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While creating a form in .pdf format it occurred to me that I did not know or see where to get stats on what the average human pt or px size is for writing. Typically I would just design what appeared to look good for the design and I didn't find anything after my search. Could the average pixel size be typically what Word uses as a default 11 pixels or is that program specific? So my question is what do you consider as the average pixel or point size for human writing in form design?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Instead of looking at this from the perspective of the person writing in the form, I would look at it from the perspective of the person reading the form. What is the expectation they have from the legibility of handwriting. What allows the reader the easiest access of information?

Obviously that's not the most concrete of answers so I'll put some real data in this answer as well. There are different standards for countries when it comes to ruled paper. Typical Medium (College) Ruled spaces are 9/32 of an inch. Converted to points - this is 20.25 points. So I'd say Scott is roughly spot on with his assessment.

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I design a lot of order forms.

While I've never quite looked at it as "what's the type size of handwriting", I do try and leave at least 20pts between form lines to allow for writing.

I traditionally will set the form labels at about 9 or 10pts (smaller than other text) then have 12-14pts of leading and 6pts of space after. So, rough total of 28-30pts per line. This is my "norm" but if tight on space I will set the type solid (10/10pts) and reduce the space after to 3pts for a total of 23pts per line.

However, forms are a curious thing. In many cases you don't actually have to leave enough room for someone to write naturally. People will adjust to fit the space allotted. They will write smaller if there's less space and they'll write really large, larger than normal, if there is enough space.

So really, it's whatever you want it to be.

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Forms Design for Human Input

Allowing enough space for human input on paper forms must allow for variations.

Three to five lines per inch is the rule of thumb.

It's even etched into my elderly 18" satin-finish stainless steel forms design ruler.

EDIT: I suggest human input instead of human writing. Have you seen some of the handwriting? Well, you couldn't read it. Encourage block printing if you wish to make sense of it at some later time.

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