The x-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 x-family. It has only four letters.

They are made of diagonals. The letter w was added in the middle ages. The other three have hardly changed in 2000 years.

They fit the width and height of the zigzag. Here’s the path of the letter x.

Begin at the midline, on the left, and go down and to the right to the baseline. Lift the pen there.

The second line moves from the midline, on the right, down and left to the baseline. Stop, and lift the pen. There’s no exit stroke: you don’t join the letter x.

That was the right way of making the letter x: the second stroke was drawn from midline to baseline. Now I’ll show you how NOT to do it. (The wrong way is first sideways to the left, and then up.) Here’s what to avoid.

Wrong: After the first stroke down to the baseline, the pen is lifted and moved to the left.

Wrong again: The second movement goes up and to the right, to the midline, and connects to the next letter.

If the letter x is written fast with the wrong movement, it is easly mistaken for the letter v, sometimes even the letter r. Teaching others to avoid this mistake demands sharp eyes. Try to catch it the moment it hits the paper. Spotting it later can be difficult.

Here are two exercises to get your hand ready for the x-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.

Remember to use the right path. Trace a line or two of the letter x. If that’s too difficult, go back to zigzags. But if it’s easy enough for you, try writing a line of the letter x, three together, and followed by a gap.

More paths
The letters in the rest of the x-family should also fit within two downstrokes of a zigzag.

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

A diagonal stroke to the left, from midline to baseline, follows. Be careful the letter is neither too wide nor too narrow.

You finish with a sideways movement to the right. If the letter z is too narrow, the exit stroke can make it look like the letter r in looped cursive.

The lowest point of the letter v should fit midway between two stems in the zigzag. Let’s imagine a line in the middle.

The letter v fits exactly between two zigzag stems and the line between them. Just connect the dots.

You begin at the midline, on the left, and make a slanting downstroke to the right. A slight curve looks better than a straight line.

Make a sharp point at the baseline, and a diagonal up to the midline. It, too, looks better slightly curved. When you’ve almost got to the midline, tighten the curve a little.

The letter w is made from two letters v, but doesn’t look right unless you tilt them slightly away from each other.


Here’s the difference between two letters v and a well-made letter w.

On the left, two letters v make the letter w, and seem ready to fall apart. The second letter from the left is the same shape again but with a line down the middle of each half to show the slant. The third letter shows how the two halves can be tilted for better balance. The fourth letter, without lines, is a well-made letter w.


The path of the letter w is like a tilted zigzag. Like the letter v, it moves between midline and baseline, and connects to the next letter from the top. And it, too, looks better if the lines are slightly curved than if they’re straight.