I'm Iranian and here, Arabic script is what is used. many litterateurs believe that this script is not good for the Persian language and many of them think that it should be changed.

one of the reasons that I've heard many times is that left-to-right scripting is better than right-to-left, but I can't see why.

so I'm here to ask. thanks in advance.

  • 4
    Like many tools, an RTL/LTR writing system may be better/worse for a specific purpose. Unless you specify your target language's linguistic needs, nobody could say if LTR or RTL writing is "better" or not for it. Alternatively, you can ask what arguments the proponents have for RTL/LTR writing and why it should be retained/changed. Otherwise, this question leads to opinion-based answers. Apr 26, 2019 at 19:20
  • 2
    Perhaps a bigger disadvantage of Arabic script for Persian is that vowels are less important for distinguishing between words in Semitic languages than in Indo-European languages. May 2, 2019 at 10:00
  • @AntonSherwood yes this reason is not very important for them, there are other bigger problems. but after I asked some of them, they told me it is hard to do mathematical or musical and etc. scripting when you are in an RTL system.
    – Peyman
    May 2, 2019 at 10:41

3 Answers 3


If you write with your right hand and use an ink that needs to dry, it is a bit better to write left-to-right, to avoid smearing the ink. If you are typing on an older computer or typewriter, it is better to write left-to-write because it is (was) really difficult to write right-to-left, given that the machines were primarily set up for left-to-right scripts. These days, nobody uses squid ink or IBM PCs. Consistent direction is superior to alternating direction (you have to know whether you're on an odd line vs. an even line to know whether the current line is RTL or LTR), so boustrophedon poses an additional complication. Since in Arabic-script based languages numbers are written LTR, that could be a tiny disadvantage (switching direction), but still people cope, and it's only the programmers that would have to write code for systems that are not consistently LTR who suffer. But those problems have been solved.

I do not see any practical way to write Persian script LTR, so a change in direction would mean a change in alphabet, almost certainly Latin. You should consider the case of Tajik which used to be written in the Persian alphabet, then over the last century there were experiments with Latin and Cyrillic, and purportedly there is a plan to re-introduce Persian. Script changes tend to make old literature inaccessible, which in the case of Persian would be a disadvantage (not fatal, look at Turkish). Even so, older literature tends to get reprinted in contemporary alphabets, so that 150 year old Norwegian books get reprinted in contemporary Latin. I conclude that the LTR / RTL choice is a linguistic red herring.


No, there is nothing inherently superior about writing a script from left-to-right than right-to-left (or top-to-bottom or boustrophedon for that matter).

The only potential advantage in the modern world is that, since computers mainly deal with the basic Latin alphabet, adopting the Latin alphabet might make things slightly easier, but that problem is far from insuperable.


To add a couple of comments to the argument made by @user6726 :

If you write with your right hand and use an ink that needs to dry, it is a bit better to write left-to-right, to avoid smearing the ink.

  • Same is true when writing on clay tablets.
  • Same is true for writing up-to-down (rather than down-to-up) - as practiced in some language, like Chinese (at least in the old times.)
  • On the other hand, if cutting letters in a rock, one is typically holding the hammer in the right hand and chisel in the left, with the natural direction of the stroke from right to left (this assumes the prevalence of right-handed people, and preference given to right-hand in many cultures). Anecdotally this explains while more ancient modes of writing are right-to-left (I am not sure, whether this claim is corroborated by any evidence.)
  • 1
    regarding the anecdata, hieroglyphs were written in many directions, and afaik ltr was actually predominant. The earliest stages of Sinaitic-derived scripts were also often boustrophedon rather than strictly RTL (which does also fit with the idea of it being based on ease of carving where moving to another patch of stone each line is a bigger deal than moving your hand across the page). IMO the biggest issue with this argument is that it doesn't explain why the scripts of Central Semitic remained RTL despite their usual medium changing millennia ago
    – Tristan
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:16
  • @Tristan thanks for the remark, very interesting. I think Central Semitic simply turned out more conservative to innovations. Was switching from rtl to ltr a singular innovation that spread across languages (e.g, via Greek and Latin) or did it happened in many places independently?
    – Roger V.
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:29
  • 1
    it likely occurred independently. Etruscan was written mostly boustrophedon and Latin (primarily) descends from that rather than directly from Greek. The situation of paleo-hispanic and anatolian alphabets is more complicated as their descent is much less clear. The Ge'ez and Brahmic scripts also switched to ltr independent of Greek's switch
    – Tristan
    Sep 29, 2022 at 14:05

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