A word pattern recognition system based on a virtual keyboard layout combines handwriting recognition with a virtual, graphical, or on-screen keyboard to provide a text input method with relative ease of use. The system allows the user to input text quickly with little or no visual attention from the user. The system supports a very large vocabulary of gesture templates in a lexicon, including practically all words needed for a particular user. In addition, the system utilizes various techniques and methods to achieve reliable recognition of a very large gesture vocabulary. Further, the system provides feedback and display methods to help the user effectively use and learn shorthand gestures for words. Word patterns are recognized independent of gesture scale and location. The present system uses language rules to recognize and connect suffixes with a preceding word, allowing users to break complex words into easily remembered segments.