I was scribbling a grocery list last night and my wife, with her master's in English education and service as a middle school teacher, kept asking me what every other word was. I thought I was being clear with my writing (she was looking at the list upside-down), and I said, "I'm sorry I'm not enunciating my writing enough."

But then I said, "Not enunciate, but whatever the equivalent is for enunciation with handwriting. So what is that then, huh?" And we were both stumped.

My thoughts were:

  • Clarity, but I would interpret "writing clearly" to mean something more like writing concisely, or
  • Penmanship, but the definitions I found online for that were, "the art or skill of writing by hand." That's not exactly right either, as I think a lot of calligraphy (calligraphy, not cursive) is actually hard to read because the lettering flair obscures the shape of the letter.
  • Legible, this seems to be the closest to what I'm looking for, but legible means, "clear enough to read," where what I'm looking for isn't necessarily to make it clear enough to read, but rather just to make the letters more distinct, like enunciating a word might make the sounds more distinct.

So, is there any word that conveys this? Enunciate makes the sounds in a word more clear when spoken, ____ makes the letters in a word more clear when written.

  • You enunciate vocally what you transcribe orthographically (in written form). Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 16:05
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    I like your options of "clarity" and "legibility". Are you sure they don't work in this context?
    – Juan M
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 16:35
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    "Penuniciate", perhaps? : ) Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 16:53
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    @DougWarren - The portmanteau! I love it. My wife is a huge fan of puns, too, so if nobody else can give me the actual word I'm looking for I'd accept that as the answer.
    – Chuck
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 16:57
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    There may not be a way around having to add a word to the verb you are looking for. If, for example, you want to tell a person to speak more clearly, you might say, "Enunciate, please." If you want to tell a person to write more clearly, you might say, "Be legible." The added word, of course, is "be." Just a thought . . .. Don Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:36

4 Answers 4



: to write or draw (a name, picture, etc.) on a surface so that it can be seen very clearly

"Emblazon." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

  • You know, that's not quite the definition I had in mind when I think of that word, but it seems like that's exactly what I'm looking for. Not sure why you got a down vote; I'm going to accept this as the answer :)
    – Chuck
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:07
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    I don't think 'emblazon' is the right word for this situation. You wouldn't emblazon your grocery list... Please take a look at the full definition of the word [MWD]
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:21
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    I know what you mean. I tend to think more of Wal Mart signage or sports team jerseys than a black Bic pen and grocery list.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:21
  • @0xFEE1DEAD - In my mind, emblazon meant more of a decorative or artistic method of lettering, but definitions I've found on other sites seem to all continuously say things like "inscribe conspicuously" or "print ... in a very noticeable way" or "to decorate something with... words so that people will notice it easily" (emphasis added).
    – Chuck
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 14:48
  • So, as I mention in the comment above, where I tend to think of it as a word meaning more to decorate, the definitions I've read make me think the word actually means to make the (words/letters/patterns) stand out and be noticed and less about it being art. When @PhilSweet says, "I tend to think more of Wal Mart signage" - is the sign emblazoned across the store front because it is artistic or is it because it is designed to be easily seen? If I was going to make the letters on my grocery list clearly readable then it would seem to me that I could say I've emblazoned the letters on the list.
    – Chuck
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 14:59

writing legibly

Possible to read or decipher: legible handwriting. [TFD]

or printing

Write (text) clearly without joining the letters together: ‘print your name and address on the back of the cheque’ [OXD]


Nowhere in all the years of research with SE have I ever encountered such question which even strolls anywhere near Billy Collins. You, Chuck, are an artist, your wife must stand proud, and as we learn from Henry Miller, attention must be paid.

Back to Billy, take a moment to peruse his poem, a gift for his mother, and then you will understand how this word fits perfectly the beauty of the mundanaeity of the humble act of grocery shopping:

"I'm sorry I've not made sufficient lanyard of my writing."

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Feb 21 at 22:58
  • This answer makes very little sense, even when taking the poem into consideration.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 21 at 23:21

I'd have gone with "illuminating".

Illuminate is defined by Collins Dictionary as "making clear and understandable".

It also is used to refer to the decoration applied to the old manuscripts that were written with quill pens (often by monks). I think that association is quite apt here.

  • I'd assume that "illuminating" in the context of writing meant making illegible by covering in ornamentation.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 22 at 10:58

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