I am having high confusion between katakana n and katakana so . They look very similar even with the different stroke directions, they look very similar. Could anyone suggest how to differentiate between them?


7 Answers 7


I think this image sums it up perfectly:

enter image description here

Basically, it has to do with the angle you're draw it from and where it goes. You'll see variations on the bigger stroke on the right, especially in hand writing, but this clears up 99% of instances for me.

Edit: source=http://ani-nouto.animeblogger.net/2012/08/11/guide-to-katakana-ri-so-n/

  • 4
    This picture is helpful but be wary of stroke order! The big stroke will start from the side where it's aligned.
    – ssb
    Dec 26, 2013 at 3:35

Japanese is to complicated at times: keep the explanation simple:

Here is my mnemonic ソthe line points 'south' for 'so' ンthe line points 'north' for 'n'

Like it?

  • 2
    I know I'm missing the obvious but I just don't see how either of them points in a particular direction. Can you please explain? Nov 16, 2021 at 8:20

You need to be careful on the start point and stroke inclination as you can see on the image above

enter image description here

・ソ so

・リ ri

・ン n

Btw, Marilyn Manson is written in Japanese katakana character as マリリン マンソン.

マソソソ マソソソ❌

マリリリ マリリリ❌

マンンン マンンン❌

マリリン マンソン✅

source Twitter @ukotius


I do not know why my answer is so often different from others' on here but to me the best answer is "CONTEXT".

How useful is it that the two katakana look different in printed blocks? That kind of "knowledge" is not worth a yen when dealing with handwriting or even something printed. You are NOT going to see a ソ or ン blown-up all out of proportion so you could spot the difference.


It's easy once you get the difference between シ (shi) and ツ (tsu) For these, it's easy to remember because of how the hiragana versions are written.

し is written from the top, to bottom, to right. And thus, the katakana version is written left to right, and has a more horizontal angle.

つ is written curving down, so ツ is also written top-to-bottom, being more vertically oriented.

The same thing goes for ソ and ン, except without the hiragana equivalents.


Yes they are similar and yes they are distinguishable by two differences:

The stroke order can be seen in many fonts and the strokes are opposite for these two katakana.

N: bottom to top / So: top to bottom /


N: flatter S: more vertical


shi and n have the small line more horizontal, while so and tsu have them leaning more vertically. It is the best I can come up with.

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