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Triumph of the Will

In which Desultor hazardeth his Anonymity

Last night I figured out how to overcome a galling shortcoming of mine: my lousy fives in handwriting. Everyone is always complaining about them, and how they can’t tell them from esses. I realized last night that this is because I have been using the same stroke to make a 5 as to make an S, vainly trying to make the five’s corners pointy and sometimes adding a hideous reinforcement line when they’re not pointy enough. This lousy practice leads me to the lousy practice of trying to differentiate my esses by making them wicked ultra dumb and stupid looking, with extra curlicues and whatever.

The year 1550 in the sample below shows one frightful five and one even worse one, which was so crummy I tried to reinforce it with a top line. This attempt at beautification was, like all of its predecessors, an abject and ugly failure.

But I have learned! The trick to making good fives is using two strokes of the pen, like so:

I was so psyched at my new trick that I exuberantly filled half a sheet with practice fives. Here’s a sample. See if you can spot the (unusually adequate) old school five hiding in the crowd!

I am going to seriously rethink my lower case a and d now; everyone’s always drilling on them too. Who knows where the power of multiple penstrokes will take me!

10 Responses to “Triumph of the Will”

  1. Becky Says:

    Nice scanning job!

    I have a problem with my lowercase s’s. They look like… I dunno. Lines. Often. Not enough squiggle. But surely esses don’t require more than one stroke!

  2. Becky Says:

    p.s. another way to make 5’s is making your #2 stroke the #1 stroke, and vicey versey. I think that’s how NORMAL people do it. You clearly need more practice in how normal people do it.

  3. Donna Wentworth Says:

    You have conquered your 5s. Very proud am I.

  4. e Says:

    Huzzah! Glad it worked out.

    Weirdly, I can spot the old-skool five numeral in the sample. I believe it’s true that our recognitionizers are sensitive to strokes, moreso than we’d think. Unrelatedly, speech is very directional: you can usually tell when someone is speaking AT you, or AWAY from you, which is why you’re sometimes convinced that someone’s talking to you, even though you’re on the bus and you have no idea what the person means.

    I have the (mis)fortune of having grown up in a household where handwriting, and other crafts, are unusually vaunted, leading to an obsession or paranoia with letterforms. Every few years (a locust-cycle, maybe), I spend some months trying to convert my lowercase “a” into the printed form, the way my dad writes it (with the little hoodie as you see here in Courier).

    Anyway, glad the fives are in style.

  5. Desultor Says:

    I tried to be normal but all it got me was this:

    “ugly fives pic”

    I just gotta be me!

  6. Erin Says:

    I’m with Becky — stroke 2 should be stroke 1. Then give it a hat.

  7. snjoseph Says:

    Hmm, I’ve always constructed my numeral fives in a single stroke. In fairness, it requires rather severe mental and physical discipline. However, “double strokes seem quite baroque.”

  8. katie Says:


  9. desultor Says:

    Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your feedback! I’m glad you had time to read this.


  10. Online Horoskop Says:

    I searched in Google for corners and I found your blog 🙂 Great blog, well done!