In Latin cursive, we differentiate lowercase a a from lowercase O with the stroke in the middle of O. However, this stroke does not exist in Russian cursive. I see that the right border of A is slanted and because of it the letter does not form a perfect circle as O, but that seems a very small detail which can be easily lost in writing. Is there any other difference between both? Is the starting point for the next letter higher in O than A?

  • 3
    we differentiate lowercase a a from lowercase O with the stroke in the middle of O - probably it's dominating in your place but it's not the only "correct" way, e.g. see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursive. So it's more a matter of habits - as soon as you get to use to another variant there's absolutely no problem in distiguishng o/a... Sep 11, 2019 at 14:06
  • Okay. I am unable to differentiate between O and A if there is no stroke in the middle. I can still understand the meaning of a word with an unknown A/O by associating it with the closest word I already know (in case I am already familiar with the language vocabulary), but otherwise no. Anyway, the main question is how Russian native speakers differentiate between the letters A/O in a word they have never seen. Sep 11, 2019 at 15:43
  • In Russian cursive the 'a' has a very prominent vertical stroke: Aa. The 'o' doesn't have it: Oo. Personally, I never confuse them unless handwriting is very sloppy and o's are merging with following letters.
    – Alexander
    Sep 11, 2019 at 20:21
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    @Alan Evangelista correct, the top tip of the stroke in the 'a' is most telling. All but the most sloppy handwriting features that top tip. Regarding connections, some people do make bottom connection after 'o', so it is a less reliable sign.
    – Alexander
    Sep 11, 2019 at 20:57
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    @Alexander Looking at some cursive Russian writing videos, indeed it seems that most people don't draw that vertical stroke beyond the top of "a"' . Examples: youtu.be/eQr6prrgQWc and youtu.be/lx1_P8eHWIE Sep 12, 2019 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


So here's "classic" handwriting cursive: enter image description here You'll find more at the google pictures search for "handwriting cursive" (I'd just want to stress this is not something specific to the Russian cursive).

Is the starting point for the next letter higher in O than A?

Yes, notice the extra a stroke on the right also determines how it connects to the next symbol (top for o and bottom for a). Usually that's enough. There's no other hidden details and/or tricks. And the rest just is a matter of habits/training. So in general, the only (real and honest) answer to a question like:

how ... native speakers differentiate between the letters ...

would be something like:

They just do.

Thus I'm afraid the only suggestion for you in this case is: keep training to read/write such script.

  • See also related russian.stackexchange.com/questions/19764. Sep 11, 2019 at 17:31
  • Thanks for the answer. From it, I infer that the real answer for the "how native speakers differentiate between the letters A/O" is their finishing points at different heights and a priori knowledge of most words in a text (it is scientifically proven that the brain does not need to identify every letter in an already known word to recognize it). Sep 11, 2019 at 20:31

I think the difference between а and о is that former has a downward stroke o\ while latter has upward-ish stroke o/ after circle.

  • I think that it'd be more accurate to say that O has a higher finishing point than A? Whether the stroke which connects A/O goes downward or upwards depends on the next letter (eg a lowercase cursive д after a lowercase cursive "о" requires a downward connector stroke because it starts in a low position, but a lowercase cursive и after a lowercase cursive "o" does not require this downward connector stroke because it already starts in a high position). Sep 11, 2019 at 23:56
  • A lot of handwritings have low finishing point for o
    – alamar
    Sep 12, 2019 at 12:35
  • So I think that (1) this "upward-ish" stroke in the "o letter you mention is only used when the writer does not finish the "o" in a high point? I also think that (2) this upward-ish stroke in "o" is a straight line, differently from the hook downward-ish stroke in "a". It'd be nice to add those two remarks to your answer. Last question: how would someone do this upward stroke from "o" to a lowercase cursive м (which starts at the bottom). Wouldn't it be confused with a и (which starts high) ? Sep 12, 2019 at 14:56
  • In this case, you don't, because ом will be visible different from ам since latter will have one more stroke. Stroke count is important because each cursive letter is formed from a predictable number of strokes (of different lengths relative to each other). When several similar letters go together, they may be trouble.
    – alamar
    Sep 12, 2019 at 15:50

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