Skip to main content
Select Source:


WRITING The term writing encompasses four pairs of linked senses. It may refer to: (1) An activity (reading and writing) or the product of that activity (What illegible writing!). (2) A concrete process (a writing exercise) or the concept behind that process (Writing was invented over 5,000 years ago). (3) Handwriting alone (specimens of their writing) or both handwriting and print (Writing systems were extended by the invention of movable type). (4) A general skill regarded as a social necessity (Writing is part of everybody's education) or a minority art form, occupation, hobby, and/or obsession (This novel is the best example of her writing to date).

Although written signs need not be permanent (as in writing on a blackboard or sky-writing from an aircraft), they are generally taken to be more or less durable. In the Germanic languages, as the etymology above indicates, the concept of writing related to cutting signs on wood or inscribing them on stone (see RUNE), but in principle the making of graphic signs is not restricted in either materials or methods: they may be cut with knife, chisel, drill, and other tools on stone, wood, plastic, and similar surfaces, or applied by pen, brush, type, and other instruments to surfaces such as paper, parchment, or cloth. The electromagnetic charges of the computer are also understood to be writing, whether temporary on screens or more permanently on disks and other devices for information storage and retrieval.

A medium of language

Each medium that carries language (such as speech, writing, or signing among the deaf) has its special features. All language is linear, but each medium has its distinctive units and marshals them differently: for example, an alphabetic letter, a dash, or the indenting of a paragraph has no equivalent in speech. Forms of writing and print have cultural resonances distinct from those of speech and song, as for example the contrast between capital and small letters, or between the use of roman or italic script. Although each medium of language can ‘say’ things about another, there is no way in which one medium can be another. In addition, many scholars consider that social systems such as religions and governments for which writing is a normal activity are quite different from those that depend on the more fluid and ephemeral processes of speech and memory: issues of morality become more abstract, reasoning more rigorous, and language more open to objective and logical analysis. With the help of writing, draft plans can be formulated and administrative routines can develop, and in the process the speech of such communities is also changed, becoming imbued with the styles and patterns of written language.

Speech versus writing

Since classical times, there have been two contradictory approaches to speech and writing: (1) The view that writing is the primary and speech the secondary medium, because writing is more culturally significant and lastingly valuable than speech. The term grammar, for example, derives from the Greek verb gráphein to write. The systematization of classical Greek GRAMMAR by such theorists and teachers as Dionysius Thrax, c.100 BC, was the first attempt at language description in the Western world, and unlike the early studies of language in India, which were soundbased, it rested entirely on writing. This tradition was extended to the study and teaching of many languages throughout the world with little change until the early 20c. (2) The view that speech is primary and writing secondary, because speech is prior to writing both historically and in terms of a child's acquisition of language. In the 4c BC, Aristotle said: ‘Spoken sounds are symbols of affections of the soul, and written marks are symbols of spoken sounds’ (On Interpretation, 16a 3–4). Comparably, but long afterwards, the Swiss philologist Ferdinand de Saussure observed: ‘Speech and writing are two separate systems of signs; the sole purpose of the second is to represent the first’ (1916: translated from Cours de linguistique générale, ed. Tullio de Mauro, Payot, Paris, 1978, Introduction, ch. 6). When Saussure made this comment, he was reacting against centuries of scholarship and education in which the text had been regarded as fundamental.

Writing systems

A major feature of writing is that it can operate over distance and time. Memorized and stylized speech that passes from person to person has some of this capacity, but has no existence apart from the performance of one speaker at one time. There is also no guarantee that an oral message will be the same after several stages of transmission, whereas a written document can be read at different times by different people and remain stable, unless overwritten. Although people may interpret such a document differently, they agree that it is an invariant object, and may accept it as incontrovertible evidence in a court of law. The signs on a well-kept 4,000-year-old clay tablet are virtually as legible and perhaps as intelligible today as at the time of writing, save that some shades of meaning and implications of context are likely to have been lost. There was nothing comparably durable for spoken language until the invention of the phonograph in the late 19c, but even so audio-recording remains distinct from text in its effect, its usefulness, and its technologies.

The first known system of writing was not a re-expression of spoken language. It was pictorial in origin, creating two-dimensional analogues of three-dimensional things in the world; only much later did writing systems acquire the capacity to ‘reflect’ or run parallel to the words and sounds of speech. The first writing was invented in West Asia 5,000–6,000 years ago, in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia. Since that time, writing systems have used a variety of symbolic forms, sometimes as relatively ‘pure’ systems of one kind of sign, but more commonly in combinations of the following two broad categories of signs:

Picture-based signs.

