2015-09-01

shorthand activity on Twitter

Once in a while I search Twitter to see if anyone is consistently posting tweets in shorthand. Haven’t found anyone doing that yet, much to my surprise, and there is very little tweeting about shorthand, although it’s difficult to be sure since the word “shorthand” has also become a slang term for any type of abbreviation or colloquialism. This broadening of the word makes searching difficult.

Teeline is by far the most tweeted shorthand system in the English-language twittersphere. Journalism students in the UK, essentially forced to learn shorthand as a job credential, usually opt for Teeline and often post a photo of their practice notes, as seen in tweets such as the following:

found my #teeline notes from when I studied #journalism

I have at last completed my shorthand course

started Googling 'teeline' and look through the images to find passages to try and read, literally love it #yolo

Riddled with errors but this is Unchained Melody in Teeline. Life.

Searching for Gregg Shorthand in English turned up virtually nothing, but the #steno hashtag unearthed a couple of tweets like this one:

a bit of Gregg with a non-English blurb 

Looking for Pitmanic tweets gave one relevant result, a tweet promoting a webinar that will try to get people interested in learning Pitman Shorthand.

Although this is only one momentary sample of the twitterverse, anyone studying the current sociological relevance of pen stenography could continue this sampling for a couple of semesters and then write a paper about the results. It appears that handwritten shorthand is a matter of no interest to the vast majority of Twitter’s English-speaking users.

2015-02-17

Primordial Teeline

When James Hill, a former teacher of Pitman’s Shorthand, released his first booklet describing Teeline, nobody could be sure at the time, but he had finally done what hundreds of shorthand reformers had tried to do for a century.

He had finally liberated the UK from the clutches of Pitman.

Hill’s decision to publish that booklet was roughly equivalent to Darth Vader’s decision to pick up the Emperor and toss him down the reactor shaft. Seriously – think about the analogy.

I recently had the good fortune to acquire a specimen of this publication: Teeline: a method of fast writing. Who would imagine that such a small thing could do so much good? It’s little more than a pamphlet, 19 centimeters tall, 32 pages bound in glossy cardstock. The specimen that I obtained is the 1969 reprint of the 1968 original.

click on image for larger view
In the preface, Mr Hill insists that Teeline is a discovery rather than an invention. While researching the characteristics of good shorthand systems, he came to believe “that those essentials are actually latent in ordinary handwriting.” As the cover indicated, Hill refers to Teeline as “a method of fast writing.” He never describes it as a type of shorthand. (And to this day, the word shorthand is almost never used in Teeline book titles.)

After some introductory remarks he describes the now-familiar Teeline techniques of deleting as many vowels and unsounded consonants from words as possible. And then the alphabet appears.

The alphabet of ’68 was slightly different from today’s glyph-set. At the beginning of a word, d was written with a casual d that resembles a mirror image of Teeline b. The horizontal dash version of d was only used within words and at the ends of words. The letter f was usually written like a squashed numeral 8, but it became a single loop when blending with other letters. The letter n had two forms, one of which has become extinct. There was no separate symbol for z. The vowel indicators for o and u were slightly different from what we use today:


Eight pages of the booklet are devoted to a list of abbreviations for common prefixes and suffixes. There is a brief discussion of “special abbreviations” (a.k.a. logograms or brief forms) and “word grouping” (a.k.a. phrasing) and some clever ways to write numeric expressions such as “hundred thousands” and “and a half.” An appendix lists contractions for common words such as able, every, give, of and so forth. The majority of these have changed since the pamphlet was published.


On page 32, Mr Hill notes that normal punctuation can be used, but “some fast writers” prefer to use a long slanting line rather than a dot to indicate the end of a sentence. I’m glad to see this because I’ve always thought the huge slash-mark which is currently trendy in Teeline looks absurd; now we see that the Founder gave use permission to use a proper period.

The book concludes with a rare treasure: a chart showing how to write two consecutive vowels in Teeline.


I’m very happy to have this precious, liberating book in my collection and I wanted to share those little glimpses with you, Dear Reader. Now I’m left wondering who governed the evolution of the system and how rapidly the evolution took place.

