Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Summary and Review

by Michelle Dresbold, with James Kwalwasser

Has Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, with James Kwalwasser been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary.

Handwriting can slant to the right, and others to the left. Lettering can be large, or small. Some people leave blots of ink. Others may write in hieroglyphics. Some write with printing press precision. And all of the different ways that people put words onto paper speaks volumes. Handwriting is like a window into a person’s mind. We all write uniquely, and the tiny swerve of the hand can reveal a lot about our character, self-conception and even how we perceive our relationship to the people we’re writing to. This book summary will help you learn how to decipher handwriting. You’ll discover how to figure out who to trust and who to be suspicious of. And your writing will be able to reveal if your correspondent is a friend or foe.

In this summary of Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold, with James Kwalwasser, you’ll also uncover:

  • how many paintings Vincent van Gogh sold during his lifetime and how his handwriting reflects that;
  • what signatures on birthday cards for colleagues can reveal; and
  • why Elvis Presley’s writing was small and modest, but his signature large and flashy.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #1: Handwriting, the Brain, and Your Personality

When police detectives or FBI agents create psychological profiles for criminals, they tend to employ a solid technique: handwriting analysis. Handwriting provides psychological insight because it originates in your brain, not your hand. If your hands got damaged, you could learn to write with your toes or mouth, and the result would be writing similar to what you did with your hands. However, if you injure your brain, your handwriting could become altered or diminished. Being that your brain determines the characteristics of your handwriting including size, shape, and slant, these details, in turn, indicate various components of your personality. Let’s begin with the slant, which shows how upbeat a person is. Recognizing a slant in handwriting is similar to reading body language. If someone slouched their shoulders and head, you’d recognize it as a sign of moroseness or even depression. Conversely, if they have a bounce to their walk, and head held high, you would be able to tell that the person is more cheerful. The same applies to handwriting. An upward slant, with an upward angle, suggests a happy spirit, while a downward slant, at a downhill angle, implies sad feelings. Let’s compare the writing of two famous artists, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso. Van Gogh struggled a lot, selling only a single painting before committing suicide, and his downward slanted handwriting reflects his life. Picasso, on the other hand, was a wealthy and prolific artist who enjoyed a long life, and his writing slants upward with towering letters. Now, let’s look at curves versus sharp angles, which tell us how nurturing we are. For this example, we’ll examine the handwriting of Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler. Saint Teresa’s writing has many curves, using round letters that exhibit her gentle and caring personality, corresponding to her life dedicated to charity. Hitler’s handwriting, in contrast, has no curves at all. His letters are all angles, which show an angry, determined, competitive personality that matches his hostile intentions.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #2: Size = How You Feel Toward Others

If you’ve ever signed a birthday card for a coworker, you’ve likely noticed that some people take up a lot of space with big lettering. That is another handwriting characteristic that can offer insight into someone’s thoughts. Typically, those who use large letters are extroverted and talkative; they like to be around people and tend to use exaggerated hand gestures and expressions. Therefore, small handwriting suggests a more introverted person who prefers to go unnoticed. If we look at the handwriting of serial killer Ted Bundy, we see big and strongly expressive lettering which makes sense. He was outgoing and known to implement his charm and excellent social skills to seduce his victims. Then we have Ted Kaczynski, the reclusive “Unabomber,” who killed three people by sending mail bombs. His handwriting was small, tight and controlled, just like his living conditions; he lived alone in a single-room shack in the wilds of Montana. The way that people write names can also provide clues to their intentions. If you get a note that has your name written in tiny letters while the author’s signature is oversized, you can assume they hold themselves in higher regard compared to you. Conversely, if your name is in large, bold letters, while their signature is smaller and more delicate, they likely have a lower sense of self-esteem and think the world of you. If the names are about the same size, the writer probably considers you an equal. There’s an exercise that may help you discern some of your innermost feelings toward people. Think of three people you like a lot and one person you don’t and write their names down. There is a good chance that you wrote the disliked person’s name in smaller letters, using less pressure on the paper than you did with the other names. That is your subconscious working, telling you not to waste energy on that person. But there’s also the possibility you wrote the name by employing more pressure than the others, which means you’re probably directing a lot of angry energy toward them.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #3: Emotional Instability in Handwriting

Texting has made using a lot of exclamation marks and capital letters more commonplace in our daily communication, but it’s different to see those aspects in someone’s handwriting. If you notice a lot of capital letters and excessive characters or markings, you can assess it to be a sign of an obsessive personality and lack of self-control. Writing “FRAGILE!!!” on the side of a box filled with delicate items is one thing. But if you see writing full of underlined words, exclamation marks, and random punctuation, it’s a clue that the writer has trouble making good decisions. Imagine receiving a job application with several exclamation marks, and every other word either all-caps or underlined. Reasonably, you wouldn’t be inclined to accept the applicant, and you certainly wouldn’t want them to show up unexpectedly either. Another indication of instability is handwriting containing a combination of varying slants. When letters lean to the left, it usually means the writer is more withdrawn and emotionally guarded whereas letters that slant to the right tend to come from emotionally driven people who have tendencies to be impulsive, very romantic, volatile and prone to jealousy. People with straight and vertical penmanship are usually very controlling with their emotions and strive to have calm, cool and collected personalities. If you come across a letter, or even a signature that has any combination of slants be cautious, because that person may be quite a handful. However, the opposite issue can also be considered to be a red flag of sorts. When someone demonstrates robotically precise penmanship, they might be putting a lot of pressure on themselves and primed to snap. There’s a name for overtly precise handwriting that takes immense concentration: persona writing. People who use this style have a desire to be in complete control and a fear that any sign of imperfection will allow others to detect their flaws. If that occurs, they could lose control and things could get ugly.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #4: The Meaning of Gaps 

