Tips for writing Teeline shorthand left-handed


Today’s post, unfortunately, will only benefit around 10% of the Teeline-writing community, but it might provide some interesting insight into the affliction that is left-handedness for all you lucky right-handers.

At risk of sounding like I’m making excuses, I do think it’s trickier to write shorthand when you’re left-handed. I spoke to my shorthand tutor about this, and she said that her previous group contained three lefties, all of whom struggled a bit to varying extents as a result of their hand preference. I’ve had a look online for tips myself, as there are a couple of issues related to being left-handed to do with shorthand, but there is nothing whatsoever online. Therefore, I thought I’d bring to you, my left-handed friends, my own makeshift tips.

The spiral-bound reporter’s notebooks make life a drag for us lefties

The major problem is, as shown above, the spiral-bound top of the reporter’s notepad. I, like a lot of lefties, write in a sort of ‘hook’ position from above the writing. This is usually something picked up from childhood, in an attempt not to smudge ink as we write across the page. The spiral binding, therefore, provides something of an obstacle – where do you comfortably put your hand when it needs to rest above the writing? I’ve worked out that usually the top five or six lines of my notepad are out of bounds.

There is a trade-off between the penmanship of the top few lines and not wasting a chunk of the page

The above picture is an example of how I was writing for the first eight weeks of the course. As you might be able to tell, the top few lines are written with pretty inconsistent outlines, reflecting how it’s quite tricky to control the pen properly when you’re balancing your hand precariously on the irritating spirals. It might not be obvious if you don’t know Teeline, but I can really notice how wobbly and erratic the top lines are compared to the rest. That’s why I decided last week to start writing like this…:

Above, you can see how much space a hand takes up when you have to account for the obstacle of the spiral. For some reason, I decided to stick with this dodgy, paper-wasting technique for a bit, before I realised, hang on, why not eliminate the problem of the spiral? Hence…:

A fat brick of a non-spiral bound notepad! Hooray! I wedge my shorthand textbook up against the top of the notepad to provide extra support for my hand when writing on the top lines, which also helps a lot. I’ve had no trouble at all using the entire page since using this type of notebook. It’s not the exact same dimensions as a standard reporter’s notepad, but obviously it’s much more important that I have a notepad I can use efficiently.

Now, we end up with writing from the top of the page, which is obviously a lot more sensible, as it gives me more time before having to manically flip the page to continue with what I’m writing. A plus, in my book.

 Another issue is the type of pen you use. Gel pens are out of the question, as the ink just doesn’t dry fast enough, and obviously having smudges all over the page isn’t ideal. I tried a very thin felt tip for a little bit, but that just seemed to slip across the page, and didn’t give me enough control. The best pen seems to be a decent quality biro, as anything cheap tends to blotch ink onto the paper, which again, will be picked up as the left hand travels over what you’ve already written, hence the smudge risk. 

A problem I’ve not yet found a solution to is the friction and positioning of the hand on the page. The friction is a problem because as a left-handed writer, I tend to find my hand makes a lot of contact with the page, which obviously slows me down quite a lot. The positioning is problematic because you have to ‘push’, rather than ‘pull’ the pen across the page, as a right-handed person would do. Having to ‘push’ the strokes sometimes means it feels quite unnatural to write some of the outlines, and I frequently find myself writing into dead-ends where I’ve written something backwards, meaning I’ll have to abandon the outline or perform a quick correction. Also, as most right-handed people write from below the writing line, it is fairly easy to judge where the writing will go, and to place the hand in an appropriate position and write ‘into the wrist’, so to speak. Writing from above and behind the word as a left-hander, though, means the hand is always dragging behind the writing, which I believe slows me down quite a lot. If anyone has any suggestions here, please throw them my way! 

I did find out that Gregg shorthand has a form of mirror-writing, whereby left-handers may learn this type of shorthand backwards, i.e. from right-to-left across the page. I’m not convinced that this is the most elegant solution, as obviously I’m used to writing left-to-right, so it’d be a bit of a nightmare learning a). shorthand and b). backward shorthand. 

Having said all this, though, I’m determined not to let this get in the way of attaining my 100wpm. I have an 80wpm exam on Friday, which I’m dreading as I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet after only ten weeks of learning shorthand, but I’ll give it my best shot. If any lefties can offer me any advice before then, I’d be incredibly grateful! But until Friday, it’s the standard evenings of listening to Marie Cartwright’s dulcet tones, and drilling the practice passages we’ve been given. Frustrating, but it has to be done! 



13 Comments Add yours

  1. robyn says:

    Hi Kayleigh, I’m thinking about learning Teeline shorthand so I’ve been reading a lot about it. Thanks for giving me some advice on left handed shorthand. So, thanks for writing such a great detailed post to address the issue. How did your exam go and how many words per minute can you do now?


    1. Hello!

      Thank you very much! I didn’t actually expect to take my 100wpm exam when I did, I was only intending to take the 80wpm that day, but I thought I’d just test myself in the 100wpm exam out of curiosity. As I started getting it down, adrenalin carried me through and I got the entire passagr!

      I passed my 100wpm exam last summer, though I’m not sure I could manage anything quite that fast at the moment without some practice!

  2. Ludwig says:


    thanks for your tips. I used the mirror writing for shorthand. But I didn’t used it anymore because, this is not very useful. But I think you can make also high speed writing without mirror-writing. However, left-handed writers can still write shorthand from left to right with considerable ease. This is my experience.

    1. Hi Ludwig!

      You certainly can achieve high speeds as a left-handed shorthand writer! I’ve never tried mirror writing, but my shorthand teacher told me it’d be a little more difficult being left handed. I managed to get to 100wpm in 10 weeks though, so it proves it can be done! 🙂

  3. John Olsson says:

    The whole world is geared to right handed people, for sure, and at school my grades sometimes suffered because teachers could not read my handwriting.
    Teeline is very interesting, but i have encountered some of the problems mentioned here, especially I think the fact that my handwriting is slower due to the dragging effect of the hand across the paper, a problem which right handers do not have.
    Thanks for the post – really helpful insights.

    1. Absolutely John! Even today, people still struggle to read my writing. I think it’s because I never had a left handed teacher when we were learning to write, so I had to mostly make it up as I went along when we were trying to write neatly and form letters well!

      Glad you found it useful 🙂

  4. Kate says:

    Not being a leftie, I’d never considered how hard that must be. Good luck to anyone learning Teeline, right or left handed.

    It’s definitely a special skill and whether the tech age takes over or not is likely to still be needed for some time yet (in the academic courses if nothing else!). I do know of a couple of regional papers that still require new recruits to have shorthand though.

  5. dennisajones says:

    This is exactly my problem. I am struggling badly being left handed 😦 When writing quickly I seem to have trouble with a lot of the short forms, it is destroying my confidence!

    1. Hi Dennis,

      I felt the same at first! It’s definitely more challenging being a leftie, as you have the friction of your hand dragging across the page to contend with, but the tips I mentioned in my post definitely helped. Moving from a spiral-bound notepad to one without a spiral made a huge difference, and so did switching from a biro (also very friction-heavy) to a pencil or a smooth ink pen (ideally fast-drying) will also help.

      Let me know how you get on 🙂 You can do it!

  6. Thanks, this is really helpful!

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