Skip to content

Note Taking Abbreviations To Become More Productive

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: January 6, 2020

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: January 6, 2020


Taking notes during lectures has its benefits. But listening and writing at the same time is not something that comes easy to most people, especially with so much information coming in at once. By stopping even for a few seconds to write something down, you might miss out on some valuable class information. That’s why abbreviations were invented, to help save time and get as much written down in the least amount of characters. Here are some of the most useful note taking abbreviations and tips on how to best use them. Speed up your writing, one abbreviation at a time!

Why Take Notes?

Taking notes during class lectures not only helps to better concentrate on what’s being taught, but it also leaves you with a useful summary of the information. This information can be used as a reference later on and can help students avoid forgetting important points made in class. Notes are the ultimate key to success, and they can provide a broader understanding on what went on in class, especially with so much to process at once.

The Challenge

While it may seem rather simple to take notes in class, it’s actually quite the challenging task. While some people are better at multitasking than others, it’s still difficult to write things down while listening. For this very reason, we need to find simple ways to write down as much as possible as quickly as possible, and that’s where note taking abbreviations come in to save the day.

A student taking notes from an online lecture at the University Of The People

Photo by Judit Peter from Pexels

How To Abbreviate Words

1. Use the first part of words

Using just the first part of a word is a great way to shorten it, and is generally still clear and easy to understand. For example writing pol, instead of politics. This is one of the most straightforward note-taking abbreviations.

2. Use the start and end of the word

Using the start and end of a word can also be useful in saving time, and adding an apostrophe can also help make it more clear for some people, such as gov’t instead of the full word government.

3. Eliminate vowels

In some cases, you may have no choice but to spell out the entire word in order to make it understandable, but often you can at least skip the vowels to save some time. For example writing schl instead of school or prblm instead of problem. Every letter counts when it comes to note-taking abbreviations.

4. Make your own

You’re the one writing these abbreviations, and also the one using them. So whatever will help you save time and still make sense of what’s written — go for it! At the end of the day, there are no rules when it comes to abbreviations. The ball is in your court, and that’s exactly the beauty of note-taking abbreviations.

5. Use symbols

Symbols are a great way to save time when taking notes, and generally are just one simple character. When it comes to topics such as science and math, note-taking symbols are especially useful.

6. Leave out periods

While standard abbreviations may have periods, skip them! They don’t really do much good other than take more unnecessary time to write down while trying to simultaneously listen to the lecturer. For example, the United States of America can just be written as “USA” instead of “U.S.A.”

7. Use the first syllable and first letter

One example of this type of note taking abbreviation is subj instead of subject.

8. Get rid of the end of the word

Who needs the end of a word anyway? It’s not the end of the world! But really — take the example of the word information. There’s no need to write it all out, since info will surely do the trick. Intro instead of introduction is also another classic example.

9. Use only the final consonant

When it comes to note-taking abbreviations, using only the final consonant of a word is also great. For example, demy instead of writing out democracy.

10. Don’t shorten already short words

Words that are already short don’t need to be shortened even more. Save yourself the time and the headache of trying to figure out not only how to shorten these words, but also how to make sense of them. In, at, to, for and all those two to three letter words can stay as they came in one piece.

11. Forget the unnecessary verbs

Some verbs are just not needed at all, and getting rid of them completely can help save you time while taking notes, such as be and went.

College students collaborating ideas and using note taking abbreviations to get as much information written down.

Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

Abbreviations For Note Taking

Here are some common note-taking abbreviations that already exist and are useful for speedy note taking:

w/ instead of with

b/c instead of because

=ity instead of equality

= instead of equals

E.g. instead of for example

I.e., for instance

agnst instead of against

btwn instead of between

cont. instead of continued

thru instead of through

stat instead of statistic

devel instead of development

soc instead of society

expl instead of explanation

sim instead of similar

lrg instead of large

approx instead of approximately

bk instead of book

ct: instead of compared to

cp. instead of comparison

def. instead of definition

fr instead of from

etc. instead of etcetera

re instead of regarding

nec instead of necessary

v instead of very

vs. instead of against

AM instead of morning

PM instead of evening

ASAP instead of as soon as possible

trad instead of traditional

Symbols For Note Taking

Note-taking symbols are a popular and useful way to save time while taking notes and getting the message across in just one simple character.

Δ represents change

↑­ represents increase

↓ represents decrease

→ represents leads to

represents female

represents male

\ represents therefore

represents more than

< represents less than

Historical Abbreviations

There are many abbreviations that are specific to historical words and terms. These can be especially helpful in your history classes, and can serve as a great cheat-sheet without having to look too deeply to come up with your own note-taking abbreviations.

19thC instead of 19th Century

WWI instead of World War I

WWII instead of World War II

Indust. Rev. instead of Industrial Revolution

Fren. Rev. Instead of French Revolution

Nat Soc instead of National Socialism

Prus instead of Prussian

US instead of United States of America

Eng. instead of England or English

GB instead of Great Britain

Common uses

All of these note-taking abbreviations and note-taking symbols mentioned are commonly used when it comes to taking notes and getting as much information written down in the shortest amount of time. They have been tried and proven to be easily understood, especially since they have now become a part of our daily language with texting.

Less Commonly Used Abbreviations

There are no shortage of abbreviations out there — however, some of them are less known and less commonly used. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use them and enjoy their time saving benefits!

A instead of Answer

Adm instead of administration

Abbr instead of abbreviation

Biol instead of biology

Conf instead of conference

Cr instead of credit

Gen instead of gender

Poss instead of possibly

Sp instead of special or specific

St instead of student or study

Yr instead of year

These masters students are using note taking abbreviations in order to still listen to their lecturer.

Photo by 祝 鹤槐 from Pexels

In Politics, Econ, and Culture

For anyone studying politics, economy or anything related to culture, these common abbreviations will surely come in handy when trying to take the most efficient notes in class.

Agrar instead of agrarian

Assoc instead of association

Bourg instead of bourgeois

Bureac instead of bureaucracy

For. instead of foreign

Hist instead of history

Ideol instead of ideology

Lib instead of liberalism

Mod instead of modern

Priv. instead of private

W.c instead of working class

Speedy Note Taking: Useful Symbols

While we’ve seen some seriously useful tips on how to take speedy notes through the use of abbreviations and note-taking symbols, here are some of the best and shortest symbols that are bound to save you time when you’re scrambling to get everything down.

2 instead of two, two, too

4 instead of for

8 instead of words ending in ate

≠ instead of does not equal

# instead of number

@ instead of at

? instead of question or uncertain

?d instead of questioned


Whether you come up with your own note-taking abbreviations and symbols, or use these handy one’s we’ve provided for you, you’re now ready to become more productive than ever and take the best notes in class. Speed up your note taking, one abbreviation at a time!

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.