The Joy Of… Shorthand (Well, Teeline Shorthand Anyway)

My Teeline shorthand is kind of rusty...

My Teeline shorthand is kind of rusty…

A while back, I read a fascinating article on BBC News about whether shorthand was becoming obsolete or not. This brought back a lot of memories for me since, about eleven years ago, I dabbled with learning Teeline shorthand. I was visiting Falmouth at the time and had spotted an old book about it in a charity shop. It seemed like an interesting thing to learn.

For the rest of the holiday, I tried to teach myself how to think and write in Teeline shorthand. The interesting thing is that writing in Teeline shorthand isn’t that different from writing a text message, since you have abbreviate words in pretty much the same way. However, you also have to learn a new – and slightly more minimalist- version of the alphabet too.

In other words, it’s almost like learning another language – but without any of the really difficult stuff (eg: like the vocabulary and the grammar). You get the satisfaction of feeling like you’ve learnt another language, whilst only having to put about a tenth of the time and effort into doing so. Of course, if you actually want to use it for it’s intended puropse (eg: writing very quickly) then you have to put a lot more practice into it.

Anyway, a few months later, when I went to university open days, I’d take notes at the lectures in Teeline. I’d usually double-space them, so that I could write a “translation” underneath them for future reference (since shorthand serves mostly as an aid to memory, rather than a full replacement for ordinary writing) . Although I never measured my writing speed, it probably wasn’t too different from my usual “fast” handwriting (which is barely legible at the best of times).

It was a cool thing to do, but eventually I lost interest. When I actually went to university, I took all of my lecture notes in longhand. These days, the only times that I really use Teeline shorthand is when I write something private that I don’t want other people to instantly read at a glance. In other words, it’s useful as a (fairly weak) form of physical encryption.

Plus, as a fun party trick, you can’t beat it. Not only that, there’s something fun about learning an “obsolete” skill just for the hell of it. Obsolete stuff in general is just absolutely fascinating.

Another cool thing about learning shorthand is that it’s an actual physical skill. With a small amount of practice, it’s almost as intuitive as ordinary writing is and it’s also as much of an enjoyably physical experience as ordinary handwriting is. It almost has the same spontaneity and flow to it that writing does, although I usually have to spend slightly longer working out how to abbreviate all of the words properly.

The other interesting thing about shorthand is the sheer variety of different types of shorthand out there. Although I’ve only been talking about Teeline shorthand in this article (since it’s easy to learn the basics), there are all sorts of other shorthands out there, and I imagine that it’s probably an absolutely fascinating subject to research.

Still, it’s kind of annoying when you happen to see a picture of some shorthand on the internet, only to try to decipher it for a while before realising that it’s written in a type of shorthand that you don’t know.

But, even if you just want a fun hobby, something to show off with and/or a way of writing (slightly) secret messages, then you can’t beat Teeline shorthand.


Sorry for the short article, but I hope that this was interesting 🙂


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