Questioned Document Examination
Definition of Terms
3rd Century A.D. - The earliest handwriting examination cases reported.
6th Century - the Roman Emperor Justinian dictated guidelines for the
use of handwriting comparisons in Roman courts.
1873 - the year in which the first commercially successful
typewriter was introduced.
Addition - inserting or modifying clause or sentence in a document
to alter its meaning.
Substitution - replacing original entries or writing with
Albert Sherman Osborn - became the pre-eminent American pioneer in
the field when he authored "Questioned Documents," a seminal work in
scientific document analysis that remains in print and in use. He
founded the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners in 1942.
Alfred Dreyfus - A French army officer, accused of treason through
letters found attempting to sell French secrets to Germany.
Later found that Dreyfus did not write the letters.
Alignment - relation of successive characters or letter of a word,
signature or line of writing to an actual or imaginary base line.
Alphabet - is a standard set of letters (basic written symbols or
graphemes) which is used to write one or more languages based on the
general principle that the letters represent phonemes (basic
significant sounds) of the spoken language.
Alteration - any change made on a document before, during, or after
its original execution.
Methods of Alteration
Arrangement - habitual placing and positioning of letters and words.
Casting - was one method used to produce counterfeit coins in Britain
and America during the colonial period. Basically it consisted of
melting metal and then pouring the molten liquid into a mold having
a reservoir in the shape of a coin.
Class Characteristics - common to a group of people. Learned from
school or from an individual's parent or tutor.
Class Characteristics are similarities between individuals who learned
the same type of writing systems.
Individual Characteristics - highly personal or peculiar to a
particular writer. Influenced by habit, mindset, personal
preference. It identifies an individual from other writers.
Types of Individual Characteristics
1. Skill level - the way a writing looks.
2. Slant - is the angle of writing.
3. Form - is the way a writer makes a letter or movement of
letters. Most basic individual characteristic and is very
important to QDE.
4. Movement - is the way a pen moves in order to make a mark or
form a letter. This can help distinguish the difference in
form. 2 letters can be the same, but made in a different way.
5. Proportions - is the symmetry of an individual letter.
6. Height - is comparing the height of one letter to another.
Height, proportions are usually habits found in a
7. “I” Dot
8. “t” Crossing
9. Loops - are similar to proportions.
10.Pressure - is the difference in ink or pencil in width or
shade. Helps show direction of movement.
11.Baseline Alignment - The value of this show the questioned
writing in correlation to the baseline. Helps QDE examiners
determine whether the writing was altered or is consistent
with the rest of the writing or other examples.
12.Pen Lifts - Pen lifts are when the pen or pencil is lifted
from the paper and reapplied to finish a word or sentence.
13.Speed - The speed of a writer is a key indicator for QDE in
the examination process. Fast and slow speeds are difficult
to duplicate leaving behind inconsistencies in the writing.
14.Embellishments - decorate writing. Usually found in the
beginning of word, but can be seen other places.
15.Entry/Exit Strokes - is the way a writer begins certain
letter or words and can be very specific to an individual.
Also includes the idea of connecting stokes.
16.Retracing - is considered fixing a portion of writing that
is not readable or pleasing to the writer. In some cases,
this can indicate forgery but is very common in normal
handwriting to retrace letters or words.
17.Spelling - is an individual characteristic because of
education or habits and can be an easy fix to eliminate or
pin point suspects.
18.Spacing - is the area between letters or words and is usually
specific to the writer.
19.Format - is the habit in which a writer uses to depict simple
things like; Dates, numbers, abbreviations.
Example: The way people write checks
20.Case - is a characteristic of a writer who might use upper
case letters where a lower case should be present.
Coin Clipping - shaving off a small portion of a precious metal coin
Coin Mutilation - cutting a portion of a coin.
Collected Standard - (Procured Standard)obtained from files executed
in the course of everyday routine.
Requested Standard - document requested by an investigator for
the purpose of comparative examination.
Color Shifting Ink - ink that changes color when viewed in different
Connections - links which connect a letter with the one following it.
Counterfeiting - imitate fraudulently for gain. To make a copy of,
usually with the intent to defraud; forge: counterfeits money.
Cuneiform - denoting or relating to the wedge-shaped characters used
in the ancient writing systems of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Ugarit,
surviving mainly on clay tablets.
