Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases
speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common
method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is
called stenography, from the Greek stenos (narrow) and graphein (to
write). It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys
(short) and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy), depending
on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.
Many forms of shorthand exist. A typical shorthand system provides
symbols or abbreviations for words and common phrases, which can allow
someone well-trained in the system to write as quickly as people
Abbreviation methods are alphabet-based and use different
abbreviating approaches. Several autocomplete programs, standalone or
integrated in text editors, based on word lists, also include a
shorthand function for frequently used phrases. Many journalists use
shorthand writing to quickly take notes at press conferences or other
Shorthand was used more widely in the past, before the invention of
recording and dictation machines.
Shorthand was considered an
essential part of secretarial training and police work, as well as
useful for journalists. Although the primary use of shorthand has been
to record oral dictation or discourse, some systems are used for
compact expression. For example, healthcare professionals may use
shorthand notes in medical charts and correspondence.
are typically temporary, intended either for immediate use or for
later typing, data entry, or (mainly historically) transcription to
longhand, although longer term uses do exist, such as encipherment:
diaries (like that of the famous Samuel Pepys) are a common
1.1 Classical antiquity
1.2 Imperial China
1.3 Europe and America
2.1 Geometric and script-like systems
2.2 Systems resembling standard writing
2.3 Varieties of vowel representation
2.4 Machine shorthand systems
3 Common modern English shorthand systems
4 Notable shorthand systems
5 See also
7 External links
The earliest known indication of shorthand systems is from the
Parthenon in Ancient Greece, where a mid-4th century BC marble slab
was found. This shows a writing system primarily based on vowels,
using certain modifications to indicate consonants. Hellenistic
tachygraphy is reported from the 2nd century BC onwards, though there
are indications that it might be older. The oldest datable reference
is a contract from Middle Egypt, stating that Oxyrhynchos gives the
"semeiographer" Apollonios for two years to be taught shorthand
writing. Hellenistic tachygraphy consisted of word stem signs and word
ending signs. Over time, many syllabic signs were developed.
In Ancient Rome,
Marcus Tullius Tiro (103–4 BC), a slave and
later a freedman of Cicero, developed the
Tironian notes so that he
could write down Cicero's speeches. Plutarch (c46-c120 AD) in his
"Life of Cato the Younger" (95-46 BC) records that Cicero, during a
trial of some insurrectionists in the senate, employed several expert
rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous
words in a few short strokes, to preserve Cato's speech on this
Tironian notes consisted of
Latin word stem
abbreviations (notae) and of word ending abbreviations (titulae). The
Tironian notes consisted of about 4000 signs, but new signs
were introduced, so that their number might increase to as many as
13,000. In order to have a less complex writing system, a syllabic
shorthand script was sometimes used. After the decline of the Roman
Tironian notes were no longer used to transcribe speeches,
though they were still known and taught, particularly during the
Carolingian Renaissance. After the 11th century, however, they were
When many monastery libraries were secularized in the course of the
16th-century Protestant Reformation, long-forgotten manuscripts of
Tironian notes were rediscovered.
Sun Guoting's Treatise on Calligraphy, an example of cursive writing
of Chinese characters.
Cursive script (East Asia)
In imperial China, clerks used an abbreviated, highly cursive form of
Chinese characters to record court proceedings and criminal
confessions. These records were used to create more formal
transcripts. One cornerstone of imperial court proceedings was that
all confessions had to be acknowledged by the accused's signature,
personal seal, or thumbprint, requiring fast writing.[not in citation
given] Versions of this technique survived in clerical professions
into the modern day, and influenced by Western shorthand methods, some
new methods were invented.
Europe and America
An interest in shorthand or "short-writing" developed towards the end
of the 16th century in England. In 1588
Timothy Bright published his
Characterie; An Arte of Shorte, Swifte and Secrete Writing by
Character which introduced a system with 500 arbitrary symbols each
representing one word. Bright's book was followed by a number of
others, including Peter Bales' The Writing Schoolemaster in 1590, John
Willis's Art of Stenography in 1602, Edmond Willis's An abbreviation
of writing by character in 1618, and Thomas Shelton's Short Writing in
1626 (later re-issued as Tachygraphy).
Shelton's system became very popular and is well known because it was
Samuel Pepys for his diary and for many of his official
papers, such as his letter copy books. It was also used by Sir Isaac
Newton in some of his notebooks. Shelton borrowed heavily from his
predecessors, especially Edmond Willis. Each consonant was represented
by an arbitrary but simple symbol, while the five vowels were
represented by the relative positions of the surrounding consonants.
