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Failing at a Signature Move

December 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Signatures are important. They attach a person to a document. They can seal important transactions. They can be legally binding. They also can be seen as a collector’s item.

I tend to take note of a person’s signature. I make evaluations on signatures. Or their less formal friends, autographs.

How people sign their names: Doesn’t it tell us something about them?

Signatures can be things of significance but also things of beauty. They can display a practiced, well-trained hand with respect for the name and the letters therein.

Or they can be ugly, unintelligible scrawls.

Me and my signature? A train wreck. A nervous scribble that cannot decide if it wants to be bold … or legible … or stylish … and ends up being a sloppy and unreadable and even childlike.

It was watching Donald Trump, current president of the United States, sign his name that brought this up again, for me.

That man clearly has practiced his signature. All thick, bold strokes of nearly uniform height. There is power and confidence in that signature.

Maybe he got good at that because he did a lot of business deals that required a signature at the bottom — and the more memorable the signature, the better.

Take John Hancock. Now there is a signature.

Hancock was president of Congress in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was printed, and Hancock’s ornate but easy-to-read signature can be found, oversized, at the top and middle of the document.

It is such a great signature, supposedly oversized purposely so that the “king of England would be able to read it without his spectacles”.

Have a look.

That is the most famous signature in U.S. history. For a couple of hundred years, “all we need is your John Hancock” was common American usage asking for a signature.

Anyway. I have decided that it is hard to be taken as a serious person if your signature is a mess.

The smart person deals with that by streamlining his signature into a couple of capital letters and maybe a straight line. The end. My father, Al, used a cap A, then a cap O, then ————- just a line to as far as he wanted to take it. No attempt at all to articulate O-b-e-r-j-u-er-g-e. Just an O and a line.

Worked for him.

I, however, have been struggling with my signature for 60 years. It’s probably too late to do anything about it, but maybe I ought to try.

Here are the issues:

–The P up front calls for being big and important. But I don’t sustain it.

–I generally use my middle initial (R) and give it some emphasis, and a dot.

–Then comes a big O …

–And then comes chaos.

I could sign my name 10 times in succession and no two of them would look alike. Some might even suggest 10 different people took a whack at a difficult name.

Here is an example of how the official world deals with my signature: I was in a bank in England in the early 1980s, back when tourists arrived in a foreign land with pads of Travelers Checks — which could be turned into local currency as soon as I counter-signed a check I had first signed back in the states.

Easy, right? There is the first signature, right there. Do another one just like it.

Sure. My signature was so erratic, as I tried to hurry through 10 checks, that the clerk asked me if I were signing someone else’s checks. Like, no one signs their own name so poorly.

But I did and I do. I signed a document at a French office the other day, and it was ugly as sin. I dashed it off in a hurry, as I tend to do when panicked, and it looked horrible.


To see practiced signatures, look at the wiki pages for U.S. presidents, inside a box over on the right side of the page. Barack Obama, interesting, a little arty. Abraham Lincoln, perfectly legible. George Washington, stylish in the usages of his time (the “small” ess often was written, in cursive, using a letter that looked a lot like a very tall “ell.”)

They key to this, it seems to me, is consistency. Even a sloppy signature done the same way every time will gain some respect.

I need to do that. Maybe The Donald will offer me some pointers.


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