When I looked up the word "handwriting" on jisho.org, it came up with:

  1. 筆跡 {ひっせき}
  2. 手書き {てがき}
  3. 字 {じ}

So if I were to say, "my handwriting is bad," which word do I use?

2 Answers 2


The most common ways to say "my handwriting is bad" would probably be

  • が汚{きたな}い (汚い often means "dirty," but here's it's "bad" or "messy")
  • が下手{へた} (下手 means "bad" or "unskillful")

So, in that specific case is the word you're looking for.

refers to the actual letters themselves. You can use 字 for any letters, even ones that are printed, but based on context it will usually be clear if you mean handwriting.

筆跡 is a broadly used term for handwritten letters or the manner of writing. It also appears in compounds like 筆跡学{ひっせきがく} (graphology) or 筆跡鑑定{ひっせきかんてい} (handwriting analysis). The fact that it is kind of a "bigger" word than 字 is what probably leads to it being used less in that kind of off-the-cuff remark.

手書き is writing or drawing by hand, as well as things written or drawn by hand. It's more about the process, the act of using your hand rather than a machine, than about the resulting letters themselves. Examples include 手書きでサインをする (sign by hand) or 手書きのイラスト (hand-drawn illustration).


You would say something like 「字が汚い」, lit. my letters are dirty. Avoid saying something like 「手書きが悪い」or 「字が悪い」.

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