What makes "feminine" handwriting?

"Masculine" writing? "Feminine" writing? Why?

Every culture with a gender binary imposes gender onto all aspects of human appearance and behavior. This is done in order to reify that binary and make it appear to be "natural," rather than arbitrary. As an example, let's look at handwriting. Most people can make a better than chance guess at someone's gender identity based on a handwriting sample. But why?

A couple of years ago, a reader asked me how she could make her handwriting more "feminine." I had a general sense that in the US, "feminine" handwriting is neater, more loopy, and in its most mockable form has little circles or hearts dotting each letter I. It turns out it's much more complicated than that, and the entire field of inquiry can easily devolve from legitimate forensics into quackery like "graphology" and "evolutionary psychology." The section has become the most popular part on my how-to site for transgender people, as there is considerable general-market interest in the topic, even in our age of texting and IMs. I include 30 handwriting samples (worth reading because they are cute aphorisms). Learn about gradient, structure, concavity, and maybe even make your chicken-scratch a little more legible, no matter what your gender.

Handwriting and gender cues (via Transsexual Road Map)


  1. Hi Andrea,

    Can you offer an example of a culture that does not have a “gender binary” within its mainstream?


    1. The fa’afafine of Samoa are biological men who assume a female gender identity in childhood and who are raised as females. This is accepted in traditional Samoan culture. There are quite a number living in New Zealand where I am from.

      For more info check out the Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa%27afafine

  2. I second Gendun’s question. I’ve always assumed feminine writing was universal…but perhaps not. Would also love to know whether homosexuals break handwriting stereotypes in any predictable way.

  3. Haha. That is funny. When I was a little girl I always got in trouble for “writing like a boy” in handwriting class. The teacher used to scream at me regularly over it. Then they invented computers. Handwriting is meaningless to me now. Thank god because I still have pointy uneven handwriting and usually just use block letters. I have no interest in having pretty handwriting. I’m female, and I have feminine handwriting because I have a vagina. That’s all there is to it. If my feminine handwriting isn’t pretty enough for you then good thing you’ll probably never see it because typing is faster and easier.

    I’d like to read the article but I just noticed my work actually has a filter called “GLBT Topics” and… well… stay klassy corporate america.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who got the “you write like a boy, what’s wrong with you?” reaction in school, from both teachers and fellow students. I still write “like a boy” in both cursive and in printing, so obviously my teachers failed to make much of an impression.

      In my case, I think it’s the fact that I want to get my ideas down quickly rather than gender ambiguities that influence my handwriting.

  4. @Gendun: As an example, last week the Pakistani government officially recognized hijras as a distinct gender. Hijra culture has existed for centuries, where they were revered as entertainers and healers, similar to the mahu in Hawai’i. It is still considered tradition to have a hijra come to your wedding or the birth of your child in many parts of southeast Asia. Globalization has reduced many hijras to begging and sex work in urban areas.

  5. Thank you for the examples on your site–very revealing. My own handwriting probably qualifies as androgynous, but I genuinely see the ways to make it more feminine. Very helpful…as always.

    I give you snaps and props.

  6. @Anonymous: Hamid’s 1996 work that showed that some stereotypical “masculine” writing traits (hurried, uneven, messy, spiky, sloping and bold) appear in cultures using other writing systems. Lester’s 1977 paper examined “males who write with handwriting judged to be feminine and vice versa” and concluded their handwriting “is not reliably associated in these studies with femininity or with sexual orientation.” Both are discussed in the article.

  7. I call bullshit.

    Thinking about it some more. I’m not genderqueer, I’m not non-feminine appearing, I’m not an androgen resistant male although I look like one. I just have scruffy handwriting.

    I also happen to know a male who writes big loopy letters complete with little circles for “i” and he’s not gay either. I think people for the most part can learn to write however they think they are supposed to. If I put enough work into it I can write pretty girly letters, it’s just a pain in the rear and why would I bother?

    Considering how much duress I was put under to write “like a girl” I’m inclined to think that there is no innate gender handwriting. Girls just get the shit slammed out of them if they don’t or can’t learn to write in pretty loopy cursive.

    1. It’s worth remembering that statements that are true when comparing groups don’t tell us anything useful about individuals.

