Below is a special version of the writing system called Handywrite. I have horizontally mirrored all of the images and replaced the word Handywrite with Leftywrite. This new version is intended for left-handed people and is to be written from right-to left.

To visit the original go to

Note that this copy was made on 04 May, 2005, and that no attempts will be made to update the material on this page. Also note that the entire Handywrite material was NOT copied, only the pages that needed reversed images, therefore you will find more information that could be applied to Leftywrite on the Handywrite page.

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A handwriting system that used the simplest possible strokes for letters would, of course, be faster to write with than longhand, which uses several, sometimes as many as four, strokes for each letter. And if the system were phonetic, words couldn't be misspelled!

The usual 26 letter alphabet just doesn't have enough letters to represent all the 32+ sounds used in English, especially vowel sounds, so several letters are often used to represent a single sound. The word "ought," for example, uses five letters to write only two sounds.

So a really slick form of handwriting would use one stroke for one sound. Simple, but too difficult? Not necessarily. You just need to learn to hear the sounds that you use when speaking English so you can write them, and then learn some simple symbols to represent those sounds. Since you have been taught to pay attention to 26 letters and not the actual sounds of English, tuning in to speech sounds may take a little time, but can also be quite interesting and fun.

In the box below is a summary of everything you need to learn to start writing faster. As a bonus, hardly anyone (probably no one you know) will be able to read your writing.


Leftywrite System Summary



To better understand the above, study the following. Notice how, in the examples, each sound is often spelled several different ways.


Consonants: (as in....)

m n    mit--knit , calm--knife (no l sound)

d t    do--two , fiddle--stopped (one p, ends in t)

g k    goat--coat , ghost--back

l r    lake--rake , tell--wrong

b p    been--pin , rabbit--happy (only one p sound)

v f    very--fairy , of (v not f)--laugh

w h    wow--how , wine--who (starts with h)


ch sh     chin--shin , watch--ocean

("ch" is the sound of t+sh, but gets a symbol of its own)

j zh   jam--azure , bridge--measure

("j" is the sound of d+zh as in "edge")

nk ng   sink--sing , lank--long

("nk" is the sound of ng+k)

th Th  then--thin (same vowel) , breathe--thigh

("Thin" and "then" are the only two common words distinguished solely by the two forms of th, so if you get them mixed up writing other words, no big deal. By the way, the "th" in "then" or "the" occurs about ten times more often in writing than "Th" in "thin" or "think")

z s zen--sin , has--scent

(s, z, and x may curve two ways, whichever seems best)

x y yet--example , onion--extra

("x" is the sound of k+s in fox, eh+k+s in extra, or eh+g+z in exact--if you need to be excruciatingly exact you could write extra as )


ll ny llama--maana

(These sounds are from foreign words such as "llama" when pronounced like "y" instead of "l." In Spain "ll" is like the "lli" in "million." The "ny" sound is the "" in "maana" or "canyon")


Vowels: (as in...)

ae bat , plaid , half , laugh, can , glad

eh bet , many , said , says , bread , leopard

ih bit , mini , Sid , busy , women , hymn

a bot or bought, father , Don , far , caught , heart

uh but , done , alone , circus , pencil

ey bait , age , aid , say , they , vein

i beet , team , people , key , equal

ay bite , height , aisle , eye , lie , high

(may be written with a forward or backward slant, but generally down)

o boat , sew , open , toe , beau , yeoman

yu butte , new , few , feud , beauty , view

u boot , shoe , rule , blue , fruit , adieu


c book, put , full , wolf , good , should

au bout , house , bough , now, towel

oy boil , boy , toil , voice , oil

aw bawl , dawn , law , yawl--y'all , drawl

(This is a minor vowel very close to the "short o" in Don. In practice this vowel sound can be represented by the  symbol without confusion. So "all" or "awl" could be written or and so forth, but if you need to distinguish between "dawn" and "Don" or "la" and "law," "tock" and "talk," then you can--these being the among the few examples I have encountered that differ solely on the basis of these vowel sounds. Some words, like "bought" (bawt) and "bot" (baht) may be pronounced the same by some people, and so may be written the same. Note that when writing this symbol there is always at least one sharp angle between it and a consonant to distinguish it from the vowels and which may also be tear shaped when they sometimes blend in with two consonants-- in which case there is no angle.)

r bur , bird , first , word , honor , zephyr

(A little known or acknowledged fact: "r" is a vowel, not a consonant. Generations of English teachers have mislead you. While I did list "r" with the consonants, I'm now giving you the straight dope. A vowel sound is one you can make in a continuous manner using your vocal cords with mouth open until you run out of breath. Try it. Consonants are the various ways vowels can be modified at the beginning or end of them. Say "ahahahahahahahah," now say "rrrrrrrrrrrrr." Obviously "R" is a vowel. Some admit only that it's a semivowel, but I prefer to say the emperor has no clothes and claim it's a vowel. Next time you're around an English teacher or other language expert, argue this point ad nausium until they concede.)


Consonant Blends

Some consonant sounds often blend with others. For example "bl" or "fr." When possible, the symbols for consonants that blend also blend. Here are some examples.

pr , pl , br , bl , fr , fl , gr , gl

kr , kl , wr , hw, kw , rk , sp , sl

Note that most words starting with "wh" are actually pronounced "hw" with a few exceptions like "who" which is just "h" plus "oo" without a "w" sound.

Also, "nt" can be written or blended into . The vowels in the sylables "ten," "ton," and "tin" are often indistinctly pronounced, especially at the ends of words (as in "cotton"), and may be heard as just "t+n" which can be blended into as in "cott'n pick'n good."

Another handy blend is to use for "d" or "ed" at the end of a word by making the hook with a counter-clockwise motion as in "and" or "bird" . This differs from the vowel usage of this symbol which is always written clockwise as in "know" .


Typing the Leftywrite Alphabet

It is useful to assign the sounds in the Leftywrite phonetic alphabet to keyboard characters that are quick to type. Since you already know most of the characters, learning a few more will allow you to type words phonetically. Play around with the following and you may find it isn't that hard to print/type phonetically.

Here are type-able characters for each sound based on international usage:

The above usage will make sense if you are familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Since the IPA is the only really good pronunciation guide, I would suggest studying it, and using the above simplified type-able version to break down words into basic speech sounds.

Because our interest is to write using only the minimum number of distinctive vowel and consonant sounds needed to tell one word from another, it would be correct to say that Leftywrite uses a phonemic rather than phonetic alphabet. One symbol may stand for two speech sounds provided they differ only slightly (as allophones) and are not used to differentiate between words. True homophones, of course, cannot be written differently using a phonetic alphabet, so "their" and "there" are written the same.

Since "c" is not used for a consonant sound, it is used to represent the vowel in "bull" or "book."

Sometimes a vowel is indistinct or non-existent. The word "nation" could be pronounced "neyshuhn," "neyshihn," "neyshehn," or with no vowel in "neyshn." In such cases, go with the simplest and write "shn" for "-tion" or "-sion."

Phonetics is phun. As infants we have the ability to hear all possible speech sounds used in any language. With maturity most of us lose the ability to hear speech sounds not in our native language. In some languages, for example, there is no distinction made between "p" and "b" so if you say "pet" then "bet" native speakers will hear both as the same word. With other sounds, English speakers have the same impairment.

The vowel "e," as in Spanish "el bebe," is not normally found in English other than in the diphthong "ey" as in "bait" or Spanish "ley," which is the "e" sound with the slight addition of the "i" in "beet." The "e" vowel is a tensed form of "eh" in "bet," but sounds more like "ey" to English speakers. So English speakers tend to hear "el" to rhyme with "bell (behl)" and "bebe" to rhyme with the first vowel in "baby (beybi), while Spanish speakers hear "ey," they tend not to hear any difference between "eh" and "e." In Leftywrite both "eh (bet)" and "e (bebe)" are represented by the same counter-clockwise small loop, even though these sound like two distinct vowel sounds to English speakers. For practical purposes, "eh" or "e" is also the first vowel in "hair," "care," or "air" when followed by "r." In Leftywrite, then, "hair" would be .

Here's an example from Spanish:

El mes de julio es un mes de fiestas por todo el mundo hispano.

el mes de hulio es un mes de fiestas por todo el mundo ispano.

Not too many differences, since Spanish is quite phonetic to begin with. An English speaker learning Spanish might phonetically write the above as:

ehl meys dey hulio ehs un meys dey fiehstuhs por todo ehl mundo hispano.