Cutting - skillful cutting away of some portions and then inserting
new one to fill the gap.
Disguised Writing - is any deliberate attempt to alter one's
handwriting to prevent recognition.
Document - any material that contains marks, symbols, or signs either
visible, partially visible or invisible that may present or ultimately
convey a meaning or message to someone.
Document May Be Questioned With Respect To Its
4. Relation among its parts
5. Relation to other things
Types of Document Examination
1. Handwriting Comparisons
2. Ink Examinations
3. Indented Writing
5. Paper Analysis
6. Photocopy Analysis
Instrument Used In A Questioned Document QD Laboratory
1. Stereo Microscope - The stereo or stereoscopic or dissecting
microscope is an optical microscope variant designed for low
magnification observation of a sample, typically using light
reflected from the surface of an object rather than
transmitted through it.
2. Light Microscope - light microscope works like a refracting
telescope except that the object is very close to the
3. Video Spectral Comparator (VSC) - is an apparatus which can:
a. Analyse and compare inks: reveal alterations on a document;
b. Visualize security features printed into papers;
c. Use the spectrometer and various built-in light sources for
U.V., visible spectrum and I.R. examinations of ink and
documents to visualise fluorescence; examination with
transmitted light or low angle light, and recording/comparing
differences in reflectance, and absorption under variable
wavelengths of light and with various filters which will
discriminate between different inks.
4. Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA) - is an apparatus
a. Produce an evidential record of any indentations (writing
impressions) which are present upon a page, resulting from
previous pages of over-writing in a writing pad, notebook,
or upon a letter placed inside an envelope which was
b. Visualise and record any other transmitted impression, such
as from a machine postal stamp upon an envelope; or
visualise and record any paper edge impressions of a
page-portion that was torn from a page within a note-pad,
even if the page was removed some time later.
Erasure - the removal of writing, recorded material, or data.
EURion Constellation - is a pattern of symbols incorporated into a
number of banknote designs worldwide since about 1996. It is added
to help imaging software detect the presence of a banknote in a
Exemplars - Handwriting used as a standard for comparison with the
document in question. Known authentic writing samples.
Two Types of Exemplars
1. Requested Writings - (Dictated) are writing samples taken
from someone for the purpose of comparison with a questioned
2. Non-Requested Writings - (Undictated)(Collected) these are
examples of the subject's writings that are taken in the
normal course of business or personal transactions.
Forensic Document Examination - the practice of the application of
document examination to the purposes of the law.
Graphology - is the study of handwriting to identify the writer's
Graphologist - Profiles character or personality by drawing conclusions
from certain types of characteristics in the handwriting sample.
Handwriting - refers to a person's writing created with a writing
utensil such as a pen or pencil.
Handwriting Comparison Characteristics
1. Spacing between letters
2. Spacing between words
3. Relative proportions between letters and within letters
4. Individual letter formations
5. Formations of letter combinations
6. The overall slant of the writing
7. Connecting strokes
8. Pen lifts
9. Beginning and ending strokes
Character of handwriting
1. No single handwriting characteristic can in itself be taken
as the basis for a positive comparison.
2. The final conclusion must be based on a sufficient number
of common characteristics between the known and questioned
3. There are no hard and fast rules for a sufficient number of
personal characteristics; it is a judgment call made by the
expert examiner in the context of each case.
Henry Mill - was an English inventor who patented the first typewriter
Hieroglyph - (Greek for "sacred writing") is a character of the ancient
Egyptian writing system. Logographic scripts that are pictographic in
form in a way reminiscent of ancient Egyptian are also sometimes
Hologram - a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of
light beams from a laser or other coherent light source.
Indented Writing - (second page writing), is the impression from the
writing instrument captured on sheets of paper below the one that
contains the original writing.
Electrostatic Detection - indented writing may be recovered
using this method.
Ink - a coloured fluid or paste used for writing, drawing, printing,
Microspectrophotometer - A nondestructive approach to comparing
ink lines. It is accomplished with a visible-light
Thin-layer chromatography is also suitable for ink comparisons.
Interlineation - insertion between lines or paragraphs.
Juxtaposition - an act or instance of placing close together or side
by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
Lindbergh Baby Case - a sensational case of kidnapping for ransom
resulting in murder of a baby where questioned document examination is
the center piece of the investigation and the reason for the arrest
of the perpetrator.
Manuscript - is any document written by hand, as opposed to being printed
or reproduced in some other way.
Microprinting - is one of many anti-counterfeiting techniques used
most often on currency and bank checks, as well as various other
items of value. Microprinting involves printing very small text,
usually too small to read with the naked eye, onto the note or item.
Obliteration - obscuring a document by a series of x-types, haphazard,
lines, blots, and smears.
Offset printing - or web offset printing is a commonly used printing
technique in which the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from
a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface.
Letterpress printing - is a technique of relief printing using a
printing press. A worker composes and locks movable type into the
bed of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer
the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.
Pellegrino Turri - an Italian inventor, invented a mechanical typing
machine, one of the first typewriters in 1801 for his blind lover
Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano. He also invented carbon
paper to provide the ink for his machine.
Pen Lift - is the practice of lifting the tip of a pen from a writing
surface. It comes in the form of a disconnection between letters and
Pen Pressure - the proportions of strokes to each other in width as
affected by shading and by unconscious emphasis.
Penmanship - is the technique of writing with the hand using a
writing instrument. The art or practice of writing with the pen.
Pictograph - a pictorial symbol for a word or phrase. Pictographs
were used as the earliest known form of writing, examples having been
discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia from before 3000 BC.
Questioned Document - is any signature, handwriting, typewriting, or
other mark whose source or authenticity is in dispute or doubtful.
Most Common Questioned Document
3. Drivers License
6. Voters Registration
9. Threatening Letters
Rules in Collecting Questioned Documents
1. Original Document Preferred
2. QDE must mark all evidence - initial and date.
If document cannot be marked it should be placed in enveloped
and sealed with initial and date.
3. Maintain chain of custody.
Questioned Document Examination - The scientific methods of
identification and examination of questionable documents, handwriting
examination, detection of forgery, falsification and counterfeiting of
documents which stress the procedures of restoring and deciphering
erasures and obliteration's; examination of documents by means of
visible light, ultra-violet light and ultra-red radiation and colored
powders; recognition and selection of standards; and examination of
questionable typewriting, computerized documents and other forms of
Retracing - any writing stroke which goes back over another writing
Rhythm - the balanced quality of movement, producing a natural result
not constrained nor artificial.
Rubric and Embellishment - the additional and unnecessary stroke
incorporated in writing for decorative or ornamental purposes.
Samuel Willard Soulé - (January 25,1830-July 12,1875) along with
Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden invented the first practical
typewriter at a machine shop located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
Security fibers - are embedded in the paper during manufacture and
Security Thread - is a security feature of many banknotes to protect
against counterfeiting, consisting of a thin ribbon that is threaded
through the note's paper.
Shading and Pen Position - the increase in width of stroke brought by
variations in writing pressure.
Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer - the first commercially successful
Signature - a person's name written in a distinctive way as a form of
identification in authorizing a cheque or document or concluding
a letter. From the latin word "signare" which means "to sign".
Kinds of Signature
1. Formal Signature - signature used on official documents such
as will or deed of sale.
2. Informal Signature - signature used in routine correspondence
such as personal letters and other documents where you want
the reader to recognize the signature but the exact spelling
of the name isn’t important.
3. Stylistic Signature - signature used in signing checks, credit
card receipts, etc. This is also like the famous “physician’s
signature” on a prescription. It is often highly stylistic
and looks like a scribble with little that would be
recognizable as a signature.
Signature Forgery - refers to the act of falsely replicating the
signature of another person.
Popular Methods of Forging Signature
1. Freehand Method - whereby the forger, after careful practice,
replicates the signature by freehand. Although a difficult
method to perfect, this often produces the most convincing results.
2. Trace-Over Method - the sheet of paper containing the genuine
signature is placed on top of the paper where the forgery is
required. The signature is traced over, appearing as a faint
indentation on the sheet of paper underneath. This indentation
can then be used as a guide for a signature.
Methods of Signature Tracing
1. Carbon Outline Method - carbon paper inserted between
original and false document.
