Writing styles

History of writing styles: from pictures to sentences


Reading and writing styles have matured a lot throughout history. In today’s modern world, we create in different formats. For example, some people express their passions by writing a journal (like me). Others share via audio formats such as video recording. Whatever their writing preference, people like to settle for hours with their favorite reading to understand new material.

Of course, none of these writing methods would be possible without the evolution of the alphabet. Each form of script has its own unique character and image system. These numbers have evolved over the years into currently popular reading strategies used by many.

History of writing

The following article presents a brief but comprehensive history of writing styles. I’ll start by covering the pictorial styles of ancient Egypt. Next, I will cover the different letter structures that lead to modern writing.

**Note: I use the acronyms BCE and CE throughout this piece. It means (respectively) before the common era and the common era**


In the beginning, people used symbols to create readable images. Hieroglyphics, a pictorial script used in ancient Egypt, originated around 2500 BCE. There were three types of signs: logograms (words), phonograms (sounds), and determinatives (word endings). These symbols were placed on monuments and funerary contexts.

Over time, the Egyptians developed two variations of hieroglyphics to simplify the writing process. Hieratic writing emerged as a way for priests and scribes to write without overtly using images. The characters represented a phonetic value, but were now more stylized in “script” form. The hieratics are on pottery shards and official documents of Egyptian history. During the 7e century BC, demotic writing materialized. Also present on the documents, the demotic writing does not include any pictorial element in its writing. In the 18th century AD, Jean-François Champollion succeeded in deciphering hieroglyphic readings thanks to intense studies and research.

Writing evolves: the Phoenician alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet originates from the Mediterranean. Written from right to left horizontally, it was the first script in history to apply reading to both words and sentences. There were 22 letters in the Phoenician alphabet, their forms ultimately go back to hieroglyphic language. Similar to pictorial interpretations, the symbols of the Phoenician alphabet represent animals and land forms seen in life.

In addition, the Phoenician language circulated in European countries such as Malta, France and Sicily. Tunisia and the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) also used the Phoenician dialect in their reading life. The Phoenician alphabet was widely used until around 2sd century of our era.

From pictures to words: the Coptic alphabet

The Coptic alphabet emerged when Greek culture began to dominate Egyptian life. Using a wide range of characters, he also began to use reading comprehension in their dialect. The Coptic alphabet began around 2sd Century before our era. This alphabet is made up of 32 letters. It became the first official guide to reading words and deciphering sounds similar to modern text.

Coptic symbols displayed a cleaner script. It was prominently displayed on tablets and clay structures. The Coptic dialect originates from the Greek system in word formation and structure. While some characters of the Coptic language served as additional parts of Greek, this dialect reveals the early formation of phrases and sounds. The Coptic alphabet dominated Egypt until the 5the Century before our era.

The Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet dictates most of the scriptures used in the present western world. She was born on the 8the century BC. Adapted from the Phoenician writing system, the Greek community created a dialect made up of symbols representing both consonants and vowels. The earliest recorded observation of the Greek alphabet was inscriptions inside clay pots in Athens.

History of reading.  Greek alphabet.  Image by DemitriVetsikas from Pixabay.  Link: https://pixabay.com/photos/cyprus-ayia-napa-sculpture-park-1166858/

As the ancient Greeks adopted the Phoenician style of phonetic structure, they added features to make their alphabet unique. For example, they modified some Phoenician signs used as consonants to create vowel sounds not found in the Greek language. This change in phonemes allowed them to create a viable writing system resembling real speech.

In addition, a limited variation of the letters allowed more people to access the Greek language. Previously, only scribes and royalty had the right to learn to write. With a newly revised letter structure, others have now had the chance to enrich their reading skills.

Latin alphabet

Now we are moving towards the system widely used today, the Latin (Roman) alphabet. This method is widely used in English and most European languages. The Latin alphabet appeared around 600 BCE. It is derived from the Etruscan alphabet (an extension of the Greek dialect, dating as far back as 8e century BC).

The Latin alphabet contains 23 letters, later evolving into the 26-letter format in medieval times. He also introduced us to the two most used forms of writing: upper case (upper case) and lower case (lower case) letters. Their beautiful curves and lines were exhibited in monuments and books throughout the Roman Empire. Reading this more polished script, along with using a simpler alphabetic system, took text reading to a whole new level.

In addition, the Latin alphabet introduced cursive to the reading landscape. Cursive writing has saved documents and notes in everyday life. Because cursive is written at a faster speed, reading these shapes was sometimes difficult. Despite these obstacles, cursive introduced an accessible form of reading and writing taught to the Western world.

Want more history?

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