The Alphabet In Detail
If the instructions so far given have been acted upon, the student will
have familiarised himself with the general character of the writing
under examination. He should now proceed with a detailed examination of
each letter, beginning with the smalls, and taking them in alphabetical
Take a sheet of tracing paper and trace each small _a_, letting them
follow each other on the line, with about a quarter inch of space
between each letter. During the process of tracing, the eye must be on
the alert for peculiarities, notably the roundness or otherwise of the
circle as a whole, the curve or angle of the arc and hook, the relative
position of the toe. Note the shank, whether looped or barred, whether
the top of it is above or below the body of the circle, whether it is
vertical or sloping from right or left. Having compared all the _a_'s,
count them, and decide which form most frequently recurs. This may be
taken as the normal _a_ of the writer.
The following are the principal points to be considered in examining
_b._--Note the spur, its length, how far up the shank it meets it;
whether the shank is barred or looped; the character of the loop. Note
particularly the toe, which also forms the link. This is a very
significant hand-gesture. It may be low down, making the _b_ literally
_li_, or it may be a horizontal bar, an angle, or a neat semicircle. Its
formation offers large scope for variation, and should be very carefully
studied. Compare the toe with the corresponding stroke in _f_, _o_, _v_,
_w_. Note whether it is joined with an eye, and observe its average
distance from the bottom on base line.
_c._--This letter, when an initial, is frequently begun with a spur,
often with a dot or tick. When connected with a preceding letter, the
link may make the _c_ into an _e_. It is sometimes disconnected from the
preceding letter. Note whether this is characteristic.
_d._--Apply the same tests as in examining small _a_, noting whether the
shank is barred or looped.
_e._--Examine the spur in initials; closely observe the loop. Look for
any recurrence of the Greek e. Examine and compare the specimens given
in the examples. Many writers have a habit of forming an _e_ as an _i_
and adding the loop. Look out for this with assistance of the glass.
_f._--This is an important letter, giving scope for numerous varieties
of form. Examine and classify the loops, noting which is the longer--the
top or bottom; whether one or both are barred. The eye and toe are
pregnant with material for observation. Examine the various forms of
this letter given in the examples.
_g._--Like the preceding letter, this one has many varieties of form,
and will repay careful study.
_h._--The characteristic portion of this letter is the hook forming its
body. Note how it is joined to the shank--whether it starts from the
line or high up; whether the shoulder is rounded or angular, whether the
foot touches the line or remains above it; whether the shank is looped
_i._--This is an important letter because of the dot, which is made
mechanically. After noting whether the shank is spurred as an initial,
special attention must be devoted to the dot. Dots are of various forms.
They may be a wedge-shaped stroke sloping in any direction, a horizontal
dash, a tiny circle or semicircle, a small _v_, or a perfect dot.
Examine them all through the glass, and compare them with the comma,
which often partakes of the same character as the dot. Note also its
relative position to the shank, whether vertical, to the right or left,
and its average height and distance from the shank. Much may be learned
from a careful examination of the dot, and its every variation and
characteristic should be most carefully noted and classified.
_j_ is important for the same reason that makes the _i_ significant.
There are several forms of it, but the dotting offers the most valuable
_k._--This is the most significant and valuable of the small letters, as
it offers scope for so much originality and irregularity in its
formation. The characteristic features of the small _k_ lie mainly in
the body. Few writers form a _k_ alike. Although it may belong to the
same class, the number of variations that can be rung on the body is
surprisingly large, ranging from the regulation copybook model to the
eccentric patterns shown in the examples. Special attention should be
devoted to the eye and buckle, for it is at this junction of the two
strokes forming the body that most writers exhibit their peculiarities.
_l._--The same principles of examination apply to this letter as to the
small _e_. Note carefully the character of the loop and examine the
position of the spur.
