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:
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:
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: