A guide to italic handwriting

Italic is like that one friend (if you have friends) who is always elegantly dressed, well put together, and looks like they’ve mastered adulting while the rest of us out here are basic comic sans. (I included)

In short, Italic writing is elegant and is mostly used in formal writing.

As the name depicts, Italic writing was first used in Italy. Niccolò de’ Niccoli is regarded as the inventor of Italic. This came about through his rigorous study of ancient manuscripts and the countless copies he made.

To differentiate his copies from the originals, he used a tilted lettering style which we know today as Italic.

The term “Italic” refers to a family of scripts and not just one particular one. Therefore, you may encounter scripts of different shapes and appearances that are referred to as italics.

Italic is written using specialized nibs or pens that give it its distinctive appearance.

Here, we’ll focus on monoline italics, which is the skeletal form of italic writing. Once you understand how to form monoline italics, then you can move on to using italic nibs. With monoline italics, you can use any pen/pencil that you have available. The purpose is to familiarize yourself with the shapes and forms of italic letters.

Basic Italic vs Italic Cursive

Basic italic refers to the simplest form of italic letters that are formed independently, without joining one letter to the next.

Letters stand independently


Cursive italic on the other hand refers to italic letters that are joined to one another by the use of joins. 

Letters are connected


Unlike traditional cursive whose letters are 100% connected, cursive Italic contains letters that do not connect to others. (you know… the introverts of the italic alphabet)

Transitioning from basic italic to italic cursive.

In order to transition from basic italic to Italic cursive, joins are used.

A join is an extension or an additional stroke used to connect the end of one letter to the beginning of the next letter.

This is made possible by the use of beginning and end serifs.

A serif is a short stroke attached to the main strokes of a letter. 

Therefore, a beginning serif is an upstroke that leads into the start of a letter, while an end serif is the stroke that leads out of a letter. They do not constitute the the actual letter. In some cases, they are used for decorative purposes.

Below, you will notice that only cursive italics have beginning and end serifs.

The purpose of the entrance and exit strokes is to seamlessly connect the end of one letter to the beginning of the next letter and vice versa, by the use of a join.

The Joins.

There are several joins used to connect italic cursive letters. They are:

  1. Diagonal join
  2. Horizontal join
  3. Diagonal to horizontal join
  4. Horizontal to diagonal join
  5. Diagonal + swing up join
  6. NO joins(They do not connect to other letters)

Each of the above joins has been discussed in depth in the “Monoline workbook for Italic handwriting“.
You will be able to practice how each letter utilizes the above joins when connecting to other letters.

Here is an example of the horizontal join and how it is utilized.

The horizontal join

The horizontal join is either a straight line or a slightly curved line the moves from left to right.

The group of letters that use the horizontal join to connect to other letters are f, o, t, v, w and x.

Let’s look at an instance where each of the above letters connect to letter “a”.

Practicing your italic handwriting

The monoline workbook for Italic handwriting was designed to introduce a complete beginner to italic writing.

The workbook covers:

  1. A brief introduction to italic writing.
  2. A look at both print and cursive italics.
  3. All the basic strokes that form italic letters.
  4. How to transition from basic italic to italic cursive.
  5. An in-depth look at how each lowercase letter is formed (both print and cursive)
  6. A look at how lowercase letters connect to one another.
  7. All the uppercase letters.
  8. Some alternatives for joining other letters.
  9. Symbols, punctuation, and number formation.
  10. A practice session with words, sentences and paragraphs.

Leave a Reply