Confusing Letters of the Alphabet

The Problem Looks Like…

The learner confuses similar looking letters such as b and d and p in either reading or writing.

It’s Related to…

Form Constancy

In Turn the Page…It’s Fun!: A Concepts of Print Story by Connie Dickison, letter form constancy is taught with humor.

“Letters are always right side up…

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Form constancy, a visual processing term, means the ability to recognize an object regardless of size, shape or orientation.

Children need to learn letters are always correctly oriented. Letters cannot lie on their sides or upside down.

Directional Movement Across letters

Left to right movement, or directionality, applies to individual letters. For example, some letters have no left to right directionality. Consider the following letters, rarely written incorrectly because they do not rely on left to right orientation.


However consider, a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,j,k,m,n,p,q,r,s,u,y,z,B,C,D,E,F,G,J,K,L,N,P,Q,R,S,Y,Z

All of these letters must orient correctly, left to right. A learner can easily reverse their formation.


Similar shaped letters such as “b” and “d”, also “p” and “q” are frequently confused.

To correct these confusions, children must have a good understanding of left to right movement. Although a learner may understand left to right across a line of print or across a word, we cannot know they have applied this knowledge to letters. 

How to…

Correct reversals and inversions in alphabet letters by sorting and writing letters.

  • Use Wikki sticks or pipe cleaners to form letters.
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  •  Make sure the learner writes letters correctly.
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  •  Preventing the incorrect formation habit in the first place is ideal. If the incorrect habit is already established, stepping in before the repeated error is most effective. This requires close observation and quick reaction before the pencil begins to mark paper.

Capital and lower case match

Another area of letter knowledge is the ability to match capital and lower case letters. In English, a few capital and lower case letters are the same shape but a different size and orientation on the line.

Cc Oo Ss Vv Ww Xx Zz

Some letters are near matches.

 Jj Kk Ll Mm Pp Tt Uu Yy

Some letters are entirely different.

Aa Bb Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Nn Pp Qq Rr

  •  Use magnetic letters.
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  • Sort letters according to characteristics such as letters with lines, letters with curves, letters with circles, and letters with tails.
  • Match capital and lower case letters beginning with the same shape, moving on to near matches and finally letters that look different.

Letter knowledge encompasses a wide array of skills from the meaning of letter to correct formation and capital / lower case match. The process appears simple, but it is not. In actuality, it is complex visual processing and confusions occur easily.  Give much attention to the process of letter knowledge in early learning activities.

Now That’s Better…

Readers recognize letters no matter the font. Readers match upper and lowercase letters. Reversals and inversions do not occur in reading or writing. Left to right processing across a letter is solid and supports accurate recognition. Writers form letters correctly, which supports accurate identification.