WHY is stroke order so important?


Ok, ok. I KNOW that stroke order is not focused on in WaniKani and I understand why. I am really not interested in learning to write at the moment because I figure I can learn that later if I really want to. I also know that stroke order is important if you are writing with a brush or any kind of calligraphy to make the characters look proper. BUT, my question is, if you write kanji and/or kana with say, a pen or a pencil, shouldn’t it not make a difference what order the strokes are in? Since there are no broad or narrow strokes with a pen, as long as it looks right, is there any other reason?

Please enlighten me if I am missing something because I don’t’ get it.


Knowing stroke order helps with interpreting otherwise-unreadable handwriting. The direction of motion of the pencil/pen gives you some additional clues as to what the person may have been writing. It also helps with understanding strongly stylized fonts.

Other than that, stroke order doesn’t technically matter. In English, I’ve always written sixes (6) backwards from the way I was taught in elementary, and no one has ever noticed or cared. My understanding is that it’s pretty much the same with Japanese, but I’m not an expert in that regard, so…


I want to add that, in my experience, characters look different, wrong even, if you use the wrong stroke order. More important however is probably that it makes it easier when learning new characters, or as rfindley said, reading unfamiliar fonts.


There are probably better reasons, but I think it’s important for two main reasons; one - that a lot of kanji searching programs and software rely on stroke order in order to work out what kanji you’re drawing.

And two - there tend to be little ‘nuances’ with writing which you pick up on. Say, for example, you’re writing 口「くち」; the last stroke at the bottom hangs a little off the floor, making the kanji appear to have small “legs”, which show that it’s the kanji for mouth, as opposed to a square. If you were to ignore the stroke order, and just draw the kanji how you would probably most naturally draw it, you wouldn’t keep those small legs. It may seem like such a small detail, but it adds a lot to the design and feel of it, and (although I’m by no means an expert or a native) people will notice if those things are missing or different.


What I find weird is that the stroke order is different from how the Chinese write it, even if it is the same character.


Probably a lot of it is just the ‘fastest’ and ‘easiest’ way of writing the characters developed during the 1500 or so years they’ve been in use, although it’s highly subjective how fast or easy the stroke orders are, and the characters aren’t obviously meant to be written with a pen or pencil.

Also I want to say that test questions which ask you to number a certain stroke of a kanji should be shot at dawn.

I’ve said it before but I wouldn’t be able to read some restaurant or 居酒屋 signs even if my life dependent on it. They’re so stylized that sometimes even the hiragana is impossible for me to read.


Your question implies it’s really important. It’s not. It’s kinda important. Japanese people often forget the exact stroke order for some kanji. Stroke order is a section on the kanji kentei proficiency exam, and even people who are cramming for that don’t get 100% on it.


That’s twice today that you’ve beaten me to helpful advice, stealing my thoughts and typing them up first. ^_~

The other one was your response in the wrap up thread.


Thank you for your responses everyone. I guess I will just worry about it after I have made my way through WK or at least much much further than I am now. That is a good point about stylized fonts though. I know that looking at my little jar of 七味唐がらし and going, “huh?” and thinking, “why can’t they just make it plain and simply like printed Latin script…”

But I guess if they did that, it would sure lose a lot of its charm.


I came across some handwriting recently where all squares were rendered as loopy circles and for a second I wasn’t sure if I was trying to decipher Korean or Japanese. And I’ve definitely seen lots of handwriting that combines separate strokes. But I guess it’s one of those things where it’s good to know the rules before you bend the rules. :slight_smile: Or know the gist of the rules, anyway.


japanese handwriting is much like english cursive writing…vast majority of people can’t write for crap and it looks like a chicken done scratched the crap out of your page lol. but when you find someone that has impeccable handwriting, it’s impressive in either language.


There’s something about writing kanji in the proper stroke order that just seems right. It makes it easier to write, in a weird way.


At least, it helps with connected strokes, that is, cursing writing style. And sometimes, the shape of the character.

It is interesting that, sometimes, the stroke order or even number of strokes is different from Chinese counterpart… like 耳 or 免. Personally, I like Japanese way of writing more.


If you’re only ever going to read printed manga it might not be. But for me it comes down to the difference between 人 and 入. Stroke order there helps. A lot.


I’m left handed so even when I follow stroke order, I find that my hand more naturally moves from right to left, meaning that a lot of my writing looks backwards and wrong anyway -_-


I can’t write English cursive well at all. I also don’t like reading it very much either. Unless, like you say, it’s done very well. Then it looks fantastic. Most people’s doesn’t look fantastic… :confused:


As others have already mentioned, it’s really hard to read and write if you don’t know the correct stroke order. Even easy ones like 口 can be difficult for a beginner:


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