The a-family

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   Lower case
   The a-family
   The b-family
   The o-family
   The x-family
   The l-family
   The A-group
   The E-group
   The O-group


This is the a-family.

The a-family has some shapes in common. Learning each letter helps with the others. Practising them together is useful.

Here’s the path of the letter a.

You begin at the midline on the right, and make a sideways movement to the left.

The first stem tilts slightly outward. From the baseline, you make a slanted line to the point where you started the letter.

When you get there, you turn and make the second stem.

At the end of the second stem, you make a second slanted line, the exit stroke. It’s the same movement you made from the bottom of the first stem into the diagonal line that followed it.

Of course this is nothing new.

Nearly 500 years ago, Ludovico Arrighi taught people how to write the letter a in much the same way. He used a slanted rectangle as a foundation for chancery italic.

Here are three exercises to prepare your hand for the a-family.

First, make a few tracings of a line of zigzags. Give the upstrokes less pressure than the downstrokes. Half a dozen at a time are easier than a whole line.

Next, trace several times a line of the bowls from the letter a. Try to think of them as a pattern, not lettershapes.

The looped arrow is explained on the page about reversed strokes.

Finally, if you’re ready, trace a line or two of the letter a. If that’s too difficult, go back to easier stages, the zigzags and the bowls. But if it’s easy enough for you, try writing a line of the letter a, three joined together, and followed by a gap.

More paths
You write the rest of the a-family with the same basic movements.

The letter d has the same path as the letter a, except the second stem goes up to the ascender line.

The letter q has much the same path as the letter a. The second stem stops at the descender line, and doesn’t join the next letter.

The path of the letter g begins like the letter a. The second stem goes down to the descender line. Before you start moving to the left at the bottom, think of a point below the first stem, a little to the left. That’s where you lift the pen.

A slightly curved line, up and to the left, finishes the job. This part often needs a little extra practice.

You don’t make a join from here to the next letter.

If you know how to make the letters u and g, the letter y will be easy for you.

This takes care of the a-family. Remember to begin each new letter with a few lines of zigzags. Trace before you write.