The longer-established variety of sign is representational and analogous, as with early Sumerian. Scholars generally identify three types that are not always easy to set off one from another: (1) Pictograms, that directly represent things in the world, such as animals, people, houses, and geographical features, often in stylized and simplified outline forms such as a wavy line for water. (2) Ideograms (in effect ‘idea grams’), that represent concepts, such as the numerals I, II, III or 1, 2, 3, usually arising from the further stylizing and simplifying of pictograms. (3) Logograms, that represent words proper, such as the icons used in international airports: a drawing of a telephone directly standing for telephone, a man and a woman side by side indirectly standing for toilets (or their equivalents in different languages). The early writing systems of Sumer and Egypt and the writing of China belong almost wholly in the picture-based group, which deals directly in meanings and not in sounds.

Sound-based signs.

The somewhat younger variety of sign is phonographic, relating sound to symbol. Two types can usually be kept distinct (but see ALPHABET): (1) Syllabograms, representing individual syllables, as in the kana systems of Japanese (see JAPAN). (2) Phonograms, or as they are more commonly known, letters, signs that represent individual sounds. Such signs have over the centuries often become detached from the specific language in which they were first used, as demonstrated by the many variants of the Roman alphabet (for English, French, German, Polish, etc.), and may therefore represent different sounds in different systems, as for example the letter c as used in English and Italian. Phonographic writing systems deal in sounds, not meanings.

Writing technologies

The development of technologies of writing is contingent on time, place, and environment. The Sumerian system, for example, developed in marshy terrain, where its inventors used a cut reed to impose wedge-like (cuneiform) marks on a soft clay tablet (the reed held in one hand, the tablet in the other). The inscribed clay was then left to dry in the hot sun, or for greater permanence was baked in an oven. Their system was an integrated technology of stylus, clay, and cuneiform that was at first pictographic and became in due course ideographic and syllabographic. The Egyptians, also a riverine people, did not develop clay but concentrated on plants, using a reed brush to paint their signs on papyrus stems that were pressed together to form sheets held in place by their own gum. Theirs was a technology of brush, papyrus, and hieroglyph that later developed phonographic elements. Both Sumerian and Egyptian writing methods were also applied successfully to large vertical surfaces, such as walls and pillars. In medieval Europe, scribes used trimmed feathers from the wings of large birds and various inks to mark a set of alphabetic letters on parchment skins. Theirs was a technology that combined pen, parchment, and alphabet. At the end of the 20c, as a sum of all the operations of the past throughout the world, a vast array of calligraphic and typographic options is available, for example word-processing, for the preparation of texts of many kinds on surfaces of many kinds.

Writing implements

The pen (a 13c term from Latin penna feather) is the oldest writing implement in general use. It has its origins in both the Sumerian reed and the medieval feather. Vast flocks of geese were once kept in Europe to provide quill pens that were sold in bunches. The writing ends of the goose quill feathers were cut and split with a pen knife, after which they could be dipped in ink-wells or ink-horns and put to use, the ink flowing down the split while one wrote until it was used up. Pens with metal nibs are an industrial-age adaptation of by reed or quill have thick and thin strokes, a feature that influenced the shapes given to letters in printing. The fountain pen, equipped with a reusable cartridge for holding a large supply of ink to be steadily fed to the nib, was a late 19c advance on the basic metal-nibbed pen. After the Second World War, however, all such pens were generally replaced by the cheap, easily disposable ball-point (pen) or biro (named after László Biró, its Hungarian inventor). The present-day pencil (a 14c term from Latin penicillum a painter's brush, ultimately from penis a tail) is more recent than the pen. It consists of a stick of graphite (often erroneously called ‘lead’, as in lead pencil), protected by a machined sheath of wood. It developed as a variation of the markers that medieval scribes used to draw lines in manuscripts. The late 20c felt-tip pen (BrE) or marker (AmE) is a variation on the ancient reed brush, its ink supply stored in its stem like a biro.

Pen and print

Generally, documents written in ink have had both a higher social cachet and greater physical permanence than documents written in pencil, while texts in print have had still higher prestige and greater permanence (depending on the quality of paper used). Because documents written in pencil and pen are no longer widely circulated, there is less pressure on students to cultivate clear handwriting. Writing by hand continues to be basic to education while at the same time its value has declined in occupational terms. It is useful in note-taking, note-writing, and personal letters, but there are fewer and fewer clerical careers that require no more than the making of handwritten entries in books and ledgers. Handwriting and handwritten documents have become as a result increasingly demotic and spelling and grammar in personal letters appear to be increasingly seen as personal matters.

