractical for some people, but if anyone else is in pain but thinks best when writing by hand, it might be valuable.

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