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Shorthand is a writing method that can be done at speed because an abbreviated or symbolic form of language is used. It is commonly used by court stenographers. The word stenography comes from the Greek for "close writing".

Many forms of shorthand exist. The method was more popular in the past, when anything needing transcribing had to be written in real-time. This was a valuable skills to secretaries. Shorthand is basically a way of writing that represents common words, phrases and sentences in symbols or abbreviations that the writter can write faster, to allow people to write as fast as people speak.

One of the most widely known forms of shorthand is the Pitman method, developed by Isaac Pitman in 1837. Issac's brother Benn Pitman, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, was responsible for introducing the method to America. The method has been adapted for 15 languages. The system is phonetic as it is the word sounds that are written rather than the letters. For this reason, the system is sometimes known as 'phonography', meaning 'sound writing' in Greek. One of the reasons this method allows fast transcription is that vowel sounds are optional when only consonants are needed to determine a word.

Although Pitman's method was extremely popular at first (and is still commonly used) it has been superseded as the most popular system by one developed by John Robert Gregg in 1888. Gregg's system, like Pitman's, is phonetic, but has the advantage of being "light-line." While Pitman's system uses thick and thin strokes to distinguish related sounds, Gregg's uses only thin strokes and makes some of the same distinctions by the length of the stroke.

Other systems have been developed by, among others:

Dutton Speedwords is a method of shorthand that had the dual function of also being an international auxilary language.

see also: abbreviation, transcript, court reporter


Pitmans College (1975). Shorthand. Hodder and Stoughton. (ISBN 0340056878)

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