Writing rapidly and efficiently is an art both useful and pleasurable. Fast writing --- "shorthand" --- need not be an arcane tool of the professional stenographer. With a personal system of writing, notetaking becomes a relaxed part of listening, not a scribbling race against the speaker. Diary or journal entries flow smoothly from the pen, rather than as laborious disruptions of the thinking processes. And at any time during the day, when any sort of memorable thought crosses one's path, it takes only a moment to jot it down for later use. It is no coincidence that Samuel Pepys and James Boswell used their own shorthands.

Personal effective writing is also easy and fun to learn. By applying a few straightforward techniques, within hours you can gain 20% or more. Additional experience adds speed and comfort. The approach I suggest here has evolved from my experience, over the past few years, starting with Laurence F. Hawkins' excellent Notescript (Barnes & Noble, 1964; later editions are titled Quickscript).

To write efficiently, consider:

The above simple rules have surprising power. Applying them to a few sentences gives:

Prsnl efctv wrtg is also esy / fn to lrn. By aplyg a fw strghtfrwrd tchnqs, wthn hrs yu cn gn 20% or mr. Adtnl exprnc ads spd / cmfrt.

That example (not concocted to show off the system!) is easy for anyone to read and has only about two-thirds as many letters to write as did the original. There are some ambiguities, but none serious enough to cause trouble. If you are concerned about possible misinterpretation of a word (e.g., if you fear that "gn" could be read as "gun" or "gin" or "gene" instead of "gain") then just write the word out in full.

After the rules here become second nature, it's time to begin building upon them. You may find some words are exceptionally common in your writing and deserve special abbreviations. (For instance, "data" appears frequently enough for me that I have made up my own "crossed-d" symbol for it.) You may wish to customize your handwriting to make single strokes stand for "th" or other letter combinations. You may choose to define short tokens for whole phrases that recur in a particular set of notes. You may drop silent letters, or keep them.

But always remember the first principle: your shorthand is your own. You control the laws; you're writing for yourself. If any aspect of your system becomes a burden or a distraction, then it's broken and needs to be fixed, or dropped. You're in charge. Write well!

Monday, August 09, 1999 at 07:00:36 (EDT) = Datetag19990809

TopicWriting - TopicJournalizing

(correlates: CardThatPoet, IntellectualHeimlichManeuver, TristramShandy, ...)