# Why is 1 hand-written without a serif and 7 without a dash? [closed]

I've noticed that people coming from English-speaking countries tend to write "1" without the upstroke and "7" without a dash:

which differs from the way the numbers are usually written in continental Europe1:

Is there any particular (historical?) reason for this?

1 According to Wikipedia, "most people in Continental Europe, Latin America, and New England write 7 with a line in the middle ("7"), sometimes with the top line crooked."

• One small point: if you write the 1 with the upstroke and the 7 without the dash, they can get confused. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 22:55
• – Hugo
Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 22:55
• My postman brother tells me I'm atypical because I always put a slash through 0's in addresses to distinguish them from the letter O. But as Peter says, if we all omit both the serif on 1, and the dash on 7, there's no problem with those two. The continental system is no more "legible" in real terms. It's just excessively ornate for no useful gain - but they'd have a major problem trying to organise a switchover now! Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:25
• Nice question; unfortunately, off topic. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 3:24
• From a Scandinavian viewpoint, I can just randomly add that “1” (with hook) and “I” (without hook) are both used completely at random here. I personally switch between both—sometimes even within the same line of text—based on absolutely no logical reason at all. It’s like “v” and “ʋ”, which are both used completely at random for the letter v in upright handwriting. A “7” without a stroke, on the other hand, is not very common. The norm is “7̵” with a stroke (hope that looks right). Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:39

Many of us in the U.S. learned the Palmer Method of handwriting, which has a straight numeral one and no dash on the seven. See numerals at bottom right:

When I took engineering drafting in college, though, I was taught to put a slash through the seven (as in your photo) to distinguish it from the one, and still do so. So some people trained in certain fields probably do use the seven with the dash. I'm not sure about why Palmer chose these shapes for his numerals, though. I would refer you to the Wikipedia entry on the Palmer Method of Penmanship.

• We learned to cross the zero to distinguish it from the letter o as well. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:27
• Yes, we did too. (I still do that too.)
– JLG
Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:34
• Belated comment: from the image, it appears that he was trying to emulate old style figures from print (although I can't say why he didn't make 3, 4, and 5 descend below the baseline). This would help explain, at least, why he didn't put a diagonal on the 1; and it then follows that a cross-stroke through the 7 isn't necessary either. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 20:08

From the evolution of the glyph section of the Wikipedia entry for '7':

As is the case with the European glyph, the Cham and Khmer glyph for 7 also evolved to look like their glyph for 1, though in a different way, so they were also concerned with making their 7 more different. For the Khmer this often involved adding a horizontal line above the glyph. This is analogous to the horizontal stroke through the middle that is sometimes used in handwriting in the Western world but which is almost never used in computer fonts.

It goes on to say this regarding usage of the horizontal line:

Most people in Continental Europe, Latin America, and New England[citation needed] write 7 with a line in the middle ("7"), sometimes with the top line crooked. The line through the middle is useful to clearly differentiate the character from the number one, as these can appear similar when written in certain styles of handwriting. This glyph is used in official handwriting rules for primary school in Russia, Ukraine, Romania and other Slavic countries.

• '[citation needed]' is a clue that the wikipedia article might have no basis in reality. 'New England' is both very specific and does not accord with my experience. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 13:21