5 ways to increase shorthand speed

About 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 there must be at least a handful of people who have found it useful, I thought I’d revisit the subject with five tips on increasing your shorthand speed. My own experience is in Teeline shorthand, but these general principles can be applied to other methods, such as Pitman’s.

1. Practice

Practice, practice and more practice. Shorthand tutors usually recommend around an hour a day spent perfecting outlines and dictation. The more time you give shorthand, the more success you’ll have with it. From personal experience, if you can’t manage an hour a day, it’s better to practice little and often than for hours on end. I sometimes found after an extended time period you tend to question why a word has a certain outline, and get bogged down in unnecessary details. Try practicing for 30 minutes a day to keep the theory fresh in your mind.

2. Special Outlines

Commonly used words have special outlines to save even more time than writing with just the teeline alphabet. In some cases, they’ll be the same outline as a singular teeline letter but the context of the text will help when transcribing. I’ve noted some examples below:

Some basic special outlines.

Some basic special outlines.

3. Special Phrases

If you think your speed will increase by using special outlines for words, just think how much time you’ll save when using special outlines for entire phrases. Below are two sets of special phrases containing the words ‘be’ and ‘that’. This should be useful if you’re just starting out with Teeline as they’re very commonly used word groupings.

Basic special phrases.

Basic special phrases.

4. Control your nerves

The worst part of taking shorthand notes from dictation is not knowing what words you’ll need to write in advance. Inevitably you’ll come across words you’ve not used before but don’t panic. Putting a technically incorrect outline which will hopefully remind you of the correct word later is fine. If you’re totally stuck don’t waste time dwelling on it. Move on to words you’re more familiar with so you can keep up with dictation. Obviously this links back to point one, practice. Drill those unknown words until you can write from ‘muscle memory’ but don’t sweat it when you don’t know the answer.

5. Set realistic targets and achieve them.

Be realistic – you can only achieve speeds of 100 words per minute or more if you have the time to dedicate to shorthand.  Set goals which are achievable (but challenging) within the time and effort you’re willing to put in. Set a target of 40wpm and master this before moving on to 50wpm, and so on.

I must practice my shorthand to get a high speed

I must practice my shorthand to get a high speed.


It can be difficult to find comprehensive shorthand resources online, particularly free ones, so I hope these tips are useful for you – whether you’re a beginner or just want to improve your skills. If it’s still a bit baffling then refer back to my previous post for a reminder of the basics of Teeline shorthand. As I’ve said before, signing up for a course where you can ask questions and get one to one teaching will be the most effective way to learn shorthand. Please do leave a comment as I’d love to get your feedback, I’ll also do my best to answer any questions you might have.


“Dictation will begin at 50 words per minute” – 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 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:

Easy Teeline Words
[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 dinner hour at work I can usually be found scribbling away to recordings on my mp3 player.

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:

Thank you