both ways of writing a lowercase letter A

There were two ways of writing the letter A, as seen in figure 1 and figure 2. I'm a non-native English speaker and I was explicitly taught to write figure 2 by my Irish teacher. However, on computers and fonts, I've almost never seen figure 2 actually used. In real life I notice about 75% of people use figure 2.

I tried to google more on the subject, but google never understands my search properly, like "correct way of writing lowercase letter a"

So is there a correct way to write lowercase A? Which one is it? Which version do they teach in schools in English countries? What about non-English countries who teach English as a second language? How did such a large difference even develop?

  • 2
    Handwritten script often looks different from typefaces, in English and in other languages. Another example is the lowercase "g"; the typical form in serif typefaces, with a closed bottom loop, is essentially never used in handwriting.
    – herisson
    Oct 31 '17 at 1:16
  • Are you referring to non-cursive standalone a ? Oct 31 '17 at 1:17
  • @sumelic It's widely used in various calligraphic hands, which is why you see it in print faces.
    – tchrist
    Oct 31 '17 at 1:19
  • 1
    Neither of those is how you "write" (using a pencil/pen) the lower-case letter a. First off it depends on whether you are "printing" (using "block letters") or "writing" (using script/cursive).
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 31 '17 at 1:27
  • 1
    @tchrist Wherever your 'here' is, we do things differently in my 'here'. unask.com/website/handwriting/new_web_pages/acquisition.htm and more chaotically. Apparently my handwriting is a mix of print script, looped cursive, Nelson round hand and italic.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 31 '17 at 11:19

To answer your question simply: The proper (or at least normal) way to write "a" in handwriting is to write it "ɑ" without the arc above the loop.

The two ways to write lower-case a are called double-storey A (a) and single-storey A (ɑ). Single-storey is used for italics in most fonts. But why are there two different As?

Back in ye olde days there were many ways to write a lower-case A. (The same went for other letters, for example þ was later written "y", hence "ye olde days".) After a while there were two emerging winners: a and ɑ. One won the handwriting competition, and the other won the printing competition. And so it has been ever since.


Note that all my sources are second-hand/Wikipedia, so take them with a grain of salt.

  • Do you have any citation to add so that we can see the veracity of what you tell us ?
    – Nigel J
    Oct 31 '17 at 13:26
  • @NigelJ Now I have added the articles I've based my answer on.
    – loading...
    Oct 31 '17 at 16:02

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