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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 186063 Find in a Library
Title: Individual Characteristics and Other Myths
Journal: International Journal of Forensic Document Examiners  Volume:5  Dated:December/January 1999  Pages:22-23
Author(s): Thomas V. McAlexander
Date Published: 1999
Page Count: 2
Type: Instructional Material
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: Some document examiners are still under the impression that there are only two types of characteristics in handwriting, "class" and "individual." This paper explores a possible reason for this misconception and makes some observations about the term "individual characteristics" as related to handwriting examinations.
Abstract: It is impossible to illustrate and define all the thousands of actual and possible characteristics of writing and weight and measure their comparative value, because such values differ with different writers and under varying conditions; this tabulation is not so important as the discovery of some of the principles by which the force and significance of characteristics are to be measured. The concept of "thousands of actual and possible characteristics of writing" needs to be further explored. Tytell has made a good start by developing enough definitions of the various kinds of characteristics to fill a book; however, he does not yet have a concisely written paper that would readily be accepted by the profession. It is important that some agreement be reached, because it is through the proper evaluation of characteristics that examiners assign weight for identification or elimination purposes. Todd accurately states that weight is assigned based on the frequency of occurrence of handwriting features in random writing, and that assignment is a judgment based on the examiner's experience. If examiners were able to assign weight to characteristics based on the frequency of their occurrence in random writing on a scale ranging from zero (no weight) to 100 (unique), the examiner would find that there are characteristics to be found on a continuum in every weight zone from zero to 99. It is impossible to assign descriptive adjectives to points on a continuum; although examiners cannot define all types of characteristics, they can use terms such as "rare," "unusual," "general," and "common," along with descriptive words such as "very" and "moderately" to describe the range value given to handwriting characteristics. This paper is a plea for all document examiners to think seriously about how they can best describe handwriting characteristics in terms that are both descriptive and understandable to laypersons as well as professionals. It is also a plea to stop using the term "individual characteristic" when speaking of characteristics in handwriting, because this is too confusing and is not descriptive. 7 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Document analysis; Forensic sciences; Handwriting analysis
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