Calligraphy vs Handwriting

Calligraphy. Handwriting. Same same but different?

Definitely not the same thing! The two words seem to be used interchangeably, but there are certainly differences. Let’s break the word calligraphy down and look at its origins.

The word ‘calligraphy’ has Greek origins, and is derived from the two Greek words “kallos” (which means beauty) and “graphein” (which means to write). Put them together and you get “kalligraphos” (a person who writes beautifully).

The word ‘handwriting’ literally means to write by using your hand.

The fundamental purpose of writing is to communicate – how beautiful one’s handwriting is secondary to that purpose. On the other hand, calligraphy is primarily practised for its aesthetic purpose. How I like to remember the difference is that calligraphy is seen as an art form and it holds itself to a certain standard of beauty and elegance.

Calligraphy is also seen as the art of writing using specific tools like a nib and ink. There are variations in width for the upstrokes and downstrokes of each letter that is written. Calligraphic scripts also have rules that are followed. Calligraphy to me, is a pretty strict form of discipline (think playing an instrument, or playing a sport). Just like learning to play music or sport well, a calligrapher has to develop his/her skill through constant practice and analysis of one’s own work.

A common misconception that people have about calligraphy is that you need to have good handwriting in order to be able to learn and be good at calligraphy. This is far from true – if you are open to learning and analysis the rules of various scripts, and are willing to invest time in practising, there is no reason why you cannot develop your calligraphy skills!

I hope that this post was helpful and that you now understand a little bit more about the differences between calligraphy and handwriting. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any additional questions 🙂


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