A recurring problem people have writing Chinese characters is figuring out the proper stroke order for nested components. For some characters like 凶, 画, and 幽 we always seem write the inside components first, whereas with other characters like 国, 困 and 图 we only fill in the insides after the outside framework is complete. So how exactly can we know which approach to take: outside-in or inside-out?

The guiding principle is simple. Following our golden rule that characters are written "top-to-bottom", we only draw the "inside" of a component when it consists of a fully-independent radical that is "sitting on" something below it. With some characters like 画 this can seem arbitrary, but a good rule of thumb is simply to look at the character. If one component seems to be an independent radical which is sitting on another, get in the habit of drawing it first. In this lesson, we've selected a number of tricky characters to get you started.

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