Some Characteristics of 18th century British-American Handwriting
# there were no typewriters, so personal writing was handwritten. Commercial writing was handwritten or printed with type on a press.
# Upper case letters were used to begin nouns as well as to begin sentences.
# The lower case s was written in elongated form at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word, and when written twice, as in pass. The elongated s can be mistaken for an f, and ss can look something like a p.
# Shortened versions of words were indicated by begi
ning the word in regular-sized letters and ending with superscript letters, maybe with a line underneath where the missing letters would be. Martha Ballard used superscript to shorten words. Some writers simply shortened words and left no other indication of the missing letters.
# Spelling was not standardized. Writers would spell words differently in different documents or even within a single document. Look at Martha Ballard’s spelling and notice how much it varied. Like many other informal writers of her time, Martha often spelled her words phonetically, using the way the words sounded as a guide. Although challenging to read, such spelling tells us much about pronunciation before sound recordings existed.
# In words like the, y could stand for the th and the e was added in superscript. The y was pronounced as we pronounce a th today.
# In some hands, upper case K, P, and R can look similar, as can J and T. Also, at times L and S will be confusing because of similarities.