Ask The Desk: Smudge-Free Writing (of particular concern to Lefties)

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Reader Jorge asks:

I was wondering whether you had come across any ‘solutions’ to stop left handed writers from smudging their writing as they/we rub across our hand.

I love ink and fountain pens but I remember I used to make an incredible mess of my work – the only solution was to crook my wrist to avoid the rubbing of the side of my palm.

There are a few solutions for lefties and ink drag. The first is quick-drying inks. Noodler’s Bernanke series is designed to dry quickly. I think Private Reserve has a few quick-dry versions of their inks as well. I find that finer nibs  help since they don’t tend to put down as much ink at one time.

Paper can be a factor as well. High quality papers like Rhodia and Tomoe River let the ink stand up on the paper keeping the inks from feathering or bleeding but making dry times much longer. I am less inclined to reccomend these papers to leftie for this reason.  Seek out a good mid-range paper. I like the paper in the Piccadilly notebooks for being a sweet spot between too thin (bleed and show through) and too fancy (takes forever to dry). They are also quite inexpensive so if I can only use one side of the paper, I don’t feel as bad about it. There are other options for paper as well. I find Moleskine too absorbent and the Clairefontaine (Rhodia, Quo Vadis, etc) paper takes too long to dry for me. I’m sure every writer will have slightly different criteria and you may find the a notebook from a big box office supply store is the perfect one for you.

And sadly, the last option is to try to alter your writing position so that your hand is below your writing. As an overhanded left-hander, I find this option awkward and uncomfortable. But there are many folks who claim this is the best option. If you have left-handed children just learning to write, you may want to try to get them to write in the under writer position to spare them from the challenges that we over-writers have had to face. The UK-based Anything Left-Handed site has a lot of resources for writing left-handed and so many other things!

Left-handed: Overwritingimage

Above is what over-writing looks like. It looks wonky but it is how I learned to write and so its comfortable to me.

Lefthanded: Under writingLeft-handed : Under writing

This is what under-writing looks like. It looks more like the position that right handed writers use. While it looks more graceful, I find it awkward but many lefties employ this technique and it eliminates a lot of smearing issues.

I hope this helps.

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  1. Outside of “formal writing” which i do for work (school) and public consumption – in which case i use a ball point – i just start at the “back” of my notebooks and write right to left.

  2. It took me a long time of uncomfortable, unreadable writing to learn to turn my paper. Here is an article. I use “the paper turn”. Although this article shows a slight left to right slant, I use an almost top edge perpendicular to the edge of the table slant. This puts my wrist in a natural position. It looks odd when I am writing, but, if you look at the page, you can read what I wrote. More importantly, I can take notes all day and my hand is not a claw at sundown.

    1. I use this angled technique when I am doing calligraphy but I grew up writing with “the claw” and I can take notes comfortably all day and its pretty legible. Someday I’ll do a video of my various writing methods if folks are curious.

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