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

succeeding letters.

_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

or barred.

_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

the student.

_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

the examples.

_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