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February 01, 2008

2008 is Bad, 1988 was Worse

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

No, this isn't about lousy politics. Nor lousy architecture, pop music, Po-Mo art or any of the stuff we grumble about.

It's about lousy handwriting.

My lousy handwriting.

Especially my inability to form a proper number 8.

It began while I was in grade school. For several years I experimented with various ways of constructing a reliably readable 8. At some point -- I forget when -- I settled on a method. Unfortunately, that method does not work well for me. My 8s often tilt to the right, have flat tops or otherwise can be hard to decipher.

Here's what I do. I start a little above what should be the vertical midpoint and make a stroke in a upper-right to lower-left direction. Then I do the curve for the lower loop, cross the initial down-stroke and construct the upper loop, ending about where I began. Much of it is sort of like printing an S from bottom to top. But as I said, the result more often than not is a deformity.

Worse, I'm probably too old a dog to learn a new 8-making trick.

So now that it's 2008, I'm doomed to writing sloppy 8s every time I write the date instead of the normal three days per month. Of course, 1988 was worse because I had to struggle with two 8s.

Thank heaven I didn't live the the 19th century. 1888 would have been hell.



UPDATE: My arm is little sore from MB's twist persuasion, but behold some 8s I just wrote.


posted by Donald at February 1, 2008


Visuals! Visuals! The crowds demands Jpgs!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 1, 2008 3:50 PM

Beware!!! 8/8/08 approacheth!!!!

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on February 1, 2008 3:56 PM

Just think how lucky you are to not live in the distant future -- 8888 (or even 88888) would make 1888 look like a walk in the park.

When I try to write an 8, or several of the letters in the alphabet, my hand does a cute spasm thing and leaves an undecipherable blot of ink behind on the page. I've spent my life typing. My handwriting has been the victim of that life.

Posted by: JMW on February 1, 2008 4:37 PM

My handwritten "5" and "6" can be hard to distinguish from one another.

Posted by: Peter on February 1, 2008 5:55 PM


Your problem may be that you are starting the 8 in the wrong place. Instead of beginning in the middle, try starting at the upper right. Then just make a normal "S." When you get to the end of the "S," zip back up to the point of origin. This is how most people make eights. It looks like a misunderstanding by the five or six year old you is still causing legibility problems today. PDF the results?

Bill P

Posted by: Bill P on February 1, 2008 10:10 PM

Had the same thought as Bill P above.
You're writing it the wrong way. Ever since my son entered American elementary school, I was astounded with total disinterest of teachers in training kids in proper handwriting skills. When I was a first-grader (in one of the Soviet Ethnic Republics), we spent good part of the week writing "sticks and hooks", and gradually whole letters and then words in specially lined notebooks. There were not only thin blue horizontal guidelines, but the vertical ones, or rather lines at 7degree to vertical, for correct slant. We were also taught where it is appropriate to make thicker or thinner line in our letters. I guess, that last skill gone the way of inkpens, but I can still do it.

Or your problem might be an onset of arthritis...Either one.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 2, 2008 11:17 AM

What Bill P wrote. You're writing the 8 backwards. Assuming that you're right-handed, you're making the bottom-loop counter-clockwise, which feels unnatural to me.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on February 4, 2008 3:33 AM

The scan is what makes this post work. I laughed out loud when I saw it.

I make my 0's from the bottom up instead of the top down, which means they are frequently confused with 9's. My mom has been trying to nick this habit since kindergarten.

Posted by: Noumenon on February 4, 2008 5:31 PM

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