Tae Kim says

Proper stroke order helps ensure the characters look recognizable even when you write them quickly or use more cursive styles. -- https://guidetojapanese.org/learn/complete/kanji#Stroke_Order

Though I get the importance of stroke order in general, I'm uncertain how it's pertinent in already-written text. Given I use a modern ball-point pen or a 2mm pencil when I'm writing (though not in a cursive style), it's hard to imagine this makes a big difference.

Especially when, as in the accepted answer to this post that came up as a suggested answer to my question (Why is stroke order important?) the example isn't comprehensible to me anyway. I can see it might be a matter of familiarity; but the example is obviously written with a brush and the stroke order can be sussed from that, if not by me personally at this time.

Is there something inherently discernible to those who have grown up reading hand-written kanji even when not written using a brush?

2 Answers 2


Theoretically speaking, if you are only going to read or write kanji like a computer san-serif font, a wrong stroke order may not severely hurt readability. But the subtle nuances of each line ending are generally considered important even when writing in non-cursive style using a ball-point pen. Please take a look at this video. See the following questions, too:

Note that (semi-)cursive style is not just for calligraphy brushes. For example, the following was written by a Japanese physician with a perfectly modern ball-point pen:

enter image description here

This says BP不安定につき降圧剤追加 ("blood pressure unstable, (will) increase antihypertensive"). This handwriting is definitely messy, and is nowhere near beautiful semi-cursive characters found in textbooks or art books. But I still can read this without difficulty, and it's because this person wrote this at least respecting the correct stroke order! Many real Japanese handwritten texts are like this, so some knowledge about correct stroke order (and semi-cursive style) is important even in modern Japan.

  • 2
    Damn, I want to learn how to read writing like this...
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 4:30
  • 1
    This is a great example, thank you! In a vacuum, it seemed unlikely ball-point (and similar) would leave enough of an artifact to truly see stroke order. But even I can see/sense the stroke order here, and this really helps me understand Kim's comment. @JimmyYang -- ahaha.. me too! Some day.
    – 写真家
    Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 14:08

I guess it is partially opinion-based, but the answer is no. Generally it is not possible to infer the stroke order from a glyph on the screen.

You can think in the reverse. If it were (always) possible to infer the order, there would be no questions on exams asking for the stroke order.

That said, probably 90% (or a bit less) of the stroke order is obvious for native speakers.

Also note that the stroke order is controversial in some ways. This mentions some characters with multiple stroke orders.

  • thank you! I can't read enough Japanese to make sense of your link; but I'll keep coming back to it as I learn more.
    – 写真家
    Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 14:01

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