Thus the symbol for B with symbol for T drawn directly above it
represented "bat", while B with T below it meant "but"; top-right
represented "e", middle-right "i", and lower-right "o". A vowel at the
end of a word was represented by a dot in the appropriate position,
while there were additional symbols for initial vowels. This basic
system was supplemented by further symbols representing common
prefixes and suffixes.
One drawback of Shelton's system was that there was no way to
distinguish long and short vowels or diphthongs; so the b-a-t sequence
could mean "bat", or "bait", or "bate", while b-o-t might mean "boot",
or "bought", or "boat". The reader needed to use the context to work
out which alternative was meant. The main advantage of the system was
that it was easy to learn and to use. It was popular, and under the
two titles of Short Writing and Tachygraphy, Shelton's book ran to
more than 20 editions between 1626 and 1710.
Shelton's chief rivals were Theophilus Metcalfe's Stenography or Short
Writing (1633) which was in its "55th edition" by 1721, and Jeremiah
Rich's system of 1654, which was published under various titles
including The penns dexterity compleated (1669). Another notable
English shorthand system creator of the 17th century was William Mason
(fl. 1672–1709) who published Arts Advancement in 1682.
Tombstone of Heinrich Roller, inventor of a German shorthand system,
with a sample of his shorthand
Modern-looking geometric shorthand was introduced with John Byrom's
Shorthand of 1720. Samuel Taylor published a similar
system in 1786, the first English shorthand system to be used all over
the English-speaking world. Thomas Gurney published Brachygraphy in
the mid-18th century. In 1834 in Germany, Franz Xaver Gabelsberger
published his Gabelsberger shorthand. Gabelsberger based his shorthand
on the shapes used in German cursive handwriting rather than on the
geometrical shapes that were common in the English stenographic
Taylor's system was superseded by Pitman shorthand, first introduced
in 1837 by English teacher Sir Isaac Pitman, and improved many times
since. Pitman's system has been used all over the English-speaking
world and has been adapted to many other languages, including Latin.
Pitman's system uses a phonemic orthography. For this reason, it is
sometimes known as phonography, meaning "sound writing" in Greek. One
of the reasons this system allows fast transcription is that vowel
sounds are optional when only consonants are needed to determine a
word. The availability of a full range of vowel symbols, however,
makes complete accuracy possible. Isaac's brother Benn Pitman, who
lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, was responsible for introducing the method
to America. The record for fast writing with
Pitman shorthand is 350
wpm during a two-minute test by Nathan Behrin in 1922. Despite
being 175 years old Pitman's shorthand is still relevant today and
used by thousands of journalists, executive PAs and secretaries across
the world. In Europe, particularly in Great Britain there are
thousands of educational institutions teaching Pitman's famous
United States and some other parts of the world it has been
largely superseded by Gregg shorthand, which was first published in
1888 by John Robert Gregg. This system was influenced by the
handwriting shapes that Gabelsberger had introduced. Gregg's
shorthand, like Pitman's, is phonetic, but has the simplicity of being
"light-line." Pitman's system uses thick and thin strokes to
distinguish related sounds, while Gregg's uses only thin strokes and
makes some of the same distinctions by the length of the stroke. In
fact, Gregg claimed joint authorship in another shorthand system
published in pamphlet form by one Thomas Stratford Malone; Malone,
however, claimed sole authorship and a legal battle ensued. The two
systems use very similar, if not identical, symbols; however, these
symbols are used to represent different sounds. For instance, on page
10 of the manual is the word d i m 'dim'; however, in the Gregg system
the spelling would actually mean n u k or 'nook'.
Our Japanese pen shorthand began in 1882, transplanted from the
American Pitman-Graham system. Geometric theory has great influence in
Japan. But Japanese motions of writing gave some influence to our
shorthand. We are proud to have reached the highest speed in capturing
spoken words with a pen. Major pen shorthand systems are Shuugiin,
Sangiin, Nakane and Waseda [a repeated vowel shown here means a vowel
spoken in double-length in Japanese, sometimes shown instead as a bar
over the vowel]. Including a machine-shorthand system, Sokutaipu, we
have 5 major shorthand systems now. The Japan
now has 1,000 members.