  8. @blueelm: I agree. I believe handwriting is a learned trait like a speech accent. However, there are certain physiological traits that can affect one’s writing ability (age, etc.). We simply don’t have enough information at this time to say unequivocally that there is no sex/gender-based physiological component at play.

    1. Not having evidence that something ISN’T a cause isn’t how science works though.

      I’m not sure a fire breathing dragon DOESN’T live in the sun after all.

      I mean I have some reasons to think it could, especially if you consider what I might really mean by the word dragon.

      So yeah, prove there isn’t one.

  9. If estrogen improves fine motor skills(which it does), wouldn’t it make sense that women’s handwriting is more tightly controlled? That would indicate that it is simply easier for women to have nice penmanship.
    This begs the question: for those undergoing hormone therapy related to a sex change, would the handwriting eventually show those effects?

  10. I don’t know who this Andrea James person is, but I am an instant fan!

    In my regular day-to-day I don’t often come across people who know enough about Ev. Psych to know that it’s nonsense, or those who understand gender as performance. It’s amazingly satisfying to read this post!

  11. The fact that evolutionary psychology sometimes comes to conclusions Andrea James may find objectionable does not entitle her, or any other person without suitable qualifiations, to call it “quackery.” The field is not without its problems, but unlike this business about reification of gender binaries and so-on, it actually has sensible theoretical underpinnings from which to explore the human mind.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. If you are going to label evolutionary psychology “quackery”, you need to support that claim.

    2. I’ll be writing a post on “evolutionary psychology” quackery and other nonsensical fads in academia next week. Stay tuned!

      1. When you write your piece, please talk about the way psychology research normally works. I was trained as an engineer and a physicist; I know nothing about social science. I’m adamant that science requires the use of numbers, and that accuracy of prediction is the most important if not only measure of a theory or model’s value. I’ve met research psychologists who think the same way (the numbers are percentages of populations, or scores on instruments; the predictions are probabilistic). But the rigorously quantitative side of psychology research doesn’t seem to get as much popular press. There’s a part of me that wants to hear ‘psychology really is as mushy and unscientific as you think it is!’ but I suspect that is unfair to real psychology researchers. :-)

        re. evolutionary psychology the problem seems to be the untestable and dubious claim that the way we are is adaptive (rather than emergent, accidental, irrelevant, or even maladaptive). But how dangerous is that as a starting point? It isn’t science in itself, and can degenerate into story telling, but as an idea to guide more empirical research…

        1. Ideally psychology research should seek to predict, that is the best form of validity testing we have. Unfortunately, people are infinitely complex and do not behave like elements or machines. Thus, the outcomes variables in psychology are fuzzy at best.

          For example, I am currently doing a PhD in psychology and trying to find predictors of on-road driving performance in older adults (some with Alzheimer’s). The problem is the on-road test has not been tested for reliability or validity, so my outcome measure is fuzzy. This does not make prediction easy, but will be a scenario familiar to most social scientists.

      2. If you’re going to take on evolutionary psychology, you have a lot of reading to do. I suggest starting with Darwin — first, The Origin of Species, chapter 7, on Instinct. Then try The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Finally, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Of course you’ll want to include readings from Darwin’s contemporaries as well. Follow that up with some neurophysiology, genetics, and studies on the heritability of behaviors. At that point you’ll ready to start engaging in a meaningful discussion of the subject.

        There was a time when I found your “roadmap” to be helpful, thank you, but I think you’re stretching too far on this one.

        The traps that people often fall into are

        1) they can’t tell the difference between trying to understand something vs trying to justify it. For example, a biological influence on aggression doesn’t mean that it’s ok because it’s natural. The plague is natural, but it’s not ok. Some animals eat their young. That doesn’t mean that we should.

        2) they miss the fact that saying that behavior is genetically influenced doesn’t mean that it’s genetically determined. Biologists themselves get sloppy with their language in talking with each other. In the first ten minutes of a genetics class, you learn that the phenotype (observable characteristics of the individual, including behaviors) is produced through the interaction of the genotype and the environment.

        3) they don’t realize that a very slight tendency can be highly significant in evolution. If your offspring can run 1% faster than other offspring, and escaping predators is important, then over thousands of generations, that 1% difference is huge. If that 1% difference is due to a single allele, eventually everybody in the population will have that allele.