2015-02-14

two new Gregg Shorthand blogs, duly noted

A Shorthand Journey
a student documents the process of learning Gregg Anniversary

DailyGregg
tips and texts for students of Gregg Simplified

2014-12-20

quick summary of Emma Dearborn's Speedwriting

Here are some notes on the original version of Speedwriting invented by Emma Dearborn in the 1920s. (After she died various people controlled the Speedwriting trademark over the years and made modifications as time went by.) To learn more about this system, get your hands on a copy of Speedwriting – the Natural Shorthand by Emma B. Dearborn; the original version was published in 1923 and re-printed several times between 1923 and 1937.

Speedwriting can be handwritten or typed on a typewriter. (It is keyboard-friendly.)

Speedwriting uses all of the same "devices" used in other shorthand systems: omission of silent letters, phonetic writing rather than mirroring English spelling, systematic abbreviation of long words, arbitrary wordsigns (a.k.a. brief forms) for the most common words, combining wordsigns without spaces between them into phrases, etc.

Handwritten Speedwriting uses a slightly modified version of regular cursive writing. The "t" is not crossed, it is merely a tall vertical line, so the "l" must be written with a distinct loop.

A declarative sentence ends with a regular period (a.k.a. full stop) and a question ends with a normal question mark.

Omit all silent letters: know > no

Hard c becomes k: could > kd … college > klj

Infinitive "to" (as in "to see") becomes t, affixed to the following verb: to know > tno

In "as … as" phrases, as becomes s: as well as > sls … as long as > slgs

sol lkt mon Os. = Some will like it more than others.

wl lk tdo thwk. = We all like to do this work.

Words are written by sound rather than conventional spelling: new > nu, weigh > wa, try > tri

The "ch" sound is represented by c: check > ck … touch > tc

In the middle or end of a word the "ow" sound is represented by w: cow > kw … mouse > mws

The suffixes -ly, -ily, -ley are reduced to l: nearly > nel … family > fml … valley > vl

tk moti adou wkl. = Take more time and do your work well.

luk V tor pl nw? = Will you come over to our place now?

In the middle or end of a word the "ee" sound is represented by a comma: money > mn,

The ng sound is usually reduced to g: long > lg … sing > sg

-ing or -thing at the end of a word is also reduced to g: knowing > nog … nothing > ng

"and" is omitted from phrases like these: more and more > momo … over and over > VV

Two wordsigns can be combined to represent another word: anything > n,tg

Numbers larger than one are written numerically rather than phonetically: in a day or two > nad or 2

hod lk tg tr ag wme? = Who would like to go there again with me?

evy trs momo tdo. = Every year there is more and more to do.

In words like "something" the "some" is reduced to s: sometimes > stis

In words like "however" the "ever" is reduced to v: whenever > wnv

The "th" sound can usually be represented by t: them > tm

When "s" at the end of a word is pronounced as z, it is written as z: raise > rz

Past tense (-ed) and present participle (-ing) are omitted when the writer feels it is safe to do so: I am doing well > imdo l … I have worked for you before > ivwk fubf

somn lk tse hwmc ty kdo nad b Os tkmo ti ado evg l. = Some men like to see how much they can do in a day but others take more time and do everything well.

The "oi" sound is represented by y: boil > byl … joy > jy

The "st" sound at the end of the word is represented by a comma: past > p, … missed > m,

When the first syllable of a rootword is capitalized, this indicates that the rootword is followed by -er, -der, -ter or -ther: mother > Mo … larger > Lj

wkd tltm ab aO by hosd tsa tg. = We could tell them about another boy who said the same thing.

ehs hdhi befw atl, ta tm, kdw. = He had his head high but he found at last that it must come down.

Medial and final "ple" is reduced to p: triple > trp … sample > smp

The "sh" sound is represented by uppercase Z: rushing > rZg … shoes > Zz

A diagonal stroke (from lower left to upper right) represents "rd" or "rt" at the end of a syllable: card > k/ … artist > a/, …

To add plural "s" or present tense "s" to a word that ends with a symbol, repeat the symbol: birds > b// … casts > k,,

ustl fipp he holgiu akiw/. = You still find people here who will give you a kind word.

