In any case, plenty of people swear by the practice—even as handwriting itself seems to be a lost art amid the age of electronics.
"Handwriting is not dying," Kurtz says. "It's what you've got when the batteries die. Handwriting is your brain trying to express itself in the flow of lines. It's natural and will last."
And meanwhile, Kurtz says, the longevity of her business speaks to graphology's broad value. Her company teases out some 300 personality traits from a handwriting sample. She draws on such insights to help clients vet the fitness of job candidates, whether they are seeking integrity in janitorial staff or a larger list of requirements for C-suite executives. She's even worked with professional sports teams, who have relied on her analysis for team building. In one case, the revelation about a star player's sensitivity to criticism helped improve team performance, she says. In fact, Kurtz is starting a new program called "Scan Your Man" that's geared to help women determine their beau's romantic potential.
[See How to Make Love Last.]
"If it was voodoo, I don't think it would still be around," says McKnight, who calls graphology an ancient practice. "It's a soft science, so the analysis is as good as the analyst." However, "for people who don't want to understand this science, there's never going to be enough evidence to prove it to them ... No one knows enough to be a skeptic."
A few principles of graphology:
• "If you can't read somebody's signature, they are holding something back."
• "If somebody has extremely large handwriting, these are people who can be childlike and are magnanimous and have a strong need to feel understood."
• Downward sloping sentences can indicate depression or low energy at the time of writing.
• "The slant of the writing is indicative of emotional structure. For example, a left slant from the vertical signals self-involvement and a less than outgoing nature. Vertical slant indicates a person who thinks before they act and seldom is carried away by feelings. Slightly right slant is a bit more outgoing, friendly. Far right is very emotional, acts first then thinks.
• Stroke "pressure is a good signal of stress or lack of it. (If the paper tears, watch out.)"