[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/illegible_8187.jpg]]

A character depicted with terrible handwriting. Not just a couple of words that can't be made out here and there, but almost every word will be impossible--or almost impossible--to read.

This does not apply to depictions in animation where everybody's writing looks like random squiggles, or to small children learning how to write. This is when it is explicitly stated by a character that the writing looks like random squiggles or chicken scratch.

This attribute is often associated with doctors, lawyers and other professionals, as well as English teachers and secretaries.

Often TruthInTelevision. Not to be confused with TheUnintelligible, which deals with a character that cannot be understood when speaking.
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!!Examples:
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[[folder:Anime]]
* In ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' this is a characteristic of Happosai. His handwriting (in Japanese, of course) is horrible and barely legible. So much that once, even he couldn't read his own handwriting.
* [[Manga/RurouniKenshin Kenshin]]. Seeing as he was born in a family of farmers, spent about a year as a slave, was raised by a hermetic swordsman from ages six to thirteen, and then left to join a militia, there probably wasn't much opportunity to work on handwriting.
* TheNineties American dub of ''Anime/SailorMoon'' badly Americanized the series as a whole, but actually called the Japanese symbols written by Sailor Moon (Usagi Tsukino) herself "squiggly handwriting" in one instance where the viewers got to see what she'd written (when it wasn't shown, characters would instead comment that she couldn't spell very well or used horrible grammar). In a way, this is actually faithful adaptation, because in the original Japanese version, Usagi has ''legitimately'' lousy handwriting in her native language. She either fails to use kanji, or uses the wrong ones.
* In ''InazumaEleven'', Endou Daisuke's handwriting is outright ''shown'' to be completely illegible, and at least one character initially mistakes it for some elaborate secret code. The only other person who could read it is his grandson Endou Mamoru, and even this comes as a big shock to everyone else at first. Later, [[spoiler:Kudou Fuyuka]] comes along and can also read it; this turns out to be foreshadowing another plot point much, ''much'' later down the road.
** In ''Inazuma Eleven GO Chrono Stone'', Fei and Wondeba mention in their time (200 years in the future), there's a famous artifact book known to the people of the future as the "Holy Book of Champions" and stored in a museum under the tightest security. It's thought that the information contained in it was so powerful that it had to be written in code lest it fall into the wrong hands, and nobody had ever been able to decode it. Upon seeing it, several characters comment that it doesn't even look like writing at all. Turns out it was just extremely bad handwriting - [[spoiler:belonging to Endou Daisuke]], no less.
* In ''Manga/ChibiMarukoChan'', two classmates of Maruko are known to have bad handwriting.
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[[folder:ComicBooks]]
* There was an ''Uncle Scrooge'' comic that had Scrooge finding an old IOU and being unable to make out the signature. He starts tracking down people he thinks it could be, but finds that he owes each of them money. He eventually realizes that the signature is his own and it was an IOU he wrote to himself.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'', the police are unable to tell whether Rorschach's journal is written in some elaborate code or it's just that his handwriting is totally illegible.
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[[folder:Fanfiction]]
* Subverted in the Franchise/{{Harry Potter}} fic ''Where Shadows Go'', when the partner in Snape's Healer practice joked that Snape couldn't be a "real doctor" because his handwriting was too ''legible''.
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[[folder:Film]]
* In possibly the most memorable scene from Creator/WoodyAllen's ''Film/TakeTheMoneyAndRun'', [[StupidCrooks Virgil Starkwell's]] bank holdup is stalled when the tellers can't make out his robbery note:
-->'''Bank Teller #1:''' Does this look like "gub" or "gun"?
-->'''Bank Teller #2:''' Gun. See? But what does "abt" mean?
-->'''Virgil:''' It's "act". A-C-T. Act natural. Please put fifty thousand dollars into this bag and act natural.
-->'''Bank Teller #1:''' Oh, I see. This is a holdup?
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[[folder:Literature]]
* Hagrid from ''Literature/HarryPotter'' has a primitive, childish handwriting due to the lack of education. (Also, giant hands)
* ''DaveBarry in Cyberspace'' claims that, though people learn to write neatly in "cursive" in childhood, their handwriting degenerates into random marks as they grow older. The typical example provided is a scribbled note allegedly written by President UsefulNotes/HarryTruman on August 3, 1945, intended to be an order of waffles for breakfast but interpreted as, "Let's drop the atomic bomb."
* It has been pointed out by Sophie and other characters that [[Literature/HowlsMovingCastle Howl]] cannot write in a way that another human being could read.
* In one of Betty Neels' romance novels, her heroine is very frustrated while trying to read the hero's writing and claims it looks like a spider fell in the inkwell and walked across the paper. Yes, the hero is a doctor.
