the knack
The best way to get your writing looking good is through italic. Go to a class, or get a book: The Society for Italic Handwriting publishes A Simple Guide to Italic Handwriting by Nancy Winters. Stationers sell calligraphy sets with leaflets showing how to hold the pen and form letters. Use a pen with a broad chisel-edged nib: you can buy felt pens with a square nib which are good for practising. To train your hand to write an "a" that is not just as an irregular circle with a tail on it, but, instead, uses strokes of handsome thicks and thins, takes constant practice.

Turn a chore such as writing out your VAT returns into a practise session, but be aware that the VAT man will suspect you are covering up the fact that it's been done to mask the mistakes! And don't let your pen get clogged with cat hairs - your thin lines will disappear. Watch your ascenders and descenders: the uprights of a "d" shouldn't be out of proportion to the letter itself.

A "g" with a huge loop runs into the line below, and you get a thing like an electrical circuit. A slight slope to the right is attractive. Also, because you read from left to right, it's illogical to read letters that are trying to hurry back into the left-hand margin. Having learnt to write according to the textbook, freedom comes into it - it's like playing an instrument. Express yourself in different ways, with the general idea of being legible and attractive

Jazz musician Humphrey Lyttelton is president of The Society for Italic Handwriting