Handwriting Examiners in the Digital Age

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Source: Rich Press, Public Affairs Specialist, NIST

People are writing more than ever with their keyboards and phones, but handwritten notes have become rare. Even signatures are going out of style. Most credit card purchases no longer require them, and if they do, you can usually just scratch one out with your fingernail. The age-old art of handwriting is in decline.

This marks a profound shift in how we communicate, but for one group of experts, it also raises an existential question. Forensic handwriting examiners authenticate handwritten notes and signatures—or reveal them to be fakes—by analyzing distinctive features in our writing. As people write less by hand, will handwriting examination become irrelevant?

recently updated report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) suggests that the answer is no—if the field changes to keep up with the times. But the times are changing in more ways than one, and the decline in handwriting is only one of the challenges that the field will have to reckon with.

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