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Dear Matthew Alice:

I've noticed that once free from the bonds of public education, American males tend to write in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS, or sometimes a mix with mainly UC and a few lowercase letters thrown in. Females tend to use the traditional upper- lower-case style, starting sentences with a capital letter but otherwise using lowercase. Could you find out why?

-- Juanita Jeannine, Lakeside

That's a pretty sweeping assumption, Juanita. Try as I might, I couldn't find any evidence to support it. Graphologists claim it's not true; most men write in cursive style, as do women. For adults, at any rate, cursive is faster than manuscript (printing), so it's usually the choice for note-taking, shopping lists, personal letters, and the like. Men and women will shift to manuscript when they want to make themselves perfectly clear (BE HOME BY MIDNIGHT, AND I MEAN IT!), especially if they feel their cursive style is illegible.

Handwriting studiers have found gender differences in handwriting in students as early as the first years of grade school, when girls write faster and more clearly than boys. And boys don't improve much with practice. In general, men's handwriting remains less legible, less "graceful," and more erratic than women's. That might cause men to shift to uppercase for clarity more often. But the upper/lowercase thing seems to be governed more by the intent of the writer, not gender. So, if the caps have to mean something, I guess it means you know a lot of men with messy handwriting who fret about being misunderstood. And what that means, we can't imagine.

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