  12. I suspect my background has more to do with my handwriting than my hormones. My writing is large, all block and quite messy. Because I’ve been involved in cartoons and comics art since adolescence, I adopted block lettering early on. Block takes longer to write than script so it gets very messy whenever I’m jotting down something fast (I’ve had people confusing my E’s for 6’s!).

    One thing I find intriguing is that my handwriting is nearly identical to my father’s, whom left when I was a young kid so he was never involved in my development. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we are both lefties and cartoonists? My mother shakes her head in puzzlement every time she gets a written note from me.

  13. In Japanese there are four alphabets, this one, romaji, and the three “asian” ones, hiragana, katakana and kanji.

    In a short and maybe incorrect summary that omits many things: Many, many years ago women weren’t allowed to use kanji (chinese ideograms/letters), so they developed hiragana and popularized writing for the masses, in fact, japanese women from generations ago were their first written poets.

    Hiragana is very loopy and circular, with soft edges and curves every where, and if boingboing.net is Unicode compliant (*), you can see here an examples: ひらがな (“Hiragana”, written in… Hiragana! Shocking, isn’t it?)

    Now, katakana, the one used now to write foreign words, is more like if it was written with a katana on your enemies skin, following the previous example: カタカナ

    And now to the point, hiragana is girly and katakana is very macho. Nah, just kidding here, but the historic poetess thing is, supposedly, true.

    (*) A good summary if it isn’t or somebody else is interested is here: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html

  14. What strikes me as interesting is the tendency for modern Western-educated liberals to assume the burden of proof is on *natural* interpretations of sexual dichotomy. Given that the author observes that every culture exhibits this basic dimorphism* why assume that it *is* cultural?

    * no evidence was offered that the “hijra” category means those societies do not differentiate between male and handwriting.

  15. Evolutionary psychology is just a nonsensical fad in your opinion is it? Which part doesn’t make sense, the fact that humans are animals that have evolved or that genetics can play a role in how the human mind works?

    If anyone wants to do some prep work before Andrea unveils her alleged “quakery”, here’s a great interview with Steven Pinker about evolutionary psychology.


    And it’s worth looking into the writings of people like David Sloan Wilson and Joseph Henrich who are recasting the role of evolution in human behaviour and culture.


    1. Evolutionary psychology is not quackery, but at least in popular works a lot of quackery passes under that name. Kind of like “psychology” in general, in fact.

  16. it’s kinda funny, I adopted a handwriting style on purpose many years ago that is tall, vertical, blocky, easy to read, but with shortcuts (such as one line through two T’s, ‘and’ replaced by a stylized plus, etc). I did this methodically and on purpose, changing from script/cursive/joined-up handwriting that I had used for years.

    It wasn’t till later that I saw my handwriting was quite close to my fathers. Suppressed memories? Maybe. Gender role? Maybe. I dunno, I just thought it looked and read better.

    Great post!

    1. Not to mention that “evolutionary psychology”, although not called such, was an important part of the theory of evolution from the beginning, to the extent that it has a whole chapter in the Origin of Species. It is not possible to believe in evolution yet to doubt that evolution effects our instincts.

      For those interested, this is an interview with an evolutionary psychologist about many of the common criticisms of the theory:

  17. Nature can be just as much a black box as God. Unfortunately, many (not all) evo. psych types seem to try to read the empirical history of human kind as religious folk do the bible—i.e. reading whatever they want into it.

    On the up side, as long as these types are willing to accept the scientific method (as most claim they do), they should be able to eventually be convinced by evidence, and or logical argument, to the contrary. They should begin by reading Anthropology—sorry, not many numbers, but plenty of empirical data ;)

  18. When I was an undergraduate psych major at the University of Iowa (in the early 70s), I conducted some research examining people’s ability to discriminate between male and female handwriting. I collected a large sample of handwriting (“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”), turned them into slides, and asked other undergrads to guess the gender of each writer. I was trying to see if people with very traditional perceptions of male and female roles would be more accurate at making these judgments (because it would tend to reinforce their attitude that men and women are very different) than those with more progressive attitudes (i.e., attitudes influence looking for similarities/differences influence perceptual abilities). I found only a weak difference due to attitude. The strongest finding from the research was the difference in judgment accuracy between men and women. Women were MUCH MORE ACCURATE at identifying men’s and women’s handwriting than men were (this was an original although trivial finding at the time). I assume this finding still holds true and is very likely related to why women write “better” (more neatly, consistently, etc.) than men do: when it comes to handwriting (as well as a variety of other tasks), they are required to perform to a higher/more difficult standard and have to learn to “see” what that is.

