Letter vs. Character – What’s the Difference? (Examples)

Have you ever heard people referring to “Letters” and “Characters”, and found yourself confused? Most people seem unsure about what each one is, and what they represent.

Let’s find out what is a “Letter” and what is a “Character”, with some helpful examples to clarify the purpose of each.

Letter vs. Character – What’s the Difference?

Every “Letter” is a “Character”, but “Characters” comprise a larger group of things. Any “Letter”, number, sign, or symbol used to write or print content is a “Character”. So it’s not about the difference between “Letter” and “Character”, but the fact that “Letters” are a subset of “Characters”.

Letter vs Character

Take a look at the examples below:

  • In Phillip’s line of work, every word, letter, and character should be accounted for.
  • Blanca and Joanna communicated using characters that only they knew the meaning of.
  • The teacher gave each student a big letter for the activity.

The examples show how “Letter” and “Character” are different concepts. They aren’t synonyms and can’t interchange.

Although “Letter” and “Character” are words connected to the idea of writing, creating content, and spreading information, they indicate different things. Always remember that “Character” is the larger group of symbols (which include “Letters”) used to communicate.

The first sentence in the example differentiates “Letter”, “Character” and word, as three separate things.

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What Is a “Letter”?

A “Letter” is a set of symbols used to write language. They also represent a sound that is connected to the letter, used for oral communication. Equal letters may have completely different sounds, depending on the language they’re connected to, as well as some alphabets are different than others.

The Cambridge Dictionary agrees with our definition and adds that a “Letter” can also indicate a “message from one person to another”, and “a particular standardized size of paper”. For this article, the definition we’ll focus on is the one related to language.

Take a look at some examples below:

  1. Brianna wrote her name in large letters, on the board.
  2. Jimmy is learning his letters, and can now say all vowels.
  3. You should print your name on the form, making sure all letters are clear and readable.
  4. I was asked to transcribe a text, but some letters are impossible to read.
  5. I want to learn braille, but I think I should begin by learning the letters.

“Letters” can be different from one language to another. The alphabet for the English language contains 26 “Letters” which are 5 vowels and 21 consonants. Different languages have completely different alphabets, such as the Hebrew alphabet or the Greek alphabet, for example.

What Is a “Character”?

A “Character” is a letter, number, or any other mark or sign used in writing or printing. It also includes the space that those symbols would take. All “Letters” are “Characters”, but not all “Characters” are “Letters”.

The Cambridge Dictionary agrees with our definition of “Character”, adding that this word also refers to personality traits and, specifically, the quality of dealing well with challenges. To compare “Character” with “Letter” we’ll focus only on the definition related to language.

Take a look at some examples:

  1. I hate that now every password we create needs a special character.
  2. Joseph has a tattoo of a Japanese character.
  3. How many characters does a computer screen has?
  4. I couldn’t read the sign, because I wasn’t familiar with the character in it.
  5. Indian characters are very hard to read, but you’ll learn if you make an effort.

There are many characters all over the world, related to different cultures. Also, similar characters may have different meanings in different cultures.

Are “Characters” Words or Letters?

“Characters” aren’t words or letters. All “Letters” are “Characters”, but “Characters” are more than just letters. Also, “Characters” form words when put together.

So we can say that words are formed by “Characters”. However, “Characters” can have meaning by themselves, without the need to be combined form words.

Final Thoughts

“Letters” and “Characters” belong to the same realm but are different things. “Characters” are all “Letters”, symbols, numbers, or signs used to write or print content. “Letters” are a set of symbols used to write language, that also carries a sound (used for spoken communication).