Ah, so that's why I speak Spanish with such a thick accent! Using the international based characters with English would look like this:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs, and that made me laugh.

thuh kwihk braun fax juhmps ovr thi leyzi dagz, nd tht meyd mi lf.

Not nearly as close to normal spelling as with Spanish, but English orthography is only marginally phonetic--about 40%. Note that the vowel in "cat" can be typed as "ae" or as a single character "" if you have an international keyboard.

The above international type-able version should be used along with a dictionary that uses the IPA system to help you make sense of phonetics. While the IPA may seem confusing, the other pronunciation guides used by many dictionaries are confusing. 



Leftywrite Lessons



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).

V and F , B and P , Z and S

face vase

pace   base

say   bays


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

D and T

bait paid fade fate


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

M and N

gain   game   name   Maine


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

G and K

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.

NK and NG

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.

CH and SH

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.

W and H


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.

L and R

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   pray   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.

J and ZH

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   yawl


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



Part Two: The Refinements


Shorthand is the science of abbreviation. --Pitman


Lesson 1


1. Punctuation is the same as in longhand although you may want to use different symbols for the dash and hyphen if you want to reserve N and M for abbreviations. Since capitals are not spoken, they are not used in phonetic writing. However, you could use proofreader convention and triple underline the first sound.

hyphen dash


2. An upward hook can (but need not) be used for the ending D or ED sounds when preceded by R, L, N, M, NG, NK, or T, D. Two hooks make DIHD and an S or Z can be added.

bird   held   hand   hanged   baited   padded   handed   hands


3. Words ending in the TUHN, TIHN, or TEHN sounds can be written as a T-N blend. The NT sound can be written as an T-N blend.

T-N and NT

cotton   hint   tense   paint   extend   spent   Washington


4. International sounds can be written. The E in "el bebe" is the EH small circle. The trilled double R is just written RR. The KH sound in "Bach" is a K-H blend. The LL sound is represented by Y, and the sound is NY.

el bebe   perro   Bach   llama   bao


5. Long or compound words need not be written as one continuous line, and parts can overlap as in Chinese ideographs for a more compact form.

 cannot understand

development convenient


6. Just for fun:


Ode to Handy Hand


The lesson one must learn is clear,

Listen! And write only what you hear.

Graphemes number many hundred,

Phonemes are but few when numbered.



So let us take our pens in hand,


And learn to write in Handy Hand.


Then will we never misspell a word,


'Cause they're written just like they're heard.




And there's no T's to cross, no I's to dot,


As for apostrophes, they're not used a lot.


But just five vowels we cannot permit,


There are more than that we must admit.




And if we're to write the speedy way,


Then we must practice everyday.


Thus will we come to understand,


The advantages of learning Handy Hand.




Lesson 2


1. General abbreviating principle: Write out as much of a word as is required to suggest its meaning (to you), and put a dot.


2. If you must pause for even a fraction of a second in composing an abbreviation, the abbreviation becomes a speed handicap rather than a help, so abbreviate only words you often use.


3. The word ending -tion and -sion, can be written as SHN.



4. Certain other blends are possible. The sounds DEHM, DIHM, DUHM can be written as a D-M blend, like T-N but longer.

dimple    wisdom


The sounds of TEHM and TIHM can be written as a T-M blend, like T-N but with an extended straight line.




Lesson 3


Here's a short sample of writing using only a few short cuts and no shorthand abbreviations.

Read a poem or two in English/Leftywrite:

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Fire and Ice
The Tyger

Since Leftywrite is an "open source" project, those learning the system are encouraged to create and submit addition learning material. Creating the material, such as by transcribing famous quotes or poems into Leftywrite will help one and all. Hint: Write in pencil to allow corrections, scan at 100 dpi in 256 gray scale, save as .gif file and email it to: Eric Lee

Hints, tips, and suggestions.


Where to now?

To learn more than the basic handwriting system, checkout Leftywrite Shorthand.

To find out how Handywrite came to be, checkout Handywrite: The method and madness of invention.

For a general guide to various handwriting systems, checkout Alternative Handwriting and Shorthand Systems.

For an encyclopedia entry on Shorthand with links, checkout Wikipedia.

For advice on how to learn any new writing system, among other things, checkout Shorthand Systems.