The Twenty third Letter — W

The graphic form of W was created by the Anglo-Saxons in or around the 13th century. They called their letter “wen”. They used the V for both the V and the U sounds, but a double V for the sound of W. eventually the double Vs were joined to create a single letter. This early ligature was adopted to the alphabet as a regular letter, rather than an accessory.

The French preferred to use one of their own letters, and doubled the U instead of the V. They called it bay. The English called it “double U”. In type it is created by double Vs, in handwriting it is drawn as double Us.


There are many ways to construct a W. it can look like two side by side Vs which share a middle serif. It can also be drawn as two overlapping wider Vs, resulting in four separate serifs on the top, sometimes joined by a hairline. In some cases the two inner serifs are eliminated, an a pointed apex takes their place. There are other versions where the second V cuts on the right diagonal of the first. No matter how it is drawn, the W is a wide width character, often the widest in the font.

With credit to Allen Haley,
Upper & Lower Case magazine, a typographic centered publication last published from 1970 to 1999.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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