Improve your handwriting, release your “death grip”

Just in time to help our nation’s students get ready to go back-to-school, The New York Times has an opinion piece entitled “Op-Art: The Write Stuff” with tips on how to improve one’s handwriting, a critical skill for our youth (though not so much for keyboard jockeys). As a pen input and Tablet PC enthusiast, I also found it of interest, in particular the advice to think of cursive in a new way and this tidbit about the “death grip”.

For more comfort, hold your pen or pencil lightly, without a “thumb wrap” or a “death grip.”

Try an alternative hold by placing the pen or pencil between your forefinger and middle finger, with those fingertips and thumb resting near the pencil tip. This hold can help alleviate an aching forearm as well as wrist or thumb pain.

DeathGripsampleI advocate holding the pen in different ways for different tasks, but I don’t usually change up my handwriting grip, so I gave it a try and got this:

Both samples were written in my loose casual style with tablet held in one hand. The alternative style is sloppier, but that’s with no practice; I went straight from one to the other. With that in mind, I think it turned out pretty good. With a little practice and perhaps adding a larger grip area around the pen, I think I could get it as good as my regular method. Worth giving it a shot, particularly if you suffer from any pain while writing.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at]


  1. Ben: takes some adjustment, but I wouldn’t say it’s much harder to press the button. I’ve even been trying it with my two-button pen (right-click and eraser) without difficulty.

  2. I successfully use the “death grip” many many years after the nuns in my Indiana 2nd grade class taught us penmanship. They scared us into holding our fountain pens loosely. At a random moment, while Sr Rita Charles was walking around the classroom she would swooop down and pull yours out of your hand. And, if she couldn’t because you held it too tightly … amazing teacher fear.

  3. I’ll have to try this. Maybe I can stop breaking lead every three seconds if I try to use a mechanical pencil.

  4. Death grip. Go through lots of tablet pc pen nibs.

    I press hard from all the years of writing invoices with carbon paper…hard habit to break

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