Shorthand Techniques: Taking Notes Faster

I’ve got another section of my brain that also knows computers are valuable tools for improving efficiency. This is why I use a computer to efficiently type out notes taken in class, instead of taking written notes the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper.

It’s a simple program, it does what it needs to do, and that’s all I’m asking for out of an extension. But recently, many of my friends have started asking me what Gorgias is and how they can use it.

I had no idea where to explain something as straightforward as Gorgias, so I decided to make this guide. In such cases, I like to have a brief, cordial conversation with the person by a handwritten note. A call or a well-written email could also do the trick, but there are certain advantages in communicating by a handwritten note.

There are advantages to taking handwritten notes, and we explored a number of them in our blog post on the importance of handwritten notes. One disadvantage is time: it can take longer to write something down than to type it out. But with this simple shorthand trick, you can take faster notes using your keyboard.

Taking faster-handwritten notes is related to an earlier post of ours where we discussed efficient note-taking. Indeed, although the two aren’t the same, they are complementary. In this post, I want to share some tips and techniques on taking faster-handwritten notes using shorthand. 

What If You’re Using Paper?

Ever since technology was invented, people have interacted with it has been based on the physical world. When we want to communicate in our real lives, we pick up a phone and call someone.

But what if there were a better, faster way to communicate online? For some time now, we’ve had just that using instant messengers and chat apps. These are great for quick sayings (like LOL or OMG) but not when you need to get an accurate message across.

It shouldn’t be this hard to find a replacement for your standard IM. Maybe it can be done all with one keyboard shortcut or touch of a button. That would certainly speed things up a bit.” I’m sure many of you reading this have been thinking about how to get faster with your note-taking and have seen the word “shorthand” thrown around a lot.

It seems like the ultimate solution: why type when you can write? Well, anyone who writes using shorthand knows that there are some pitfalls. In short, it boils down to two words. First, the practice of taking that down for later transcription may seem too difficult.

And second, you run into technical issues with attempting to transcribe this writing automatically. Not being content to accept no for an answer, I decided to figure out a way to get the benefits of shorthand (speed) without the drawbacks. Throughout the centuries, shorthand systems have helped people write faster by simplifying individual letters and whole words.

By simplifying language, the process of learning to read and write is made much more accessible. Shorthand is a system of rapid writing that uses symbols or abbreviated words to represent total words or phrases. Shorthand systems use phonetic substitution (shorthand writers typically don’t know what the abbreviations they use mean) to express words and phrases.

Solution 1: Use A Simpler Shorthand Method

Today, you’ll discover the most valuable and promising alphabetic shorthands for your handwritten notes. These include Gregg shorthand, Cornell method, Pitman shorthand, Vail simplified shorthand, and more.

You’ll even get a crash course in deciphering old forms of foreign. Alphabetic systems will save you time because they allow you to write in standard letters instead of trying to figure out which irregular shorthand squiggle matches up with a specific word or sound.

Teeline was developed in 1964 by James Hill, a court transcriber and later a journalist working for Reuters. Hill wanted to create a shorthand system that would be easier to learn and use than existing shorthand systems such as Pitman or Gregg.

In an interview with the BBC, he said of Teeline, “It seemed to me that most of the shorthands that had been devised up until then were either pretty complex systems which required a fair amount of training before you could do much with them, or else they were so trivial that there didn’t seem many points in bothering with them at all.” There are a few problems with these shorthand systems, however. One is that they’re pretty challenging to learn.

Even just memorizing the shapes of the phonetic symbols can take a while. The other problem is that you need to remember the condition of each character and which symbol represents which phonetic sound. You also need to know when and how to make pauses between words.

Different teachers use different methods to make things even more complicated; one system may teach you that an apostrophe represents the “ee” sound, for instance, while another might teach you that it means the “uh” sound. It can be frustrating to try to keep track of all this information for multiple systems. 

Solution 2: Create Your Shorthand System

Symbols give you more than just a simple shorthand method – they can also make it easier to remember the location of information when you’re looking for it later. Since your handwriting will be different from anyone else’s, you can use this to remind yourself how something is arranged.

Sticky notes – the kind you use to leave yourself messages. They’re helpful because they stay on a whiteboard or a computer/notebook screen as you move around, and they’re easily removable.

They allow you to take with you a miniature copy of the thing you want to remember, and much like the abbreviations above, serve as a “cue” for your memory as to what you want to remember. So no matter what your learning approach, you’re going to need to learn shorthand.

Not just to communicate with other people, but especially if you want to take faster notes in class or at work. And if you’re going to learn how to read and write shorthand, the best method is simple: practice. I’ve practiced a lot, and I try to do it every day. If you want to change your life, do it daily – daily actions add up over time.

As you practice using your shorthand system, your symbols will become more frequent. This means that you’ll have to start keeping more context as to what your shorthand stands for. If it seems like you’re spending too much time interpreting your notes, try bringing back some of the longhand notes you had previously abbreviated into shorthand.

When I first started developing my shorthand system, I added a simple character, which remained in most of the notes I took. Sometimes I added more symbols after that, but usually, they were snippets of the original sign and meant the same thing, just shorter.

Eventually, my system became pretty complex – with four primary characters standing in for whole concepts or pieces of information. As you go on, your shorthand system will become more and more difficult.

Whether you’re looking for methods to improve your study habits or are struggling with procrastination, this book can help! It’s especially effective if you’re able to decipher your shorthand, which is why I prefer it over more complex systems (which tend to make the shorthand harder to read; a cardinal sin).

But shorthand is a simple, time-tested way to take notes and make them easier to read later on. Take the first syllable of each word, and put it at the end. Then take the last two letters of the first two words and combine them.

It will give you a completely different world, which is “the” I often use this method to weed out words I decide not to use (thanks to my girlfriend for showing me this). The benefit of this is that you’ll be able to take even longer notes – which will help you increase your productivity.

When I say Noteshelf, I don’t mean that it’s only good for taking notes. You can use it to create online sticky notes, build a commonplace book, and even digitize your old paper notebook to access anywhere, at any time. 

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