2. Indentation Process - original document is placed over
false one under it, to be traced later using a pen or
3. Transmitted Light Process - a light source is placed
under a light, the original document is placed under the
false one. The light source will illuminate both
documents so that the writings on the original document
will be seen and traceable on the false one.
Characteristics That May Suggest Presence of Forgery
1. Shaky handwriting
2. Pen lifts
3. Signs of retouching
4. Letter proportions
5. Very close similarity between two or more signatures
Kinds of Forgery of Signatures
1. Simple Forgery - (spurious forgery) signing of a document in
his own or in a modified handwriting. Easy to detect once
standards of genuine signatures are obtained.
2. Simulated Forgery - (freehand forgery) the copying or imitation
of a signature.
Indicators of Forgery
1. Blunt starts and stops
2. Pen lifts and hesitations
4. Speed and Pressure
Slant - slope of writing in relation to the base line.
Spacing - is a blank area devoid of content, serving to separate words,
letters, numbers, and punctuation.
Striking - (stamping) making an impression of a coin on a metal blank
by pressure using steel dies.
Superimposition - placing or laying of one document over another
in a way that it appears as a single image. The placement of an
image or video on top of an already-existing image or video, usually
to add to the overall image effect, but also sometimes to
Terminal - The end of a writing stroke.
Initial Stroke - the beginning of a writing stroke.
Tremor - deviation from uniform stroke brought about by lack of
Kinds of Tremors
1. Genuine Tremors - caused by age, illiteracy, weakness.
2. Tremor of Fraud
Typebar - one of the bars on a typewriter that bears type for printing.
Typewriter - is a mechanical or electro-mechanical machine for writing
in characters similar to those produced by printer's movable type
by means of keyboard-operated types striking a ribbon to transfer
ink or carbon impressions onto the paper.
Carriage Return - referred to a mechanism or lever on a typewriter.
It was used after typing a line of text and caused the assembly
holding the paper (the carriage) to return to the right so that
the machine was ready to type again on the left-hand side of
the paper (assuming a left-to-right language).
Typeface - the printing surface of the type block. The most
popular type are pica and elite.
Pica - 10 characters per inch
Elite - 12 characters per inch
Types of Typewriters
1. Keyboard typewriter - is the simplest kind of typewriter,
functioning from the QWERTY formation of letters and having
a type (a metallic cast with letters molded into it) that's
attached by a bar or rod.
2. Single-element typewriter - enable the user to print data in
different languages or fonts. Instead of using a bar mold for
the type (called a type bar), single-element typewriters use
type wheels, type sleeves or type shuttles for molds. The
most popular single-element was the Hammond type-shuttle
typewriter produced in 1884.
3. Type-bar typewriters, as the name suggests, use type bars,
or molds of iron shaped like bars, for their types. Type bars
are the most common kind of typewriter and the original
invented by Sholes, Glidden and Soule was a type-bar
4. Index typewriters - were far less costly in the pre-modern
era, but also less useful. An index typewriter required that
users first input what key they would like, and then perform
another action (usually pressing a lever) to print the letter
to a page. Usually these didn't use type bars, but instead
type wheels, type shuttles, type plates and even more novel
types. Examples of the index typewriter are the American
Visible, first manufactured in 1901, and the French Virotyp
5. Teletype Typewriters - (Teleprinters) came on the scene in
the mid-1950s and peaked in popularity in the 1960s. They
were used mostly for communicating information from point
to point, much as modern fax machines are used. Most non-IBM
computers had teletype terminals. Teletypes were completely
mechanical and thus required regular lubrication; they didn't
have type bars in the strictest sense and instead used
plastic gears to print messages.
6. Electric Typewriters - The most modern typewriter, still
used today, is the electric typewriter, most notably IBM
models such as the Selectric. The electric typewriter
minimized the force necessary to print out a message by
using a motor and type ball to print letters on paper.
Vignette - a small illustration or portrait photograph which fades
into its background without a definite border.
Watermark - a faint design made in some paper during manufacture that
is visible when held against the light and typically identifies
Writing - is a medium of communication that represents language
through the inscription of signs and symbols.
Cursive Writing - also known as script, joined-up writing,
joint writing, running writing, or handwriting is any style of
penmanship in which the symbols of the language are written in
a conjoined and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of
making writing faster.
Writing Speed - Classified Into 4 Divisions
1. Slow and Drawn