Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are traditionally written vertically in columns from top to bottom and arranged from right to left, with each new column beginning to the left of the previous one. However, there is no rule against writing horizontally, and in fact many characters were never meant to be read vertically.
In addition to being more convenient for typing on a computer, writing characters horizontally is now also permitted by law in China. The requirement came into effect in January 2016, when the State Administration of Language Affairs approved regulations that allow companies to use their own language management systems instead of Microsoft Office Word's character display mode if they wish to do so. The regulation applies to organizations with 20 or more employees, including schools, universities, government agencies, and businesses.
Writing characters horizontally has been popular among young people in China because it saves space on paper. In addition, some individuals feel that writing this way resembles how we write in English. Despite these advantages, most traditional characters were not intended to be read vertically and should be written accordingly to preserve their beauty.
Recently, however, there have been efforts to reverse this trend by writing certain characters vertically.
Chinese language was traditionally written in vertical columns that were read from top to bottom, right to left, with the first column on the right side of the page and the last column on the left. Today, this format is used only for books and other large documents.
In modern times, China has used computers more and more to write its language. Each character is represented by a set of strokes ordered in a pattern that can be translated into syllables or words. These sets of strokes are called "fonts". There are several different fonts available for writing Chinese characters, but they all follow a similar general structure: each character has a head, body, and sometimes also leg and tail. The head is made up of a single horizontal stroke on some characters or two connected strokes on others. The body consists of one or more vertical lines without heads or tails. The legs join together at the bottom to form a single line. The tail ends where it meets the head or legs. Some characters may have additional parts such as a nose between two legs or a mouth under the head.
When reading from top to bottom, left to right, users scan through the document looking for characters that match the desired meaning.
Punctuation has also grown increasingly prevalent, regardless of whether the text is written in columns or rows. Today, Chinese is almost always written in horizontal lines, with sentences divided into words by spaces or punctuation marks.
In early Chinese writing, only parts of the sentence were written, usually the subject and the verb. The other elements were added by punctuation: brackets for nouns, question marks for pronouns, and exclamation marks for verbs. This required each character to be pronounced carefully so that more than one character could be used together to create a single new word. For example, "ten thousand ships" can be written as "m/n jiǎo shíhou" (means "ships of ten thousand"). There are two characters here: one for "ten thousand" and another for "ship." They combine to form the new word "jiaoshihou," which means "ten thousand ships."
As Chinese characters evolved over time, they began to incorporate some of these punctuation signs into their design, for example, the full stop or period (。) for nouns and adjectives, and the question mark (?) for pronouns. But most characters still require separate punctuation marks to divide sentences.
Because Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts are made up of disconnected logographic or syllabic units that each occupy a square block of space, they can be oriented along either axis, allowing for flexibility in which direction texts can be written, whether horizontally from left-to-right, horizontally from right-to-left, or horizontally from right-to-left. Vertical writing is therefore more flexible than horizontal writing.
In addition to being more flexible, vertical writing allows for the expression of emotion through word choice. For example, using only the characters for "happy" and "sad," it is possible to write words that express both emotions at the same time. This is not possible with English, which does not have separate characters for sad and happy faces.
Furthermore, because Chinese characters are composed of strokes that flow from top to bottom, they can depict objects above or below their main body parts without changing the character. This is not possible with alphabetic languages like English, where the location of an object has to be stated explicitly using prepositions or postpositions.
Chinese characters also allow for greater nuance in language use than alphabetic systems. For example, while "thank you" can be expressed by simply writing "谢谢" (xiè xie), it can also be done by adding different kinds of punctuation marks or even changing the tone.
Chinese characters, Japanese kana, and Korean hangul can be written in either horizontal or vertical directions. Arabic numerals are more commonly used in horizontal writing, whilst Chinese numbers are more commonly used in vertical lettering.
In the West, China-centric scripts such as Chinese character and Japanese kanji are mostly written vertically, with the exception of a few documents written in Chinese character horizontalized by mistake. In Japan, kana are usually written horizontally except for textbooks and other educational materials that use them vertically to save space.
During the Qin dynasty (221 B.C. - 206 A.D.), Chinese characters were first written horizontally. As the script evolved, it became common to write texts in vertical columns because this method allowed for more words to be fit on one page. Around A.D. 600, scholars started using calligraphic styles to give shape to words instead of simply writing them in straight lines. This trend grew in popularity among artists and poets during the Tang and Yuan dynasties (618-1368). Today, Chinese characters are usually written vertically because this method is easier to perform with a pen or pencil. It also allows readers to easily distinguish different parts of the text: sentences, paragraphs, and so on.
In English-language publications, Chinese characters are generally written vertically. However, some special forms of Chinese typography do exist.