The "nd" and "nt" and "ment" sounds are represented by a hyphen: front > fr- … paint > pa- … sentiment > s--

"ity" at the end of a word can be represented by a semicolon: oddity > od; … divinity > dvn;

"nk" at the end of a syllable is represented by q: sink > sq … banquet > bqt

itq tyvb nts; mo, vtti. = I think they have been in the city most of the time.

fawl hwv tywk nets; osol-. = For a while, however, they worked near the city on some land.

update: Apparently I'm researching an article on the changes that happened to Speedwriting over the years. That must be the reason why there are so many Speedwriting books in my house?? After 1940 the people who took over the Speedwriting trademark made a lot of significant changes to the system.

2014-12-14

a Shorthand FAQ

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. I’ve been working on a FAQ for the Shorthand forum over on Reddit. Here’s the current draft…

Shorthand - Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is shorthand?


In general, the word “shorthand” refers to any system of symbols or abbreviations that make it possible for a person to write or to type much more quickly than ordinary “longhand” writing. The related term “stenography” also includes systems that use special machines for keyboarding or electronically transcribing spoken words.


What is the history of shorthand?


People who do a lot of writing (such as clerks, monks, scribes and secretaries) have been devising their own abbreviations for thousands of years. Beginning in the 1600s the inventors of these systems began to publish and advertise their creations. In the late 19th century there was a shorthand craze during which dozens of new systems were published and aggressively marketed.

In the middle of the 20th century, public interest in handwritten shorthand began to dwindle in many countries. The teaching of shorthand in American schools (with a tiny handful of exceptions) ended during the late 1980s.

People who take a lot of notes (scholars, diarists, executive assistants, etc) keep the art of shorthand alive and help provide information to newcomers. New systems of shorthand are still being invented and published.


What shorthand systems are used by the most people?


The majority of professional stenographers are using stenotype machines or stenomasks to record trials and legislative sessions and to do closed captioning for television.

As far as handwritten systems are concerned, Teeline currently seems to be the most-used system in the English-speaking world, based on the number of new textbooks being published every decade and the number of people taking classes. More than 4,000 journalism students in the UK take exams in Teeline proficiency every year.

Pitman is also doing well, especially in India. Gregg shorthand is also popular in North America.
Dozens of other systems are in use among smaller numbers of people.

Outside of the Anglosphere different types of shorthand have reached relatively high levels of usage. Some of them have been supported by national governments at various times, including Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift in Germany, Melins system in Sweden, System Polińskiego in Poland, and Государственная единая система стенографии in Russia.


What kind of pen works best for shorthand?


For most types of shorthand, any pen that glides across the page very easily will work. The Pentel Energel and Uniball Jetstream have good reputations. Visit the /r/pens subreddit for more info. A fountain pen combined with suitable paper will also produce excellent results. (Coarse paper will slow down a fountain pen and might clog the nib with fibers.) Visit the /r/fountainpens subreddit for additional information.

If you are learning Pitman or some other type of shorthand that uses a distinction between thin lines and thick lines, you will get best results with a fountain pen that has a slightly flexible nib. If you want to write Gregg shorthand as they did it back in the day, you can buy a restored Esterbrook fountain pen with an official Gregg-approved nib.


Which shorthand system should I learn?


Nobody can really tell you who you should marry, right? It's the same thing when you ask what shorthand system you should learn. There are many choices. If you have definite answers to the following questions you can narrow down your options:

Are you already strongly attracted to a system because of its appearance or because its rules seem especially logical to you? If so, that's probably the system you should learn.

Do you need the structure and encouragement of a classroom setting or an online course with a teacher who will check your work and point out your mistakes? If so, you should adopt whatever system is available to you in that format.

How much time do you have to learn shorthand? What maximum speed do you need to achieve? There is a tradeoff between ease of learning and maximum practical speed.

If you must be able to accurately record every word in rapid speech such as court testimony or legislative debate, you will need to spend two or three years intensively studying Gregg or Pitman, or learn how to use a stenotype machine.

