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On most of my documents, I have places where people can write their name and number. I found, many people do not print clearly, so I cannot read the numbers. For e.g., many write their 5's like 3's.

I know of one method used to provide student numbers on testing forms which involves a series of many bubbles, and people fill-in the ones corresponding to their numbers, however, this takes of a large amount of space on the page.

Is there any way to design the forms so that people print their numbers clearly?

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Handwriting is handwriting. Other than holding someone's hand or smacking them with a ruler when they color outside the lines... no. –  Lauren Ipsum Apr 23 '13 at 10:11
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4 Answers 4

Interesting question!

Perhaps you could give the user more space to work with, and then encourage them to fill in the form the way you want them to.

Consider the following:

Sample form items

1 shows that having a short line will encourage smaller writing, even if you have a lot of white space to work with. But lengthening the line in 2 doesn't change anything, since the leading wasn't increased with the line width. With 3, there's more space. Doesn't guarantee that people will fill it, but they're more likely to fill the space.

4 shows what happens when you turn the input into boxes. You more or less eliminate ligatures, and you encourage a certain size text. Unless people troll you with doing something like 5, they'll likely work with the space you give. So in 6, bigger boxes equal bigger numbers, and in 7, narrower boxes equal narrower numbers.

I also think that the size of the text leading up to the input area, though not as important, can send a subtle message regarding how big you want the user to make his or her writing.

So, while my handwriting isn't great, you see that 6 is a lot more readable than 1 or 2. Even 4 is better because it subconsciously makes me think of each number as a separate thing rather than a 4-digit phrase.

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Here is another example to encourage spacing: [enter link description here][1] [1]: wwwu.hak-vk.at/thoman/laschkolnig/bw%201/zahlungsverkehr/… –  tim human Apr 24 '13 at 5:37
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why not convert to .pdf forms? You can validate the data with JavaScript and create an email option just like a form on a website. Is there a reason you have to do handwritten forms? Have you thought about adding a caption in regards to print clearly? What exactly are you needing the forms for?

If we had a little but more info I know this site can help you find a solution.

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This is a "It's theoretically possible..." answer not a "People do this and it works..." answer - I've never seen this in the wild.


If you want to force people to write a standard way, you first need a standard convention that is a) familiar and b) easy to follow. There's only really one I'm aware of for numerals - 'seven-segement' numbers (like how they are presented in a digital clock):

enter image description here

If the form number segments are grey with white segments in this pattern for each numeral, so people fill in the segments, then you're leading people to a standard writing style and there's less room for variation.

However, many people won't be able to figure out how to fill in every number (I bet loads of people won't remember what a 4 looks like this way). I'd expect at minimum you'd need a row of examples, 0-9, along the top, for people to follow:

enter image description here

Will it work? No idea. Test it thoroughly if you decide to try it, and spend more time seeing if it's been tried before than I did. It might be a disaster, people might just not get it or make a mess of it.

But it might work: it's one of very few theoretically possible ways to cajole people into entering numbers in a standardised way.

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I think the biggest thing is to give a space per character that is large enough to easily write in. Some people simply won't care, but most people are more likely to be concerned with staying in the lines and therefore will write more carefully when there is a divider between characters than when there is simply an input line.

It can be something as simple as small notches coming up from the line at character spacing or can be full boxes, but something that makes people want to spend more time on writing will make the writing better as well in many cases. Sure it won't work for everyone, but it can help.

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