Bibliography (Annotated):  Left-Hand and Opposite-Hand Writing Features Useful as a Basis of Forming Expert Opinions of Authorship

By Jacqueline A. Joseph, CDE

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When comparing handwritten documents concerning disputed authorship, the examiner is responsible for applying a reasonable explanation to an observed significant difference* between features as part of the forming of an expert opinion of identification. This article discusses the features attributed to the use of the left hand and the opposite- or non-dominant hand.



  1. Acta Psychologica. 54:295-312, 1983.

Handwriting generation, perception and recognition. Suen, C.Y. Department of Computer Science, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

This work was supported by a research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  The paper summarizes what was found to characterize handedness in the areas of writing speed, legibility, character shapes, and formation. The results were based on several experiments conducted by the author and the research team at Concordia University and included a small group of left-handers and a small group of right-handers.  Comparatively, the most significant differences were found between writing styles (printing to cursive) within each group.  For both groups, it was found that cursive, as compared to printing, measured the fastest writing style, notably due to the number of pen-lifts used when printing versus writing in cursive. The experiments also indicated that right-handers were about 10% better letter recognizers than left-handers. Finding the reasons for this, the authors contend a way to correlate writing habits with the neurological organization of the human brain for languages.  Includes bibliography, charts and tables of statistics.



  1. Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal.  26:61-7, 1993.

An identification of handprinting produced with the unaccustomed left hand.

Dawson, Greg A.

  1. Criminal Law Review (London).  1962:750-69, November 1962.

Disguised hand.  Harrison, Wilson R.

  1. Journal of The Forensic Science Society.  22:271-4, 1982.

Direction of ballpoint pen strokes in left- and right-handed writers as indicated by the orientation of burr striations. Franks, J.E.  Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Birmingham, England.

A discussion of burr striations as a result of the use of ballpoint pens relative to the direction of movement, most notably in the curved strokes, is comprehensive. One illustration.

  1. Ibid.  23:237-40, 1983.

Dependence of slope of handwriting upon sex and handedness of the writer. Totty, R.N., and R. A. Hardcastle of the Forensic Science Laboratory England, and Jane Dempsey, of the Department of Mathematics, Lanchester Polytechnic, England.

This article discusses the limited findings from 200 subject writers that right-hand writers wrote with a greater forward slope than left-handed writers.


  1. Ibid. 25:353-70, 1985.

Variability of stroke direction between left- and right-handed writers. J. Franks and T. Davis, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Birmingham, UK., R.N. Totty and R.A. Hardcastle, Forensic Science Laboratory, Birmingham, UK., and D.M. Grove, Department of Statistics, University of Birmingham, UK.

This article illustrates the research methods and results of research with thousands of writers. As an indication of handedness, their research shows that the significant differences between left- and right-handed writers in the direction of pen movement is more reliable in straight lines, such as the crossing of the horizontal bar in capital letters A, H and T than with clockwise strokes in circle letters. Their paper was presented, in part, to the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners 1983 meeting.

  1. Ibid. 25:371-5, 1985.

Study of the form and extent of natural variation in genuine writings with age. Kapoor, T.S., M. Kapoor, and G.P. Sharma.  Police Forensic Science Laboratory, India.

This article discusses the three stages of the development of handwriting characteristics: pre-mature, mature and deformative.  The conclusion of the authors after researching 50 persons, over a period of ten years, justifies the necessity for contemporary writings in comparison of handwriting. It also indicates that the master patterns, in mature writers, remain unchanged. Limited bibliography. Chart of findings and one illustration showing an extreme case of variation of one writer over a period of ten years.


  1. Ibid. 27:383-92, 1987.

Disguised handwriting. Konstantinidis, Siv.

  1. ID NEWS. 30:5-7, August 1980.

The problem of left- or right-handedness almost solved. Hale, James L.

10. International Criminal Police Review. 237:130-7, April 1970.

Characteristics of 200 awkward-hand signatures. Stevens, Viola. Document Examiner, Crime Laboratory Division, Wisconsin Department of Justice.

An excellent paper detailing the author’s research project including a review of the literature and clear illustrations of results of studying signatures of inmates serving sentences on charges of forgery, including volunteered samples of the inmates’ signatures written with the right hand and also written with the left hand totaling over 4000 specimens from over 200 inmates.  The author includes research from the medical literature discussing the physiological and neurological factors which may produce handedness in an individual. Her research led to answers about the percentage of a given population that normally uses the left hand for writing (9%), how frequently ambidexterity in handwriting is encountered (rarely), how opposite-hand writing differs from preferred-hand writing (flat top r, d, l and other looped letters, vertical slant dominates, fine or bizarre tremor, open base t and d, wandering t bar crossing, dragging terminal strokes, abrupt changes in direction, comparatively low level of skill of execution). The author also answers the question of whether or not awkward-hand writing can be identified as to its source with the advice that the observed significant differences be carefully evaluated in terms of all possible factors which could account for variations such as illness, medications, fatigue, self-disguise, and the possibility of a forger’s attempting to simulate an awkward-hand signature. Includes bibliography.

