In the quest for answers or justice there may be times when handwriting is in dispute. Perhaps a will is being contested because the signature is believed to be fraudulent or perhaps a malicious letter has been written and authorship needs to be proven. In these circumstances you may find yourself wondering whether you should be searching for an expert who specialises in forensic handwriting analysis or graphology, or if indeed these are the same thing.

The first thing to note is that they are not.

The second thing to note is that there is a clear difference between these two disciplines, so please read on to find out whether you need a graphologist or a forensic handwriting expert:

What is graphology?

Graphology is a process of handwriting analysis used to determine an individual’s personality. There is no scientific evidence to back up the process.

What is forensic handwriting analysis?

In contrast, forensic handwriting analysis is a scientific process in which the experts are qualified through extensive training and experience to examine documents and help determine their history and authenticity. 

Through thorough examination and scientific tests, forensic handwriting experts are able to find the subtle differences in handwriting or signatures. They will compare the writing in question with specimens written by the actual person; these may include letters, diary entries and signed documents. They will look for the fluency of writing style, how the letters are shaped and whether they slope and by how much. They will also examine the sequence of strokes, the number of pen lifts and other elements that are invisible to the untrained eye, to see whether the writing on the questioned document matches that in the specimens provided.

Training to be a forensic document examiner requires a scientific degree and an apprenticeship, following a structured course, taking at least two years.  Competence in the field can be maintained by regular participation in proficiency tests, peer review of casework,  and awareness of developments in the field through literature, training sessions and seminars/workshops.

Cosslett and Barr are handwriting experts offering a range of forensic handwriting analysis services to customers in the UK and overseas. 

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