It’d be great if we could all trust each other, but the truth is, some people aren’t exactly honest. However, there are intriguing ways a person’s handwriting can reveal what’s going on in their head. Look out for unusually large gaps between words in a sentence. That can be an indication the writer had to pause to think about the lie they’re crafting. Of course, this is not always the case: they could have gotten interrupted by any number of other distractions. But if you already have good reason to be suspicious of a person, significant gaps could be a hint at deception. Also, keep a close eye on the letters A and O because they’re understood to be communication letters. Think of these letters as having tiny mouths that can expose how trustworthy their author is or isn’t. If there’s a slight gap at the top of the letters, it suggests the writer has loose lips and may have a hard time keeping secrets. If the letters have a gap at the bottom, it implies the writer could be trying to deceive you. When the circles in As and Os are entirely closed, it’s a sign that the writer is trustworthy and can be relied on to keep their mouth shut. Another detail worth paying attention to is the difference between someone’s signature and the rest of their writing. If it’s completely inconsistent, their genuine feelings could be different from what they express publically. Take Elvis Presley, for example; his signature was large and flashy, just like his onstage persona. Offstage, he felt lonely and anxious, which matched his tense and controlled handwriting. Elvis had a deep-seated fear of being alone. He slept in his parents’ bed until he was twelve, struggled with maintaining healthy relationships and paid people to keep him company. His signature may have reflected his rock-star status, but his normal handwriting betrayed his real fears.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #5: Writing and Self-Perception

There’s a lot that a single letter can say, especially when it’s the pronoun, “I.” In fact, “I” could be considered the most meaningful and revealing letter being that it’s an indicator of self. In Donald Trump’s case, “I” is a symbol of his considerable ego. In Trump’s handwriting, “I” is bold and heavy, indicating intensity and aggressiveness. It’s also symbolic of an oversized ego – the kind that would drive a man to put his name on everything he owned, from bottled water to casinos. Even when confronted with massive debt and multiple bankruptcy lawsuits, he stated, “I’m the biggest developer in New York! I have a number one show on television! The Trump brand is so hot…!” The letter “I” in Bill Clinton’s handwriting, however, exposes a self-destructive streak. Clinton marks his “I” with a line as if it were the letter “T.” It creates an “X” at the top of the letter, which signifies his habit to cross himself and get into trouble. “Trouble” includes his notorious sex scandal that resulted in his impeachment trial. As noted by psychotherapist Jerome Levin in his book The Clinton Syndrome: The President and the Self-Destructive Nature of Sexual Addiction, Clinton displayed many self-destructive traits, but he was also open about them. In his autobiography, he wrote that those behaviors were a consequence of isolation and anger. For Michael Jackson, more than one style of “I” shows signs of an identity crisis. In his handwriting, the letter “I” takes on various forms: cursive, printed, large, small. The King of Pop lived a very chaotic life, in the spotlight from childhood on, and many still feel like the actual Michael Jackson is an enigma. His handwriting informs us that he might have felt similarly. Oversized “I” signifies a person with a delusion of grandeur. In Lee Harvey Oswald’s handwriting, the letter “I” is large and sweeping, keeping with his personal belief that he was smarter than anyone else. His arrogance and self- delusion played a significant role in him convincing himself that he could solve the world’s problems by killing John F. Kennedy. More often than not, a writer’s handwriting can tell us as much as – if not more than – the words on the page.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting Key Idea #6: In Review

The key message in this book: Handwriting has an abundance of clues in it that can reveal the inner workings of a person’s mind, including their hopes, fears, and intentions. Learning to recognize these signs can help you to steer clear of those who are up to no good or stay close to the people who mean well. Not only that, but you may discover something about yourself as well. Actionable advice: Watch out for slashes and Xs in handwriting. If there are slash markings through someone’s As and Os, they’re termed “forked tongue strokes,” and are a sign of a scheming liar. For example, you’ll see this in O. J. Simpson’s handwriting. Likewise, when people form dramatic Xs in their signatures, it may suggest that they’re in deep despair and have a fixation with death. A great instance of this is Richard Nixon. If you compare his signatures from the late ‘60s to the ones after the Watergate scandal in 1974, you’ll find that as he was going through the political turmoil eventually leading to his impeachment, his signature was one big dramatic X, a clear indication of his despair at the time.