Have you ever considered how you sign your name, or the pen you use to do it?
If you’re like a lot of us (including me), your signature is an illegible scrawl that you scratch out in a hurry when you finish a letter, fill out a document, or write a check. You’ve written your name so many times in your life – hundreds, at least, probably thousands – that it’s just a rote process.
Does it really matter what it looks like?
Maybe, maybe not. But there are people who believe signatures communicate a great deal about you, either positive or negative. And, you have to admit, your name is just about the most personal thing you can ever put down on paper.
So, if you’d like to start making a statement with your signature, there are three things you need to consider: the ink, the pen, and the style.
Let’s just go ahead and take ballpoint ink out of the equation right now. It’s bland and sticky and too easy to smudge. Plus, the pressure you have to apply to put ballpoint ink on paper will make ugly indentions you might not want on business documents or correspondence.
For a bold, professional signature, you want to use a good quality gel ink (one that’s not prone to skipping) or a liquid ink of the type found in rollerballs and fountain pens. If you use a liquid ink, make sure to sign your name in a smooth, flowing hand, without hesitations, to avoid leaving blots in your signature.
For professional documents, go with black or blue ink. Black is the preferred colour for many companies and government offices, especially on legal documents, and, in some cases, is actually required. However, since it can be difficult to distinguish between an original signed in black ink and a photocopy, blue will help you easily tell the difference.
If you’re concerned about the security or longevity of your signature, Uni Super Ink – which comes in black, blue and red – is marketed as a safe ink because it’s supposed to be resistant to tampering, fading and running. For fountain pen users, Noodler’s Ink offers several “bulletproof” inks that are known for being all but impossible to remove from paper.
The colour of ink you use for personal documents like letters or journals obviously matters far less. Actually, branding experts even recommend selecting a vibrant colour as a way of establishing your own brand identity. I have a friend who uses only purple ink when she’s writing to friends, so it’s always easy to recognize something from her, whether it’s a letter or a CD she’s labelled.
Use a pen with a medium or broad point for a strong, confident signature.
A fountain pen is an excellent choice for producing a professional signature that has a little extra panache, especially if you use a pen with an italic nib or one with a nice flex nib like the Namiki Falcon. The general consensus seems to be that your signature almost immediately becomes more legible when using a fountain pen. And, you have a broad range of colour choices, even within black and blue.
But, if a fountain pen isn’t practical for all the writing and signing that you do, then a good gel with a broad point will do just fine. You might try a Pilot G2 or a Uni-ball Gel Impact, both of which are available with 1.0 mm points. They both offer clean, rich lines and smooth writing for a flowing signature. Just be mindful that broad points lay down more ink, so they dry a little slower.
For your signature to make any sort of statement, it needs to be written in a way that other people can actually read it.
Greg Fox at the DonorPower Blog wrote an interesting piece a few years ago examining the signatures on the fundraising letters he receives from various organizations.
He did not have kind words for those who signed their letters illegibly, writing that potential donors might actually be turned off by that kind of sloppiness.
Signatures like these say, "I'm an Important Person. I'm Too Busy to sign my name so you can read it." That creates distance between the signer and the donor – and distance is the last thing you want.
He’s got a point. A scrawled signature does have a certain impatience about it that some recipients, either business or personal, could take for arrogance or indifference toward them.
If you’re a person who scrawls, you’ll have to practice to improve the legibility of your signature (and maybe improve your handwriting in general). You’ll also have to remember to slow down when you sign your name, at least until you get used to doing it neatly.
Obviously, your signature should be in cursive, following the basic styles you learned in school, but you also can give it certain flourishes to add your own personality. You can loop the tail of the last letter back to underline your name, or make the first letters of your first and last name bigger than all the other letters, whatever you want.
Now, there are all sorts of handwriting analysts and “graphologists” who claim that your handwriting secretly reveals hidden aspects of your personality. While they have little evidence to support those claims, it can be instructive to see what some of them have to say about certain signature styles.
From an article by self-described handwriting analyst Elaine Ness:
…if the text and the signature styles are different it suggests that a person's public life and private life are different. A clear text in the body of writing shows a desire and need to get across ideas; if the signature of the same writer is unreadable then there is reluctance to reveal oneself personally even though the ideas expressed may be very clear.
That actually makes sense.
A highly embellished signature, especially if larger than the body of writing, can indicate underlying feelings of inadequacy. Showy writing reveals a need to be noticed. (Usually extroverts.) As you might guess, it is common to see public figures sign their names just that way. Conversely, tiny unobtrusive signatures, especially when smaller than the text, show a feeling of not wanting to be noticed.
And from graphologist William Keller:
That elaborate, showy signature you practiced in high school or college could be a negative factor in your success. If you are promoting a conservative, forthright image and sign sales letters or literature in a large, sweeping, and barely legible fashion, it sends a confusing message to the recipient.
Nothing screams “unprofessional” like a signature that uses little hearts to dot the I’s.
Bold, in-your-face signatures reflect pride and confidence that may be over the top and interpreted as written by a vain, egotistical person who feels superior to the reader. Remember, the message may be subliminal; the receiver may not consciously realize why he or she is not entirely comfortable with your presentation.
He makes sense, too.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you have written a powerful letter to recruit well heeled supporters into a risky, but potentially highly rewarding venture and then, sign your masterpiece with a tiny, left-leaning signature, this could be seen as a lack of confidence. You may well have neutralized many positive points of the letter.
Odd, though, that he seems to saying that you should adjust your signature to fit the message. You’re better off finding one stylish, neat signature and sticking with it.
Hopefully that covers just about everything you need to know to get started shaping your new power signature. Have we left anything out? Let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll see if we can come up with some helpful answers.