writing-mode

The writing-mode CSS property sets whether lines of text are laid out horizontally or vertically, as well as the direction in which blocks progress. When set for an entire document, it should be set on the root element (html element for HTML documents).

This property specifies the block flow direction, which is the direction in which block-level containers are stacked, and the direction in which inline-level content flows within a block container. Thus, it also determines the ordering of block-level content.

Syntax

/* Keyword values */
writing-mode: horizontal-tb;
writing-mode: vertical-rl;
writing-mode: vertical-lr;

/* Global values */
writing-mode: inherit;
writing-mode: initial;
writing-mode: unset;

The writing-mode property is specified as one of the values listed below. The flow direction in horizontal scripts is also affected by the directionality of that script, either left-to-right (ltr, like English and most other languages) or right-to-left (rtl, like Hebrew or Arabic).

Values

horizontal-tb
For ltr scripts, content flows horizontally from left to right. For rtl scripts, content flows horizontally from right to left. The next horizontal line is positioned below the previous line.
vertical-rl
For ltr scripts, content flows vertically from top to bottom, and the next vertical line is positioned to the left of the previous line. For rtl scripts, content flows vertically from bottom to top, and the next vertical line is positioned to the right of the previous line.
vertical-lr
For ltr scripts, content flows vertically from top to bottom, and the next vertical line is positioned to the right of the previous line. For rtl scripts, content flows vertically from bottom to top, and the next vertical line is positioned to the left of the previous line.
sideways-rl This is an experimental API that should not be used in production code.
For ltr scripts, content flows vertically from bottom to top. For rtl scripts, content flows vertically from top to bottom. All the glyphs, even those in vertical scripts, are set sideways toward the right.
sideways-lr This is an experimental API that should not be used in production code.
For ltr scripts, content flows vertically from top to bottom. For rtl scripts, content flows vertically from bottom to top. All the glyphs, even those in vertical scripts, are set sideways toward the left.
lr This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use horizontal-tb instead.
lr-tb This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use horizontal-tb instead.
rl This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use horizontal-tb instead.
tb This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use vertical-lr instead.
tb-lr  This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use vertical-lr instead.
tb-rl This deprecated API should no longer be used, but will probably still work.
Deprecated except for SVG1 documents. For CSS, use vertical-rl instead.

Formal definition

Initial valuehorizontal-tb
Applies toall elements except table row groups, table column groups, table rows, and table columns
Inheritedyes
Computed valueas specified
Animation typediscrete

Formal syntax

horizontal-tb | vertical-rl | vertical-lr | sideways-rl | sideways-lr

Examples

Using multiple writing modes

This example demonstrates all of the writing modes, showing each with text in various languages.

HTML

The HTML is a <table> with each writing mode in a row with a column showing text in various scripts using that writing mode.

<table>
  <tr>
    <th>Value</th>
    <th>Vertical script</th>
    <th>Horizontal (LTR) script</th>
    <th>Horizontal (RTL) script</th>
    <th>Mixed script</th>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>horizontal-tb</td>
    <td class="example Text1"><span>我家没有电脑。</span></td>
    <td class="example Text1"><span>Example text</span></td>
    <td class="example Text1"><span>מלל ארוך לדוגמא</span></td>
    <td class="example Text1"><span>1994年に至っては</span></td>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>vertical-lr</td>
    <td class="example Text2"><span>我家没有电脑。</span></td>
    <td class="example Text2"><span>Example text</span></td>
    <td class="example Text2"><span>מלל ארוך לדוגמא</span></td>
    <td class="example Text2"><span>1994年に至っては</span></td>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>vertical-rl</td>
    <td class="example Text3"><span>我家没有电脑。</span></td>
    <td class="example Text3"><span>Example text</span></td>
    <td class="example Text3"><span>מלל ארוך לדוגמא</span></td>
    <td class="example Text3"><span>1994年に至っては</span></td>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>sideways-lr</td>
    <td class="example Text4"><span>我家没有电脑。</span></td>
    <td class="example Text4"><span>Example text</span></td>
    <td class="example Text4"><span>מלל ארוך לדוגמא</span></td>
    <td class="example Text4"><span>1994年に至っては</span></td>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>sideways-rl</td>
    <td class="example Text5"><span>我家没有电脑。</span></td>
    <td class="example Text5"><span>Example text</span></td>
    <td class="example Text5"><span>מלל ארוך לדוגמא</span></td>
    <td class="example Text5"><span>1994年に至っては</span></td>
  </tr>
</table>

CSS

The CSS that adjusts the directionality of the content looks like this:

.example.Text1 span, .example.Text1 {
  writing-mode: horizontal-tb;
  -webkit-writing-mode: horizontal-tb;
  -ms-writing-mode: horizontal-tb;
}

.example.Text2 span, .example.Text2 {
  writing-mode: vertical-lr;
  -webkit-writing-mode: vertical-lr;
  -ms-writing-mode: vertical-lr;
}

.example.Text3 span, .example.Text3 {
  writing-mode: vertical-rl;
  -webkit-writing-mode: vertical-rl;
  -ms-writing-mode: vertical-rl;
}

.example.Text4 span, .example.Text4 {
  writing-mode: sideways-lr;
  -webkit-writing-mode: sideways-lr;
  -ms-writing-mode: sideways-lr;
}

.example.Text5 span, .example.Text5 {
  writing-mode: sideways-rl;
  -webkit-writing-mode: sideways-rl;
  -ms-writing-mode: sideways-rl;
}

Result

This image shows what the output should look like, in case your browser's support for writing-mode is incomplete:

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
CSS Writing Modes Level 4
The definition of 'writing-mode' in that specification.
Candidate Recommendation Add sideways-lr and sideways-rl
CSS Writing Modes Module Level 3
The definition of 'writing-mode' in that specification.
Proposed Recommendation Initial definition

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also