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What Is Mirror Writing?

By Liz Thomas
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mirror writing refers to the process of writing language in the reverse. When the reverse writing is viewed in a mirror, it appears normal. This writing style has been used throughout history for mystical writing and ciphers, and it is used currently to ensure drivers can read important words when seen in the mirrors of a car. It is also sometimes used in a form of typographical art known as an ambigram.

The ability to compose mirror text is thought to be inherited, as researchers have found it to be linked to specific brain functions. It is also thought to be relatively rare, although no one really knows how many people can do it. Most mirror writing is performed by people who are left handed; this is thought to be due to the fact that left handed individuals have language areas in the brain on both the left and right side, while right handed individuals have language areas on only one side of the brain.

When learning to write, some children actually write in mirror image naturally, beginning on the left side of the page and moving towards the right. This type of writing is normally corrected. There are also some forms of dyslexia in which individuals see writing in the mirror image; this is much more difficult to correct. Mirror writing has also been linked to some medical conditions, including some cases of brain damage.

This style of writing has been found throughout history. During the 18th and 19th century, calligraphy was often writing in mirror images, as the writings were thought to be of mystical origins. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous mirror writers, wrote many of his personal notes this way. Mirror writing has been used in cryptology, or code writing, as a very basic type of cipher. The code is written in reverse, and can easily be read when held up to a mirror.

Larger mirrored text is frequently used on emergency vehicles and some signs for automobiles. Mirror writing is used so that drivers will see the word in the proper orientation when viewing it through the rear view mirror.

A related form to mirror writing is an ambigram. The ambigram is a design or work off art that can be read when viewed from a different orientation. When calligraphy is used, the ambigram typically contains two different words, one found when viewing the work normally and then another word when the image is held up to a mirror. The mirror style is only one of several different types of ambigram.

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Discussion Comments
By anon927914 — On Jan 26, 2014

I guess I didn't realize it was really anything. I am right handed and although not as neat, write both print and cursive in mirror. It feels as natural as regular writing. It does, however, feel like I am writing left handed. A lot of times I have to be aware so that I don't write mirror.

I can do it with the left hand as well, but it is obvious that it is the non dominant hand. What I find interesting is that the letters that children reverse like d and b are the letters that may be reversed for me, or accurate I suppose, depending on how you look at it.

By backdraft — On Apr 30, 2012

How can I cultivate my mirror writing skills? I know that I will need to practice a lot, but are there specific drills or phrases that I should work on to improve my progress?

By truman12 — On Apr 30, 2012

I had a friend who was incredible at mirror writing. It was almost like she could do it without thinking about it. It came as easily to her as her normal handwriting.

If you want to see what an incredible feat this is just try it yourself. It is really tricky, like reciting the alphabet backward but even worse. It is hard to just get it write, let alone to have any fluidity to the writing.

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