What Makes Bad Characters Readable?

I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog post titled The persistence of comprehension, which focuses on this handwritten Chinese note:

sabotaged-chinese-note

Now before you go too crazy trying to read it, know this:

Some time ago, Instagram user jumppingjack posted the above image of a note she left to her mum. She said that her brother secretly added extra strokes to the characters in the note. The result is interesting though: even though extra strokes were added, the note is still readable to most competent Chinese speakers.

bad-characters

That brother is kind of awesome. That is the kind of mischief I would have been all over as a kid, if only I had had Chinese characters at my disposal. The character substitutions are pictured at the right. (Note: not all of them are real characters.)

(Also, I totally sympathize with jumpingjack for writing the character wrong, with the two sides swapped. I have done that way too many times myself.)

Try having a Chinese friend read the note and take note what gives them the most trouble. Read the original post for the note’s original content (in electronic text) and the author’s analysis and conclusions.

1 Comment to “What Makes Bad Characters Readable?

  1. nommoc says:

    oh the fun little boys like to have… reading hand written characters is challenging enough without the extra strokes… lol one thing i have noticed is before starting to learn to write myself, reading hand written characters was impossible, now having started working on writing myself, it is next to impossible… ; )

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