If you're knitting it flat, you start at the lower right corner and read the first and all odd numbered rows to the left. The even numbered rows (if there are any) are read left to right. The chart is a diagram of your knitting as seen on the RS so you read the chart the way you knit.
sue- knitting heretic
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You have to have a key from the designer. Every designer writes their symbols the way they like.
You read most from the bottom up, right to left. Most charts just show the lines (odds) you have to read to work. The other lines (evens) are purl.
The Key should tell you everything you need to know.
I use a highlighter on the rows I have finished to keep track of where I am. Some knitters use post-its and magnetic strips on a steel sheet. I also write in the number of K's between yarn overs, it helps me knit faster. Once you get the feel for charts, you will find what suits you best.
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