_m_ and _n_ offer ample material for examination. As an initial the
first stroke is sometimes exaggerated, approximating the letter to the
capital _M_ or _N_. Note the formation of the shoulders and their
relative heights and width; also, by means of a line touching the tops
of the shoulders, note carefully and compare the last shoulder with the
first. This letter presents great extremes in formation. The shoulders
may be high and well rounded, or even horizontal, or they may be sharp
angles, turning the _m_ into _in_, and the _n_ into _u_. Note the
distance between the shanks and observe whether it is uniform.
_o._--This letter owes its main importance to its connecting link. Note
whether it is carried low down, making the letter like an _a_, whether
it is joined to the body by an eye, and if the toe is curved or angular.
Note, also, the general conformation of the circular body and compare
the toe with that in _b_, _f_, _v_, and _w_.
_p._--There are several forms of this letter, and a writer who affects
one of them generally repeats it often. The shank may be barred or
looped, wholly or in part, especially when used as an initial. The body
generally offers ample material for examination.
_q_ is also a letter with which great liberties are taken, and is the
subject of several variations. Some writers make no distinction between
_g_ and _q_, and the final stroke often supplies the main characteristic
of this letter.
_r._--This important letter has two forms--the square, or eyed, and the
hooked. Many variants are employed in forming it, as the specimens in
the examples show. Many writers unconsciously form a habit of using both
_r_'s, but with a certain degree of system. For example, one may use the
hook _r_ always as a final, and the eyed _r_ as an initial. The
formation of the eye should be specially studied, with the shoulder,
which may be formed as a semicircle, an arc, a straight bar or an
angular _v_. The hooked _r_ is equally rich in varying forms, and the
letter forms an interesting study.
_s._--This is a letter of such frequent recurrence in the English
language that it not unnaturally has become the subject of a variety of
forms, and this despite the fact that its regulation shape is
exceedingly simple and rudimentary. The majority of writers have one
favourite form of the letter, which, like the _k_, becomes
_t._--This letter is important because of its frequent recurrence, and
on account of the variations of form, the bar or crossing being the most
fruitful in material for observation. There are two usual forms of the
_t_, the hooked and crossed, and the barred, and they are equally
valuable and characteristic. The crossing of a hooked _t_, like the
dotting of an _i_, is so mechanical an act that it often reveals
important evidence. The cross stroke when closely examined will be found
to present many variations. It may be a fine horizontal line, a curve, a
heavy short dash; it may be ticked or dotted at either end or both--in
short, there is scarcely an end to the numerous forms this important
hand-gesture may assume. Then its relative position to the shank tells
much. It may be high up, not touching the shank; low down, neatly struck
at right angles to the shank, or it may be omitted altogether. In some
circumstances a _t_ is crossed, in others left uncrossed; for example,
the _t_ at the beginning of a word may be invariably uncrossed, but the
final _t_ never. These are the peculiarities and characteristics the
student has to keep a watchful eye for. The other form of the _t_ is
known as the bar _t_. It is generally uncrossed, and often the buckle is
an important feature. A careful examination of the examples will suggest
the lines on which the analysis of the letter _t_ should be conducted
and at the same time reveal the richness of material at the disposal of
_u._--Note whether the two shanks are uniform, whether the letter is
spurred as an initial. Average the distance between the shanks, and
observe the conformation of the hook, whether rounded or _v_-shaped.
_v._--The important feature of this letter is the toe. Its formation
must be carefully noted as in _f_, _o_, hooked _r_ and _w_.
_w._--Apply the same test as to _u_ and _v_. Note the uniformity or
otherwise of the shanks and hooks, and study the varied forms given in
_x._--This letter lends itself to tricks and variations, and few letters
depart more from the orthodox copybook form in actual practice, as is
shown in the examples.
_y._--Note the spur and its relative position to the shank. Note the
tail and its average length.
_z._--This letter offers good material for study and the detection of
mannerisms. Its body is the most significant part, as it is capable of
so many variations. It may be angular or well curved; the eye may be
large or exaggerated or merely suggested. Like _k_ and _x_, the form
once adopted by a writer is not usually departed from to any great
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