The stroke-shape


Handwritten letters are made of strokes. Strokes are shapes. Master Johnston coined the word ‘stroke-shape’ to emphasize the idea.

Strokes are 2-dimensional things.

The stroke-shape is the essential building block of letters. Letters are shapes, not lines.

A pencil or a normal fountain pen will not write clear shapes, they are not broad or sharp enough.


Since schools teach handwriting with pencils, the stroke has become one-dimensional, a line, a skeleton.

Real handwritten letters are joined stroke-shapes.


The tools and the movement, not just the movement, determine the shape of the stroke. The tools provide the second dimension of the stroke-shape.


Formal writing is based ‘on the use of the broad-nibbed pen’ ‘a broad nib that has a sharp edge and two sharp corners’ (Johnston, 1971 p 127, 71).

Master Johnston made his observation from the study of historical book hands. If you have any doubts, you can consult originals or take a look at Stan Knight’s excellent Historical Scripts.

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