The Basic Rules of Stroke Order
Modern Chinese uses the familiar western layout of horizontal rows from left to right, read from the top of the page to the bottom. Here are the basic rules for stroke order.
(For detailed stroke orders for every Chinese character, you can view the character page under “Learn Chinese Characters”. To acquire a natural feel for the proper stroke order, you have to practice them on the paper. You can use the generated handwriting PDF worksheets in each lesson to help you write them correctly and beautifully.)
1. From left to right (由左至右)
Most strokes are written from left to right. This rule also applies to all the characters with Left to Right structure such as 吐 (vomit), the left component, the radical 口 (mouth), is written first; and then the right component 土 (dirt).
Examples: 你, 他, 如, etc.
2. Horizontal before vertical (先横後豎)
When strokes cross, horizontal strokes are usually written before vertical strokes. As an example, the character 十 (ten) has two strokes. The horizontal stroke (一) is written first, followed by the vertical stroke (丨).
Examples: 七, 土, 木, etc
3. Diagonals right-to-left before diagonals left-to-right (先撇後捺)
As in 人(person), right-to-left diagonals (ノ) are written before left-to-right diagonals (乀).
Examples: 大, 文, 八, 父, etc.
4. From top to bottom (由上至下)
As an example, the character 三 (three), which has three strokes, is written with the top stroke first and then the middle stroke, and lastly the lower stroke. This rule applies also to other characters with Above to Below structure, such as 全, the top component (人) is written before the lower component (王).
Examples: 古, 早, 息, 空, etc.
5. Outside before inside (由外到内)
Outside enclosing strokes are written before inside strokes, for examples 月, 聞, etc.
This rule applies to the characters with:
Surround from Upper Left structure (左上包圍結構) ⿸, such as 友, 左, 店; or
Surround from Upper Right structure (右上包圍結構) ⿹, such as 可, 包; or
Surround from Above structure (上包圍結構) ⿵, such as 問, 風, 罔, etc.
6. Inside before outside (由内至外)
This rule applies to the characters with Surround from Below structure (下包圍結構) ⿶, such as 凶; or
Surround from Lower Left structure characters (左下包圍結構) ⿺, such as 近, 週, 建 etc.
7. Inside before bottom enclosing (先裡頭後封口)
If there is a bottom stroke, the bottom stroke is written last. For an example, for the character 因, the outside enclosing strokes are written first, followed by the inside component 大 and then the bottom horizontal stroke.
Examples: 因, 日, 四, etc.
8. Center verticals before outside “wings” (先中間後兩邊)
If there is a center vertical stroke flanked by strokes on either side, the center vertical is drawn first. For instance, in the character 小, the center (亅) comes first before the two dots on the sides.
Examples: 小, 水, 少, etc.
9. Cutting strokes last (相交筆畫後寫)
Vertical strokes that “”cut”" through a character are written after the horizontal strokes they cut through.
Examples: 千, 中, 午, etc.
10. Left vertical before enclosing (先左豎後封口)
This rule applies to most of the characters with Full Surround structure ⿴. Left vertical strokes are written before enclosing strokes.
The leftmost vertical stroke (丨) is written first, followed by the uppermost and rightmost lines (┐) (which are written as one stroke).
Examples: 口, 日, 四, etc.