Speedwriting Techniqe

Take Fast Notes Using Symbols and Abbreviations

Girl writing notes in her notebook
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Have you ever gazed at a test question and wondered where on earth it came from? You're just certain the teacher never, ever covered the information, because it just wasn't in your notes.

Then, alas, you discover that some of your classmates did record the information in their notes, and furthermore, they got the question right.

This is a common frustration. We miss things when we take class notes. Very few people can write fast enough or can concentrate long enough to record everything the teacher says.

As you can imagine, college lectures can stretch much longer than the lectures you receive in high school. They can also be very detailed. For this reason, many college students address the potential problem of missing critical information by developing a personalized form of shorthand.

This sounds much more complicated than it really is. You don't have to learn a squiggly-line language. You simply come up with a set of symbols or abbreviations for common words that you find in lectures.


Tips for Using Shorthand

Developing shortcuts in your writing is not a new idea, of course. Students have been using this method for as long as they've been taking class notes. The trick is to develop a good system and to do it well. To do that, you have to practice.

  • Develop shortcuts for the most commonly used words and make shortcuts for them.


  • At the beginning of a term look through the textbooks for each course. Find the common terms that you'll see over and over and develop shortcuts for them.

  • For example, words that might appear frequently in a literature class are character (ch), allegory (alg), allusion (allu), figure of speech (fos), and so on.


  • Practice your course-specific shorthand at the beginning of the term, while your text is still new and you're curious and excited about the information. Find a few interesting passages and practice writing them in shorthand.


  • If possible, find a study partner(or ask a parent) to read the passages to you. This will give you experience.


  • Time yourself for each passage you practice. Pretty soon you'll start to build up speed.



Writing Shortcuts

Sample Shortcuts
@at, about, around
no.number, amount
+bigger, greater, increasing
?who, what, where, why, where
!surprise, alarm, shock
Xacross, between