Stroke order rule 9 – horizontal vs left sweep: shorter first

This is one of my “weakest” rules, and it is more like a mnemonic trick. Make sure you read this whole section as I included one very useful advice at the end.

Whenever a horizontal stroke and a 左払い hidariharai (described in the previous rule) cross each other, the shorter stroke is written first.

Kanji stroke diagram showing the horizontal stroke vs 左払い hidariharai rule with the kanji: 有 aru 'exist', 布 nuno 'cloth', 希 KI 'hope', 友 tomo 'friend', 存 SON 'exist', 在 aru 'exist'.
aru ‘exist’, nuno ‘cloth’, KI ‘hope’, tomo ‘friend’, SON ‘exist’, aru ‘exist’.

The crossing strokes are highlighted: the first stroke in red, and the second stroke in green. In the kanji aru, nuno and KI, the hidariharai is written first. When compared to the remaining three kanji, tomo, SON and aru, the first (red) stroke is visibly shorter.

Furthermore, the crossing shapes in aru, nuno and KI are more “compressed”, whereas in tomo, SON and aru they are more relaxed.

As a final note on the diagram above, the characters SON and aru present a third vertical stroke intersecting the second (green) stroke. When this stroke is present, the order is always: horizontal, hidariharai, vertical.

Left hand and right hand

This rule is also handy for memorising the stroke order of hidari ‘left’ and migi ‘right’. The crossing shape in these two characters was originally the representation of a hand. One stroke represents the “arm”, and the other stroke the “hand”.

Chinese bronze inscriptions of 左 hidari 'left' and 右 migi 'right'. The stroke order can be explained with the help of the original shapes. On the left, the ancient bronze script of 左 hidari and 右 migi; on the right, the present shapes. The short stroke, representing the hand, is written first.
hidari ‘left’ and migi ‘right’: bronze inscription and modern form.

The diagram compares the shapes found in Chinese bronze inscriptions for the characters hidari ‘left’ and migi ‘right’ with the shapes used today. The ancient pictograms show stylised hands and ritualistic objects: KOU and SAI.

  • In hidari ‘left’, the hand is the horizontal stroke. The hand is written first, then the arm.
  • In migi ‘right’, the hand is the hidariharai stroke. The hand is written first, then the arm.

In both cases the hand is written first.

Always consult a dictionary

The shorter first rule is more of a rule of thumb than a proper stroke order rule. Depending on the font used, discerning which stroke is longer and which shorter may become impossible.

One final advice:

Whenever a horizontal crosses a hidariharai, look up the stroke order using a real dictionary (or Rikaikun one a web browser), then memorise the whole kanji.

This is the only way to eliminate all ambiguity.

« PreviousNext »

– Back to Index –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *