Writing tools

How to write faster - learn Teeline shorthand

This article covers the basic structure of Teeline Shorthand, a brief history and some tips for learning it along the way.

Teeline was invented by James Hill in 1970. It is aimed at a self-taught approach and a light learning load. Perfect for people with a busy lifestyle, like myself.

What exactly is Teeline? Teeline is a system of speed writing (shorthand) that uses the letters of the English alphabet already familiar to us and stream lines it.

Simply think of how teenagers write text messages, commonly called "text langauge" where I'm from. They remove the letters that are silent when sounding out a word, which are commonly vowels, for example hello is abbreviated to "hlo" and bye is shortened to "bi". Depending on how the word sounds when spoken dictates what letters are written. Teeline works on a similar principal.

Here is a shorthand quote from the book Teeline Fast, written by Ann Dix.

"Tln is vry esy to lrn.

We shl go to Lndn nxt wk to do sm shpng.

It hs bn a brt and sny da tda.

Pls pt yr mny fr th tcts in th bx."

If you are experienced in text messaging, this will be second nature to you already.

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By now you're probably thinking, what's so special about Teeline? It's just removing letters and writing words as they sound. This is just the start, Teeline uses the basic shapes of the English alphabet letters, but they are written with more flow and curves, which makes them easier to write when taken notes at high speed.


The basics of the Teeline alphabet are simple. The shorthand version of the letter is written in the same position as its longhand counterpart when beginning a word, but as the word gets more complex following letters have to move with the flow of the previous letters.

When it comes to vowels, they are written smaller than constants and have two forms. The full vowel and the indicator. Vowels are eliminated unless they are the first letter of the word or the last letter. Commonly used words such as: like, the, we, be, me etc., can be abbreviated by one letter or one stroke. These are called "Special Outlines".

When I first started researching shorthand I came across Pitman, a different flavour of shorthand. These are the two main reasons I opted for Teeline and not Pitman:

  1. Pitman was not advertised as a self-study approach unlike Teeline.
  2. Pitman uses different stroke sizes and shades. Originally designed to be written with a fountain pen. I don't use a fountain pen.

Tips for learning shorthand:

  1. Don't try to write fast at first. Speed will come with experience.
  2. Practise every day. Its more productive to spend 30 minutes a day practising rather than 2 hours a week.
  3. Use a comfortable pen that flows freely on the page and won't leak ink everywhere. A sharp pencil can be used as well.

Ambitious journalism student, Alex Cooper, introduces us to Teeline Shorthand with his debut guest post for Bad Language.

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing.