The b-family

Home page

   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 b-family.

All the letters begin with the same movement. It begins with a stem, and then returns into a diagonal.

Here’s the path of the letter b.

You start at the ascender line, and make a stem, slightly to the left, down to the baseline. (Don’t stop there. Think of the pen as a bouncing ball.)

Make a gentle curve from the baseline to the midline.

At the midline, you turn and make the second stem.

Near the baseline, turn and make a sideways movement to the left.

To join the letter b to the next letter, you turn back to the right and make the exit stroke.

Here are three exercises to get your hand ready before you start writing the b-family.

Begin with a line of zigzags. Give the upstrokes less pressure than the downstrokes. Half a dozen at a time are easier than a whole line. Make a few tracings.

Next, trace several times a line of the bowls from the letter b. 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 b. 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 b, three joined together, and followed by a gap.

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

The letter p has the same path as the letter b, except the stem goes down to the descender line. You connect from it with the same join as from the letter b.

To write the letter n, begin at the midline, and make stem, slightly to the left, down to the baseline. Then you bounce the line into a slightly curved diagonal up to the midline.


From the midline, you make a second stem all the way to the baseline. What follows is not as simple as the bowl of the letter b. You add an exit stroke from the a-family to the half-finished bowl of the b-family.

In the letter a, you merely repeated the movement you made in the first part of the bowl. In the letter n, the first stem ends one way, and the second stem in another.

After the letter n, the letter m is easy.

The letter m is almost the same as the letter n. The second stem is just like the first. The third stem turns into the same exit stroke as the letters a and n.

The letter h is almost the same as the letter n, except the first stem begins at the ascender line.

At first glance, the letter k looks like the letter h with a tight belt.

You begin at the ascender line, make a stem, and bounce the stroke up from the baseline. That’s the end of the similarity to the letter h.

You make a second diagonal, and aim it at the middle of the first. The curve should be wider than in the letter h. But don’t make a big bowl: that would overwhelm the letter.

Make a third diagonal stroke down to the baseline. Keep it fairly straight. For a right-handed writer, this is probably the most difficult of all writing movements. It may be the reason it seldom occurs in the lower case letters.

The usual exit stroke can spoil the look of the letter. A sharp bounce, like the movement out of the beginning stem, looks better than a curve.

The exit stroke of the letter r needs special attention.

Begin at the midline, and make a stem. Bounce the line back from the baseline, as in the letter n. But keep the diagonal close to the stem, or the letter will split apart.

Begin the exit stroke with a short downward movement. Then continue to the next letter. Otherwise, some letter combinations are easily misread. The word “burn”, for example, can look like “bum”.

This takes care of the b-family. We have now looked at more than half of the lower case letters. Remember to begin each new letter with a few lines of zigzags. Trace before you write.