  19. Props to Darwindr above for a useful comment.

    Evolutionary psychology describes a set of testable theories that are being evaluated as we speak. It is certainly not up to journalists to do that evaluation. Steven Pinker aptly explains: “…evolutionary thinking is already pervasive in the less politically sensitive areas of psychology, like perception and motivation. It would be perverse to insist that researchers in stereo vision not be allowed to take into consideration the evolutionary function of being able to see in depth, or if scientists who study thirst were condemned for analyzing how thirst works to keep the body’s fluids and electrolytes in balance. Ultimately that is what evolutionary psychology is about, but applied to more contentious domains cognition and the social emotions.”


    Neither this BB piece or the linked handwriting article slandering the psychologists mentions who they are. It is no surprise that some scientists are quacks. Labeling an entire, productive arena is not helpful. This conclusion without evidence is low-quality reporting.

  20. Um, “evolutionary psychology” isn’t quackery, it’s a legitimate field in psychology worldwide. Your brain is a part of your body, and I’m pretty sure the theory of evolution being applied to humans has been pretty well accepted by the scientific community. A cursory look might make it seem like social darwinistic bs, but it is a serious area of study looking to interpret human behaviours and anatomy in terms of our biological past. For evidence, search up your favourite well-known university with “evolutionary psychology” in google and chances are they will have some research going on. It is true that it is more subjective simply due to the difficulties in scientifically verifying theories, and thus more prone to the biases of its researchers, but throwing the whole field out there into the realm of the Loch Ness Monster is a bit much.

  21. Well one thing is for sure. They did experiments where they taught Chimps to count and they presented the Chimps with two baskets, one with 4 M&Ms and one with 2 M&Ms. Whichever one the Chimp picked the trainer would give that amount to another nearby Chimp. No matter how much the Chimp wanted the 4 M&Ms it couldn’t help but reach for the 4 M&Ms. Then they taught the Chimp actual numerals and placed those in the baskets in place of M&Ms. Once the Chimp learned to work with M&Ms through numerals it was able to select the 2 M&Ms and get the 4 by selecting the number 2.

    The point is: whether human psychology is performed or evolutionary, once we have an abstraction of our subject (in this instance the two allegedly competing theories of gender performativity and evolutionary psychology) then we can manage the impulses in question by virtue of that theory we prefer.

    1. That begs the question of how you arrived at that preferred theory…

      Would a person with extremely active mirror neurons and a high sense of empathy have the same theories of morality as someone with a very low sense of empathy, just to grab one potential example.

  22. I didn’t know a thing about “evolutionary psychology” when Ms. James stated it was quackery.

    So I read the “Overview” on Wikipedia. Now I feel I’m completely qualified to chime in.

    I’m no scientist, but to this science-leaning layman it all sounded rather logical. It had me wondering (since Ms. James didn’t back up her claim) what made it “quackery.”

    Then I hit this sentence: “This view is contrary to the idea that human mental faculties are general-purpose learning mechanisms.”

    And I can see how people might have a problem with being told their brains weren’t blank slates the day they were born. I can also see how social agendas on all fronts could spin the idea that “we’re born the way we’re born.”

    1. I think you’ve hit upon an important point there mhains. It often comes down to supporting or rejecting the blank slate argument (or the opposite extreme ‘my genes made me do it’) for social or political reasons. Of course the truth lies somewhere in the middle, most (all?) behaviours have both a learned *and* an inherent aspect to them.

      I’ll hold my judgment until Andrea James writes her denouncement of evolutionary psychology next week, but I’m guessing she’s going to portray it as genetic determinism.

      I was pretty bummed when Corey posted a glowing review of a book trashing a straw man version of evopsych a few weeks ago.

  23. It’s the same with drawing, I think.

    I remember I went to this Illustration Gallery in Manhattan and saw this New Yorker cartoonists work along with the artists full name. “That’s a guy?” I asked. “Yes, Why?” The curator asked. “I dunno, he just doesn’t draw like one.”

