Docs, your handwriting sucks: Find out what doctors illegible handwriting reveals


Years ago, I heard about the awkward predicament of a young girl. She used to visit chemist shops frequently. No, she was not a patient of chronic diarrhoea; she was in a long-distance relationship with a doctor who used to write to her once a week. Like most doctors, his handwriting was also illegible. It could not be read: it could only be deciphered.

Most doctors write illegibly and it’s extremely annoying. We have all experienced it. Forget about names of the medicines on the prescription, we can’t even figure out whether we have to pop the pill before waking up or after going to bed. Like a bunch of buffoons, we have to depend on the extraordinary ability of salesmen at medicine shops to know what has been prescribed to us.

“Why can’t these doctors write clearly?” an exasperated chemist near my residence once muttered when I handed over to him a medical prescription. The query could indeed by categorised as a universal poser: why don’t doctors write legibly? But I believe a more pertinent question here should be: why do doctors write illegibly and what does it mean? We’ll try finding answers here.

Doctor handwriting

Last month, I came across a report about a Mumbai doctor who was lambasted by a court of law for preparing a medical report in illegible handwriting.

Also Read: 5 Signature styles you must avoid

Following the rap, the doctor gave an undertaking in the court that she would try to improve her handwriting. (Read the report). It was a good precedent set by the court. Even as I was reading the report, a friend called up and said, “Vish, why don’t you write on doctors’ illegible handwriting?”

“If I do, I will die unattended when I’m unwell,” I told the friend.

Doctor, writing legibly means showing care. Do patients not deserve that?
“Never mind. There are certainly a few doctors who write legibly and you can depend on them,” she argued.

She was right. I decided to write on doctors who write illegibly. Handwriting experts across the world have established that consistently illegible handwriting is indicative of a subconscious inclination to be careless, negligent and sloppy towards the person for whom it has been written.

Therefore, if a doctor writes illegibly for his patients, it means he is inconsiderate to the recipients of the prescriptions.

It’s like an attitude imprinted on the paper, which could be roughly put into words in the following manner: “I don’t care whether you are able to read it or not; I don’t care whether you get well or not; I am sitting here doing my job the way I like, in my own style. How much you will be benefitted from my skills is your problem and I am not going to be least bothered about what happens to you after you leave this cabin. Just pay the fee to my assistant and get out…”

I know it sounds bizarre but according to graphology that’s what illegible handwriting means. Most doctors argue that they write illegibly because they are in haste and they have to attend to many patients. Now, I have a little problem with this argument. It’s complete hogwash. We can prove it.

On an average, a doctor does not write more than 40 words on a prescription. Let’s assume that it takes them about three minutes to write a prescription in illegible handwriting. But if they write legibly, maybe they will take four minutes. Not more than that. The difference is just about 60 seconds. Doc, are you telling us that you write illegibly because you are too busy to spare 60 seconds to the person who is paying you for it? Sorry, sir, give me another one. If you consistently write illegibly for your patients, it shows your carelessness and inconsideration.

Interestingly, the same friend who told me to write on doctors’ illegible handwriting shared with me that her grandfather, a doctor by profession, used to write illegibly on prescriptions. But suprisingly, his handwriting was amazingly clear when he wrote personal letters. Why is that?

It’s because legible handwriting shows that you care for the recipient of the text. Hence, every time he wrote to his family members, he wanted to show how caring he is. Haven’t all of us experienced that we become very concerned about legibility while writing on greetings cards? Have you ever thought why? I’m sure you got your answer today. If you didn’t, here it is: Legibility, handwriting analysis says, is a subconscious way to show care.

So, next time you receive a get-well-soon card with messages in illegible handwriting, I’m sure you will know how to take it.

Now, let’s get back to doctors. If their  signature is as illegible as their  handwriting, then I really do not know what to say. I’ll rather not get into that possibility here, because I don’t want doctors to issue a fatwa against me and blacklist me as a patient. Illegible handwriting coupled with an unclear signature is a deadly combination. The patients of such doctors say: “My doctor gave me six months to live, but when I couldn’t pay the bill, he gave me six months more.”

By the way, guys, what do you think of the relationship between the doctor and the girl who visited the chemist shop frequently? Do you think that guy really loved her? I’m not telling you the answer. This one is easy. Go figure!


Analysis of Write Choice reader Mr Mittal’s handwriting

Mr Mittal's handwriting sample

In this post I am analysing the handwriting sample of Mr N Mittal, a Write Choice visitor. Mr Mittal is a rare combination of intense emotions, dignity, pride, honour and self-respect. He always watches a fight between his emotions and his pride. Emotions want him to let go, but his pride stops him for showing what he feels.

He has an excessive need to appear right and look appropriate. Mr Mittal always feels he should not say or do anything that is below his dignity. If anyone does not oblige him on his first request, he won’t say it again. He shows respect for people, gives them importance, offers them space and expects other to treat him similarly.

He is too proud of the way he looks and handles things in his life. Watch out, Mr Mittal! There is a thin line dividing pride and vanity. Anyone who wants to win his favour needs to appeal to his heart. He is guided by emotions, though he does not exhibit them very often.

Mr Mittal sets practical and achievable goals for himself and he pretty much achieves them. He has a keen interest in philosophy and spirituality and ardently pursues acquisition of knowledge. He is emotionally distant from both his parents, especially mom. And it’s likely his mom was a disciplinarian at home.

Pop a pen killer

Mr Mittal, I don’t recommend any changes in your handwriting. But I would like you to bring about some changes in your signature, which you will receive via email.

I see that the first letter of your first name is overwritten by your second name. I suggest you separate them and use your full name in the signature, making sure that the ‘N’ is the biggest letter in the entire signature. It’s ok to underline your signature the way you do now. All the best!

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  • Gabriela Caz

    Have you been in med school? When I was in high school,  my writing wasnt exactly beautiful, but it was pretty legible, when I started med school I learned that the amont of information that the teachers throw at you is more that the one that you can write down, and a lot of that information is not even in the books, is the experience of the teacher, so you need to find a way to write the most you can in the minimum amount of time, and after so many years doing the same thing, you get used to writing that way. 

    I’ve seen it first hand, my classmates think anyone can understand their notes, but it turns out that only the person who wrote them can

  • Caroline

    I must say I’m a medical student. In my opinion, everything is a matter of how much you care. In class I write way too fast and with very illegible handwriting but when I do my clinical reports I want people to understand what I have written. It is assumed that doctors are to provide solutions, not to create another problem. It’s all about how much you care!

    You’re absolutely right!