Parmatéma was one of the four series of the Tengwar writing system. As with all of the series it consisted of six characters in each of six tyeller or 'grades'. This particular series took its name from the first of its signs, parma (literally meaning 'book', but here simply representing the character 'p'). Half of the symbols in this series had one bow or lúva while the other half had two bows. All bows in this series were closed (having a bar across the 'opening' of the bow), curving downwards and to the right from a stem, or telco, which was either lowered, raised, or shortened.
In principle, the characters in this series could represent a variety of different sounds, though in practice their use had become essentially standardised by the Third Age. The first four signs in the series, parma, umbar, formen and ampa, each represented a variant of the basic 'p' sound: 'p', 'b', 'f' and 'v', respectively. The fifth sign, malta, represented 'm', and finally vala indicated 'w'. The names of the characters had been assigned in Quenya and had also become standardised, which is why the names ampa and vala did not match the sound of the consonants that they represented.