Regional handwriting variation

From Academic Kids

Although people in many parts of the world share common alphabets and numeral systems (variations on the Roman alphabet are used throughout Europe, the Americas, Australia, and much of Africa; the Arabic numeral system is nearly universal), there are sometimes regional variations in how the characters are formed. These variations can be likened to a "regional accent" in handwriting.

There is often a great deal of variation within a given region, depending on the method of penmanship and teaching tools used. Some countries, such as France, have a national copybook. In other countries, such as the United States, the copybook taught at school is decided at the school district level. With greater communication and travel between various regions in modern times, many individuals are exposed to writing from other regions, resulting in greater interchangeability of writing samples between regions.

Arabic numerals

The numerals used by Western countries have two common forms. "In-line" or "full-height" form is that used on typewriters and taught in North America, in which all numerals have the same height as the majuscule alphabet (i.e., the capital letters). In "old style", numerals 0, 1, and 2 are x-height; numerals 6 and 8 have bowls within x-height, plus ascenders; numerals 3, 5, 7, and 9 have descenders from x-height; and the numeral 4 extends a bit both up and down from x-height. Old-style numerals are often used by British presses, which sometimes results in confusion because of the numeral 1's resemblance to a shortened majuscule letter I. Aside from these two main forms, other regional variations abound.

The numeral 0 - many programmers and some mathematicians put a diagonal slash through the zero to distinguish it from the letter O. However, some programmers assumed the numeral would be used more frequently than the letter, so they slashed the letter instead. Both of these practices are confusing to speakers of Scandinavian languages containing the letter "", and they prefer to place a dot in the center of zeros. Additional forms that avoid confusion with Danish include one the use of a tick, that is, a slash that does not cross the entire bowl of the figure, but entirely lies in the upper right; a form found in Germany with a completely vertical slash; and one with a slash from upper left to lower right.

The numeral 1 - In China and parts of Europe, this numeral is written with a short line at the top extending downward and to the left, as seen in serif typefaces such as Times Roman. People in some parts of Europe extend this serif nearly the whole distance to the baseline. It is sometimes - but less frequently - written with horizontal serifs at the base; without them it can resemble the common North American 7, which has a near-vertical stroke without a crossbar, and a shorter horizontal top stroke. In North America, the numeral 1 is usually written as a plain vertical line.

The numeral 4 - some people leave the top "open" -- all the lines are vertical or horizontal, like the Seven segment display. This makes it easier to distinguish from the numeral 9.

The numeral 7 - The traditional form found in copperplate penmanship begins with a serif at the upper left and has a wavy horizontal stroke (a swash). In China this numeral is commonly written with such a serif, but no swash and no crossbar through the middle. In North America is it usually written with just two strokes, the top horizontal and the (usually angled) vertical. Schools run by the Roman Catholic Church have traditionally taught that a short horizontal bar should cross the vertical in the middle, to distinguish the seven from a numeral one with a long initial stroke and no underserif. This form is used commonly in Germany and France, and sporadically in the United States. It is not crossed this way in Japan but a short vertical is drawn down from the left tip of the horizontal.

The numeral 9 - In parts of Europe, this numeral is written with the vertical ending in a hook at the bottom. This version resembles how the lowercase letter g is commonly written. In North America and elsewhere, the usual shape is to draw the vertical straight to the baseline.

The Roman alphabet

The minuscule letter a - In standard "roman" type, the lowercase letter a has a hook on the top (and is called the "hook a"), unlike the form taught in elementary schools, which is also used in "italic" type. That form is called the "bowl a."

The minuscule letter e - Because ink has a tendency to fill the bowl of this letter, two variations have appeared. One is a mirror-image of the common arabic numeral "3," while the other is a "C" with a hyphen stroke coming out of the center.

The minuscule letter g - The lowercase letter g has a wide variety of shapes. The variation seen in standard "roman" type differs widely from that taught in elementary schools (and "italic" type), having an "ear" at the upper right and a descender that starts from the left and ends in a bowl, rather than a loop. It ultimately derives from the Celtic alphabet, but was chosen solely to decrease the length of descenders and fit more lines of print on a page.

The minuscule letter p - In italic type, this lowercase letter often has a half-way ascender as the vertical extension of the descender. This is a development of the French way of writing this character, which also does not complete the bowl at the bottom.

The minuscule letter q - In block letters, some Europeans like to cross the descender to prevent confusion with the numeral 9, which also can be written with a straight stem. This has recently appeared in a set of letter stick-ons published in the U.S.

The minuscule letter r - For a form used in the Middle Ages, see half r.

The minuscule letter s - See long s.

The minuscule letter t - The lowercase letter t is sometimes replaced by a small version of the capital t, reminiscent of the Greek letter tau.

The minuscule letters u and v - These letters have a common origin and were once written according to the location in the word rather than the sound. The v came first; the u originally had a loop extending to the left and was only used to start words. All other locations for either u or v were written with the latter.

The minuscule letter z - This letter comes in a variety of forms, many with loops and tails.

The capital letter A - Two common variations are the usual triangle on legs, which in some artistic drawings lacks the crossbar, and an enlarged version of the "bowl a." On road signs in Ireland, and sometimes elsewhere, can be seen a form that goes back to the handwriting of the Middle Ages, that which has the cross-bar droop in the middle.

The capital letter J - In Germany, this letter is often written with a long stroke to the left at the top. This is to distinguish it from the capital letter "I," which the Germans like to reserve as a roman numeral.

The capital letter S - In Japan, this letter is often written with a single serif added to the end of the stroke. In North America, it is rarely written with serifs.

The letter Z - In North America and China this letter is usually written with three strokes. In parts of Europe it is commonly written with a short horizontal crossbar added through the middle. This version is sometimes preferred in mathematics in other regions, to help distinguish it from the numeral 2. In Japan it is often written with a short diagonal crossbar through the middle.


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