Writing in cursive is one of those skills we all learned in elementary school that proved useless, but learning the alphabet is an essential part of literacy. But it seems our curriculum may have failed us when it comes to one letter in particular. How do you write a lowercase 'G'? A new study says no one knows how to do it properly, and I'm freaking out about it. First, it's important to know that the letter 'g' actually has two versions. There's the opentail version, which most of us learned as kids, and the looptail or double story version, which is a little more complicated.
Even though the looptail version is prevalent in newspapers and books, or other media that typically uses serif fonts, we still have no idea how to recognize it. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied nearly 80 people in three separate experiments. During the first test, people were asked about letters with two lowercase versions — only two people even knew about the looptail 'g.' Next, people were asked to look at text containing the complicated 'g' and then write it down. Half of them got it wrong. Lastly, participants looked at the below graphic and tried to identify the correct letter. More than 70 percent of people failed. You can quiz yourself (the answer is at the bottom of the image).
Did you get it right? If not, you shouldn't be too ashamed. "You’re in really good company, so don’t feel bad," says study co-author Gali Ellenblum. She tells Bustle that the study came about because the university's cognitive scientists noticed that most people who were told about the lesser-known 'g' had no idea about it, which is why the team decided to conduct research about the phenomenon. Fascinatingly, most of us see the other 'g' all the time — we just can't replicate it. (For what it's worth, the font this story is displayed in uses the opentail 'g'.) Ellenblum says that nearly all children's and adult books use the complicated, looptail 'g,' but since we aren't taught about it as kids, most people can't write it themselves. "I don’t know anyone who writes it by hand," she says.
Ellenblum says one way to solve this is by teaching your children how to write the looptail letter. "If you have very young kids, think about reading books like Go Dog Go," she tells Bustle. With so much of our activities taking place via electronics instead of pen and paper, though, it's hard to know if the looptail 'g' will stick around. Senior study author Michael McCloskey says in a press release about the study that it could make things harder for kids as they're learning to read because it's a letter they haven't written. "Our findings give us an intriguing way of looking at questions about the importance of writing for reading. Here is a naturally occurring situation where unlike most letters, this is a letter we don’t write. We could ask whether children have some reading disadvantage with this form of g,” he says.
Now that I've seen the light, I can say with confidence that I've become a 'g' purist. Even though I can't write the letter for the life of me, I'm kind of obsessed with learning how to write it with ease. I changed up the way I write the letter 'a' thanks to a cool girl in my fourth grade class who always used a "double-story a" (which looks like the one you see in this article). I'm hoping my 'g' evolution will be just as smooth.