If the characters in the image here look like a foreign language to you, you’re not alone. Before technology made it easier for human beings to take notes and track conversations, dictation and documentation were recorded in shorthand so the scribe could get more information down on the page faster and more accurately. Because writing whole words can take a long time, a shorthand helps the scribe compress the language to capture as much information as possible in as short a time as possible.
Because the average person speaks at about 125 to 150 words per minute, there is no way a person can record all the words on the page if they’re writing out every word and every letter. The speaker will move too fast, and information will get lost in translation. That’s why shorthand was invented – so the secretary could keep up and capture as much information from a speaker as possible. This really helped certain politicians and leaders get ahead because they knew more than their competitors.
Shorthand has two systems. One was developed by Thomas Pitman. His shorthand has been used widely in Britain. The other version, developed by John Robert Gregg, is more commonly used in the United States. If you’re familiar with these shorthand languages, then you’re among the most elite linguist in the country.
The shorthand characters allow someone to take notes down at the speed at which they were spoken. You don’t have to skip over certain parts or leave anything out. This makes it much more accurate and better for future recall.
Pitman’s version of shorthand includes 25 single consonants, 24 double consonants, and 16 vowel sounds. More on this later.
Because shorthand compresses how many characters are used to represent a word, it is sometimes known as “stenography,” which translates to “narrow writing” in Greek.
While Pittman focused on the alphabet, John Robert Greene took shorthand one step further by focusing on the sounds of words.
If you learn how to use shorthand, you can write down a lot of words much faster than you ever thought possible.
Shorthand is not as common as it once was – especially now that people can type, which is often faster than handwriting (especially when their skills are empowered with autocorrect and spellcheck). However, the skill still proves useful in fields like medicine, law, and the sciences. In these fields, speed can be an important skill, so information is captured accurately.
One fun way to use shorthand would be to learn it along with a friend or a spouse. Then you can communicate with each other in a “secret language” that most other people will think is a foreign alphabet. Because shorthand is not nearly as common as it once was – and resembles the letters in the Arabic alphabet more than English – people will shy away from it and write it off as something they simply won’t be able to understand.
But with a tutorial and practice, you can learn shorthand in no time at all.
Would you like to learn?