* From [[Literature/{{Chalion}} The Hallowed Hunt]]:
-->'''Lewko''': I pity the spy who had to decipher this.
-->'''Ingrey''': Is it in code?
-->'''Lewko''': No: Hallana's handwriting. Written in haste, I deem.
* According to Lobsang in ''Literature/TheLongEarth'', attempts to understand Willis Linsay's notes on alternate Earths have fallen foul of the man's handwriting as much as the fact he was inventing his own mathematics as he went along, and then writing that in code.
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[[folder:LiveActionTV]]
* On {{Roseanne}}, the Tom Arnold character Arnie was PutOnABus and Roseanne showed his note to Dan.
-->'''Dan:''' Who are the Allens and why are they out of spice?
-->'''Roseanne:''' '''Aliens''', Dan, from '''outer space'''.
-->'''Dan:''' ...Oh. Well, that makes more sense.
* On ''{{Seinfeld}}'', Jerry once woke up from a dream laughing about something he scribbled down on a note and went back to sleep. He couldn’t read it in the morning and kept asking practically anyone he met what it said, and each person was certain it said something else. In the end, [[spoiler:it turned out it read ‘[[ItMakesSenseInContext Sigmund’s flaming balls]]’. At this revelation, Jerry exclaimed, ‘That’s not funny at all!’]]
* ''CurbYourEnthusiasm'' riffs on the old "illegible doctor's handwriting" concept. Larry spends the night with a doctor, which is oddly reminiscent of a doctor's exam from start to finish. In the morning, she leaves him a note that he can't read. He eventually realizes that the only people who can read doctors' notes are pharmacists, so he takes it to a pharmacist to read it to him, which causes a comical misunderstanding.
* Chris Kattan's recurring character Suel Forrester on ''SaturdayNightLive'' is TheUnintelligible, so people sometimes ask him to write down what he's saying, but his writing is no more comprehensible than his speech.
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[[folder:NewspaperComics]]
* This was a ''HagarTheHorrible'' strip once. Hagar, who's illiterate, wishes he could read the prescription a doctor gave him. So does the pharmacist (or whatever he was, since he's in the Viking age).
* In one ''{{Blondie}}'' strip, Dagwood's handwriting is said to be so bad that a banker addressed him as "Doctor" when he left.
* ''NewspaperComic/JumpStart'' has a child whose parents named him Doctor and dress him up in scrubs. When Marcy comments to his mother how horrible Doctor's handwriting is, she beems with pride and proclaims that they're hoping soon it will be completely illegible.
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[[folder:Radio]]
* In ''Radio/ImSorryIHaventAClue'', Humph would rag on the producer Jon Naismith for his terrible handwriting, at one point claiming he needed to pin it up on a board and run past it to have any chance to understand it.
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[[folder:Theatre]]
* Roman cursive was so notorious for its illegibility that it was joke fodder for ancient playwrights.
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[[folder:VideoGames]]
* In the final case of ''AceAttorneyInvestigations'', Larry Butz's bad handwriting turns out to be a plot point.
* In ''FreddyPharkasFrontierPharmacist'', a prescription written by the habitually-drunk town doctor is completely illegible until an empty whiskey glass is used on it, prompting Freddy to remark that it must've been ''written'' while looking through the bottom of a whiskey glass as well.
* Gaius has a SecretDiary in ''RuneFactory3'' that you can try to read, but you won't succeed. If he happens to catch you at it he'll admit that he can't always read it either.
* A meta-example: Some earlier games by {{CAVE}} and Creator/{{Atlus}} had a copyright notice written in [[SurprisinglyGoodEnglish perfect English]], except for the last sentence which read "Violator and subject to severe penalties and will be prosecutedt to the full extent of the jam." Over a decade later, CAVE's current CCO Tsuneki Ikeda conjectured that this was due to someone on their legal team having bad handwriting, since "law" ''can'' look like "jam" if the handwriting's messy enough.
* During a "Teach Me, Ms Litchi" segment of ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'', Ragna says that Taokaka's handwriting looks like chickenscratch.
* In the Trainer House in ''VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver'', there's a book on the table on the ground floor. Upon reading it, your player makes a mental remark about how the writing looks like Onix tracks.
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[[folder:Webcomics]]
* In ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'' Mr. Edward Verres [[http://www.egscomics.com/?date=2003-01-31 has]] "[[InkBlotTest Ink Blot]] handwriting", which isn't quite impossible to read, but no two people ever managed to read in the same way any part of his message, except its header in big letters. On the next page one of viewers muses aloud:
--> '''Justin:''' Maybe it's a ''map''?
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[[folder:WesternAnimation]]
* [[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Homer Simpson]]: Principal Skinner showed him an "obviously fake" parental note that Bart had turned in, but discovered that [[http://springfieldfiles.com/albums/notes/0244.JPG Homer's handwriting really was that poor.]]