On the other hand, if you suddenly find yourself in a class or a job where you need to write more quickly right now, you can rapidly raise your handwriting speed by learning one of the "alphabetic" systems such as Forkner, Speedwriting, Stenoscript, etc.

Do you have enough patience to order a hardcopy textbook and wait a week for it to arrive, or do you have an "it must be online right now dammit" mentality? If you are only willing to learn systems that are completely documented in free internet resources, your options are limited.

If you need to have all of your notes eventually stored in computer textfiles, you might consider learning a keyboard-based shorthand that can be typed directly into a tablet or laptop rather than a symbol-based system that would have to be transcribed into text.

Do you care about the existence or lack of an online community for the system you learn? If that's important to you, be sure to look around and see if there are any blogs, forums or tweets happening in the shorthand system that you're planning to learn.


What special terminology is used in discussing shorthand?


Like any other field of study, the description of shorthand systems involves some specialized jargon.

Shading refers to the use of thick and thin lines to create distinct symbols. For example Pitman shorthand uses a thin vertical line to represent T and a thick line for D. Shading is relatively easy to do if you use a fountain pen, somewhat possible to do with a pencil, and difficult with other writing instruments.

Position refers to a symbol having a different meaning depending on its placement. For example in Teeline shorthand a horizontal dash generally represents T when it is written high above the line of writing but the same symbol represents D when it is written on the line of writing.

The line of writing refers to the pre-printed line on the ruled notebook paper used for writing shorthand. It is similar to the concept in typography known as the baseline.

Word-sign or logogram refers to a brief symbol that arbitrarily represents a single word. In Gregg shorthand these are called "brief forms," in Teeline they are called "special outlines," in Forkner they are called "abbreviations," in early Pitman literature they are called "grammalogues." Almost every shorthand system has its own name for these symbols.

Phrasing refers to the practice of writing multiple word-signs together, without any space between them, as a way of increasing speed. For example, if \ stands for "and" and / stands for "the," you can combine them into a V-shaped symbol to represent the phrase "and the." (In Teeline, phrases are called "word groupings.")

Words per minute (abbreviated wpm or w.a.m. for words a minute) is a measurement of handwriting speed. In the English-speaking world, the average longhand writing speed is estimated to be around 25 or 30 wpm. The exact definition of "word" in "words per minute" varies from one shorthand system to another (in Gregg, 1.4 syllables = 1 word). Some people prefer to use measurements like syllables per minute or phonemes per minute when comparing shorthand systems.

2014-11-30

finally, some information about Forkner Shorthand

Forkner Shorthand is a cleverly designed system, optimized for easy learning, that uses a mixture of special symbols and normal cursive letters. It enjoyed some popularity among students and teachers in North America during the second half of the 20th century because a higher percentage of students were having greater success with it than with Gregg or Pitman.

Details about the significance and inner workings of Forkner were strangely absent from the Internet until the past few months. Now the veil has been lifted!

demonstration of Forkner writing principles

comments about the above image

three newspaper clippings about Forkner Shorthand

Wikipedia article

Note: If you are a polyglot Wikipedian, would you consider adding an article about Forkner to your language's Wikipedia? Spreading information brings joy.

I tip my hat to the Shorthand Forum on Reddit which helps me stay informed of these developments.

2014-11-22

timeline of books about Teeline Shorthand

Approximately 30 books about Teeline have been published in the past 46 years. As far as I have been able to determine, this is significantly higher than the number of textbooks produced in English for any other shorthand writing system during the same time period. Correction: McGraw-Hill published a similar number of titles about Gregg shorthand between 1978 and 1991, after which the production of new Gregg titles came screeching to a halt.



