SignWriting® Handwriting
For Sign Language Notetaking

Lesson 1
Introduction, posted January 7, 2007

Welcome to this first lesson in SignWriting Handwriting!

My name is Valerie Sutton, and I will be your teacher ;-)

My sign name is:


If you have questions during this course, please post your questions to the SignWriting List. I will answer your questions on the List, so that all participants will learn from our communication.

If you are not a member of the SignWriting List, you can join now. Go to:

SignWriting List

SignWriting Printing is easy to read. It is designed for the reader.
The Printing can be written by hand as well as by computer. If I am writing a letter to a friend in ASL, I write the letter in SignWriting Printing, taking the time to make sure that my handwritten-symbols are easy and clear to read. I try to write as clearly as if I were using a computer. Of course it is slower, but it is worth it, knowing that my friend will be able to read my letter!

In US schools, in English, children learn to print block letters when they first enter school around age 6. In both First and Second grades, I remember writing rows and rows of perfect hand-written symbols. This training in writing Printing came before learning to write cursively, by hand.

Handwriting is an advanced writing skill, and cannot replace learning to read and write Printing. Handwriting assumes that both the writer and reader already know the official printed symbols so well, that if something is not clearly written, it won't matter because the reader will be able to guess what the writer meant.

So if you are brand-new to SignWriting...a new beginner...then there are other lessons for you, to start learning SignWriting. For example, I would suggest going to this web page:

Lessons in SignWriting

to view the Lessons in SignWriting videos, and to read the Lessons in SignWriting textbook, or post a question to the SignWriting List, and we will be glad to help you start learning SignWriting from the beginning.

if you have never read a SignWriting document, or never tried to write a symbol before, this course is too advanced for you. In this course, I am assuming that you already know a signed language, and that you are already familiar with SignWriting symbols.

SignWriting Handwriting is easier to write by hand, than the Printing. It is designed for the writer. There are several variations of Handwriting, and since most of the time, the writer is only writing for private notes, some writers create their own shortcuts that work just for them...and that is fine!

If, for example, you wish to jot down notes during a Sign Language class, if your sloppy notes jog your memory within the next few weeks, that is all that matters. If you want to remember those signs ten years from now, however, you may want to re-write your notes later in SW Printing to be able to really remember what you wrote...

For this reason, we never had courses in SignWriting Handwriting before. It was casual and relaxed, since Handwritten notes are not published. So this is the first time I have tried to teach the way I personally write by hand. I will also be sharing variations of handwriting I have seen in other people's notes. So you can try different ways of writing and share with us, on the SignWriting List, what works for you.

SignWriting Shorthand is even less detailed than the Handwriting. It is designed to write sign language at speed. We use special shorthand tables...the paper is in a roll and we pull it while we write, so we do not have to look down to turn the paper...Shorthand is for professional stenography. Perhaps someday, there will be court recorders writing the Sign Language interpretation in the courtroom, using SignWriting Shorthand...It has been used in classroom settings in the 1980's with success, but since it leaves out so much information, it is a requirement to then transcribe the notes into Handwriting or Printing later, and that is so much work, that Handwriting and Printing are more practical for daily use.

One important fact: I use some Shorthand symbols in my daily Handwriting...The Shorthand symbols may slowly become an active part of Handwriting, which may be a good thing! Dr. Karen van Hoek, a linguist who worked with SignWriting for a decade, used the Shorthand symbols as her daily Handwriting, and found them to work I suspect that the Handwriting will evolve over time...

So let's get started!


SignWriting® Handwriting
For Sign Language Notetaking


Write SignWriting by Hand
Directory of Lessons

Can SignWriting Be Written By Hand?
1. Six-page article with illustrations

Write SignWriting by Hand
2. Introduction: Return to Basics

Write SignWriting by Hand
3: SignWriting Block Printing

Write SignWriting by Hand
4: SignWriting Handwriting

Write SignWriting by Hand
5: SignWriting Shorthand



SignWriting® Handwriting
For Sign Language Notetaking


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