Handywrite Lessons 1-7

Part One: The Basics

There must be a direct and intimate correspondence between the two acts of speaking and writing. For this reason the basis of the writing must be phonetic, so that we may, as it were, talk with our fingers. --McDermut

Lesson 1

1. The sound of long A (ey), as in "pace," is represented by a double circle symbol as it is actually a diphthong, a vowel sound made up of two other vowels. Say it slowly and hear the change in vowel sounds. Make the larger circle first, then the smaller one.

2. F and V, P and B, and S and Z are represented by downward elliptical strokes of different length. With S and Z the in-out direction of the curve is not significant, so use whichever is most facile. Note that many words ending in S actually have a Z sound ("base" ends in S while "bays" end-z in Z).

F and V , P and B , S and Z

face vase

pace   base

say   bays


3. T and D are represented by straight lines written forward and up.

T and D

bait paid fade fate


4. N and M are represented by forward straight lines.

N and M

gain   game   name   Maine


5. K and G are represented as forward convex curves.

K and G

bake peg cave gave



Lesson 2

1. The sound of long E (i) as in "beet" is represented by a small figure eight symbol. This sound is often spelled using "ee," which helps in remembering this symbol.

beet need feed geese   keys

2. The sound of A (ae) in "cat" is represented by a circle with a tick mark inside. The pen moves to the middle of the circle before continuing.

cat gnat bad bat can


3. The NG sound, as in "sing," and NG+K sound, as in "sink," are represented by forward sloping lines.

NG and NK

bang   bank   tang   tank


4. The sound of SH and CH are represented by down and backward lines. The CH sound is actually the sound of T+SH.

SH and CH

shave   cheek   shake   cash   catch   shack


Lesson 3

1. The short E sound (eh) as in "said," and the short I (ih) sound as in "sit," are both represented by a small circle. When made counter-clockwise the symbol represents the EH sound, and the IH sound is indicated when it is made clockwise. The pen may come to a stop as when writing some works such as "beg."

big beg bit bet sit set pick   peck   
miss   mess

2. The A sound (ah) in "father" and short O as in "hot," as well as the UH sound as in "cut" and "above" are represented by a large circle. When made counter-clockwise the symbol represents the UH sound, and short A/short O is represented by a clockwise circle.

done Don nut not but bot or bought
upon above


3. Forward and downward curves of opposite direction and median length represent the sounds of H as in "hate" and W as in "wait". In words like "when," "what," and "where" the "wh" is actually an H-W sound when the H pronounced at all. If you don't pronounce the H and leave it off, no confusion is likely to occur.

H and W


half hymn   hit wit women   what wheat


4. The Q or QU sound is actually a K-W sound and so is represented as a K-W blend.


quit quick   quake



Lesson 4

1. The sound of AW as in "dawn" is very closely related to the sound of AH in "father," "hot," or "Don." Few words are distinguished one from the other on the basis of this sound alone. It is represented by a teardrop symbol made either clockwise or counter-clockwise. It is like the more open circle used in "Don" but the pen always comes to a stop when making it. Since the distinction is rarely required, using the clockwise circle for words like "tall," "bought" or "broad" creates no confusion just as pronouncing them with an AW or AH sound would be heard as the same word by almost everyone. If you say bawt for "bought" and want to avoid confusion with baht, as in "a bot is the larva of a botfly," then you can be meticulous and write "bought" using the teardrop symbol.

Don   dawn   odd awed tock   talk

2. A forward or upward hook represents the sound of long O as in "hope".

hope vote moan   photo   doe   show


3. The sound of R and L are represented by convex forward curves.

R and L

rake   lake   ruff/rough   luck   
riddle   less


4. The sound of OO as in "boot" or "Luke" is represented by a U shape symbol, while the vowel sound in "pull" is represented by a sideways hook.

pool   pull   Luke   look   fool   
full   who


Lesson 5

1. Sometimes called a semi-vowel, the R sound is best regarded simply as a vowel in its own right. Pronunciation guides often insert an imaginary UH sound in front of R in such words as bird, burp, earn, purple, dirt, her, and heard when the only vowel is actually R.

burp bird earn   runner   paper   her   sugar


2. Vowel sounds before R may blend with R or not. The OR sound would always be blended.

lore   lower   more   mower


3. The AR sound is the sound of AH in "father" combined with R.

art   lark   bar   farm   
farmer (one M sound)


4. The EH sound in "bet" before R may sound close to long A as it does in bear, care, terror, but it is not as distinct as it is in "player," which has the EY/long A sound. In most cases, write EHR instead of EYR.

lair   layer   prayer   player   bear   care

5. The IH sound in "bit" before R sounds close to long E as it does in beer, dear, sere (dried up), but is not as distinct as it is in "seer" (a person who sees). The IH sound is also the Y at the end of many words although long E for Y also works.

beer   sere   seer   many   marry


Lesson 6

1. The ZH sound, the second vowel in "measure" and the J sound as in "major," which is actually a D+ZH sound, are represented by vertical down strokes.

ZH and J

measure   vision   garage   division

major   adjust   jest   gist


2. The long I (AY) sound is represented by a short downward stroke, but it need not be straight down.

bite   tight   fly   kite   price   prize


3. There are two TH sounds although the distinction is rarely important. You can hear the difference in "thin" and "then," and between "thy" and "thigh." The symbols are upward curves of medium length in the shape of quarter circles.

Th and th


Th as in thigh   ether   thin   that

th as in thy either then   they


4. The AH+OO sound, as in "bout," may be represented by writing each vowel, or by using a short upward/backward line.

town   noun   loud   fowl   outer



Lesson 7

1. The Y sound as in "yet" is represented by a long steep downward curve.


yet   yellow   yank   onion   yeomen  


2. The long U (YU) sound as in "butte" is the IH sound plus OO. You could also use Y+OO if you prefer.

butte   few   you/ewe   unit


3. The sound of X is actually a KS sound and is represented by a short upward curve, which also stands for EH+KS at the beginning of words. Writing K+S would also work.

wax   box   locks   expert   extra or


4. The sound of OY as in "boy" and "oil" is an O+IH sound represented by combining these vowels.

boy   oil   toil   coin


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External Links

  • Easyscript
  • Learn a bit about this commercialized shorthand.

  • Keyscript
  • Learn a bit about this arelatively new alphabetic shorthand.

  • IPA
  • The International Phonetic Association.

  • Unifon
  • A one sound one letter alphabet.

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