There are several other pen shorthands in use (Ishimura, Iwamura,
Kumassaki, Kotani, and Nissokuken), leading to a total of nine pen
shorthands in use. In addition, there is the Yamane pen shorthand (of
unknown importance) and three machine shorthands systems (Speed
Waapuro, Caver and Hayatokun or sokutaipu.) The machine shorthands
have gained some ascendancy over the pen shorthands.
Japanese shorthand systems ('sokki' shorthand or 'sokkidou'
stenography) commonly use a syllabic approach, much like the common
writing system for Japanese (which has actually two syllabaries in
everyday use). There are several semi-cursive systems. Most follow
a left-to-right, top-to-bottom writing direction. Several systems
incorporate a loop into many of the strokes, giving the appearance of
Gregg, Graham, or Cross's Eclectic shorthand without actually
functioning like them. The Kotani (aka Same-Vowel-Same-Direction
or SVSD or V-type) system's strokes frequently cross over each
other and in so doing form loops.
Japanese also has its own variously cursive form of writing kanji
characters, the most extremely simplified of which is known as Sōsho.
The two Japanese syllabaries are themselves adapted from the Grass
Script versions of the Chinese characters; the hiragana being direct
adaptations and the katakana being adapted from the hiragana (both
katakana and hiragana are in everyday use alongside the Chinese
characters known as kanji; the kanji, being developed in parallel to
the Chinese characters, have their own idiosyncrasies, but Chinese and
Japanese ideograms are largely comprehensible, even if their use in
the languages are not the same.)
Prior to the Meiji era, Japanese did not have its own shorthand (the
kanji did have their own abbreviated forms borrowed alongside them
from China). Takusari Kooki was the first to give classes in a new
Western-style non-ideographic shorthand of his own design, emphasis
being on the non-ideographic and new. This was the first shorthand
system adapted to writing phonetic Japanese, all other systems prior
being based on the idea of whole or partial semantic ideographic
writing like that used in the Chinese characters, and the phonetic
approach being mostly peripheral to writing in general (even today,
Japanese writing uses the syllabaries to pronounce or spell out words,
or to indicate grammatical words. Furigana are written alongside
kanji, or Chinese characters, to indicate their pronunciation
especially in juvenile publications. Furigana are usually written
using the hiragana syllabary; foreign words may not have a kanji form
and are spelled out using katakana.)
The new sokki were used to transliterate popular vernacular
story-telling theater (yose) of the day. This led to a thriving
industry of sokkibon (shorthand books). The ready availability of the
stories in book form, and higher rates of literacy (which the very
industry of sokkibon may have helped create, due to these being oral
classics that were already known to most people) may also have helped
kill the yose theater, as people no longer needed to see the stories
performed in person to enjoy them. Sokkibon also allowed a whole host
of what had previously been mostly oral rhetorical and narrative
techniques into writing, such as imitation of dialect in conversations
(which can be found back in older gensaku literature; but gensaku
literature used conventional written language in-between
Geometric and script-like systems
Shorthands that use simplified letterforms are sometimes termed
stenographic shorthands, contrasting with alphabetic shorthands,
below. Stenographic shorthands can be further differentiated by the
target letter forms as geometric, script, and semi-script or
Geometric shorthands are based on circles, parts of circles, and
straight lines placed strictly horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
The first modern shorthand systems were geometric. Examples include
Pitman Shorthand, Boyd's Syllabic Shorthand, Samuel Taylor's Universal
Stenography, the French Prévost-Delaunay, and the Duployé system,
adapted to write the
Kamloops Wawa (used for Chinook Jargon) writing
Script shorthands are based on the motions of ordinary handwriting.
The first system of this type was published under the title Cadmus
Britanicus by Simon Bordley, in 1787. However, the first practical
system was the German
Gabelsberger shorthand of 1834. This class of
system is now common in all more recent German shorthand systems, as
well as in Austria, Italy, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Russia, other
Eastern European countries, and elsewhere.
Script-geometric, or semi-script, shorthands are based on the ellipse.
Semi-script can be considered a compromise between the geometric
systems and the script systems. The first such system was that of
George Carl Märes in 1885. However, the most successful system of
this type was Gregg shorthand, introduced by
John Robert Gregg
John Robert Gregg in
1888. Gregg had studied not only the geometric English systems, but
also the German Stolze stenography, a script shorthand. Other examples
Teeline Shorthand and Thomas Natural Shorthand.
The semi-script philosophy gained popularity in Italy in the first
half of the 20th century with three different systems created by Cima,
Meschini, and Mosciaro.
