Boustrophedon writing systems are ones in which the direction of writing swaps after each line.

Example from Wikipedia

At least one conlang is intended to be written as a boustrophedon (in that case vertically.)

Now if you manually typeset a document your could reverse the lines, but that doesn't allow for plain text boustrophedon writing, nor does it allow for reflowable text (such as on a webpage.)

Are there any ways of encoding text in Unicode to mark it as boustrophedon? There are multiple text direction control codes in Unicode, can any of them be used for boustrophedon text? Or has anyone proposed a control code to be included in Unicode, or designated one in a Private Use Area?

Or are there any other practical ways of publishing boustrophedon text (because a custom PUA code wouldn't be supported by most software) such as some kind of CSS filter for a webpage?

  • It was once proposed for CSS, but as use cases are very limited and the implementation would be rather complicated, there was no vendor interest and thus the idea was rejected. You might be able to do it with CSS+JS, especially with Houdini.
    – Crissov
    Oct 29, 2018 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


Are there any ways of encoding text in Unicode to mark it as boustrophedon?

From the unicode.org FAQ about bi-directional text[1]

The Unicode Standard does not provide formatting codes to signal boustrophedon text. Specialized word processors for ancient scripts might offer support for this. In the absence of that, fixed texts can be written in boustrophedon by using hard line breaks and directionality overrides.

I don't know of any online method of inputting reflowable boustrophedon text, however there seems to be a LaTeX package[2] availible that offers automation of the process at least in LaTeX documents, both for "regular" boustrophedon and the Rongorongo style where glyphs are rotated rather than mirrored, which would allow for relative ease of publishing pdf documents at leat.

  • I did not know that Rongorongo rotates glyphs! Neat! Feb 11, 2018 at 3:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.