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“Dictation will begin at 50 words per minute...

“Dictation will begin at 50 words per minute” – An Introduction to Teeline Shorthand

If you’ve seen me recently it’s likely I was carrying a thick notebook and stacks of worksheets. These have been with me wherever I go because I’ve been learning shorthand.

I first tried to learn shorthand during my final year at uni. It wasn’t part of my course, but always up for a freebie I managed to sit in on a couple of journalism lectures. However, I didn’t even get started due to a schedule clash. Later, I attempted to teach myself from a textbook, but hit a plateau as there was no one to answer potential questions.

Over the last nine weeks I’ve been introduced to the basic theories of Teeline shorthand by an excellent teacher (and relation!) Anne Brown. The course was pretty intensive, and at times, you certainly feel as though you’re never going to remember rules which appear to have been created solely to frustrate the pupil. However, the basic principles aren’t complex and practice is the best thing to cement the theory into your mind.

This is the Teeline alphabet:

Teeline Shorthand Alphabet
The letters are based on the regular alphabet (longhand) so the similarities mean it quickly becomes familiar. For example, W and M are the arched part of the longhand letter, and F is a loop which you may find in the cursive/handwritten version.

So you can read your shorthand, it’s important to write vowels smaller than consonants and to write letters in the correct position. For example, both H and P are a vertical line, but H is written on the line and P written through it.

Once you’ve got this, you can begin to write word outlines. Teeline is written phonetically and vowels are generally omitted, except at the beginning of a word. So some easy words will look like this:

Examples of easy teeline shorthand word outlines

The same outline can mean different words, but the context of the sentence will usually help you decipher the code.

The aim of shorthand is to read and write quickly, so as you progress you’ll learn there are different rules for common spellings, sounds and phrases.

Although there are set rules to follow, there can be more than one correct way to write a word. As your own style develops, much like when you first learn to write, you may find your outlines differ slightly from those in a textbook. This is when I found taking a class and having the opportunity to draw on someone else’s expertise really useful. That said, there were plenty of times when my outlines were completely wrong!

As well as drilling the theory, you can improve your speed by learning special outlines. These are (even more) shortened versions of common words. I found these particularly interesting as there seems to be a never-ending amount of them. There are special outlines for days of the week, countries, phrases and measurements. Depending on the industry you work in, or your field of journalism, you can specialise even further. I chuckled to find a medical outline for electro-encephalogram.

After the course, I am now revisiting the theory to try and make sure I know it inside out. Ultimately I would like to reach a speed of 100 words per minute. So, on my lunch break at work I can usually be found scribbling away, getting some practice in.

There are lots of recordings online which you can download and work from at opportune moments. Although they may surprise you later on, especially when your favourite song is randomly followed by a spoken passage about the weather.

And finally, a message to those of you who can read Teeline shorthand:

Simple Teeline shorthand phrase


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  1. larrinski

    14 June

    A great post. Just yesterday I stumbled across Teeline shorthand. I’ve been wanting to write more in my personal journal and learning shorthand may keep it from prying eyes!

    How long do you think it took to write at least the same speed as longhand?

  2. emmalaw

    15 June

    Thanks for reading Larrinski 🙂

    I’m not sure how fast people generally write longhand, but a quick google search seems to put the figure around 20-30 words per minute. Once you’ve learnt the theory (or the basics) you could definitely achieve that with ease. I guess if you’re self teaching it may take longer, but after my nine week course, I can do shorthand somewhat faster.

  3. oliverjhill

    8 January

    I actually have to do this for my uni course. It’s the world’s most frustrating thing when you can’t build the speed but one of the most rewarding once you get there. I’m hoping to pass 100 wpm this year. Best of luck with it!

    • emmalaw

      9 January

      Thanks Oliver 🙂 This is an old post, but I’m still plodding along with Teeline. I think a catch up post is needed soon…

      • John Olsson

        19 August

        I like Teeline a lot, but the order in which words are taught is linguistically strange. Why is the ‘S’ character used for ‘shall’ when ‘she’ is a lot more common than ‘shall’ (which is rarely used anyway)? Why are words like ‘gentleman’ taught so early on? They should begin by teaching the most common words.

      • Waseem

        12 July

        I learning Pitman shorthand in my Country.Teeline not available in my Country.how I can speed 80wpm in shorthand??

  4. […] a year ago, I wrote an introduction to teeline shorthand post. It’s by far my most popular post, and brings a steady flow of visitors to the blog. As […]

  5. morgant2421

    29 August

    Great post. Hope you didn’t mind me reblogging your post to my WP. I’ve decided to learn Teeline shorthand a couple of days ago and I have downloaded a manual for it. At the moment, I’m just working on getting used to shortening the words by their rules before I go on to the symbols. I’m trying to keep positive and keep being patience so I can master the shorthand. 🙂 Thanks for your blog, it does help me a lot!

  6. morgant2421

    17 September

    Working upto Video Lessons 6 of Teeline online learning … still can’t decipher all of your message LOL. I guess I need to keep working on it. 😛

    • emmalaw

      18 September

      You’ll get there eventually! Some of it you might not come across until later on. For example, the first symbol is a special outline for ‘Thank You’. You can write this differently without a special outline, but both are correct. 🙂

      • morgant2421

        19 September

        Thanks for the hint! I’ll keep working on it 🙂 I’ve been wanting to learn shorthand for a long long time and finally I’m doing it. I’m pretty happy that I’ve found your post as an inspiration and that I’ve found the Teeline online website that offers video lessons for free as a tool!! 🙂

      • morgant2421

        19 September

        By the way, is it “Thank you for reading this blog post!” ???

  7. emmalaw

    22 September

    Yes, you got it Morgan!

  8. Rob M.

    22 September

    Hi,

    Thanks for your post, Emma. I’d like to write more by hand, but I’ve always found it to be ponderous. I’m not a journalist, but sometimes at meetings I wish I had a quicker way of noting comments. It’s also hard to plod along by hand in a journal when typing is so much faster.

    I’ve been using Teeline for a few weeks and I think it’s lovely. I’m very slow at this point, but even so, each word is less effort to write. It’s actually a benefit that Teeline is based on the alphabet instead of being phonetic, because spelling and reading back are easier when they’re built on a solid foundation of prior knowledge. ( At least, it’s a fairly solid foundation 😉 Reading back at a later date is very important to me. My reading is getting better, but I don’t know yet if it becomes fluent or if it remains a decoding process. Can you read back at near a normal reading speed?

    If reading back remains slow, I may start easing some vowels back into my writing. However, I notice that some formerly cryptic squiggles now seem obviously to be “e”, “i”, “j” or whatever. Thanks again.

    Rob

  9. I find hard taken note and I have been told learn shorthand thanks for a great post

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