Systems resembling standard writing
Some shorthand systems attempted to ease learning by using characters
Latin alphabet. Such non-stenographic systems have often been
described as alphabetic, and purists might claim that such systems are
not 'true' shorthand. However, these alphabetic systems do have value
for students who cannot dedicate the years necessary to master a
stenographic shorthand. Alphabetic shorthands cannot be written at the
speeds theoretically possible with symbol systems—200 words per
minute or more—but require only a fraction of the time to acquire a
useful speed of between 60 and 100 words per minute.
Non-stenographic systems often supplement alphabetic characters by
using punctuation marks as additional characters, giving special
significance to capitalised letters, and sometimes using additional
non-alphabetic symbols. Examples of such systems include Stenoscript,
Speedwriting and Forkner shorthand. However, there are some pure
alphabetic systems, including Personal Shorthand, SuperWrite, Easy
Script Speed Writing and Keyscript
Shorthand which limit their symbols
to a priori alphabetic characters. These have the added advantage that
they can also be typed—for instance, onto a computer, PDA, or
cellphone. Early editions of
Speedwriting were also adapted so that
they could be written on a typewriter, and therefore would possess the
Varieties of vowel representation
Shorthand systems can also be classified according to the way that
vowels are represented.
Alphabetic – Expression by "normal" vowel signs that are not
fundamentally different from consonant signs (e.g., Gregg, Duployan).
Mixed alphabetic – Expression of vowels and consonants by different
kinds of strokes (e.g., Arends' system for German or Melin's Swedish
Shorthand where vowels are expressed by upward or sideway strokes and
consonants and consonant clusters by downward strokes).
Abjad – No expression of the individual vowels at all except for
indications of an initial or final vowel (e.g., Taylor).
Marked abjad – Expression of vowels by the use of detached signs
(such as dots, ticks, and other marks) written around the consonant
Positional abjad – Expression of an initial vowel by the height of
the word in relation to the line, no necessary expression of
subsequent vowels (e.g., Pitman, which can optionally express other
vowels by detached diacritics).
Abugida – Expression of a vowel by the shape of a stroke, with the
consonant indicated by orientation (e.g., Boyd).
Mixed abugida – Expression of the vowels by the width of the joining
stroke that leads to the following consonant sign, the height of the
following consonant sign in relation to the preceding one, and the
line pressure of the following consonant sign (e.g., most German
Machine shorthand systems
Traditional shorthand systems are written on paper with a stenographic
pencil or a stenographic pen. Some consider that strictly speaking
only handwritten systems can be called shorthand.
Machine shorthand is also a common term for writing produced by a
stenotype, a specialized keyboard. These are often used for court room
transcripts and in live subtitling. However, there are other shorthand
machines used worldwide, including: Velotype;
Palantype in the UK;
Grandjean Stenotype, used extensively in France and French-speaking
countries; Michela Stenotype, used extensively in Italy; and Stenokey,
used in Bulgaria and elsewhere. See also
Speech-to-Text Reporter a
person using a form of realtime shorthand originally designed to
assist deaf people.
Common modern English shorthand systems
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One of the most widely used forms of shorthand is still the Pitman
shorthand method described above, which has been adapted for 15
languages. Although Pitman's method was extremely popular at first
and is still commonly used, especially in the UK, its popularity has
been superseded, especially in the U.S., by Gregg shorthand, developed
John Robert Gregg
John Robert Gregg in 1888.
In the UK, the spelling-based (rather than phonetic) Teeline shorthand
is now more commonly taught and used than Pitman, and Teeline is the
recommended system of the National Council for the Training of
Journalists with an overall speed of 100 words per minute necessary
for certification. Other less commonly used systems in the UK are
Pitman 2000, PitmanScript, Speedwriting, and Gregg. Teeline is also
the most common shorthand method taught to New Zealand journalists,
whose certification typically requires a shorthand speed of at least
80 words per minute.
Shorthand is still taught in higher institutions of
learning especially for students studying Office Technology Management
and Business Education.
Notable shorthand systems
For a more comprehensive list, see List of shorthand systems.
