Shorthand Made Easy
Do you want to learn shorthand in 15 minutes instead of taking weeks of classes?
Do you want to write in your journal in an encrypted way so the meaning is obfuscated?
Do you want to take notes or just write in a cool way?
Then the Ford Improved Shorthand™ is what you are looking for and it is free too.
I developed Ford Improved Shorthand when I wanted a fast way to write in my journal that kept my writing private.
I searched for various simple cypher systems including pig-pen encryption and others, but they were hard to read and difficult to learn. I then looked into shorthand. I quickly discovered that existing shorthand methods were outdated and imprecise. That is when I decided to develop my own modernized and easy to learn shorthand method.
Gregg is the most common type of shorthand and is the scrolling type most people recognize as shorthand. This method is difficult to learn and very hard to read. It was never meant to be used to record information for storage. It was meant to be used for dictation that would then be immediately transcribed. If someone were to write notes in Gregg shorthand and try to read them six months later it would be very difficult. The writing method is also imprecise because it uses sounds, not letters. Many of the symbols also vary in size so one slash means one sound and a slightly longer slash another and an even longer slash means yet something else. If you do not keep your writing scaled the same it becomes hard to read. It also omits vowels. Try writing down a password this way! Gregg was not going to meet my needs.
Greeg Shorthand Example
Pittman is another well known method. It is similar to Gregg in that it is a scrolling style which omits vowels. It also requires the use of a fountain pen to make thin and thick lines. Again, unusable today.
Teeline is a method that is still taught to journalists in the UK and widely used. It has the advantage of using every letter, but that makes it a little slower. It is easier to learn, however it is also confusing as I will cover later. Teeline was invented by James Hill in 1968. It is actually a derrivative of earlier versions. When you compare it to Gregg you see many similar shapes such as the sounds for O, T, M. Vowels are eliminated unless they are the first letter of the word or the last letter. Ford Improved Shorthand looks similar to Teeline but that is only because I used the same concept in my letter development. Teeline also omits vowels and has some other tricks that are taught in the classes for this method which make it complicated. That is something I did not like. When you take out the vowels you speed up writing but you also take out precision and readability.
Teeline Shorthand Alphabet
Ford Improved Shorthand solves the problems of older systems. It is easy to learn and write. The average person can learn the complete system in 15 minutes with no classes. It is also free for personal use. It is easy to read even months or years after it is written. It uses every letter so there is never any ambiguity about what is written.
Ford Improved Shorthand is effective for students. The other systems for shorthand are not useful for students because you spend too much time trying to figure out your notes and not learning. You are better off recording the class while using Ford Improved Shorthand to write down highlights, lists, etc. The Ford version is a modernized version which is redesigned to be easy to use, easy to learn, easy to read, easy to write, accurate and fast.
The average speed most people write is around 20 words per minute. Your speed when using the Ford Improved Shorthand method depends on you ability, but 40 words per minute is pretty good and faster than many people type and claims of 150 words are not uncommon. The average person speaks around 200 words per minute so this speed would allow a reasonable dictation rate.
The Ford Improved Shorthand method is meant as both shorthand and coding for personal journals.
This method allows you to take rapidly written notes anywhere without the average person being able to read what you have written.
Advantages of Ford Improved Shorthand
50% faster than regular cursive writing on average
no dependence on placement above or below centerline
no additional marks are needed
no special writing instruments are needed(such as thick or thin lines as in the Pittman system)
works with languages other than English
every character is drawn as efficiently as possible
not dependant on character spacing or scale
easy to read even after time has passed
easy to write
easy to learn
can be written with any pen or pencil
Ford Improved Shorthand Features
You may notice that Ford shorthand and Teeline are similar. This is because the same methodology was used for both. Teeline is based on the idea of using the first stroke or defining stroke to identify a character. The same idea was used for some other earlier shorthand versions which are seen in the Teeline system too. For example the Ford Improved Shorthand A is the outside stroke of the capital A. The E symbol is the back and bottom stroke of the capital E. The I symbol is the dot and line of the lower case “i” drawn in one stroke without lifting the pen. W and M are simplified by omitting the middle strokes just as was done in Gregg and other systems. F is the first stroke of the lower case "f". S can be written either as shown or in mirror image, both ways are still S and are a faster way of making a similar stroke. O is drawn as an alpha which is faster because the ends do not have to connect. Q(the defining top and spine stroke with serif) is differentiated from N(the second defining stroke of the lower case letter) by the serif and straight top line. You can figure out an easy way to remember each of them because almost every character is a representative stroke of the original letter. Some characters are the same as the original because they were easy to write quickly in one or two strokes so there was no reason to change those.
Teeline also used strokes from Pittman and Gregg methods. The method used in the Ford Improved Shorthand system is similar which means many characters are similar. The Ford method uses the first stroke, a defining stroke or motion, or the character itself for the Ford Improved Shorthand character.
However, there are also many important differences between Ford Improved Shorthand and other systems. There are almost no rules to remember for the Ford Improved Shorthand method. With Teeline you have to remember to omit vowels unless they are the first or last character and you combine some characters and there are other methods taught with Teeline.
In my testing I found that these simply were not worth learning and were unnecessary. The speed advantage was not that significant when compared to the difficulty of reading what was written later. That is why the Ford system has no similar rules. Teeline has some other issues, like using one character or character-appearing-symbol to represent a different character or using a symbol that is not related to the character.
