Not all letters are created equal. For instance, "B" is dumb. In the past, it was difficult for the masses to know which letter was best. Now, finally, there is a ranking of the letters of the basic Latin alphabet. Factors considered include:

  • common name
  • efficiency
  • visual harmony
  • history
  • cursive and print
  • upper and lowercase
  • ease of drawing
  • general utility
  • sound

Is everyone following what I'm saying?

26. C

At best, "C" is a sidekick, tagging along with "H"s and "I"s to create special sounds no single letter can convey. At worst, it's a copycat, ripping off "S"s and "K"s. It's easy to draw, but boring to look at. It is not vertically symmetrical.

25. Q

Q's utility is crippled by its lopsided dependence on "U" in order to be seen. A cursive uppercase Q is completely indistinguishable from a fancy number 2, which is completely insane because 2 is not a letter. It is worth 10 in scrabble, where as "C" is only worth 3.

24. W

This is a double-V.

23. R

A lowercase print "R" is impossible to draw neatly. A lowercase cursive "R" is the ugliest thing on God's earth. The Romans called it littera canina or dog's letter for the resemblance of its sound to a growl. Ar takes less time to say, which is a plus, but loses something of the poetry.

22. D

Lowercase "D" flips the location of the letter's loop from right to left. Though their uppercase characters bear no particular resemblance, the resulting character is almost indistinguishable from a lowercase "B." This creates needless confusion for the dyslexic.

21. G

The uppercase print "G" bears almost no relation to its cursive ancestor, which is itself clumsy and illogical—a mess of loops and crosses and doubled-back lines. It is a "C" with a mustache. It is a "J," but only sometimes.

20. B

Two "B"s back-to-back make a butterfly. Lowercase cursive "B" is an "L." It's just an "L." I'm sorry.

19. I

"I" is the Queen of the alphabet chess set. It is the only letter (save "A") that can stand on its own as a proper English word. Despite this, it has no unique visual identity. In print uppercase, it resembles a lowercase "L" or, worse, a 1. Its minuscule looks like a "J."

18. N

If "N" and "M" are fraternal twins, "N" is the sister that was deprived of vital nutrients in the womb. It ends on an upstroke, which is unnatural and unnerving. In lowercase cursive, it becomes a badly scrawled "M."

17. U

The burden of "U"—an otherwise useful letter—is unique: it is too easy to draw. Thanks to its soft, undulating waves, a cursive run can be ruin'd (literally) in the stroke of a pen.

16. K

The lowercase cursive "K" is ugly—an "R" that's been tied in a knot. But the letter is quietly useful, helping us to tell knights from nights and now from know without demanding verbal acknowledgement.

15. E


14. Y

"Y" makes everything friendly. Bill becomes Billy. Horse becomes horsey. Paperclip becomes paperclippy. It's a shape found in nature, and then used, according to those who believe in magic, to find many other things. It's a consonant. It's a vowel. It's a thorn in the side of Old English purists.

13. S

No letter is as fun to draw as the twisty, turn-y uppercase print "S." None is less fun to draw than its cursive equivalent.

12. L

Lovely in cursive, Iove1y in print.

11. O

To get close to a perfectly round "O" is easy. To obtain it exactly: impossible.

10. V

Easy to draw. The rumbling start to victory and Valentine and valor and vice. A "U" that's more sure of itself. A very, very good letter.

9. P

"P" is the evergreen of the alphabet—the same in all seasons, whether upper or lowercase, cursive or print. It doesn't put on airs and it's not here to impress (though you need it to do both.) It is plain and principled but sometimes a tad too proud—as when it inserts itself at the head of words (psalm) that do not require its presence.

8. F

Few letters lend themselves to artistic curls, swirls, and flourishes as readily as the lowercase "F" with its tail and bar. It is the ancient ancestor of modern"Y" and "U" and "W" and "V." WTF.

7. Z

You can tell a lot about a person by whether or not he or she puts a stroke through his or her "Z"s—specifically: whether or not he or she is willing to appear consciously fussy and/or European. "Z" is the least frequently used letter in English; it does not appear in any word in this post, for example. Rather, it only comes around every once in a while, like Halloween.

However, cursive "Z"'s look like ugly "Y"'s.

6. J

"J" is descended from "I," as indicated by their shared lowercase tittles but, unlike its parent, "J" has managed to carve out a unique shape. It's a surprisingly rare letter, occurring in English words only slightly more often than either "Z," "Q," or "X," but is the most common start to an American man's name, prompting psychics, mediums, and fortune tellers of all sorts to "see the letter 'J'" in our futures and pasts. "J" can be a "Y" in "hallelujah" or an "H" in "jalapeño." If you say it slowly, it reveals itself as two sounds (/dʒ/) for the price of the one. The lowercase cursive is beautiful.

5. T

"T" is a confident letter, standing up straight and tall. Rarely does something so top-heavy seem so solid.

4. M

A comforting letter, with all feet planted firm. It finishes what "N" leaves half done. It lets us know when something is delicious.

3. A

No other character looks like "A" (except a V upside down). It's a star letter in every sense of the word: standing prominently at the front of the alphabet, announcing its presence well before everyone gets bored (...LMNOP); serving as shorthand for a job well done; hiding in plain site inside every pentagram. "A" is a tent you can crawl inside to stay safe and warm, or a hammock strung between two bowed trees. It takes a while to draw though, and has no standard lowercase form.

2. H

There's something magical about ephemeral "H," which disappears before you've even finished saying "Hello." "H" is a ghost letter. A breath. A sigh.

1. X

"X" is the alphabet's most efficient character, standing in most often for both "K" and "S." It marks the spot. It represents the unknown (variable). One "X" is a kiss, and three is a whole lot more. It's the letter known by people who never learned any others. It's the only letter you need.

(All rankings are final, thank you.)

[Image via Shutterstock]