Top 3 Shorthand Writing Systems to Improve Your Handwriting Speed

by Admin on April 21, 2013

Let’s take a little twist this time and take a look at a different but quite amazing writing style called shorthand writing. It is also known as stenography, brachygraphy or tachygraphy, which translates from Greek as narrow writing, short writing and speedy writing respectively, each flavor focusing more on either compactness or speed. The purpose of shorthand writing is to take less space and be much faster than a regular writing. This is achieved by introducing special symbols for alphabet letters, words and common phrases, which greatly depends on the chosen shorthand writing system.

Shorthand from Past to Present

In the past shorthand writing was used widely by journalists and secretaries. A person trained in shorthand often could write as fast as most people speak. With the advance of speech recording devices and computer-aided transcription, shorthand is losing its popularity. Despite that, shorthand is still used as a tool for taking personal notes and sometimes as a business tool. In some regions, journalists are still required to take shorthand courses and pass shorthand tests. And of course, many enthusiasts and hobbyists love it for its compactness and rapidness of writing, and use it for making personal notes and records.

An interest in short writing development started in the 16th century. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most widely known historical persons who used shorthand in some of his notebooks. It feels somewhat sad seeing such great tools and techniques developed across centuries becoming obsolete and with time forgotten. There is still a hope this is not the case with shorthand, as it can become a valuable tool in your own personal productivity arsenal.

Top shorthand writing systems

Now let’s just put history aside and take a look at the top 3 shorthand systems most widely used nowadays. Pay close attention and decide for yourself how much they fit your style and taste, and whether they deserve a place in your own skill set. Here they go.

  1. Pitman ShorthandPitman shorthand. Sir Isaac Pitman introduced this system in 1837. Since then, it was updated and improved many times. It was so successful that it was used all over the English-speaking countries, and so it has been adapted to many languages other than English. One of the performance improving features of this system is the idea that although full range of vowel symbols is available, their use is optional when consonants are sufficient to determine the word under question. Pitman system is still widely used in some countries.
  2. Gregg ShorthandGregg shorthand. Gregg’s system (1888) is similar to Pitman in that it is also phonetic. As an additional speed enhancing feature it uses thin strokes only, which is different from Pitman utilizing both thin and thick strokes in order to distinguish related sounds. It also dropped awkward diacritic marks found in Pitman. Stroke length plays an important role in Gregg shorthand system. It’s best suited for transcription soon after it is written, since deciphering it after a long period of time can become a really painful experience.
  3. Teeline ShorthandTeeline shorthand. Teeline system differs from Pitman and Gregg in that it is spelling based in place of phonetics. This has both good and bad sides to it, as it is connected to a conventional alphabet we are used to, at the same time retaining some of its inadequacies. It was developed in 1970 by James Hill, an instructor of Pitman shorthand. Its primary purpose is to aid in taking dictations, and it also needs to be transcribed soon after it is taken, so its primary aim is professional use rather than personal. Teeline shorthand is used mainly in the UK, and is little known anywhere else.

Learning shorthand writing is not easy. It can provide up to ten times increase in writing speed, but at the expense of readability. You can get all of the benefits of shorthand writing once you learn to sight read all the outlines (or brief forms), which number can go up to hundreds and even thousands. Learning just the basic set of symbols will do no good.

Just to sum it up, it’s worth saying that every action in this world provides its benefits but also has its cost. Shorthand can be a valuable tool, but learning it can take a significant amount of time and effort. If you would like to give it a try, consider all pros and cons, and decide for yourself, how much benefits you would get by mastering it. If you decide you need it, go for it. A great place to start would be the following excellent books:

Get Started in Shorthand: Pitman 2000  Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified  Teeline Fast
 Get Started in Shorthand: Pitman 2000  Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified  Teeline Fast

Till next time,


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