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December 4, 2008

Your handwriting: What can it reveal about you?

You’ve heard the expression, “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”

But did you know that some people believe that how you dot your I’s and cross your T’s says a lot about your personality?

According to long-time Pitt and UPMC staff member Mary C. “Mitzie” Biertempfel, who is a certified handwriting analyst, your handwriting reveals all kinds of readily identifiable personality and character traits.

For example, she says big loops in lowercase D’s and T’s indicate sensitivity to criticism; downward hooks on lowercase G’s and Y’s mean fear of success; circles within circles in lowercase O’s indicate secretiveness and deceit; an oversized lowercase letter, especially a K, indicates defiance.

Moreover, whether you connect your letters or leave spaces between them, whether you spread out words in a sentence or write them close together, whether your handwriting is large or small, and whether you press down hard or write with a light touch also project traits to the trained eye, Biertempfel said.

While there is considerable debate about the scientific validity of handwriting analysis, there is no shortage of its supporters, Biertempfel said. And skeptics often are converted, she added.

“Almost everybody I’ve done an analysis for has validated the results as accurate about themselves.”

Biertempfel, executive assistant in a joint program of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the departments of chemical and petroleum engineering and bioengineering, is certified in the trait-stroke method of handwriting analysis, also known as graphology — as opposed to forensic analysis that primarily studies handwriting to detect forgeries.

“This is not fortune-telling and it has nothing to do with the occult or the zodiac or tarot readings,” Biertempfel said, adding that the Library of Congress sanctioned handwriting analysis as a subfield of psychology in 1980.

It took Biertempfel two years to complete her certification via a home study course offered by Handwriting University in Dallas, which this fall honored her with the 2008 Associate Professor of the Year Award at the International Handwriting Analysis Conference, an event that attracts handwriting analysts, counselors, therapists and personality profilers from around the world.

She began teaching a course in handwriting analysis at Community College of Allegheny County last spring.

Biertempfel said her specialty has potential applications in a number of areas, including: screening dating partners for compatibility; screening roommates and prospective tenants; screening job applicants; police profiling, and entertaining.

In addition, by employing a technique called grapho-therapy, individuals, guided by a certified handwriting analyst, can use handwriting as a way to modify their behavior, Biertempfel maintains.

For example, she said where one crosses the T in relation to its stem is an indicator of the level of a person’s self-esteem. A T crossed at or near the top means high self-esteem; at mid-point it’s deemed average or practical self-esteem, and near the bottom of the stem indicates low self-esteem.

So, a person actually can raise his or her self-esteem by concentrating deliberately on crossing the T at a higher point, she said.

Biertempfel first caught the handwriting analysis bug some eight years ago, when her handwriting sample, selected randomly from a pool of faxed submissions, was analyzed on a Pittsburgh radio station by guest Bart Baggett, founder and president of Handwriting University and later Biertempfel’s mentor.

“Bart’s analysis was so accurate, you’d think he had known me for years. I had never even met the man or talked to him before this and he accurately identified several of my personality traits,” Biertempfel said.

Curious, she dabbled as an amateur doing handwriting analyses for friends and family, based on the tips posted on Baggett’s web site.

Eventually, she completed the certification course and began to do analyses for a fee for individuals and couples, as well as at lectures and local parties. She offers both “quickie” analyses, where she will identify the five most dominant personality traits revealed in a small handwriting sample, and more extensive analyses, which include a personality profile and grapho-therapy recommendations. She also does analyses for couples to test their compatibility.

She would like to branch out to work with young children who are learning cursive writing, teaching what she says are the more positive handwriting traits. Children often are taught to put big loops on their D’s, something Biertempfel says indicates a sensitivity to criticism.

“Get that big loop out of there!” she said. “Don’t teach them to put a big loop in the D. You want a tiny loop, so there’s [only] some sensitivity there.”

Biertempfel said parents can watch for potential problems by charting changes in a child’s handwriting. “If you have a child who is crossing his T’s on the top or in the middle and all of sudden starts crossing them at the bottom, this is a red flag. Something is bothering him to get that self-esteem down. It could be a bully. It could be something going on in school that the parent should become aware of,” she said.

“This is a tool, not the be-all and end-all. It’s a tool to complement other psychological tools and it can be used in that capacity,” Biertempfel said.

In her community college course Biertempfel uses Grapho-deck handwriting analysis flashcards, which feature 50 common personality traits and instructions for which letters or stroke features to hone in on to recognize those traits.

She teaches that all handwriting has three levels, the philosophical realm, inhabited by so-called upper letters, such as lowercase L’s, T’s and D’s that have ascenders; the middle or “mundane” realm, where lowercase letters such as A’s, O’s, E’s, S’s and U’s indicate those personality traits in evidence at the time the sample was written, and the lower realm with letters that have descenders, such as lowercase G’s, Y’s and J’s, which indicate the physical realm.

“When you see a tail or hook on the cross of the T, for example, or on an upper letter, that indicates people with the desire to acquire, or hook onto, knowledge, because that’s in the philosophical area,” Biertempfel said. “If you see it in the mundane area, it’s people who want material things. They like to shop.”

Other lessons teach that a signature represents the way a person wants to look to the world.

Analyzing Queen Elizabeth I’s signature, Biertempfel said, “See those loop-de-loops? This says ‘I’m a very important person and I want everybody to know it.’ A lot of flourishes mean a lot of creativity. But the message is, ‘I’m a queen and you have to respect that.’”

People who dot their I’s with hearts, flowers or circles also show creativity, she said. And people who dot their I’s only sporadically or not at all show a lack of attention to detail. “That will also affect your memory. If you want to improve your memory, work on dotting all your I’s and J’s as close to the top of the stem as possible,” she said.

Dotting I’s with a tiny dot indicates loyalty, she added, while dotting them with a slash that goes out to the right indicates irritation and out to the left means irritation at yourself.

“When you don’t connect your letters, that shows intuition, that you follow your gut instinct; when you connect your letters, that shows intelligence,” Biertempfel said.

“Usually people who put big spaces in between their words don’t like to work in confined spaces. They need room to work, they like to spread out,” she said.

“If you have very tiny writing that means you can focus and concentrate.” She offered a tip for those looking to improve concentration. “If you write very small, try writing one or two sentences as large as you can — no more than that — that will get you into a focused state of mind right before a test, right before you want to study, right before something you want to concentrate on.”

For those who normally write in large handwriting, writing a few sentences as small as possible has the same effect, she added.

Biertempfel said the most surprising thing she discovered about handwriting analysis came from a nurse at a conference who gave a talk on “Health in Handwriting.”

“You can tell the sex of an unborn baby by the mother’s handwriting. It’s about 98 percent accurate,” she said.

“You look at the O’s. When you’re first pregnant, there’s a little ‘pain dot’ at the bottom of the O. After you’re pregnant at least three months, if you’re having a boy, the dot goes up to the right, and if you’re having a girl it goes up to the left, as you look at the O. It will also show multiple births, and what the sexes are. The pain dot goes away after the birth. I think that is so fascinating.”

For more information on Biertempfel and her handwriting analysis services, go to

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 8

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