3rd May 2017 Posted by David Chescoe

What problems can Handwriting cause in the Digital Age?

In this digital age, many companies are working to reduce the amount of paper driving the business.  A natural extension of this is to tackle handwritten documents and forms that are still needed today. Many forms are still being sent out via post where electronic methods are practical. There are a significant number of people who do not have access to a personal computer, the internet, websites and on-line portals and there are some cases where email addresses are not known or don’t exist.  In these cases accurate handwriting recognition can still be a problem for many businesses.

But what exactly are the problems with handwriting?


1.     The Perils of Poor Handwriting

Perhaps the most obvious problem when processing handwritten forms during the data capture process is poor quality or illegible handwriting. We all know the old stereotype about doctors’ handwriting, so trying to perform accurate data capture and validation on this type of form-filling may result in little meaningful data being extracted.

A study in 2012 by the Educational Summit found that “25-35% of students at a secondary school level have still not gained competency in the skill of handwriting” meaning that forms filled out by hand could present an on-going challenge to data collection processes.


2.     Good Handwriting is not all it’s cracked up to be either

Handwriting Recognition for formsIt is not just poor handwriting that can cause an issue, but also joined / cursive handwritten text is known to cause similar issues. During the data capture and validation stages of any forms processing activity, all required text fields are processed which involves recognising and extracting the written characters. The problem that cursive handwriting can cause is that letters may not be as easily recognised and possibly cause false and incorrect information being processed.

Cursive text can also dramatically slow the processing speeds down as more time and resources are needed to understand the text, resorting to manual processes and where needed, recreating the text.


3.     Any advancement in software?

With computer systems and applications becoming more intelligent, it makes sense to focus on the automated capture and processing of incoming documents. Over the years much investment has been made in the ability to recognise and understand machine print, so that automated capture and processing can be achieved.  However due to the complexities and differences in handwriting, the same level of automation is far more difficult to achieve.

Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) and Cursive Recognition technologies do exist for unconstrained handwriting and handprint recognition. However, these on their own may give limited results due to handwriting being personal and quite unique in some cases.


So what can be done to improve Handwriting Recognition?

We will be looking into how to overcome the challenges mentioned here more in next month’s blog. However, one place that is always good to start with is the actual forms. Usually these are controlled internally, so where possible it is always advised to ask ‘completers’ of the forms to use block capitals. To help enable this, using constrained boxes on the fields will prevent completers using cursive handwriting which is understandably more difficult to capture.


To discuss your Handwriting Recognition challenges, call AAC Systems today on 01628 421569 or email us at

AAC Systems ONE St. Peter’s Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7QU . Telephone 0800 955 3315. Click here to email us ›