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Signature comparisons: no two signatures are alike

signature comparison

Signatures are a common part of everyday life, from signing legal papers, to authorising payments at work to checking the signature on the back of your bank card, we are surrounded by these inscriptions and yet, no two signatures are the same.  Even if a signature looks the same as the next to those who are untrained, you would be surprised at the subtle differences a signature comparison can unearth.  

It all begins with how each person learns to write.  Most people will be taught in a similar fashion, to copy letters from a book or school board, reproducing the letters and repeating them over and over until practice makes perfect. However, due to the fact we all perceive things slightly differently and develop our motor skills to varying degrees, the way in which each person forms a letter will be unique to them. As we grow and continue to write, using these individual characteristics, the practice of writing becomes subconscious and the habits we have formed become significant in our own style of writing. 

It is these individualities that signature examiners look for when comparing one signature or piece of handwriting to another. To the untrained eye, the only difference you might spot between two signatures is the size or slope of the lettering, but a signature examination will reveal many more subtleties including pen pressure and lifts, spacing between the letters, height relationships between letters and the starting and finishing strokes.  

Why are signature examinations so important? 

The subtle differences in each person’s signature can help to determine whether it has been written by the correct person or forged. This is incredibly important if the disputed signature is on a legal document, such as a will, contract or agreement. 

By presenting us with several specimen signatures, written by the person, at around the same time as the disputed signature, we can carry out a signature comparison to determine authorship. By comparing the signatures, we will get an understanding of the individual’s writing style and characteristics and can look for the presence or omission of these significant features in the disputed signature.  

In addition to spotting these individual features to the handwriting in question, we will also look for signs that a signature has been traced or copied.  Sometimes it is the differences in the way the strokes are formed that alerts us and other times it might be the fact there is no variation between signatures, which suggests that one has been copied, simulated and manipulated. This is because human beings are not capable of robotic repetition. It is impossible for us to write the same thing in the exact same way time and time again. Think of a time when you have written something and felt like it didn’t belong to you, or signed your name and realised it looked more scribbled than usual as you were tired or rushed, or using a strange pen. It is our job to understand how a person formulates their letters and match the writing to the person based on their individual handwriting characteristics. 

How many specimens are needed to make a signature comparison? 

If you want to dispute the authorship of a signature, you will need to provide us with specimen signatures. These will need to be signed around the same time as the signature in question, and where possible, be original documents. Examples of signatures you can send us include bank cards, driving licences, passports, letters, cheques or legal documents. To carry out an accurate signature comparison, we generally require between 10 and 30 specimen signatures. 

If you are in receipt of a document that you believe has a disputed signature, or believe your signature has been forged, please get in touch with our forensic handwriting experts on  0121 781 7216 or click here to find out more about our signature comparison services. 

The appeal was allowed, primarily due to the expert evidence in relation to ESDA. The convictions have been quashed. We are very grateful for your assistance throughout and hopefully look forward to working with you again in the future.

Solicitor – Northern Ireland

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