Type and word-processing

In 20c public life, writing by hand has long been displaced by typing. In recent years, the word-processing personal computer (the PC: whether desktop, laptop, or palmtop) has adopted and adapted many features from the typewriter, particularly the format of the keyboard, while advanced or ‘smart’ typewriters have come more and more to resemble PCs. With its battery of word-processing software, spelling and style checkers, dictionaries, thesauruses, and other built-in aids, the PC is, however, as different from the typewriter as the typewriter from the traditional printing press, and the press from the pen. Transmission systems known as modems (short for ‘modulator demodulators’) can send and receive texts electronically over distance, and scanners capable of optical character recognition (OCR) can read printed documents and transcribe them directly on to disk with ever greater accuracy. In addition, large computers routinely direct typesetting machinery in the production of books and periodicals. As a consequence, computers used for language work are changing many aspects of, and attitudes towards, traditional written and printed language.

Learning to write

All writing systems demand long periods of apprenticeship in which the student memorizes and learns to use the inventory of signs and the tools associated with them. Over the last two centuries, more and more societies have grown to expect more and more of their members to be able to write. Universal LITERACY became an aim in most industrialized nation-states over a century ago, but the concept of an adequately literate society remains unclear, and changes over time. There is also ongoing controversy over the teaching and acquisition of styles and skills in handwriting, and in learning how to spell and read adequately in languages with complex orthographies, such as English and French: see READING, SPELLING, SPELLING REFORM.


Basically, methods of teaching children to write have not changed greatly over the centuries. The principal procedure remains an introduction to the elements of the writing system. Models are then provided for copying and developing in various ways: usually the teacher's own handwriting and specimens in copybooks. For English, as with other languages originating in Europe, a cardinal feature in learning to write is learning to join letters as opposed to leaving them in an unjoined form known as print script. The ability to link separate letters by means of connecting lines is highly valued as proof of a child's success in learning to write. A significant subsidiary feature is the ability to move from large early letters formed with great care to smaller letters in a maturer ‘hand’ that stays within an acceptable size range. Once this is achieved, individuals are free to develop their own handwriting, descriptions of which include such evaluative terms as generous or cramped, neat or untidy, rounded or spiky, legible or illegible. In educational terms, such matters as a steady reduction in the size of letters relate to stages in children's neuromuscular development and physical coordination.

Aids to learning.

Analogies and mnemonic devices continue to be common in helping young children write individual letter forms. Such devices are often reminiscent of past or different kinds of writing, as with the pictorial analogy: ‘Letter S is a swan who holds her head up high’ ( Ruth Fagg, Everyday Writing, University of London Press, 1963). The visual system developed by Lyn Wendon uses animal and other shapes as templates for the child to work with (Pictograms, Barton, Cambridge, 1973/84). One of her pictographic examples is the character Dippy Duck, used to teach the direction and flow necessary when forming small d: ‘Stroke Dippy's back. Go round his tum. Go up his neck. Then down you come!’

Factors in learning.

Teaching people to write includes such factors as: (1) Eliminating tension, especially in very young learners, through preliminary relaxing exercises. (2) Checking writing postures and hand grips. (3) Ensuring good writing conditions, such as a suitable seat, desk surface, and lighting. (4) Determining hand dominance and ensuring that left-handers in a society dominated by right-handers are not directly or indirectly penalized or neglected. (5) Providing adequate graded pattern exercises, such as the angular diagonal patterns that underlie the writing of capital M and the rounded equivalents for m. (6) Helping learners to achieve rhythm, fluency, and reasonable speed. (7) Constructively working on faults (such as wrong pencil grips, ill-formed letters, and inefficient directionality in the shaping of letters). (8) In due course allowing the learner to develop a confident individual hand.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"WRITING." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"WRITING." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . (December 17, 2017).

"WRITING." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


428. Writing

See also 12. ALPHABET ; 29. AUTHORS ; 53. BOOKS ; 236. LANGUAGE ; 249. LITERATURE ; 256. MANUSCRIPTS ; 346. READING ; 383. SPELLING .