For example, in Teeline the alternate __ for D is similar to T but depends on placement relative to the baseline. The Teeline F looks like D or a deflated balloon, O looked like U but so did U and Q, S looked like O(so why have O looking like U and S looking like O?). In Teeline Q, O, U and Y look basically the same with Q looking like a big U that had nothing to do with the form of Q. These character choices meant that you could never use the actual letter if you forgot when writing what the Teeline character was because it would look like another letter. It also made it much harder to learn the alphabet because some letters are replaced with other letters without rhyme or reason. If you forgot the symbol for O and just wrote "o" it would look like S when you read it back in Teeline. Teeline also combines characters even when there is no speed advantage to doing this so a simple set of characters suddenly becomes complex and hard to understand. There were a lot of problems with Teeline which is why I set out to make my own alphabet.
In the Ford method you do not omit vowels. The Ford method speeds up writing and allows you to keep your writing relatively private(as long as no one looking over your shoulder knows this method). It is not meant to be as fast as Gregg. It is meant to be easier to understand and write.
There is no difference between upper and lower case in the Ford system. Punctuation and numbers are the same as in regular writing. You can combine characters, but it is not necessary to do so. For example, THE would be three marks combined and LIKE would be those shorthand marks combined into one symbol, with the IK into one. Common words can be abbreviated. For common words like and, the, you, you can use a simple line so write the first letter then draw a line which symbolizes the word.
Write y-- for you. You can develop your own abbreviations and make a list of them in your journal. This will make your writing even faster.
Let's not forget that we live in a modern world. Shorthand was developed to take dictation. I guarantee you if they had dictaphones or smartphones with recording apps or even voice recognition software there would have been no need for shorthand and it would have never been developed. If speed is really that important and you need to capture every word use a pocket voice recorder. Modern shorthand is not about taking down dictation, it is about making notes quickly and keeping your writing private. You do not have to write as fast as someone can speak anymore.
Learning Ford Improved Shorthand
You don’t need to take a course to learn the Ford Improved Shorthand system. Just start using it.
Write the alphabet a couple of times and you will have it firmly established in your head. It is really very simple. Look at how the characters in the Ford alphabet are similar to, representative of, or strokes from the original lower or upper-case letters. That will make it easy to remember. Spend five minutes doing this.
Pick a random magazine article or page from a book and write it using the Ford method. It must be something you have not memorized. At first it will be a slow process.
When you have written a couple of paragraphs up to a page read it back. Start at random places in the text and begin reading too. It will take some practice to get good at reading it back. At first you will have to pronounce the characters in your head and that will turn into words. Sound out the words slowly. You will quickly develop confidence in your ability to read it back, though it will take some time while you are learning. With practice you will be able to read your writing back as fast as you can read regular writing and write it as well. Spend 10 minutes practicing your reading. That is all you need to learn to read and write this system. Beyond that it is a matter of practice.
Congratulations! You have just learned the Ford Improved Shorthand method in 15 minutes or less.
If you would like a course in the Ford Improved Shorthand Method, then you just got it. Re-read 1, 2 and 3. That is it. It really is that simple. For numbers, special characters or punctuation use the regular shapes. If you would still like to take a seven day intensive course in this method, repeat the above for seven days. Really, that is all there is to it. This is a simple method and I am not selling courses on how to do it.
Be classy and use a fountain pen. This is not really related to shorthand, but it looks cool to write with a fountain pen and it is a great way to differentiate your writing from other's writings. Do some web surfing on fountain pens and you will find lots of people enjoy using them over common ballpoint pens.
If you want to write languages other than English you can simply add the pronunciation marks or use the actual character for non-standard characters.
If you forget a letter, you can use the regular letter. You can figure out what you wrote even if you don’t remember every letter because your mind will fill in the blanks when you recognize most letters.
You may want to make your writing even harder to read if you are writing in a diary or journal. There is something personal about writing with your own hand rather than using a computer. Journals are still very popular, but no one wants just anyone to read a private diary or journal. Writing in code is impractical and difficult. Plus, what if you forget the code? The Ford method makes it easy.
The Ford method allows obfuscation, not encryption. It is not secure and anyone who can read Ford Improved Shorthand can read what you write. But, let's face it, how many people around you can read Ford Improved Shorthand?
If you want to obfuscate more, add pronunciation marks randomly or other marks such as underlining or overlining, umlaut or dots over a character, or carets over a character, or circling a character. This has no meaning but will make it harder to understand by the casual viewer. When reading, you will know they are not actually part of the text but those extra bits are just there to throw off anyone trying to read your writing.
Move characters up or down on the line so they are not all aligned the same.
Combine characters or place them close together.
Make up dummy characters and insert them between characters.
Insert pig-pen encryption characters to break up words.
Start each paragraph with dummy characters or a nonsense sentence. Even if someone can ready Ford Improved Shorthand they will assume they cannot read any more of your writing when they are confounded by the first line.
You can make it harder to read even for someone who knows what the letters mean by writing in Pig Latin or Carnie Talk.
The Ford Improved Shorthand method is free for personal or business use as long as it is not sold and no money is charged for the system or materials. If you teach this system or make any materials from it available as part of another product or course then you must obtain permission. The image showing the Ford Improved Shorthand characters may be used on other websites as long as it is not altered or cropped. It may be resized as long as all text is readable.
If you are interested in speed writing, then you will also be interested in Speed Reading. Find out more.