Linda Spencer, MS, CGA

Questioned Handwriting

LS Spencer and Associates

Illinois Forensic Handwriting Experts

Phone 630-631-1987

Questioned Documents

Personality Profiles 

All About Handwriting


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Al Capone and forensic handwrting analysis

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 10:53 AM Comments comments (108)
Did you know that it was forensic handwriting analysis that was key evidence in bringing down the Chicago gangster Al Capone?  Federal Treasury Agents worked to gather evidence that Capone failed to pay his income taxes.  Bureau of Revenue investigator Frank Wilson discovered that Capone did not maintain a bank account and never signed any checks or receipts.  Although Capone lived a lavish lifestyle there was no evidence that he had any income.  A key witness against him was a handwriting expert who compared handwriting on a ledger with that on deposit slips tying Capone to monthly income from a gambling hall. With this evidence they were able to convict Al Capone of income tax evasion and finally send him to prison.
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What's revealed in a person's signature?

Posted on April 27, 2016 at 11:58 AM Comments comments (33)
How a person writes their signature tells a lot about how the person presents themselves to  the world..  The analysis of a signature reveals how the person appears to be in public.  The body of a page of writing reveals the real person.  The signature reveals how they want to be perceived.  This may be basically the same or it may be quite different from the body of the page of writing.  For example many famous people write their signature large and with extra large capital letters with flourishes because they want to appear important and with showmanship. Some signatures are impossible to read because they are scribbled or are only a line or only one or two  letters stand out.  If you can not read the signature it is because the individual is not  interested in revealing themselves or communicating with the reader about who they are.This may also be because they are rushed for time.It is likely both reasons.  If the signature is quite different from the body of writing on a page it means that you are not seeing the real person but a persona.  A person who wants to communicate clearly and let you know  who they are will write with a describable signature.
Some people scribble their signature because they think it will be more difficult for someone to forge however it actually makes it easier as the forger does not have to be as careful in copying the signature.
I would love to hear your questions about signatures.  By the way, what does your signature look like?  . 
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What does it mean when a person crosses out their signature?

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (49)
Now and then I come across someone who has crossed a line through their signature. Sometimes the entire signature has a line or several lines through it,
Sometimes just the first name or the last name is crossed through.  What does this say about the writer?

  • A line or even several lines crossing out the signature alerts me to the fact that the person is dealing with a desire to remake them self.
  • Sometimes a line is crossed just through the first name which means the desire is in regard to remaking their personal self.
  • If the line is only through the last name the desire is in relation their social self or the family name.  This can occur when a woman is getting a divorce.  She does not want to be associated with her husband or her husbands name
  • If the signature is crossed so much that it is hard to tell what the name is, there is a problem that needs to be addressed as the person is literally crossing them self out.  Fortunately I do not see this very often. Have you ever seen it? Do you do this?

Feel free to ask questions. I enjoy discussion. Write with any other questions you have about signatures, yours, someone else or a public figure. It is amazing what you can learn from a handwritten signature.
You may scan in a signature and email me with your questions at [email protected]

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Original versus Copied Documents

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (38)
When submitting questioned handwriting documents the handwriting expert will ask  for the original document.  Original documents are always best because they provide the clearest visibility of the strokes ,pen lifts, pressure, eraser marks and other factors in the writing.
Unfortunately, very often, original documents have been destroyed or lost. The handwriting expert can work with copies and most often must do so. Original documents are ideal but not necessary to determine authenticity of a writing. Be sure to provide the best copy available of the handwriting. A scanned version  is preferred over a faxed one as faxed copies often lack strong definition.
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The Intrinsic Value of Handwritten Letters

Posted on June 14, 2015 at 12:28 PM Comments comments (38)
     When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? For most people it has been a long time, maybe years.  There is something really special about finding a handwritten letter from a friend or loved one in the mailbox. A part of the person is there on the paper for you to see. The handwritten letter is personal.

Would you rather receive a handwritten thank you note or an email or text thank you? Most everyone places a high value on their time so a handwritten note indicates the writer feels your generosity is worth the extra time it takes to hand write their appreciation.  

What is your opinion on handwritten or emailed thank you notes?
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Robert Durst Handwriting Controversy, Is it his or is it not his?

Posted on April 16, 2015 at 10:17 AM Comments comments (58)

Below are additional handwritings showing the questioned envelop sample and the known handwriting of Robert Durst. You can see many similarities in these handwritings.

  • Handwriting is only one piece of evidence and cases are decided on the preponderance of the evidence not just single pieces of evidence
  • As with any profession, skills and abilities can vary so it is important to know the credentials, reputation and experience of the handwriting expert.

There are many times throughout history where handwriting played an important part in an investigation and trial.  Did you know that handwriting helped in the conviction of Al Capone?  His bookkeeper kept all the receipts from a front business owned by Mr. Capone, a cafe in Chicago.  The Federal Government found a receipt that a handwriting expert testified was signed by Al Capone and he was charged and convicted of fraud
There are times when a handwritten piece of paper is the only evidence left behind in a crime.  For example, was this suicide note written by the deceased?
Who wrote the long rambling note left behind in the Ramsey case?
There are countless other handwritten ransom and threat notes used in criminal as well as civil cases throughout history.

