How does kanji stroke order work?

This page gives a few generalities about how to write kanji in the correct stroke order. The stroke order given here is specifically the Japanese one. Chinese orderings may differ in some details.

To find the stroke order of a particular kanji, refer to Kanji stroke order diagrams at sljfaq.org.

General rules

1. Top to bottom, and left to right

The basic rule of kanji stroke order is "go from top to bottom and left to right".

In , each stroke is written from left to right, starting with the uppermost stroke.

stroke order diagram of kanji '三'

In , each stroke is written top to bottom, with the left strokes written before the right strokes.

stroke order diagram of kanji '川'

2. Horizontal before vertical

When horizontal and vertical strokes cross, horizontal strokes are usually written before vertical strokes, as in .

stroke order diagram of kanji '十'

The character (rice field), which also occurs in (fish) is an exception to this rule.

stroke order diagram of kanji '田'

3. Character-spanning strokes last

Vertical strokes that pass through many other strokes are written after the strokes through which they pass, as in or .

stroke order diagram of kanji '中'

stroke order diagram of kanji '用'

Horizontal strokes that pass through many other strokes are written last, as in or .

stroke order diagram of kanji '母'

stroke order diagram of kanji '舟'

4. Diagonals right-to-left before diagonals left-to-right

Right-to-left diagonals are written before left-to-right diagonals:

stroke order diagram of kanji '文'

5. Long centre verticals before smaller "wings"

In characters with a longer central vertical, like or , the vertical is written before the shorter components on the left and right. Then components on the left of the vertical are written before components on the right.

stroke order diagram of kanji '水'

stroke order diagram of kanji '糸'

6. Left vertical before across and down

Left vertical strokes are written before across and down strokes, as in or .

stroke order diagram of kanji '口'

stroke order diagram of kanji '門'

7. Enclosures before contents

Outside frames are written before insides in kanji like , but bottom strokes in the enclosure are written last if present, as in .

stroke order diagram of kanji '病'

stroke order diagram of kanji '回'

8. Nyō

Some enclosing components with a bottom part, known as , are written last, as in the shinnyō in or ennyō of .

stroke order diagram of kanji '近'

stroke order diagram of kanji '建'

However, some other enclosing components are written first, as in .

stroke order diagram of kanji '起'

9. Dashes come last

Dashes are often written last, as in :

stroke order diagram of kanji '求'

Common exceptions

10. "Left" and "right" are inconsistent

The two first strokes of the kanji for "left" and "right" are written oppositely.

stroke order diagram of kanji '右'

stroke order diagram of kanji '左'

This mnemonic may be useful to remember the order: If you think of "migi" as your right arm and hand holding a box or O shape, and "hidari" as your left arm and hand holding a girder or rotated H shape, the "hand" of migi is the down and left stroke, and the "hand" of hidari is the across stroke, and in both cases the "hand" is written before the "arm".

11. "Nine" and "strong" are inconsistent

stroke order diagram of kanji '九'

stroke order diagram of kanji '力'

If you think of the two strokes as forming part of one movement with a brush, the order makes a bit more sense.

12. Top stroke often goes right to left

A sloping horizontal stroke at the top, as in kanji like or , usually goes from right to left.

stroke order diagram of kanji '私'

stroke order diagram of kanji '重'

Acknowledgements

The kanji illustrations on this page are taken from those of the KanjiVG project, copyright © Ulrich Apel, and are used under a Creative Commons Licence.

External links


If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy

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