The G Quiz: Can You Pick Out The Right Lower-case Form Of The Letter G? You’ll Be Shocked You Probably Can’t

Researchers have discovered most people can’t identify the correct form of a lower case letter ‘g’, despite seeing it daily in printed material such as newspapers, books and even online. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that a large number of adults were unable to recognise the correct lower case ‘looptail g’ from a line-up. In fact, researchers discovered that most people didn’t even realise there were two different forms of the letter — the looptail and the opentail.“We think that if we look at something enough, especially if we have to pay attention to its shape as we do during reading, then we would know what it looks like, but our results suggest that’s not always the case,” said the study’s lead author Professor Michael McCloskey. The experts believe we may not recognise the looptail version because we don’t learn how to write it at school, therefore haven’t bothered to commit it to memory. “What we think may be happening here is that we learn the shapes of most letters in part because we have to write them in school. ‘Looptail g’ is something we’re never taught to write, so we may not learn its shape as well,” he said. While the ‘opentail g’ is the one we write by hand, the ‘looptail g’ is the more common of the two when it comes to printed material, as it occurs in highly used fonts such as Times New Roman and Calibri.“It’s a letter shape that people see all the time,” says graduate researcher Gali Ellenblum, “millions and millions of times throughout their life, and yet many people are unaware that it exists. And even when they are aware it exists, they are unable to recall the exact shape.” Thirty-eight participants were asked to list the letters that had two lower case print versions, and only two people responded “g”. Researcher Kimberly Wong said, “We would say: “There’re two forms of g. Can you write them?” And people would look at us and just stare for a moment, because they had no idea.” Some would even insist there was no second form. Out of the 38 people questioned, only one could write both forms of the letter. Another 16 people were asked to write the letter after reading a paragraph filled with looptail gs. Half wrote the opentail variety while the others attempted the looptail, but only one drew it correctly. According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that our knowledge of letters is impacted if we don’t learn how to write – something we are doing less of these days thanks to the prominence of electronic devices. “Many researchers are thinking now that learning to write plays an important role in learning to read,” said Professor McCloskey. “We’re writing less and less in our culture nowadays.” The researchers wonder about the implications these devices will have on kids who are learning to read. “That’s something we don’t really know,” he said. “Our findings give us an intriguing way of looking at questions about the importance of writing for reading. Here is a naturally occurring situation where unlike most letters, this is a letter we don’t write. We could ask whether children have some reading disadvantage with this form of g.”Photo Credit: Getty

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