I welcome your comments and questions.
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National Handwriting Day

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 1:12 PM Comments comments (67)
Today, January 23rd, is National Handwriting Day so I want to share a fun and informative link on the history of handwriting.The article was published in 2012 but I am betting you didn't see it. It is very interesting to review how handwriting evolved in America.

One of the best sourcesof information on cursive handwriting is Campaignfor Here you will find information on peer reviewed research, help for teaching cursive, top 10reasons why cursive is important,and much much more.  You can also find how to find and contact you legislators and local schools districts.

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Does Cursive Handwriting Need to Be Taught in A High Tech World/

Posted on January 20, 2015 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (32)

National Handwriting Day is Friday January 23rd so I decided to write again about the importance of cursive handwriting.  It is not only important to learn as a skill but more importantly it is a principle to the learning process itself,

My background: I am a certified Graphoanalyst with over 25 years of experience working as a handwriting expert. I have a masters degree in Human Service Administration. I have six years of experience working in both the public and private sectors of education and have worked with teens with developmentally delayed and high risk concerns.I enjoy substitute teaching.

Does Cursive Handwriting Need To Be Taught In A High Tech World?

You may not have noticed but cursive handwriting is quickly becoming a skill of the past. Many schools are choosing to eliminate handwriting instruction from their elementary classrooms. Controversy is growing over the role handwriting and keyboarding instruction will have in the classroom, particularly in the elementary grades where students are still developing their reading, writing and motor skills. The controversy was addressed earlier this year by an Educational Summit held in Washington, DC titled "Handwriting in The 21st Century."
The Department of Education Common Core State Standards for education was developed in 2010. These common core practices apply to English language arts and Mathematics. The standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge needed to succeed in college and careers. Keyboarding is listed as a skill that students must acquire, manuscript handwriting is minimally addressed and cursive is excluded altogether. These major changes serve to increase the controversy over the roles of handwriting and keyboarding instruction in elementary schools. Cursive handwriting has long been a cornerstone of education yet the elimination of cursive handwriting has been based largely on assumptions including the assumption that keyboarding skills are superior to handwriting skills.

Today the Common Core State Standards allow each state to decide whether to include cursive handwriting in their curriculum. Given the choice more and more states have been choosing to eliminate cursive handwriting instruction from their schools. Some feel that teaching cursive is "old fashioned" and a waste of time. Others believe that it should continue to be taught. Regardless of your point of view, you should be concerned about the removal of handwriting from the curriculum because these changes are occurring without adequately researching the possible consequences for the young learner. At the heart of the controversy is the lack of evidence regarding how the elimination of cursive handwriting will impact learning and education in general. Much of the education research that has been conducted by universities has focused on technology and literacy. Little regard has been given to the interrelationships of handwriting development and reading, spelling and composition. As a result many kids educated in the last two decades cannot write in or even read cursive. Many policy decisions were made without researching the possible impact on young students who are still developing their reading, writing, and motor skills. Specifically, how these skills relate to cursive handwriting instruction. That may be changing. The Educational Summit titled "Handwriting in the 21st Century" held in Washington, D.C. included the attendance of professors, neuroscientists, teachers and interested citizens. Presenters shared cross-disciplinary handwriting research and attendees voiced their opinions about whether-and how-this skill should be taught. Through presentations and workshops, attendees learned how handwriting is a foundational skill that helps children develop in other areas, such as reading, writing, memory, and critical thinking. Several neuroscientists presented findings ranging from handwriting and occupational therapy to neuroscience research that documents the impact of handwriting on kids' learning. In a survey at the conclusion of the summit, 85 percent of the attendees believe that handwriting instruction is "very important" in the 21st century. A majority responded that handwriting should be taught from Kindergarten through 5th grade. All of the research presented at the conference indicates that teaching handwriting is beneficial. Although the conference was sponsored by a handwriting curriculum company, the presenters came from a broad range of fields and presented a convincing case. One of the most remarkable findings came from Karin Harman-James at Indiana University. She presented research she conducted using MRI scans of children's brains. Her research which was conducted in 2012 showed that writing by hand activated parts of the brain associated with language development, while keyboarding did not.
Anyone interested in more information about learning cursive handwriting and some of its effects on the brain many published research articles are available for perusal on the internet. As well as a few research studies on how keyboarding affects the brain. Neuroscience tell us that all of our habits create neuropathways in the brain and that new habits can change the brain well into old age. In addition, some neuroscientists have published books which have sections describing how handwriting and hand printing effects the learning process including memory. Two of these books are;
The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture,
by Dr. Frank R. Wilson. His book describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements in the developing of thinking and language capacities. He says that learning to write in cursive is important in "developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, the essential prerequisites for the emergence of the capable and caring individual." Considering the bullying problem and the lack of empathy many teachers are noticing in their students, could it be that learning cursive handwriting has an effect on the area of the brain that develops empathy and tolerance for others? We don't know...yet. Do you think it is important to find out?

