Your Signature

Yes, Neatness Counts

Have you ever considered how you sign your name, or the pen you use to do it?

If you’re like a lot of people, your signature is an illegible scrawl that you scratch out in a hurry when you finish a letter, fill out a document or write a check. You’ve written your name so many times in your life — hundreds, at least, probably thousands — that it’s just a rote process.

Does it really matter what it looks like?

Maybe. Maybe not. But there are people who believe signatures communicate a great deal about you, either positive or negative. And, you have to admit, your name is just about the most personal thing you can ever put down on paper.

“I consider your signature a little bit like stagecraft,” said Susan Wirth, a nationally recognized pen expert who specializes in matching clients with the right pen. “In other words, it’s an opportunity to convey anything you want.”

So, if you’d like to start making a statement with your signature, there are three things you need to consider: the ink, the pen and the style with which you write.

Settling on the right color and consistency

To begin with, forget about using ordinary ballpoint pens for important signatures. It’s bland and sticky and too easy to smudge. Plus, the pressure you have to apply to put ballpoint ink on paper will make ugly indentations you might not want on business documents or correspondence.

For a bold, professional signature, you want to use a good quality gel or a liquid ink of the type found in rollerballs and fountain pens. If you use a liquid ink, make sure to sign your name in a smooth, flowing hand, without hesitations, to avoid leaving blots in your signature.

For professional documents, go with black or blue ink. Black is the preferred color for many companies and government offices, especially on legal documents, and, in some cases, is actually required. However, you might want to consider using blue ink to sign original documents since it can be difficult to distinguish between an original signed in black ink and a photocopy.

If you’re concerned about the security or longevity of your signature, Uniball pens using Uni Super Ink — which comes in black, blue and red — are marketed as resistant to tampering, fading and running. For fountain pen users, Noodler’s Ink offers several “bulletproof” inks that are known for being all but impossible to remove from paper.

The color of ink you use for personal documents like letters or journals obviously matters far less. Actually, branding experts even recommend selecting a vibrant color as a way of establishing your own brand identity. Using a single color like green or purple for all of your personal correspondence is a simple way of distinguishing yourself.

The right professional accessory

Use a pen with a medium or broad point for a strong, confident signature.

A fountain pen is an excellent choice for producing a professional signature that has a little extra panache, especially if you use a pen with an italic nib or one with a nice flex nib like the Namiki Falcon. The general consensus seems to be that your signature almost immediately becomes more legible when using a fountain pen. And, you have a broad range of color choices, even within the black and blue ranges.

“An italic is like having a wonderful tailor, even if you don’t have a wonderful figure,” Wirth said. “They’re certainly more trouble than grabbing anything at hand … but they make such a difference. Any time I don’t have one, I end up regretting it.”

While high-end fountain pens with italic nibs can run $200 or more, the Sheaffer Calligraphy (less than $50) is often recommended for its quality italics and ease of use, particularly for first-time fountain pen users.

But, if an expensive fountain pen isn’t practical for the writing and signing that you do, then a good gel or rollerball with a broad point will do just fine. You might try a Pilot G2 Pro or a Uni-ball Signo 207 Premier, both of which cost only a few dollars and are available with 1.0 mm points. They both offer clean, rich lines and smooth writing for a flowing signature. Just be mindful that broad points lay down more ink, so they dry a little slower.

Whatever pen you choose to use, the brand and style is far less important now in the business world than it used to be, said Ron Sachs, statewide communications consultant and president of Ron Sachs Communications.

“The kind of pen … is only important to government executives using it in a ceremonial way,” he said.

Sachs said he tends to lose pens, so he carries around inexpensive Paper Mates or even a Sharpie for daily use and keeps something only slightly more upscale — for example, a Fisher Space Pen — on his desk for signing contracts.

Whipping out an expensive Mont Blanc to sign documents in a meeting is a practice more suited to the era of “Mad Men” than today, he said.
That means you are free to choose whatever kind of pen works best for you when selecting your signature tool.

What does your signature say?

For your signature to make any sort of statement, it needs to be written in a way that other people can actually read it.

Greg Fox at the DonorPower Blog wrote a piece examining the signatures on the fundraising letters he receives from various organizations. He did not have kind words for those who signed their letters illegibly, writing that potential donors might actually be turned off by that kind of sloppiness.

“Signatures like these say, ‘I’m an important person. I’m too busy to sign my name so you can read it,” he wrote. “That creates distance between the signer and the donor — and distance is the last thing you want.”

He’s got a point. A scrawled signature does have a certain impatience about it that some recipients, either business or personal, could take for arrogance or indifference toward them.

If you’re a person who scrawls, you’ll have to practice to improve the legibility of your signature (and maybe improve your handwriting in general).

You’ll also have to remember to slow down when you sign your name, at least until you get used to doing it neatly.

Obviously, your signature should be in cursive, following the basic styles you learned in school, but you also can give it certain flourishes to add your own personality. You can loop the tail of the last letter back to underline your name, or make the first letters of your first and last name bigger than all the other letters, whatever you want. Just don’t go overboard.

Self-described handwriting analyst Elaine Ness writes on her website that, “A highly embellished signature, especially if larger than the body of writing, can indicate underlying feelings of inadequacy. Showy writing reveals a need to be noticed … As you might guess, it is common to see public figures sign their names just that way.”

Ness and others in the handwriting field also caution that signatures written in an undersized, left-leaning hand might subconsciously communicate to readers that you lack confidence.

“That can suggest you are almost painfully inhibited,” Wirth said.

Your best bet is to find one stylish, neat signature that feels comfortable to your hand and stick with it.

“It’s your territory,” Wirth said. “You want it to be authoritative and dramatic, but legible.”

Categories: Your Mind