Letterform Analysis: The Leaning Tower of 'E'

In this article we will examine an all too common problem, namely maintaining slant angle on certain capital letters such as 'C' and 'E'. For this discussion we will focus on the capital 'E'.

One of the most important aspects of good script writing is maintaining consistent slant angle. Please note that I said slant 'angle', singular, not slant angles. Even the best letterforms will be held hostage to the glaring inadequacies of inconsistent slant angles. While such consistency requires much practice, there are some letters that can be more problematic in this regard. One such letter is the capital 'E'. I have seen examples of the letter either too erect or too slanted. In either case the harmony of the letter slant angle is disrupted.

Let us examine all the letters shown in Figure 1A. Their respective slant angles are in fact all parallel. This means that there is one overall slant angle. In order for us to understand how to consistently achieve a properly slanted 'E', we must break the letter into its component parts.

The Capital 'E' is essentially two ovals stacked one atop the other (Figure 1B). In fact, when I approach making the 'E', I basically attempt to form two individual ovals that happen to be connected by a loop. Of course, the top oval is slightly smaller than the bottom oval. I cannot overstate the importance of learning how to make correct ovals.


The 'secret' is that each of these imaginary ovals have their long axis on the slant angle as shown in by the dotted straight line bisecting the dotted oval in Figure 1B. Thus the main axis of the 'E' overall is on the same slant angle as the other letters and contributes to the perceived consistency of the slant angle.

Now let us examine some common mistakes when making this letter. Figure 1C, shows a digitally modified 'E' with the letter leaning/tilting drastically to the right. To the untrained eye the letter might appear ok. However, it is my hope that after all my ranting on ovals and slant angles that the problem will be glaringly obvious to your eye. Notice how the visual harmony is compromised when compared to figure 1A. Remember that this is exactly the same letter pictured in Figures 1A and 1B. I just tilted it using some electronic wizardry. No, I am not Harry Potter. Notice that while both imaginary ovals are on the same slant with respect to one another. Yet they are way off the main slant angle. Therefore, they are out of synch with the rest of the other letters (Figure 1D).

Another common error is demonstrated in Figure 1E, namely an 'E' made with the top and bottom imaginary ovals formed on different slant angles (Figures 1F). This actually compounds the issue since it not only skews the overall letter slant but also results in a poor letterform. Note how the letter appears compressed at the top.

The concepts discussed above should be addressed in practice sessions. This is because practice allows us to evaluate our work and make corrections to form when necessary. Writing high quality script requires a focus and rhythmic flow that would be impeded by worrying about imaginary ovals.

The best approach for practice is to use guidelines. I believe that one should practice script with ALL the guidelines possible. The exception would be very experienced script writers. I personally use a complete set of guidelines for practice sessions. These guide sheets include properly drawn slant angles spaced at regular intervals depending upon the size of the script. The particular angle depends on your preference. Angles of 52 or 55 degrees are often mentioned in instructional texts. Pick one and stick to it.

Once you have your practice sheet start making capital 'E's. Just write them as you naturally would. Do not worry about imaginary ovals and their slant angles until after finishing about 10 letters. Once done, simply draw the imaginary ovals over your letters as I have done and compare their slant angle to the actual slant angles of your guide sheet. Make changes in your technique as necessary and follow it up with lots of practice.

Developing skills in consistent goal-oriented practice will allow you to ‘draw from the well’ when needed. By this statement I mean that such practice will engrain the proper form into your ‘subconscious’ mind. This will allow you to let your script flow from your pen without needing to think about it.