It occurred to me the other day that there could be a theoretical limit to how fast one could write by hand. I like to dig into datasets so this was a fantastic rabbit hole for me to research. It turns out there is a limit. Read on to learn some interesting facts about handwriting.
An adult whose handwriting is fully functional can write at least 100 legible LETTERS per minute: in other words, 20 average-length and legible WORDS per minute … but most adults’ handwriting is far from fully functional. Many adults, for instance, can write only about 50 legible letters ( = 10 legible words) per minute, which is not adequate for more than keeping up with the work of the fourth grade (Year 4 of a child's schooling). However, words-per-minute is not the best measure of handwriting competence — here is why: if you take one minute to write the words “"See Dick run,” and another person takes one minute to write the words “"Observe Richard’s acceleration,” you have both written three words per minute” …. but what a difference! Therefore, compute in letters-per-minute instead is far more relevant.
Scientists have found that you can not move any faster than you can shiver. This means that in order to find the maximum theoretical speed at which you can write, you first need to know how fast your muscles can move at any other situation. Since tremor-like movements in Parkinson’s disease and shivering produced by hypothermia seem to be the fastest movements the human body can produce, it seems reasonable to think this is the upper limit for handwriting.
Neuroscientists such as R. Llinás and others have placed this frequency at 10–15 Hz and this is why I think this could also be the top speed or upper theoretical limit for handwriting.
However, this does not mean that I have seen anyone writing this fast. 10–15 Hz could be approximately 6–18 letters per second or 320–480 letters per minute. This is not a sustainable writing speed nor has anything to do with typing accuracy. In order to reach 99% accuracy the letters per minute average is 105-160 LPM. Legal, medical and other types of high accuracy handwritten document letter handwriting speeds are in the 64-112 LPM range.
The average typing speed is about 295 letters per minute globally assuming the same accuracy benchmark. Meaning the average typing speed is 3 times faster than handwriting.
It is interesting to me how typing and texting are easily 3 times faster. That should not be surprising when I look at my children on their devices.
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