In contrast to the conventional method of smoothing a curve at multiple scales and integrating the information at various scales, a technique for smoothing a curve adaptively based on the roughness present in the curve is suggested. The procedure does not require smoothing at all levels of detail and it does not require construction of complete scale space map and representation of the map by tree. The procedure has been applied on a number of digital curves and the results have been compared with those of the recent work. © 2002 Pattern Recognition Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.