Stroke order rule 1 – left to right

Up until now we have been talking about the direction of strokes. Now we will start talking about the order or sequence in which strokes should be written in order (no pun) to form whole characters.

When we have two or more strokes in a character, in what order should they be written? Stroke order rule 1 says:

Write the leftmost stroke first, then write the next leftmost stroke, and keep going.

Kanji stroke diagram showing the kanji 八 yattsu 'eight', 人 hito 'person', 入 hairu 'to enter', 川 kawa 'river', 州 SHUU 'sandbank'. It illustrates the stroke order rule 1, according to which kanji strokes are written from the left to the right.
yattsu ‘eight’, hito ‘person’, hairu ‘to enter’, kawa ‘river’, SHUU ‘sandbank’.

The characters In the diagram above are a series of slanted and vertical strokes written next to each other. These strokes are written one by one, from the left to the right. This should be pretty straightforward.

NB: stroke order rule 1 doesn’t apply to characters such as chiisai ‘small’ and mizu ‘water’ that have a central dominant stroke. I have a separate rule for this kind of characters that we will see later.

Stroke order rule 1 applies to characters with strokes that bear a roughly equal impact to the overall balance of the shape/kanji as a whole. Take hito from the diagram above.

In the kanji hito the two strokes are leaning toward each other; together they create a balanced shape, with no “centre of gravity” like in chiisai. Similarly, in kawa the three strokes contribute equally to the balance of the character, therefore we apply stroke order rule 1: we write the strokes from the left to the right.

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