Speedwriting is a technique for writing very quickly and is considered particularly useful for taking notes. A woman named Emma Dearborn developed speedwriting in the early 1920s. Her method uses a combination of letters, punctuation marks and special techniques to rapidly capture words on paper. It is not as fast as shorthand, but is generally considered to be easier to learn and use.
One of the advantages of speedwriting is that it uses standard characters from the alphabet together with common symbols such as commas, periods and dashes. It was developed with the idea that it could be used with handwritten notes or typed into a typewriter. The use of familiar letters and symbols makes it relatively easy for people to read and comprehend quickly, especially when compared to other methods. Gregg shorthand, for example, uses many different unique symbols and each one must be learned before a student can benefit from the system.
In addition to using various symbols and signs for abbreviations, speedwriting has a number of different rules that allow a person to indicate various word endings without having to write them. The letters “-ing” are represented by underlining the last letter of a word, and the suffix “-ed” is indicated by placing a line over the last letter of a word. Other word endings are represented in similar ways.
Spelling is handled phonetically, so silent letters are dropped and words are written with only long vowels used. The “e” at the end of a word is dropped, for example, and a word such as “dial” would be written as “dil.” Common words such as and, the and it all have single letter or symbols for abbreviations. Specific sounds and short words are also represented by single letters. In total, there are approximately 100 symbols used in speedwriting in addition to the spelling simplification rules.
An individual learning to use speedwriting can usually write about 60 to 80 words per minute at first, and should be able to progress to over 100 words per minute after using the system over time. This is relatively slow when compared to various shorthand systems. These can be as much as 10 times faster than conventional longhand, but for many people speedwriting is fast enough. The ease of learning the system also makes it very attractive. Speedwriting is not limited to English and is adapted for use in other languages such as German and Italian as well.