Chinese Stroke Order

Chinese characters are composed of strokes. Each character is intended to be written in a certain order. This may seem complex and counter intuitive at times, but it is very important to learn. Learning the correct stroke order helps you intuitively know how to write new characters and believe it or not, knowing a character's stroke order has a big effect on how readable it ends up looking.

Skritter teaches you proper stroke order by ignoring strokes that are significantly out of order, thereby encouraging you to write correctly. It is important to note that there are several stroke order standards. Many characters are written slightly differently depending on the stroke order system you use.

These are the stroke order rules for Chinese characters. The stroke order rules for Japanese characters are slightly different.

Even though there are different stroke order standards, there are a number of general rules that hold true for writing most characters most of the time.


Write top to bottom, left to right

A clear example of this rule is the character 一 (yī, "one"), which is written from left to right. The character for the number two, 二 (èr), is written with the top stroke first, from left to right, and then the lower stroke. You'll be able to guess the stroke order for the number three, 三 (sān).


Horizontal strokes first

Take a look at the character for the number ten, 十 (shí). Given the previous rule, and the fact that the vertical stroke starts higher, you might be inclined to write the character incorrectly. Always do horizontal strokes first.


Cutting strokes last

Vertical strokes that "cut" through or intersect a character are written after the strokes they intersect. For instance, take a look at the radical for cart 車 (chē), in this case, the vertical "cutting" stroke in the center of the character is written last.


Diagonals right to left before diagonals left to right

This one can get you. We always want to be writing strokes from left to right, and rule #1 encourages that practice. When writing diagonals, however, forget it.


Center verticals before outside "wings"

This rule represents another conflict with the left-to-right paradigm. In the character for water (shuǐ) 水 the center stroke comes before the others.


Outside before inside

The outside of boxes are written before the insides, the bottom closing stroke is written last. This rule also applies to characters with nested boxes but without closing lines.


Left vertical before enclosing

The left side of boxes are written first. The top and right side (written as one stroke) are second, followed by the enclosing line (still written left to right, remembering rule #1).


Bottom enclosing line last

Enclosing strokes are always written last.


Dots and minor strokes come last

When a character has a dot, the dot is written last, even though it may be vertically higher than other strokes.

Still need help? Contact Us Contact Us