Optimizing Handwriting

How long have you been hand-writing for? Have you ever stopped to wonder if you could be doing it better?

While journaling, I noticed that the faster I write, the less legible my e becomes. This is the most common letter in the whole language, right?

English letter frequency (https://web.archive.org/web/20150913024453/http://norvig.com/mayzner.html)

Yes, e is the most common letter in English. If the most common letter is difficult to write, something is wrong.

Frequently-used letters should be easier to write than infrequently-used letters.

To quantify difficulty, I charted how many strokes it takes me to write each letter.

I counted the number of strokes for each letter, and sorted by stroke count.

Looking back at Peter Norvigs letter frequency chart, of the 4 letters which take a single stroke to write, o is the only one that appears in the top-4 most-frequent characters.

To measure how well the entire alphabet is suited to actual usage, I counted the number of strokes it would take to hand-write every letter in Peter Norvigs text corpus.

For our current alphabet, that would be just shy of 7 trillion strokes.

Could it be better? Yes. The simplest change would be to re-assign letters that are already in our alphabet. For example, to swap e and l, so that the word hello would be written hleeo. This looks weird, but wed get used to it. The result would be that the most-frequently used letter is also the easiest to write.

Pairing the new-letters with fewest strokes with old-letters with highest frequency, yields the following spreadsheet.

This has a total stroke count of a trillion fewer than the current alphabet system that we use. That is an efficiency boost of 15%.

To put things in perspective, lets see how bad it could be.

The worst-case alphabet would make the most-frequent letters the hardest to write. This system would take over 9 trillion strokes. That is 33% worse than what we have now.

To put it another way, our current alphabet is 69% of the way from worst to best. It could have been worse, but there is tremendous potential for a new alphabet to get thoughts to paper more efficiently.