Another book is,
The Brain That Changes Itself by neuroscientist Norman Doidge. His book discusses the subject of neuroplasticity,  how the brain changes and develops neuropathways in relation to habit changes and repeated actions. His research describes how handwriting and keyboarding require different actions and effect the brain in different ways. Dr. Dodge has said, "When a child types or prints, he produces a letter the same way each time. In cursive, however, each letter connects slightly differently to the next, which is more demanding on the part of the brain that converts symbol sequences into motor movements in the hand. Each of these actions creates different neuropathways in the brain,

In summary, much controversy exists regarding the importance of learning cursive handwriting. Evidence is building that indicates the brain is effected and changed in ways we never realized. Brain research is constantly providing new revelations.Research in this area needs to be encouraged and funded. Changes in curriculum that impact how kids learn and retain knowledge need to be carefully examined and evaluated prior to being implemented. At present most school districts can still decide if they want to teach cursive handwriting. Where does your school district stand? If you think cursive handwriting is important to learn contact your child's teacher or school administrator and express your concern. Some states are reinstating cursive handwriting into their education curriculum. The beautiful State of North Carolina not only requires cursive handwriting lessons in their curriculum requirements but added the memorization of the multiplication tables as well.  Frankly I didn't know the memorization of the multiplication tables were no longer required, did you? 
If you believe that teaching cursive handwriting is important you can contact your State legislator and ask what they know about this change in curriculum. Ask if they have seen any research studies and what their opinion is of the change.You may find they are not aware of the change. Explain your concerns, give them a list of States that have reinstated cursive handwriting into their language arts requirements.
You can find these States on the internet or I am happy to provide the list for you per your request.
You can find more information on cursive handwriting on the website Campaign for Cursive.I encourage you to become a member.

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Research Indicates Why It Is Important For Kids To Learn How To Write In Cursive

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 11:21 AM Comments comments (59)
Thanks to the discovery of neuroplasticity we now know that groups of neurons in the brain create new connections and pathways among themselves every time we acquire a new skill. Before we discard cursive handwriting as no longer necessary we need to examine what research is indicating regarding cursive and the affect it has on the brain. 

Dr. Frank R. Wilson, a leading neurologist, published a remarkable book which was nominated for a Pulitzer prize, The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998) He describes in detail the pivotal role of hand movements in particular in the development of thinking and language capacities, and in developing deep feelings of confidence and interest in the world-all-together, “the essential prerequisites for the emergence of the capable and caring individual.”  He explains that although the repetitive drills that are necessary for cursive handwriting lessons seem outdated, such physical instruction will help students to succeed. He says you can’t separate what’s in the mind from what’s in the body and that teachers should not try to “educate the mind by itself or much of the knowledge will be poorly processed and inadequately learned.”          

  Karen Harman-James,  assistant professor psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University conducted research using handwriting and keyboarding and MRI scans of children’s brains.  Her research which was conducted in 2012 revealed that in  the children who had practiced  printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult like” than in those who had simply looked at the letter. She said that, “It seems that there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two dimensional things we see all the time.”  

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle asserts that handwriting has a value beyond its basic utilitarian one. She says the physical process of making letters by hand more powerfully embeds written-language- making skills in children’s brains than pressing keys does. 

R. Shadmehr and H. Holcomb or John Hopkins University published a study in Science Magazine showing that their subject’s brains actually changed in reaction to physical instruction such as cursive handwriting lessons.  The researchers provided PET scans as evidence of these changes in brain structure.  Further, they also demonstrated that these changes resulted in “an almost immediate improvement in fluency”, which led to later development of neural pathways.  As a result of practicing motor skills, the researchers found that knowledge becomes more stable.    

I have not found any research on how keyboarding affects the brain but it is equally important to understand it's affect on the brain and the learning process. Especially if it is to be the basic form of future writing.

If anyone knows of such research please provide the information to this post.

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What does it indicate about personality when a person always prints when asked to write

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 11:12 AM Comments comments (24)
 This is a question I often get when talking to people about handwriting analysis.

How does the personality of a person who always prints differ from the personality of a person who writes in cursive? 

Every personality is unique, no one aspect of the writing stands alone.

People who print and prefer to print are preoccupied with the accurate communication of facts unaltered by imagination.  They have learned to leave their feelings out of their communication. They generally are not comfortable discussing their personal feelings. It can be difficult to get to know the printer well. Many anonymous notes are printed, often all in caps. Printers like to have control and they can have a difficult time bonding with others.  This does not mean that they do not have feelings or don't bond with others just that it is not their strong suit so to speak.  They are more comfortable with facts than with feelings.  They are highly visual.  Many artists print as do technical writer's, accountants, nurses and other professionals whose work requires a high degree of accuracy.

You can see how printing fits in well with technological devices such as smart, phones, tablets, and computers of all types. The stead y increase in printers over they last fee decades may even be a result of these devices. It would make for an interesting research study.

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