Category Archives: letter formation in handwriting

Is your child’s handwriting difficult to read?

A test has been devised to measure how good or how bad a student’s handwriting really is.  This test takes into account your impression of five aspects of the handwriting:

  • its legibility,
  • the amount of effort you need to read the handwriting,
  • the look of the layout/organization of the writing on the page,
  • letter formation, and
  • efforts to fix or rewrite letters by the child.

This Handwriting Legibility Scale (HLS) was developed by A.L. Barnett, M. Prunty, and S. Rosenblum in 2017.  You can access it at

Briefly, let me explain.  The test takes six minutes for a child of nine or older.   An adult dictates a passage appropriate to the child’s reading and spelling skills.  The child writes the passage on notebook paper with little direction from the adult.  At the end of six minutes the adult ends the test and evaluates the handwriting.  The content of the  writing is irrelevant to this test.

The authors of the test suggest a scale of from one to five for each of the five elements named above.  The adult assigns a value to each of the five elements as shown by the student’s writing, with a score of one meaning excellent performance and of five meaning poor performance.  The five scores are then totaled.  Writing scores of 5 or slightly above mean overall excellent handwriting skills, and scores closer to 25 mean a lack of good skills.

The point of this test is to identify students showing difficulty in handwriting skills, and also to pinpoint the reasons.  The point is not to offer remediation.

I like this test.  It takes just six minutes of the child’s time.  It uses materials found at home or in the classroom.  It does not take advanced education to administer the test or to evaluate the results.  It identifies and separates various skills—layout and letter formation, for example—which can be worked on separately.  And it’s free.