lately it's come up a few times, the subject of legibility in script. typically, i defer to the occasion at hand. if a client of mine wants a really aesthetically pleasing tattoo design of text, in my handwriting, and the look/feel of it is more important than how well the text is recognized, i am usually a little more artistic, lenient with it. when, for example, i'm addressing envelopes (for myself, or for wedding invitations), i try to err on the side of readability. the post office can use all the help they can get at this point, yes, but it is a bit unfortunate that the true boundaries of artistically hand-lettered verbiage doesn't have room for more flexibility. part of this reason is due to the hand of the calligrapher, of course, but another part of it could pertain to the lack of cursive writing in our culture now. we're not trained to identify script as well anymore. have you ever taken a look at the letters ben franklin penned? or even ye olde declaration of independence? jane austen's letters to her sisters, written in two directions on both sides of a piece of paper? somehow, those were read, understood, transcribed, responded to. somehow, we think those examples of penmanship are acceptable, but only within the time frame in which they were written. to that point, perhaps as a hand letterer (and lover of beautiful handwriting), it actually is my job to push the limits of comprehension in some small way. instead of bypassing and immediately looking for the sender's address to return a card i'm mailing, maybe the mail carrier that picks up my envelope will pause, read, and consider that there might be merit in aesthetics of typography in everyday life.
either way, i do, always, make sure that the zip code is crystal clear. cheers!