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Why Do We Write from Left to Right?

Why Do We Write from Left to Right?

Ever thought about why English is written from left to right and not right to left (like Semitic-derived languages such as Hebrew), or top to bottom as Japanese is? Let’s check in with our friends at Quora to find out why!

Latin Derivation

English writing was derived from Latin writing, which was derived from Greek writing. And Greek writing was written from left to right. 

But why did the Greeks write from left to right? While no one is certain, there are some theories. 

From Stone Tablets to Paper

Thousands of years ago, languages in the Semitic region and surrounding areas (like Hebrew and Arabic) were written on stone tablets. This writing was done by chipping away at a stone with a chisel. Since people would typically hold a chisel in their left hand and the hammer in their right hand, moving from right to left made the most sense. 

Later on, the Greeks used papyrus to write on, which was what was used before paper. Writing from left to write on this medium enabled the writer to see what was written without smudging the ink.

It is thought that after ink and paper became the main writing tools, writing from left to right became preferable since it avoided smudging the ink. A pretty simple and practical reason, yet one that isn’t widely known - but now you know!

Looking for more Never Stop Asking "Why?" questions? Catch up on all of the past "Why's" on the blog