matrix formation

lower case a - Chancery

lowercase a The lowercase "a" is a combination of three strokes as shown, below.

first stroke second stroke third stroke Rounded letter forms cross their guidelines.

Chancery specifications Chancery script slant

4½ pen widths high. Try for a 45° pen angle. Work from a letter slant of 10° from vertical.

Chancery letter spacing

Space adjacent letters with opposing curves close. Space adjacent letters with parallel ascending lines the furthest apart. Don't measure! Do it all from sight and a few horizontal guidelines.

Consider spacing the left side of a lower case 'a' as a curve so there would be a thin letter space to the left adjacent letter. The spacing on the right side should be a little wider because that is more of a straight line there. Notice the following example with two opposing curves on the left of the 'a' spaced closely and two parallel lines opposing one another on the right spaced farther apart. The 'a' between the other two letters appears centered though it is not.

Chancery 'a' letter spacing

The appearance of centeredness between a letter and those adjacent to it is one test of whether a calligrapher is exercising good judgement in spacing. Look for well spaced letters with your eye. Don't measure! Calligraphy is an art form which visually adjusts negative spaces surrounding and within letter forms. I will remind you of this principle often.


Fill a page of lined notebook paper with the lower case letter 'a', using letter height of two ruled lines on the paper.

Copyright 2001, Charles McGavren