Hieratic script was a cursive style of writing that apparently developed at about the same time as hieroglyphs. The two systems were used side by side.
The name "hieratic" came from a Greek word for "priestly," because it was used only for religious texts.
Hieratic was written with a reed brush and ink, always from right to left, on papyrus, leather, wooden tablets, and ostraca, which are shards of pottery. Hieratic texts were also written on linen. The Old Kingdom letter to the dead and the mummies' labels, such as the earliest examples on the coffin of Ramesses the Second, were written on linen.
Hieratic text was used in writing business documents, accounts, and letters. It was widely written in rows and sometimes in columns, specifically after 1800 BC. Hieratic varied according to the writing skills of the scribe and the type of text.
The surviving hieratic texts from Ancient Egypt generally show careful calligraphy for literary or religious texts and very cursive shorthand for rapid writing, particularly for legal records and administrative documents. Private letters, on the other hand, exhibit a range of handwriting.
The main difference between hieroglyphs and hieratic writing is the joining of signs, called a ligature, which was widely used to form abbreviated pairs or groups of signs in cursive script.