He quickly realized that any attempt to identify the handwriting was pointless, as each letter had been gone over backward and forward repeatedly in order to disguise the hand.

From Casebook of Forensic Detection by Colin Evans

What does ‘going over each letter backward and forward repeat’ mean in this excerpt?

  • It can mean that each letter was written many times over and over again making its lines thick, consisting of multiple lines, so that no one could tell what the original shape of the letter was. Individual handwriting is recognized by minute details, by individual shape of the rounded elements, but when you write it several times the many lines in each element hide your individual way you write the letter. That's how I understand it. – Yellow Sky Jul 5 at 10:55
  • And, perhaps, written in different directions - e.g., <c> from right top to left bottom and vice versa: backward and forward. Because the backward motion is so uncommon, it is less regular, therefore more difficult to recognize the hand. This together with what Yellow Sky mentions. – Keelan Jul 5 at 12:24

It is not a standard expression, so must be understood according to the normal meanings of its parts.

If the handwriting was "gone over" it presumably means that the writer had written the letters several times in the same place. "Backward and forward" means that they hadn't done so just forward (the normal directions of writing letters) but also starting at the other end and going backwards.

This is not a question about linguistics, but about the meaning of certain expressions in English.

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