  24. Also, evolutionary psychology is not quackery. It really isn’t. Some terrible shit lives under its canopies but that’s really only because it is an area where there’s a lot of room for learning and expansion.

    After all the brains we have did evolve along with all our other parts, and an awful lot of our psychology has to do with our brains. So while there’s a lot of wrong hypothesis, bad ideas, and generally embarrassing tripe that has been put out there that’s really not a reason to call the whole thing quackery. Those are just ways evolutionary psychology probably doesn’t work I think.

  25. I haven’t read the article yet, but I would like to add this to the question of handwriting being a learned trait: different countries using the same alphabet tend to have different calligraphic styles. I have passed through the French, the British and the Polish school systems and each one had a distinctive ‘correct’ way to write. I actually had to adjust my handwriting with each school change so that teachers would be satisfied with my work. If I were to compare the three styles by the ‘flowers versus swords’ stereotype I would say Polish is most feminine and British most masculine, with French lying nicely ambiguous in between.

    Irrelevant if the study group have all received the same base education, of course.

    Maybe this is interesting: frustrated with having to conform to different styles, I finally merged them and created my own calligraphy in high school. My younger sister who has also seen two different schools in two different countries did the exact same thing at that stage of her life. And though my weird style didn’t last long, it evolved into the way I write now, which, funnily enough, closely resembles my father’s handwriting. Which in short means it is completely illegible.

  26. I’m a professor; so I grade a lot of handwritten essays; and I’ve seen all sorts of handwriting, ranging from the nearly calligraphic to the virtually illegible. From my own personal experience I’d estimate that about 80-85% of the time I can tell whether an essay was written by a male or a female student based on the handwriting alone. In almost all of the cases where I guess wrong, the writer is female, but the handwriting looks “masculine”. I don’t recall many cases at all where the handwriting looked “feminine” but the writer was male.

    It’s hard to explain exactly what the difference is between “masculine” and “feminine” handwriting; and I’m tempted to echo the immortal words of Justice Potter Stewart and simply say, “I know it when I see it.” But I guess that the key difference is that “feminine” handwriting tends to look more fluid, more precise, and neater, with letters that are more “curvy” and “loopy”; whereas “masculine” handwriting tends to look more deliberate (even halting), more uneven, and often quite messy, with letters that are more “square”, “angular”, or even “jagged”. I don’t know why there tends to be such a noticeable difference between men’s and women’s handwriting. I’d have to guess that at least part of the explanation has to be cultural. However, I wouldn’t rule out biological explanations entirely. I’m tempted to speculate that women may (on average) have better fine motor control than men do. (But, since I’m not a neurologist, I really don’t know that for sure.)

  27. Despite the number of posters here fervently reciting their incantations about how EP is “definitely not quackery, no sirree, just a lot more learning to be done is all”, it remains a field as overrun by pure speculative opinion, and is at least as bullshit-ridden as something like say, postmodern sociology or gender studies. The wandering pontifications of EP’s luminaries typically lack even the slightest hint of rigor or Popperian falsifiability and are often the textbook definition of fanciful just-so-stories. It is protoscience at best, plain old bollox at worst. I look forward to Andrea’s upcoming takedown.

  28. Gender cannot be determined through handwriting. There are feminine characteristics, and masculine ones, and everybody writes with the blend that fits them, unless they make a contrived effort not to.

    Go and sample the writing of a gay man, or lesbian woman to see ready examples of what I mean.

    Generalizations can be made, but there is no absolute gender identifier that I have found that is consistent.

  29. I think things like gender binary are prevalent through out all cultures as a learn behavior from childhood. We watch our parents (mother/father) and take on roles in society similar to theirs, eventually finding the gender style/ attributes that fit us the best (usually that ends up being whatever gender we are, guys tend to act like guys, girls tend to act like girls).

    Similarly because boys usually hang out with boys and girls usually hang out with girls their handwriting styles develop accordingly as they try to mimic each other’s handwriting styles (hence why girls write like “girls” and boys write like “boys”). Because of this it also allows for more androgynous handwriting and those identifying as another gender (other than their birth gender) to write like their identified gender.

  30. “Every culture with a gender binary imposes gender onto all aspects of human appearance and behavior.”

