Does stroke order matter?

I see a lot of people talking about stroke order but does it even matter as long as the kanji has it’s correct shape and it’s easy to write the kanji.


It doesn’t matter in nearly all real world cases.

It does make writing things go more smoothly most of the time.

If you want to do calligraphy or take the Kanken, you should take it seriously.


Well for 人 and 入 it matters, they have the same strokes but in different order. I can’t recall other example anyway.

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I once read that the only “practical use” of stroke order is that you can still tell which kanji it is when you write fast and the kanji becomes hard to read. Other than that it doesn’t really matter as long as the kanji is clearly readable.
There are cases when I think the correct stroke order feels weird and the way I write it feels more natural, for example 何, 歌 or any kanji that uses the right part of 何


Hmm? In both cases the left stroke comes before the right stroke… The difference is where they start / their positions. And in any case, you can still write them legibly even if you do it backwards. It’s not like that will make them illegible.


I think that the position and start are consequences of the order, otherwise they would be identical. But I am not an expert and i had only a couple of 書道 lesson years ago, so my memories could fail me. :sweat_smile:

I guess I just don’t see how stroke order plays a part in it. I can write that first stroke, and until I put my pen down for the second one, you don’t know which one I’m going to write, so the order isn’t coming into it.

And again… it’s still possible to write them the “wrong” way and no one will be able to tell unless they do forensic examination of the minute details of your strokes, which is the real test of whether it “matters” in the real world.

As an aside, there’s a quiz show I like to watch called ネプリーグ, and they always have a kanji writing portion. People are never penalized for incorrect stroke order, and I do notice it now and then. As long as all the necessary strokes made it into the kanji at some point, it’s all good. To be fair, it’s timed, so there’s that pressure, but they aren’t considering stroke order an element of “correctness”.


I feel that minding and practicing the correct stroke order helps integrate the culture into your studies, which is almost always a good thing in my opinion. Makes me feel that more “connected” to what I’m learning, knowing I don’t ignore part of it just because I find it difficult or nonsensical.
Besides, I always draw parallels to the other languages I know. For example, I never really wanted to break English rules by using double negations or contextually wrong words even if everyone around was typing like that. I also use punctuation and capitalize the first word of a sentence even if those details can be omitted online (and to some people you look like a smart ass doing it).


yes it does, especially when it comes to writing. The order really isn’t that difficult to remember. It’s pretty standard. You can use the order to memorize the flow of the mnemonic you use to remember the kanji too.


I suppose some people have different definitions of “matter”. My definition, when declaring that it almost never matters, is “will it have any impact on whether the resulting character is legible as the character you intended”. Unless someone is scrawling quickly, in which case they probably know general stroke order concepts, the connected lines you produce from stroke to stroke aren’t going to substantially change the appearance of the kanji.

Will the person at the bank be able to read your kanji if you screwed up the stroke order? Yes.
Will you get credit on the Kanji Kentei for something you wrote in the wrong order? Yes. (the only time stroke order matters on the Kanken is on dedicated stroke order questions)

So, in my book, that means it doesn’t matter.

But I did acknowledge that it helps with flow, and there are other benefits pointed out by people, so maybe in their book, that means it matters.


Please note the handwritten versions of those characters look noticeably different. It’s not a matter of stroke order, it’s a matter of learning how they’re written. Specifically, they look like this:


Many other kanji have variations when handwritten too.


I just remembered an actual use case where stroke order is really important: IME and other machine handwriting recognition.
I often use a pen and write down kanji on my tablet to look up kanji in a dictionary rather than looking through lists of radicals. Wrong stroke order can make recognition work poorly and sometimes the kanji you’re writing won’t be recognized unless you get the stroke order right, especially for kanji with many strokes that have a lot of visually similar kanji.

But then again you don’t really need learn the stroke order for every kanji you learn. You learn the stroke order for each radical and just write the radicals in the right order. You’ll eventually notice some kind of system and stop thinking about it.


I can’t think of learning writing without the stroke order, it’s like learning the latin alphabet without ever learning how to draw the letters.
Like they say “When in Japan, do like the Japanese.”
If it’s good for them, it’s probably good for you.

I’ve seen plenty of people with what I’d consider unusual ways of writing letters. It works for them, I guess.

Actually, when you mention letters and Japan, I’ve heard ALTs say that they were actually reprimanded by the teachers they were assisting for not writing their letters in the way that those particular students were taught, even if it meant doing things in a slower, or (in the eyes of the ALTs) clumsier way.

For instance, writing a W or M with 4 individual strokes, instead of an up and down wave stroke like most people would.

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There’s a huge difference between saying “it’s better to learn the stroke order for several reasons” and “unusual ways of writings can’t work/won’t work”.

As for your anecdote, I can’t think of it as a problem.
Respecting a common frame throughout your education doesn’t mean you’re not free to do as you like when said period is over.
I’ve learned "r"s written this way : r
yet I write them like tiny versions of : R

Educational methods are a frame, not a prison.


The point is that as long as it gets written legibly, it’s not a big deal exactly how it gets done. Barring the examples I gave of calligraphy and whatnot.

Uh… sure, people can do as they like when they’re not ALTs anymore… no one said they couldn’t. But isn’t it kind of bizarre for Japanese teachers to yell at their native English speaking assistant, who has been brought to Japan specifically for the purpose of teaching English, about how they write in English? And we’re not even talking about a difference in form, like your example, but just a difference in stroke order, one that makes no difference in the resulting character, publicly called out in front of the students.

I’m glad none of the teachers I work with demand that I bend to their particular whims concerning writing on the board.


Is it common for Japanese people to be taught to write ‘m’ and ‘w’ this way?! I’ve never heard of any native speakers writing them with separate strokes, so it seems really weird for this to have become a thing - I guess maybe it’s related to the way they write their own characters?

I don’t think that it’s a standard thing, because I’ve never had it come up or heard about it within the city where I work. That was one isolated example of a Japanese teacher correcting an ALT’s handwriting on those letters, but I’ve heard of others without specifics on which letters were involved.

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I had understood your point.

As for your example, again I can’t see the problem.

If one can’t temper his ego when asked to respect the common frame set by an entire school or an academy, then one probably should reconsider his views on being a teacher.

Just cos you think it’s weird doesn’t mean you’re not going to respect it?

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