1. the use of a symbol to represent phonetically the initial sound (syllable or letter) of the name of an object, as A is the flrst sound of Greek alpha.
2. the use of the name of the object as the name of the symbol representing its initial sound, as A in Greek is called alpha ox. Also called acrophony . acrologic , adj.
the act of writing something by hand. autographer , n. autographic , adj. autographically , adv.
the art or science of analyzing handwriting, especially that of manuscripts with the purpose of establishing their authorship or authenticity. bibliotist , n. bibliotic , adj.
an abbreviated writing; shorthand. brachygraphic , adj.
1. bad handwriting. Cf. calligraphy .
2. the possession of poor spelling skills. See also orthography . cacographer , n. cacographic, cacographical , adj.
1. the art of beautiful penmanship.
2. handwriting in general.
3. good handwriting skills. Cf. cacography.
4. a script of a high aesthetic value produced by brush, especially that of Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic origin. calligrapher, calligraphist , n. calligraphic, calligraphical , adj.
chirography, cheirography
1. the penmanship of a person, especially when used in an important document, as in an apostolic letter written and signed by the pope.
2. the art of beautiful penmanship; calligraphy. chirograph, chirographer , n. chirographic, chirographical , adj.
1. the art of writing in inks containing gold or silver in suspension.
2. the gold writing produced in this way. chrysographer , n.
1. the science or study of secret writing, especially code and cipher systems.
2. the procedures and methods of making and using secret languages, as codes or ciphers. cryptographer, cryptographist , n. cryptographic, cryptographical, cryptographal , adj.
curiologics, curiology
the representation of things or sounds by means of their pictures instead of by symbols or words, as in hieroglyphics or a rebus. curiologic, curiological , adj.
1. a document or other piece of writing in a large, bold hand.
2. a formal document, as a proclamation, suitably written in a calligraphic hand and often illuminated. engrosser , n.
Shorthand, a word that is represented by a single symbol or character.
the reading of character or personality from a persons handwriting. Cf. graphology . graphanalyst , n.
Linguistics. the study of systems of writing and their relationship to the systems of the languages they represent. Also called graphonomy . graphemic , adj.
the art or craft of writing or delineating. graphiologist , n.
the study of handwriting, especially as regarded as an expression of character. Cf. graphanalysis . graphologist , n. graphologic, graphological , adj.
an obsession with writing.
Psychology. the study of handwriting as a symptom of mental or emotional disorder. graphopathologist , n. graphopathological , adj.
a dislike for writing.
1. writing in excessive amounts, sometimes incoherently.
2. extreme wordiness in writing.
a form of divination involving the examination of a persons handwriting.
the accidental omission in writing or copying of one or more adjacent and similar letters, syllables, words, or lines, as tagme for tagmeme.
the study of hieroglyphic writing, or a system employing a conventionalized pictographic script, esp. that used by the ancient Egyptians. hieroglyphologist , n.
sacred writing or a sacred character or symbol. hierogrammatist , n. hierogrammatic, hierogrammatical , adj.
Rare. sacred writing; hierograms and the art of writing them. hierographer , n. hierographic, hierographical , adj.
the process of using a distinct character to represent each sound. homographic , adj.
a form of writing regarded as midway between picture writing, as hieroglyphics, and phonetic writing in which the names of the symbols are not the names of the objects they depict but phonetic elements only. iconomatic , adj.
a form of writing in which a written symbol represents an object rather than a word or speech sound. ideographic, ideographical , adj.
Rare. the imitation of another persons handwriting. isographic, isographical , adj.
the avoidance of a certain letter or syllable in a text. lipogram , n.
the act or process of representing with letters.
a sign or symbol used to represent a word, as $ for dollar. Also logograph. logographic , adj.
a method of reporting spoken language in longhand, esp. one using several reporters taking down a few words in succession. logographer , n. logographic , adj.
abnormally large handwriting, often the result of a nervous disorder in the writer.
an apparatus used for miniature writing or drawing. micrography , n.
the art or technique of writing with extremely small characters. micrographic , adj.
Pathology. physical difficulty in writing. mogigraphic , adj.
two or more letters, as initials, formed into a design to be placed on clothing, notepaper, etc., or as a crest. See also 305. ORNAMENTATION . monogrammatic, monogrammatical , adj.
excessive use of or fondness for, or incorrect use of the letter m and the sound it represents. Also mutacism .
Rare. a new or novel way of writing.
a writing frame designed for use by blind people.
a form of divination involving the examination of letters, possibly from a graphological standpoint. Also onomancy.
ogham, ogam
1. an alphabetical script originally used for inscriptions in the Irish language from the 5th to the 10th centuries.
2. any of the 20 characters of this script.
3. an inscription in this script. oghamist, ogamist , n.
onomancy, onomomancy
1. the practice of writing on both sides of the object used as a surface, as papyrus or stone.
2. the writing done in this fashion. opisthography , n.
paleography, palaeography
1. ancient forms of writing, as in inscriptions, documents, and manuscripts.
2. the study of ancient writings, including decipherment, translation, and determination of age and date. paleographer, palaeographer , n. paleographic, palaeographic , adj.
a flourish or other embellishment made after a signature, either as idiosyncrasy or to protect against forgery.
1. the art or skill of handwriting or writing with a pen.
2. a particular persons manner or characteristic style of handwriting.
a symbol or character, as in shorthand, that represents a word, syllable, or sound.
1. any system of phonetic shorthand, as that of Pitman.
2. phonetic spelling, writing, or shorthand. phonographer, phonographist , n. phonographic , adj.
a character or symbol, as in shorthand, that represents a phrase. Cf. phraseograph .
a phrase that can be represented by a phraseogram. Cf. phraseogram .
the use of pictorial symbols to communicate; picture writing with symbols that may be either ideographic or phonetic in function. pictograph , n. pictographic , adj.
the knowledge of runes and their interpretation; skill or expertise with runes.
the study of runes and runic writing. runologist , n. runological , adj.
an instrument for writing when unable to see.
1. illegible handwriting.
2. the work of an inferior or untalented author.
a mania for writing
Rare. handwriting, especially a particular style of handwriting such as that of a particular person or period.
the art and practice of the scrivener or copyist. scrivener , n.
the use of symbols other than letters in writing. sematographic , adj.
1. a system of symbolic notation. Also semiography . semeiographic, semeiographical , adj.
Rare. the art of writing and deciphering cuneiform characters. sphenographer, sphenographist , n. sphenographic , adj.
1. the practice of chiseling commemorative inscriptions in pillars, tablets, and stelae.
2. any inscription so done. stelographic , adj.
the art of writing in shorthand. stenographer, stenographist , n. stenographic, stenographical , adj.
a phonographic shorthand in which alphabetic letters, produced by hand or a special machine, are used to represent words and phrases. stenotypist , n. stenotypic , adj.
the art of drawing, writing, or engraving with a stylus or similar instrument. stylographic, stylographical , adj.
1. a table of syllables, as might be used for teaching a language.
2. a system of characters or symbols representing syllables instead of individual sounds. Also syllabarium.
1. the use of characters in writing that represent syllables rather than individual sounds, as in the Cherokee syllabary.
2. a division of a word into syllables.
1. the ancient Greek and Roman shorthand systems.
2. cursive writing. tachygrapher, tachygraphist , n. tachygraphic, tachygraphical , adj.
the transmission of writing or drawing such that the movements of the receiving pen copy those of the transmitting pen or pencil, yielding a facsimile reproduction at the receiving end. telautograph , n. telautographic , adj.
a form of large, rounded script found in Latin and Greek manuscripts from the 3rd or 4th century until the 10th century. uncial , adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Writing." -Ologies and -Isms. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Writing." -Ologies and -Isms. . (December 17, 2017).

"Writing." -Ologies and -Isms. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


writing, the visible recording of language peculiar to the human species. Writing enables the transmission of ideas over vast distances of time and space and is a prerequisite of complex civilization. Where, and by whom writing was first developed remains unknown, but scholars place the beginning of writing at 6,000 BC The norm of writing is phonemic; i.e., it attempts to symbolize all significant sounds of the language and no others (see phonetics). When the goal is established as one letter for one phoneme (and vice versa), the result is a complete alphabet. Few alphabets attain this phonemic ideal, but some ancient ones (e.g., Sanskrit) and some modern new ones (e.g., Finnish) have been very successful. The contemporary important writing not of alphabetic type is that in Chinese characters, in which thousands of symbols are used, each representing a word or concept, and Japanese, where each character represents a syllable. The Chinese system is distant enough from the spoken language that the same characters are used in writing mutually unintelligible dialects, e.g., Cantonese and Mandarin. In some languages, as in English and French, the modern freezing of spelling has removed the writing more and more from pronunciation and has resulted in the need to teach spelling and the growth of fallacies like the "silent" letter (a letter is really either the symbol of a sound or it is unnecessary). Writing was developed independently in Egypt (see hieroglyphic), Mesopotamia (see cuneiform), China, and among the Zapotec, Olmec, and Maya in Central America. There are some areas where the question as to whether writing was adopted or independently developed is in doubt, as at Easter Island. Ancient writing, at first pictographic in nature, is best known from stone and clay inscriptions, but the use of perishable materials, mainly palm leaf, papyrus, and paper, began in ancient times. See accent; calligraphy; punctuation; paleography.

See J. H. Ober, Writing: Man's Greatest Invention (1964); O. Ogg, The 26 Letters (rev. ed. 1971); J. A. Fishman, Advances in the Creation and Revision of Writing Systems (1977); A. Gaur A History of Writing (1984); G. Sampson Writing Systems (1985); R. Harris, The Origin of Writing (1986).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"writing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"writing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"writing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


writing Process or result of making a visual record for the purpose of communication by using symbols to represent the sounds or words of a language. Writing systems fall into the following categories: ideographic (using signs or symbols that represent concepts or ideas directly rather than the sound of words for them); pictographic (in which a picture or sign represents the meaning of a word or phrase); syllabic (in which signs represent groups of consonants and vowels); and alphabetic (in which symbols stand for individual speech sounds or certain combinations of sounds). The Chinese dialects have long made use of ideographic symbols. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and cuneiform scripts from Mesopotamia and other regions of the ancient Middle East are originally pictographic, although later examples are syllabic. The linear scripts of ancient Crete and Greece are syllabic, as is the modern Japanese Katakana. The Phoenicians were the first to use a phonetic system, with an alphabet of signs representing speech sounds. The Greek and Roman alphabets in use for most modern non-Asiatic languages descend from the Phoenician alphabet.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"writing." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"writing." World Encyclopedia. . (December 17, 2017).

"writing." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


writ·ing / ˈrīting/ • n. 1. the activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text: parents want schools to concentrate on reading, writing, and arithmetic. ∎  the activity or occupation of composing text for publication: she made a decent living from writing. 2. written work, esp. with regard to its style or quality: the writing is straightforward and accessible. ∎  (writings) books, stories, articles, or other written works: he was introduced to the writings of Gertrude Stein. ∎  (the Writings) the Hagiographa. 3. a sequence of letters, words, or symbols marked on paper or some other surface: a leather product with gold writing on it. ∎  handwriting: his writing looked crabbed. PHRASES: in writing in written form, esp. as proof of an agreement or grievance: he asked them to put their complaints in writing. the writing (or handwriting) is on the wall there are clear signs that something unpleasant or unwelcome is going to happen: the writing was on the wall for the old system.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"writing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"writing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 17, 2017).

"writing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


writing •matting • exacting •Banting, ranting •parting •enchanting, planting •everlasting, fasting, lasting •narrowcasting •letting, setting, wetting •self-respecting, self-selecting, unreflecting, unsuspecting •tempting •unconsenting, unrelenting •excepting •arresting, unprotesting, unresting, westing •bloodletting • trendsetting •pace-setting • typesetting •photosetting •grating, plating, rating, slating, uprating, weighting •painting •pasting, tasting •undeviating • self-perpetuating •unaccommodating • self-deprecating •suffocating • self-regulating •undiscriminating • underpainting •unhesitating •beating, fleeting, greeting, Keating, meeting, self-defeating, sweeting •easting •fitting, sitting, unbefitting, unremitting, witting •printing, unstinting •listing, twisting, unresisting •shopfitting • marketing •telemarketing • pickpocketing •weightlifting • side-splitting •carpeting • trumpeting •uninteresting • visiting •backlighting, lighting, self-righting, sighting, unexciting, uninviting, whiting, writing •infighting • prizefighting •dogfighting • bullfighting •handwriting • screenwriting •scriptwriting • copywriting •skywriting • signwriting •typewriting • songwriting • knotting •prompting •costing, frosting •self-supporting, unsporting •malting, salting •ripsnorting • outing •accounting, mounting •coating •Boulting, revolting •posting, roasting •billposting • disappointing •shooting, suiting, Tooting •sharpshooting • footing •off-putting •cutting, Nutting •bunting •disgusting, self-adjusting, trusting •blockbusting • linocutting •woodcutting • disquieting •disconcerting, shirting, skirting

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"writing." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"writing." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 17, 2017).

"writing." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from