How to Use the "Long S" in Colonial Handwriting

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American colonial handwriting and printing looks strange to us. Why did they use all those f's instead of s's?


If you want to imitate colonial handwriting from the 18th century, or make a colonial handbill or sign, then using those funny f's correctly is the most obvious thing that will make your handwriting or printing look like it's from the 18th Century.


The letter that looks like an "f" actually is called a "long s." In colonial printing fonts, you can tell it from a printed "f" because the little cross-bar is only on the left-hand side, or isn't there at all. In colonial handwriting, the "long s" is written like an "f," except the bottom loop is written clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.


The "long s" wasn't used randomly. Here are the rules for when to use it, so your handwriting or printing will look like authentic colonial handwriting.

Things You'll Need

  • pen and paper
  • Use the "long s" at the beginning and middle of words, but use the regular "s" for the last letter of a word.

  • If there are two s's together, use the "long s" for the first one and the regular "s" for the second one.

  • Use the regular "s" before and after the letter "f" (the real letter "f"!)

  • Use the regular "S" whenever the "S" is uppercase.

Tips & Warnings

  • There were more rules concerning abbreviations, hyphens and apostrophes, but the above rules will cover most cases. See the link below for all the details!

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