Making 'handwritten' letters with Word


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The New York Times has a report on Bond – a new company that can print out ‘handwritten’ letters and notes on special machines.

The ultimate is a package which includes a font based on your own handwriting.

It’s a great idea, especially for those of us with awful handwriting.  Peter, our editor-in-chief, has famously unreadable scrawl.  He started using computers in the 1980’s because the word-processor plus printer could produce legible documents!

Microsoft Word can produce ‘hand written’ notes and letters for a fraction of the cost of a special service.

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What you need

Except for one thing, you probably have everything to make your own ‘handwritten’ letters.

Script font

There are various Script fonts supplied with Windows and Office.  Among them: Freestyle Script, Lucida Calligraphy, Lucida Handwriting, Segoe Script and Segoe Print.

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Some of the more complex handwriting fonts can be almost unreadable when used for more than a few words.  Generally speaking, script fonts with less serifs work better for paragraphs of text.

Font Color

Black text will probably work best but you might try a slightly grey color option from one of the first three theme color columns in the Font Color selector.

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Another possibility is blue text.

Line Spacing

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Left justification is best for the hand written look.

Paper

Choosing the right paper is important.  In a trip to the local stationery store you’ll find many paper options, most of which are inkjet/laser compatible.

Tip:  buy a small paper pack and check that it works on your printer before spending money on a larger supply.

Paper Size

Which size paper will you use?   For a short note, perhaps a half-size page is enough?

Metric paper size A5  or  US ‘half letter’ can be made simply by cutting a larger page in half after printing.

Paper Color

Standard white paper isn’t ideal for the ‘hand written’ look.  Go for something in off-white, light brown or other light colors.

Paper Weight

You’ll probably want to choose a thicker paper than the usual 20lb/80gsm stock.  The look and feel of the paper is important to the overall effect.

Of course, there’s a limit to Word’s ability.  Word’s enforcement of regular line and text spacing is usually a virtue, but not when you’re trying to emulate a hand written letter.

The Text

Another part of the overall effect is the text itself.  To ‘sell’ the handwritten effect, the sentences should be a little more casual than usual.

Paper or PDF

All these tips apply to paper or PDF output.  You could make a PDF letter (File | Save As | PDF) then then attach it to an email.

But don’t try these formatting tricks in an email.  Emails often look different to the receiver – a lot depends on the email program or browser they are using.  In particular, the font you use might not be available to the reader – so your message can look very strange in a substituted font.

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