Teeline: A Method of Fast Writing
James Hill
no ISBN
Heinemann Educational, 1968

Basic Teeline: A Textbook of Fast Writing
James Hill & I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453319
Heinemann Educational, 1969, 1971

Practice Exercises in Basic Teeline
J. Hill & I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453335
Heinemann Educational, 1971

Basic Teeline Common Word List
I.C. Hill
ISBN 043545336X
Heinemann Educational, 1972

Advanced Teeline
James Hill & I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453343
Heinemann Educational, 1972

Practice Exercises in Advanced Teeline
I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453378
Heinemann Educational, 1973

Teeline Self-taught
Harry Butler
ISBN 0435453386
Heinemann Educational, 1975

First Teeline Workbook
I.C. Hill & M. Bowers
ISBN 0435453416
first edition: Heinemann, 1977

Teeline: a blend of basic and advanced Teeline
I.C. Hill; James Hill; P. Talbot; M.A. Tomko
Teeline Educational Services, 1977

Second Teeline Workbook
I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453424
first edition: Heinemann Educational, 1978

Teaching Teeline
I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453289
Heinemann Educational, 1979

Teeline Dictation and Drill Book
J. Hill & I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453432
Heinemann Educational, 1980

Teeline Word List
I.C. Hill
ISBN 0435453440
Heinemann Educational, 1981
reprinted with addenda in 1984, 1989

Teeline Shorthand Made Simple
Harry Butler
Made Simple Books, 1982, ISBN: 0434985007
reprints: 1991, 1997, 1999, 0750605502

German Teeline: Adapted from the System by James Hill
F. Burton & G. Meder
no ISBN?
Teeline Education Ltd., 1982

Teeline (Revised Edition)
I.C. Hill & M. Bowers
ISBN 0435453270
Heinemann Educational, 1983

First Teeline Workbook
I.C. Hill & M. Bowers
ISBN 0435453459
revised edition: Heinemann, 1983

Handbook for Teeline Teachers
Harry Butler
ISBN 0435453106
Heinemann Educational, 1983

Second Teeline Workbook
I.C. Hill & M. Bowers
ISBN 0435453467
revised edition: Heinemann, 1984

Teeline Shorthand Passages: LCC1 Examination Papers
Dorothy Bowyer
ISBN 0435453092
Heinemann Educational, 1984

Teeline yn Gymraeg [Welsh language]
Sian Tomlinson
ISBN 0947694412
CAA, 1986

Teeline Word Groupings
G. Hill & M. Bowers
ISBN 043545326
Heinemann Educational, 1987


Medical Teeline
P. Garner & P. Clare
ISBN 0435453157
Heinemann Educational, 1987

Teeline Teacher's Guide
Meriel Bowers
ISBN 0435453483
revised edition: Heinemann Educational, 1988

First Teeline Workbook
I.C. Hill & M. Bowers
second revised edition: Heineman, 1989, ISBN 0435453459

New Teeline Dictation Book
George Hill
ISBN 0435453491
Heinemann Educational, 1989

Teeline Fast
Ann Dix
ISBN 0435453521
Heinemann Educational, 1990





Teeline Gold: The Course Book
J. Clarkson, S. Hall, C. Osborne, U. Parkinson
ISBN 043545353X
Heinemann Educational, 1991

Teeline Gold Workbook
Harry Butler
ISBN 0435453548
Heinemann Educational, 1991
see it on Amazon.co.uk

Teeline Gold Speed Ladder
M. Bowers & S. Hall
ISBN 0435453556
Heinemann Educational, 1992

Teeline Gold Word List
M. Smith & A. Tilly
ISBN 0435453599
Heinemann Educational, 1992
see it on Amazon.co.uk

Teeline for Journalists
Dawn Johnston
ISBN 0435471600
Heinemann, 2006

NCTJ Teeline Gold Standard for Journalists
Marie Cartwright
ISBN 0435471716 (book with CD-ROM)
Heinemann, 2009
see it on Amazon.co.uk

2014-11-19

follow-up on Glossography

Over on Reddit's Shorthand Forum, user “rootwov” took Glossography for a test drive and posted an enlightening review of it.

2014-11-04

terminology: orthographic vs. phonetic

Shorthand systems can be classified according to their place on the orthographic versus phonetic spectrum.

A purely orthographic system mirrors the spelling of its native language. An orthographic shorthand for English might start out with just 26 symbols to represent the letters A to Z and then add a few symbols to stand for the most common words.

A purely phonetic system writes a language based on its pronunciation with no regard for how it is spelled. In a phonetic system for English, the shorthand outlines for off, cough and staph would all end with same symbol which represents the F sound.

Some systems use a mixed approach. In Gregg Shorthand, for example, the consonant sounds are written phonetically (in general). Some of the vowels are lumped together in a way that is inspired by their most common spellings in English: the /eɪ/ diphthong of play, the /æ/ vowel in cat, the /ɑ/ of calm and the /ə/ of tuna are all written with the large circle called “a.” These phonemes have nothing in common except that they are normally written with the letter A in English.

The claims made by promoters of various shorthand systems often do not match their reality. Many stenographic scripts that claim to be purely phonetic are partly orthographic and vice versa.

2014-10-23

snapshot: Glossography, a smoothly flowing phonetic alphabet

While strolling through old shorthand systems a few nights ago I stumbled across a very attractive alternative alphabet called Glossography, also known to its author as Glossal Writing. It was created by an educated man who had both a scientific nature and a good sense of aesthetics. The book is:

Glossography. A system of short-hand based upon
   the principle of genetic analogy between writing and speech.
Robert Armstrong M.D.
Chicago: Libby & Sherwood Print Co., 1901
Library of Congress catalog: Z 56 .A73 1901

In the introduction of his book, Dr Armstrong admits that existing shorthand systems are capable of great speed. He says he is trying to design something which is highly legible and more easily learned. A system for everyday handwriting and occasional dictation use.

Dr Armstrong indicates that his system of less than 50 symbols could be written rapidly if necessary because his glyphs all flow together smoothly. Compared to Pitman Phonography, “the Glossal movements are not only fewer but freer, having fewer angles and sudden stops… Its word forms can be made clearly legible with very much less care than is necessary in methods which omit part of the elements, using stiff, angular, unevenly shaded outlines.”


Armstrong believes that a well-practiced user of his system can take dictation in Glossography without needing any abbreviations, “grammalogues” and so forth. This high degree of legibility would make it possible for anyone to read the shorthand at any time. However abbreviations could certainly be devised if a user were interested in doing so.

He feels that his glyphs graphically represent speech itself. Vowels “should be represented by simple, forward flowing, independent linear signs…” He attempted to base the individual vowel signs on the shape which the tongue and lower lip acquired while producing each phoneme. A similar but more abstract rationale went into the design of the consonants.



One possible weakness of the system is the similarity of some of the symbols. “s” is a tiny semi-circle, “z” is a small semi-circle, “sh” is a bigger one and “zh” is a large one. An observer might wonder if every user could reliably make all those distinctions in reading and writing. However, as all the sounds in the group are somewhat related, the original word could probably be deduced even if the writing were a bit ambiguous.

In his rare little book Dr Armstrong has left us a delightful phonetic alphabet.


You can view the book online at Hathi Trust or purchase a hardcopy reprint at Amazon.com

2014-10-20

shorthand magnets on Etsy

An Etsy seller called Asterisk Photoart is selling a few different sets of these cute little magnets featuring words from an old Gregg Shorthand book.


2014-10-18

video shows German stenographers in action

Here’s a link to a YouTube video that shows two different German stenographers taking dictation and (as far as I can tell) introduces the general idea of pen stenography. It is interesting to see the symbols they use and how they hold their pens.

2014-10-16

terminology: shading

In the comparative study of shorthand systems, shading refers to the use of light or thin lines in contrast to dark or thick lines.

Example: in Pitman shorthand a light vertical line represents the sound of T and a heavy line of the same size and direction stands for D. Two consonants are often written back-to-back, sometimes requiring the writer to change from heavy shading to a light line in the middle of the combination. In Pitman even tiny dots and dashes must be drawn correctly as either heavy or light!


For people who have a knack for penmanship, shading is relatively easy to accomplish with fountain pens. It is harder to achieve with pencils, ball-point pens and fingers on touch-screens.

Enthusiastic users of systems that require shading say it doesn’t matter – you can write with a non-shading utensil and you will still be able to figure out whether you meant to write bee or pee, cash or gash.

Shorthand systems that do not use shading are sometimes called light-line systems.