11. International Journal of Forensic Document Examiners.  1:283-8, Oct.-Dec. 1995.

Handwriting identification based on the “unaccustomed hand” exemplar.

Zimmerman, Jeannine.

12. Journal of Forensic Document Examiners.  1:22-6, Feb. 1987.

Characteristics of opposite-hand writings. Girouard, Patricia L.

13. Journal of Forensic Sciences.  6:321-30, July 1961.

Was this document written with the left hand? Beacom, Mary S.

14. Ibid.  13:376-89, July 1968.

Opposite-hand writings. Stangohr, Gordon R.

15. Ibid. 15:476-88, Oct. 1970.

Disguised handwriting. A statistical survey of how handwriting is most frequently disguised. Alford, Edwin F., Jr.

16. Ibid. 23:149-54, Jan. 1978.

Question of disguise in handwriting. Webb, Frederick E.

17. Ibid. 30:167-71, Jan. 1985.

Brain function and writing with the unaccustomed left hand. Dawson, Greg A.

18. Journal of Police Science and Administration.  6:419-23, 1978.

Intentional disguise in court-ordered handwriting specimens. Alford, E. F., Jr.  and Ronald M. Dick.

19. Journal of Questioned Document Examination.  8: Special Edition 2000.

Empirical study I:  Effects of writer’s position and document placement on signature writing. (Pages 5-20.)  Empirical study II:  Effects of writer’s position and document placement on signature writing when subject is assisted, guided, or controlled by another party. (Pages 21-62).  Empirical study III:  Effects of assisted, guided, and controlled-hand writing conditions on subject and assisting/guiding/controlling party. (Pages 63-94.) Briggs, Marion E. and Joan Christo-Bruner, Glenda C. Portman and Lynne Variano.

20. Ibid. 9: Special Edition 2001.

Empirical study:  Writer identification.  Part I:  Determination of gender and writing hand from handwriting.  Part II:  Comparison of male and female penmanship characteristics.  Part III:  Examination of left-handed handwriting characteristics. Briggs, Marion E. and Glenda C. Portman.

21. Law and Order. 19:78-84.  Sept. 1971.

Special techniques in forged document examination: how to identify left-handed writing. Mikels, J. Ronald.

Includes a good photo of the up-side-down left-handed pen hold and explains the observations of the resulting i dot which, when the writer writes with speed, is shaped like a bowl or slanted vertically, which also may be observed in the period, colon and other similar punctuation marks.   The tapering of the t bar on the left of the stroke indicates the writer moved from right to left to cross the t. The t would also have a wavy or slanted bar crossing indicating the left-handed writer used finger movement alone with the base of the hand remaining immovable.  This creates an additional problem not experienced by the right-hander, whose hand is free to move forward, like a pivot, during the crossing of the t from left to right.  The author comments about a smudge pattern which may occur when the left-hand writer’s hand frequently moves across previously written lines during the writing.  As the hand moves downward to the next line of writing, ink impressions are transferred from the base of the hand onto the paper.

22. National Association of Document Examiners Journal.  10:1-6, Feb. 1989.

A discussion of handedness. Klekoda-Baker, Antonia.

23. Ibid. 25:40-43, Spring 2003.

Handwriting Research – Cast a Wide Net. Matley, Marcel B.

24. Neuropsychologia. 17:457-65, 1979.

Graphological patterns as a function of handedness and culture. Shanon, Benny. Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

The author studied American and Israeli left- and right-handers as they drew horizontal character elements, lines and faces.  Comparing biological and environmental factors of both groups, because Americans write and scan from left to right, whereas Israelis scan and write from right to left, resulted in data supporting an interactive model stipulating that: (a) the natural directionalities associated with right and left handers are different: left-to-right and right-to-left respectively, (b) the culturally induced directionalities associated with English and Hebrew writing are different: left-to-right and right-to-left, respectively, and (c) moreover, the behavior exhibited by right-handers is fully determined by the natural, biological tendencies/genetics, whereas left-handers are susceptible to environmental influence.

25. Psychological Bulletin. 91:589-608, May 1982.

Handwriting posture and cerebral organization; how are they related? Levy, Jerre.

26.  Reliability Testing of Expert Handwriting Opinions, Marcel B. Matley, Handwriting Services of California, San Francisco, California 1992.  This work discusses the types of handwritten forgeries classified according to method and how to approach the full examination with the requirements for forming opinions of identification or non-identification.  Matley discusses how each approach can serve as a reliability test for each of the others.   Illustrative cases, index and bibliography.

27. Science & Justice. 35:165-8, July-Sept. 1995.

A study of two cases of unaccustomed handwriting. Singh, Amar and S.N. Gupta, Central Forensic Institutes, Bureau of Police Research and Development, India.

This article illustrates comparative features, in two cases, of the normal writing and unaccustomed hand writing of one person on one document.  Authors discuss the indications of common authorship concluding that the body of the writings was written with the normal hand, and the endorsements on the documents were written with the unaccustomed hand.  Illustrations are in Hindi, therefore not easy to discern. Includes bibliography.