From the looks of it Boustrophedon texts should be more efficient to read. However, I can't find any modern day research regarding its effects and reasons why it would have fallen out of use in history (though I can hypothesize it has something to do with the difficulty of writing such texts. However in the modern day where computers are used for input this would make no difference anymore).

2 Answers 2


Presumably it's more difficult to learn to use boustrophedon: you have to learn to read and write in two directions, as well as learning two orientations for each letter. I don't see that it offers any particular benefit that would offset this extra difficulty.

Also, if you're writing in ink on a paper-like surface, a consistently left-to-right writing direction means you don't smudge what you've just written (assuming you're right-handed). So it seems plausible that expanding use of papyrus might have contributed to the desuetude of boustrophedon, too.

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    Yes, but most of the Semitic languages are written right to left all the time, but nobody seems to be excessively worried about smudging.The ancient South Arabians wrote boustropherodon in the early period, but later switched to an exclusively right-to-left style of writing, both in inscriptions, and when writing with ink on sticks.
    – fdb
    Feb 27, 2014 at 22:40
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    First of all, I have to wonder whether the reading is that much harder to learn, or whether it is primarily the writing that is the issue. I wonder about this because from some limited tries I was able to read 'mirrored' text nearly at full speed within a few minutes of figuring it out. Feb 27, 2014 at 23:41
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    The smudging point is quite interesting thought, at a party not too long ago I had traditional ink pens and there was indeed some complaining from the left handed participants, however the counter argument regarding right-to-left languages seems to be to strong to ignore. Feb 27, 2014 at 23:42
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    I don't see why the writing of boustrophedon should specifically be more difficult than the reading - if anything, it would be the other way around, I would think. And yes, of course it's perfectly possible to have a right-to-left writing system and live with or get around the smudging problem; all systems are suboptimal in some way. But if we're speculating about possible factors, that could be one.
    – TKR
    Feb 28, 2014 at 6:32
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    I'd think the advantage of reading Boustrophedon could be in your eyes not having to jump from the end of a line to the beginning of the next one, so you could have a more consistent reading pace and could use wider columns in texts. But the double forms of the chars might offset this benefit
    – Joe Pineda
    Feb 28, 2014 at 17:34

I find it possibly a contributing factor to it falling out of use due to other writing systems contortion on users and how they entrain psycology and physiology interactions to fall within those preset writing contortion parameters. Every writing system has its own contortions associated with direction. Boustrophedon also has a unique contortion. But having to learn two separate characters probably made it twice as hard in the long run as well.

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