In English, we read from left-to-right, top-to-bottom.

In traditional Japanese, text is read up-todown, right-to-left.

Is there an English word that describes the "reading strategy" of a particular culture or language? Printers can be configured with "page orientation" for either "Portrait" or "Landscape", so perhaps something like "reading orientation"?


The accepted answer, plus Java's concept of text directionality inspires me to believe directionality is the most appropriate word here.

  • They're not technically reading strategies but writing|printing strategies. And don't forget boustrophedon.
    – TRomano
    Dec 9, 2014 at 21:40
  • I would suggest refraining from selecting a correct answer within only a few hours. You might get better answers if it takes days.
    – Octopus
    Dec 10, 2014 at 0:45

2 Answers 2


When it's right-to-left, it's called dextrosinistral text, and when left-to-right, sinistrodextral. These names are based on a default orientation of left-to-right, but in English, that is true.

  • Thanks @Carl Smith (+1) - but is there a word that encapsulates both these terms (and perhaps others)? For instance, in computer science, there are first-in-first-out (FIFO) structures called queues, and there are first-in-last-out (FILO) structures called stacks, however both queues and stacks are called "data structures". So, according to you, we have dextrosinistral text, and sinistrodextral text, but what are both of these text types instances of? Text orientation, perhaps? Dec 9, 2014 at 20:41
  • Again, I'm looking for the word that describes these reading strategies, not the names of the strategies themselves! Dec 9, 2014 at 20:42
  • There's no name for all forms, as that is just text. Text always has a direction, so you'd have no distinction for text that just has a direction.
    – Carl Smith
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:42
  • I understand what you mean though: Is there a term for the directions of text, like orientation.
    – Carl Smith
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:43
  • Exactly: I think the answer here is either "text direction" or "text orientation". Which one is more accurate? Dec 9, 2014 at 20:44

In CSS3 there is a property called 'writing-mode' which dictates exactly this concept and it can have values such as: rl-tb, tb-lr, lr-tb, bt-lr, bt-rl, etc.

Although I would expect that if you were to ask somebody "what writing-mode does English use," they'd ask for clarification.

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