    Why think this is true? It’s not true a priori; how might one adduce empirical evidence for its truth?

    Evolutionary psychology is hardly quackery. But I’ll follow you this far: Given that we often know very little about the circumstances in which we evolved, we know very little that the sociobiologist thinks that we know about the function of evolved properties.

  31. As a philosopher of science, I can assure you that evolutionary psychology is a serious field full of very bright minds.

    ( I’m not ascribing any of the following to Andrea James.) Many in the humanities (other than we (well, mostly) philosophers) think that there is very little/nothing hard-wired in at birth. (Paul Boghossian has some interesting things to say about why one might think this in _Fear of Knowledge_. ) They believe this in spite of the fact that we have tons of evidence for thinking that a great deal of our psychological makeup is hard-wired. (Steven Pinker was so bothered by this anti-scientific stance in the humanities that he wrote _The Blank Slate_.)

  32. Upthread spandrels were mentioned; which are another problem for evolutionary psychology. And David Sloan Wilson is really good.

  33. @gnioboing 41 “and is at least as bullshit-ridden as something like say, postmodern sociology or gender studies. ”

    But they aren’t problematic in the same way. The two fields you mention contain numerous claims that make on want to restart the Vienna Circle. The claims of EP can always be scruted.

  34. i have been told i have the handwriting of a serial killer, or a doctor. my letters are kinda jagged sometimes incomplete (my g sometimes looks like an s) and i connect my t & h most of the time. its rather unreadable if i write to quickly

  35. Arg. I am looking forward to the post on evolutionary psychology, to argue that it is not a quack field. There is a whole bunch of bullshit in it, but unless I miss my guess, that’s true of any field revolving around the human mind.

  36. I know why most women have better hand writing then most men… it’s based on when you learned how to write… young girls develop fine motor skills before boys. so in first few years in school (when MOST writing skills are taught) girls have the fine motor skills to actually learn how to write…
    the boys tend to be about two years behind and if they do catch up it’s long after these critical early school years…
    This confidence carries on throughout life.
    this is not a fast rule but it tends to hold true.

  37. Yes, I look forward to the posts on evolutionary psychology.

    One can criticize it (and that’s a good, necessary thing), but to lump it in with graphology seems a bit sloppy in thought.

  38. My handwriting is masculine (and illegible unless I’m really trying), but despite a general aversion to the color pink, I doubt that anyone who meets me would question my femininity.

    I’m sure that the generalization about handwriting and gender does hold true in most cases, but as with all generalizations, it’s important to remember that there are outliers.

  39. How is evolutionary psychology quackery? There is a great deal of actual hard data (research) to support claims made by evolutionary psychology. Beyond that, when one says things like “this is done in order to reify that binary” I question that person’s qualifications to accurately judge what is or is not “quackery.” It might have the EFFECT of reifying a binary, but there might be many, many other reasons as to WHY it is done by various individuals living within various societies.

  40. No one’s saying you can predict gender identity from handwriting with 100% certainty, just that there are certain general trends that increase correct guesses to well over 50% (pure chance).

    There are of course going to be all kinds of other factors affecting handwriting–formal writing education (I studied Russian in college and now I write all my lowercase b’s as Cyrillic v’s, and also write cursive z’s as in Cyrillic, for example; I was formally taught bits of old-style and Italic cursive, but never all of either; I’m a calligrapher with a preference for Gothic scripts); temperament; job (doctors tend to have illegible handwriting; museum collections managers tend to have very small, very tidy and legible handwriting); native speaker status (people who learn a new writing system tend to write both more carefully and less fluidly, especially at first); and so on.

    But, accurate or not, many people will often tend to categorize these complexities of handwriting as “masculine” or “feminine” regardless of their origin.

    Incidentally, almost every calligrapher I know has either an affinity for “round” or “straight” hands–round hands tend to be more slanted and involve ovals or circles as the base letterforms. Straight hands include the assorted Gothic hands and tend to be more vertical. In extreme cases, these hands can completely lack curves. I haven’t noticed any particular gender trends among modern calligraphers, but the Elizabethans believed Secretary (a semi-cursive, curvy/spiky hybrid hand of Gothic origin) was too difficult for women and most women consequently learned Italic (educated men often knew both and would switch back and forth within a given document). So obviously societal preferences play a role as well.

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