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Most Effective Note-Taking Abbreviations and Symbols

If you want to take notes quickly and efficiently, it helps to memorize a few effective note-taking abbreviations and symbols. These shortcuts will help you record the information you need while still being able to listen in class and in meetings. Take a few minutes to review the list and practice these abbreviations so you’ll be ready the next time you need to take notes.

College student taking notes in classCollege student taking notes in class

Common Note-Taking Symbols

The following symbols offer a quick way to record what you hear or read. They are also familiar to most people, so if you plan to share your notes with someone else, they can be very useful.

  • → - Leads to or results in

  • ↓ - Decrease

  • ↑ - Increase

  • = - Is equivalent to

  • < - Less than

  • > - More than

  • @ - At

  • ? - Question

  • / - Per

  • ~ - Approximately or about

  • # - Number

  • & - And

  • ! - Important

  • $ - Money

  • ∴ - Therefore

  • ∵ - Because

General Note-Taking Abbreviations to Use

You can also use note-taking abbreviations to save time. These shortened versions of words are quick to write and easy to understand.

  • ASAP - As soon as possible

  • b/c - Because

  • b/w - Between

  • c. - Circa

  • gov. or gov/t - Government

  • edu. or educ. - Education

  • e.g. - For example (from the Latin term, exempli gratia)

  • esp. - Especially 

  • et. al. - And others (from the Latin term, et alii)

  • etc. - And so on (from the Latin term, et cetera)

  • ex. - Example

  • i.e. - In other words (from the Latin term, id est)

  • indv. - Individual

  • lrg. - Large

  • max. - Maximum

  • min. - Minimum or minute

  • n/a - Not applicable

  • prob. - Probably

  • re: - Regarding or about

  • ref. - References needed or refer to

  • sim. - Similar

  • sm. - Small

  • thru - Through

  • vs. - Versus

  • w/ - With

  • wd. - Word

  • w/o - Without

  • yr. - Year or years

Note-Taking Abbreviations for Subjects

Certain subjects have specific note-taking abbreviations and symbols that go with them. If you’re studying one of these, familiarize yourself with the associated abbreviations.

History and Social Studies Note-Taking Abbreviations

In addition to getting to know the abbreviations for the US states, countries of the world, and other geographical areas, use these abbreviations for social studies and history notes:

  • 19th C. - 19th century (can be used with other numbers for other centuries)

  • Can. - Canada

  • Eng. - English

  • Fr. - French

  • Fr. Rev. - French Revolution

  • GB - Great Britain

  • Ind. Rev. - Industrial Revolution

  • pop. - Population

  • US - United States

  • WWI - World War I

  • WWII - World War II

English and Literature Note-Taking Abbreviations

If you’re studying language arts or English, these abbreviations and symbols can come in handy when you take notes:

  • chap. - Chapter

  • p. - Page

  • pp - Pages

  • rev. - Revised

  • wrt. - Written or written by

Note-Taking Symbols for Science

Use these abbreviations to speed up your note-taking during science lectures or while reading scientific information. Also take some time to familiarize yourself with common abbreviations for measuring time and distance.

  • alt. - Altitude

  • at. no. - Atomic number

  • at. wt. - Atomic weight

  • C - Celsius

  • F - Fahrenheit

  • fl. oz. - Fluid ounces

  • K - Kelvin

  • mph - Miles per hour

  • oz. - Ounce

  • rpm - Revolutions per minute

Making Your Own Note-Taking Abbreviations

As you take notes, the best abbreviations are ones that save you time. You may find there aren’t existing abbreviations for words you need to write frequently. If that’s the case, you can make your own. 

Use the First Few Letters

As you take notes, you can abbreviate words by using just the first few letters. For instance, you could simply write “Rom. lit.” for “Romantic literature.”

Skip the Vowels

When you read, you need the vowels to help you pronounce the word. However, if you are taking notes, you can leave them out to save time. For example, try “prblm” instead of “problem.”

Eliminate Periods in Abbreviations

It takes time to write the periods in many common abbreviations, and they really aren’t necessary for note-taking. For instance, you could write “USA” instead of “U.S.A.”

Don’t Bother Abbreviating Short Words

Too many abbreviations can make it difficult to read your notes, and that’s definitely not what you want. You can avoid this by abbreviating only when it makes sense. Don’t bother abbreviating shorter words like “of” or “the.” You can write these quickly and save a lot of time.

Note-Taking Matters

Learning effective note-taking abbreviations is an important skill for any student or professional. How you take notes matters, since this is information you’ll use to study for tests, create future plans, write papers, and more.

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