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Writing tips

On this page you will find clues on how to write arabic characters, as well as
some tips and tricks about tools and materials for learning to write in Arabic.

We'll start (again) at the beginning of the Alfabet

The Alef has two basic shapes: an initial / solo, and an intermediate / end shape.

When you write the end shape (on the right), you follow the
direction, indicated by the arrow.
Sometimes however, you'll enconter (or want to write) an initial / solo Alef that
looks like the one on the right, in that case you can write against the direction that
the arrow indicates.
The example on the left of the picture carries a serif, it has no special meaning except
that it looks nice (compare "Times new roman" and "Arial" (true type) fonts).


The most common shape in the Arabic alfabet is this one:

The inital and intermediate (left and middle) forms are used in.
five instances: for Ba`, for Ta`, for Tha`, for Noon and for Ya`.
The final form (not shown here) is used in Ba`, Ta`, Tha`.
Noon and Ya have their own final and solo forms, as we will see later.
It is important when you practice these using a wide tipped pen, that you make sure
the with of the pen keeps the same angle all the time.
Try to write a whole line of intermediate forms without stopping and try to
make them all exactly alike.


The final shape of the next three characters must be invented by a calligrapher

as the swooping elegant tail clearly indicates.

The intermediate forms can be connected either over the top
(often used when preceeded by a Lam) or around the bottom.

The numbers indicate the sequence to follow when writing this shape.

Because a large part of the character is written pulling the pen from
left to right, it is actually easier to write (for a Latin-font user) than it looks.
In fact, the latin-font intermediate "written" small "r" looks almost exactly like
the final shape Ha`


Since Dal and Thal are never connected to their left,

there are basically only two shapes; solo and final.
Sometimes you'll see the vertical line being extended or bend
backwards for esthetic reasons.
Again the numbers indicate the writing sequence.


Ra and Zayn are basically the same as Dal and Thal.

only do they protrude underneath the line.
They can occur in a number of shapes, varying
from long swoops to crescent moons.


Seen and Sheen are fairly straight forward, note that for
easy recognition, the first "top" of the character is written slightly
higher than the others, especially with Seen (arrow).


Sad and Dad are a little bit more awkward to write, there are several
different ways to do it, personally I write it as indicated above.


Tah and Thah are again a bit more complicated, they can have a tail that
protrudes underneath the line, but often they don't.
You'll have to lift your pen off the paper to write it, as doubling
your already written line will almost certainly result in
an inky mess.


Ein and Ghein on the other hand are quite simple as they
resemble the mirror images of the numbers 2 and 3.


The Fa is a bit like a scorpio; the venim is in the tail which has
to be straight and horizontal.
Mind that the angle between the body and the tail of the inital and solo
variants is square (arrows).
And don't forget the dot !!


The Qaf is easier, as a swoop is easier to write than a straight line.
Also mind the rounded angle between the body and the connection line (arrow).
Again, whatever you do, don't forget the dots !!


With Kef you should make sure you make the "hook" long and clear enough
so that it doesn't look like a Dal, also when you write a final form
without the "hook", make sure you write a hamze otherwise it can be
mistaken for a Lam.


The Lam character is easy to write, since it resembles the latin font "J" in
almost every aspect except that Lam sticks out above the line as high as Aleph.
Sometimes initial and intermediate forms are equipped with a "tail" that
protrudes underneath the line, like the final and solo shapes have.
Don't mix Lam with Aleph, Aleph is never connected to the left while
Lam is connected in both directions.


The Meem character comes in a variety of shapes ranging from something
that looks like a written "o" up to something that looks like a tight "v".
The tail of the final and solo shapes also varies from a short straight line
(either vertical or at an angle) to a huge swoop.
There is also a special "Lam-Meem" combination, as we will see later.


The Noon character is, in most instances written the same
way as Ba`, Ta`, Tha` and Ya`, except the final shape, which
protrudes below the line (arrow).
Of course you mustn't forget the dot!


He also has a wide variety of shapes, ranging from an "8" which is connected
through it's center to a sort of "v".
The final shape has an even wider range; from a simple sort of "a" like shape,
to a swooping, and often somewhat narrowed sinus-wave.
The final He (as in "Allah") should not be confused with the Ta`-marboota,
although the pronunciation is often the same (the "h" at the end of
the name Sarah is a Ta`-marboota, not a He).


Perhaps the simplest character to write, since it looks exactly like a number 9.
The tail protrudes below the line, probably to distinguish it from a real 9.


And the last one: Ya`, this one also protrudes below the line.
Note that the final shape differs from the final Noon in two ways;
firstly it is somewhat widened and flattened (which,
in my personal view, makes it look more interesting) and
secondly the final and solo shapes are the same.
The arrow points at the "intro/connection" of the Ya`.
It should always be written as an S-shape in a single move, unlike
the Noon where the pen stops and then moves down.
Should you forget the dots in the final charcter, it will be mistaken for an
Alef-maqsura (Alef-leina) by most people, except in Egypt, where they never
write dots under a final Ya`.
"But how do you know the difference ?" I asked an Egytian friend,
"You just know !" was the answer.
One can only say that the Arabic script is (especially estheticaly) highly
developed only sometimes, to westerners, in odd and mysterious ways.

Writing and materials

This page is

Yet to follow:

Ta marboota
Tashkeel and Naqt

Paper, pen and pencil tips

When you, as a right-handed person, first start writing from right
to left, you'll quickly find out that your pen wobbles from side
to side and (especially a fountain pen) has the tendency to dig itself into the sheet.
You can ofcourse cheat and write backwards but that leaves you with
the problem of determining where to start writing in order to get a straight
page margin at the beginning of the lines of text.


The easiest way to begin practicing is to use a normal (medium to soft tipped) pencil.
This however, will not produce the narrow-wide-narrow lines that look so
spectacular in many instances.

So once your lines have ceased to get wobbly using a drawing pencil, you are
ready for the next step.
Go to a harware store (what ???) that sells carpenting tools and look
for carpenter's pencils.
This type of pencil (you can't miss them, they're always red on the outside)
has a rectangular nucleus that is about 4 times as wide as it's thick (so that
rough and tough carpeting people don't break the tip each time they draw a line).
You have to use a sharp knife and cut away the wood (they usually come unsharpened)
and make sure the tip stays rectangular and flat.
Using it to write, you'll notice quickly that it moves with ease in all directions.
When using this type of pencil it is important that the surface you write on is not too
soft because the tip tends to wear rounded on a soft surface, ideal would be a smooth
desk with a few sheets (2 or 3) of paper underneath the one you're writing on

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