how to read handwriting

Its beginnings were modest - just a bunch of 19th-century French psychologists messing about, trying to forge a link between the squiggles and strokes that go to make up a piece of handwriting, and the personality and behaviour-traits of the individual who wrote it.

In the end, after years of research and haggling, they came to three vital conclusions, that: a) handwriting seems to be a straightforward transfer of energy - emotional, mental and sexual - from pen to paper; b) the way you write says a whole load more about you than what you write; and c) you don't need weird psychic powers or years of grinding academic study to get the hang of analysing handwriting. In short, reading between the lines is simple and anyone can do it.

To a graphologist, everything means something. Take a capital P for instance. As foolish as this may sound at first, Ps apparently tell you how nosy a person is. The trick is to picture the top loop of the P as a nose. The bigger that nose, the more curious and inquisitive the writer is likely to be.

Another example: Xs are about commitment in relationships. A good firm cross says "I'm committed to my partner. You can trust me". Conversely, if the X is fuzzy, uncertain or just a downright mess, then the writer has problems being faithful and will probably vanish at the first sign of trouble.

And as for your Vs... well, that's the cruellest give-away of all. According to the experts, a V is your sexual merit badge, the barometer of your libido. A frightening thought, and one I'll return to in a moment.

All very intriguing, anyway. Indeed, it was just bad luck that early graphological principles fell into the hands of a few well-meaning but achingly dull theorists who cloaked them in a deluge of rules and clumsy jargon, turning graphology from an amusing small-time hobby into a full- blown science, impenetrable, and well beyond the grasp of mere mortals.

Luckily, things are changing. Earlier this year, graphologist Loveday Miller, 65, an impish Miss Marple figure with 30 years in the trade, began campaigning to make the subject more accessible - much to the annoyance of her peers. Indeed, so outraged are they by her actions, that she was recently turfed out of the Academy of Graphologists for daring to suggest that things had become too complicated.

"It's so silly," she says of the rift. "Much of what we learn is common sense anyway; the signs are right there on the page for all to see. Your handwriting sends hundreds of hidden messages to the reader. If you apply a few simple rules, you can easily decipher them."

Okay then, answer me this: people say my handwriting's dreadful... (Loveday casts an expert eye across my notebook and laughs - just a little too much for my liking...) everything slants forwards. What does it mean?

"It means you act on impulse. You like to keep things moving and may charge into situations without adequate preparation. If the letters slanted backwards, you would be more circumspect, weighing up all the pros and cons before acting."

She's right, I am impulsive. Indeed, if I weren't I would have had second thoughts before showing her my Vs. In the word "Loveday" for instance, my V is tiny and all scrunched up. What's that about?

"Vs are about sex." (Gulp.) "See how, when you're sitting down, your thighs open out into a V-shape? Well that's the link. On the written page the wider your V the more open you are about sex. On the other hand, Vs that are shut tight are bad news, signifying inhibition and a poor sense of adventure between the sheets."

Loveday's campaign may well rid graphology of its penumbra of mystique and exclusivity but I'm siding with her opponents on this one. Maybe the techniques should remain hard to fathom. Otherwise everybody will know what my Vs mean and my dating days will be over.

CASH PETERS

Beginners' classes in graphology are available as part of the adult education programme. Details about specialist diploma courses can be obtained from the British Academy of Graphology on 0181-464 3505

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