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheWeekenders'' featured Carver attempting to send notes to Chum Bukkit [a band] in various ways. They read these as obscure new lyrics.
** Carver's terrible handwriting is a RunningGag throughout the series.
* WesternAnimation/{{Doug}} once lost his [[strike:diary]] journal in which he writes the events of every episode. It's picked up by [[TheBully Roger]], seemingly the worst person who could find it, but Roger gives it back unread, simply because he can't make out a word of Doug's cursive handwriting.
* WesternAnimation/{{Chowder}} in the episode "Gazpacho Stands Up". Mung tells him to practice his penmanship, and after doing so, congratulates him... for somehow making it ''worse''.
* ''WesternAnimation/DanVs'' goes back and forth on this. Various characters have stated that Dan's handwriting is horrible, yet any time his writing actually shows up, it's [[InformedFlaw perfectly legible]]. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] (probably) in "The Salvation Armed Forces," where Chris reads a letter from Dan, including the illegible parts ("...even thrumyurg betrayed me, with your cowardice and flurgle..."), only for the letter to show up on screen, with the "illegible" parts clearly written out.
** It's possible that it's only visible to the viewer because we're seeing the show's universe from Dan's perspective, and he can read it just fine.
* TJ in ''WesternAnimation/{{Recess}}'' once got himself allowed to chew gum at school by presenting a fake doctor's note that was intentionally illegible, allowing him to fast-talk his way into having gingivitis and being prescribed medicinal gum.
* In ''WesternAnimation/SheepInTheBigCity'', General Specific's handwriting is implied to be this. Farmer John claims that it "looks like a chicken walked in ink."
* In ''WesternAnimation/DaveTheBarbarian'', Throktar's handwriting is so illegible that Fang fails to understand his warning about an enchanted pair of lederhosen.
* Justified in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirls'', where Twilight has to write something without using magic after being transformed into a human. How can someone be legible if they've never held a pen before, let alone know what hands are?
** Oddly, Sunset shimmer can read Twilight's handwriting without much trouble. [[FridgeBrilliance Possibly because Sunset wasn't always human herself.]]
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[[folder:RealLife]]
* Doctors are notorious for having illegible handwriting. [[http://www.bmj.com/archive/7072ww3.htm There are studies]] that show doctors do not write any more or less legibly than other professionals, but the consequences for illegible writing are much more severe. A popular alternative explanation is that it's an extension of skills learned in medical school, where students must take a lot of notes very quickly. The illegible handwriting is an unfortunate side effect. In any event, illegible handwriting is one of the reasons why there's a strong push for computerized medical records, charts and prescriptions.
** It's not really the handwriting, or at least, it's not ''just'' the writing. Until fairly recently, your prescription probably wouldn't have made a ''lot'' more sense to you if it was professionally typeset, because physicians used a lot of Latin abbreviations. Pharmacists, who understand these, have a lot easier time making it out, because while you're thinking "What the heck is this supposed to be; it looks like potid" the pharmacist knows that it ''is'' po tid. which means "by mouth, three times daily." Medical schools have begun recommending against the use of most of the Latin abbreviations (and ... more stridently ... against the use of archaic units of measure like grains, drams, scruples, or minims, for some of which the abbreviation is more of a squiggle than a letter), so to some extent this is going away.
* There's a condition called "dysgraphia" which can result in illegible handwriting without necessarily affecting intelligence or ability to read. Most dysgraphics are able to adjust by typing whatever they need to commit to paper, but this isn't always an option, forcing them to attempt to write by hand.
* Anyone who starts to fall asleep in class while still trying to take notes has probably ended up with this.
* The infamous note OscarWilde’s lover’s father passed to Wilde at a party.
** The handwriting became very important during Wilde's libel trial against the Marquess of Queensbury (the father). Wilde claimed that the note read "poncing sodomite" and the Marquess claimed it read "posing sodomite" (because as the line does not actually call Wilde gay--only "acting" gay--it is easier to defend in court).
* It is said that Thomas Aquinas had the worst handwriting in the Middle Ages. Examples [[http://www.fordham.edu/images/undergraduate/academicaffairs/web_development/site_files/handwriting_st_thomas.jpg here]] and [[http://www.u.arizona.edu/%7Eaversa/thomas_aquinas_littera_inintelligibilis.jpg here]].
* German pharmacologist Otto Loewi had [[DreamingTheTruth a dream that gave him a key insight]] into the mechanism by which nerve impulses travel across synapses. He wrote down the idea and went back to sleep... only to find himself unable to read the scribbled note in the morning. Fortunately, he had the dream again the next night; this time, he immediately went to the lab to do an experiment that confirmed his theory.
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