Current Shorthand (Henry Sweet)
Duployan Shorthand (Émile Duployé)
Eclectic Shorthand (J.G. Cross)
Gabelsberger shorthand (Franz Xaver Gabelsberger)
Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift  (German Unified Shorthand), which is
based on the ideas of systems by Gabelsberger, Stolze, Faulmann and
other German system inventors
Gregg Shorthand (John Robert Gregg)
Munson Shorthand (James Eugene Munson)
Personal Shorthand, originally called Briefhand
Pitman Shorthand (Isaac Pitman)
Speedwriting (Emma Dearborn)
Teeline Shorthand (James Hill)
Tironian notes (Marcus Tullius Tiro), 63 BC
^ Pepys, Samuel; Latham, Robert; Matthews, William (1970), The diary
of Samuel Pepys: a new and complete transcription, Bell & Hyman,
ISBN 978-0-7135-1551-0 , Volume I, pp. xlvii–liv (for
Thomas Shelton's shorthand system and Pepys' use of it)
阿原的日志 - 网易博客". 163.com. Archived from the original
^ 中国速记的发展简史 Archived 2009-11-12 at the Wayback
^ 迎接中国速记110年(颜廷超) Archived December 28, 2010, at
the Wayback Machine.
^ "教授弋乂_新浪博客". sina.com.cn.
Richard S. Westfall
Richard S. Westfall (1963), "Short-Writing and the State of Newton's
Conscience, 1662", Notes and records of the Royal Society, Volume 18,
Issue 1, Royal Society, pp. 10–16
^ "NEW WORLD'S RECORD FOR SHORTHAND SPEED".
^ "Script phonography". archive.org.
^ "Books", Pitman Shorthand, Homestead .
^ Kaneko (PPT), IT: Intersteno .
^ Housiki, Okoshi Yasu .
^ "速記文字文例". okoshi-yasu.net.
^ Sokkidou, JP: OCN, archived from the original on 2013-05-22 .
^ Sokkidou, OCN, p. 60, archived from the original on
^ Steno, Nifty, archived from the original on 2016-03-04 .
^ Miller, J. Scott (1994), Japanese
Shorthand and Sokkibon, Sophia
University , Volume 49, No. 4, pp. 473 (for the origins of modern
^ Miller, J. Scott (1994), Japanese
Shorthand and Sokkibon, Sophia
University , Volume 49, No. 4, pp. 471–487 (for the origins of
modern Japanese writing and shorthand)
^ Sweet, Henry (1892), A manual of current shorthand orthographic and
phonetic by Henry Sweet, Clarendon, OCLC 250138117
^ Perrault, Denis R; Duploye, Emile; Gueguen, Jean Pierre; Pilling,
James Constantine, La sténographie Duployé adaptée aux langues des
sauvages de la Baie d'Hudson, des Postes Moose Factory, de New Post,
d'Albany, de Waswanipi & de Mékiskan, Amérique du Nord /
[between 1889 and 1895] (in French), OCLC 35787900
^ Cross, J G (1879), Cross's eclectic short-hand: a new system,
adapted both to general use and to verbatim reporting, Chicago, S.C.
Griggs and Co. , OCLC 2510784
^ Geiger, Alfred (1860), Stenography, or, Universal European shorthand
(on Gabelsberger's principles) : as already introduced in
Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Greece, Italy &c,
Dresden, OCLC 41010411
^ Czerny, Karl (1925), Umlernbuch auf die deutsche
Einheitskurzschrift : Für Gabelsbergersche Stenographen (in
German), Eigenverl, OCLC 72106122
^ Gregg, John Robert; Power, Pearl A (1901), Gregg shorthand
dictionary, Gregg Pub. Co, OCLC 23108068
^ Munson, James Eugene (1880), Munson's system of phonography. The
phrase-book of practical phonography, containing a list of useful
phrases, printed in phonographic outlines; a complete and thorough
treatise on the art of phraseography ... etc, New York, J.E.
Munson, OCLC 51625624
^ Salser, Carl Walter; Yerian, C Theo (1968), Personal shorthand,
National Book Co, OCLC 11720787
^ Isaac Pitman (1937), Pitman shorthand, Toronto,
^ Dearborn, Emma B (1927), Speedwriting, the natural shorthand, Brief
English systems, inc., OCLC 4791648
^ Hill, James (1968), Teeline: a method of fast writing, London,
Heinemann Educational, OCLC 112342
^ Mitzschke, Paul Gottfried; Lipsius, Justus; Heffley, Norman P
(1882), Biography of the father of stenography, Marcus Tullius Tiro.
Together with the
Latin letter, "De notis," concerning the origin of
shorthand, Brooklyn, N.Y, OCLC 11943552
Look up shorthand in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shorthand.
The Louis A. Leslie Collection of Historical
Shorthand Materials at
Rider University – materials for download
Shorthand Place – includes chronological list of shorthand
Types of handwritten European scripts