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 speak.
Abbreviation methods are alphabet-based and use different abbreviating approaches. Many journalists use shorthand writing to quickly take notes at press conferences or other similar scenarios.
In the computerized world, several autocomplete programs, standalone or integrated in text editors, based on word lists, also include a shorthand function for frequently used phrases.
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. Shorthand notes 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 example.
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 signs.
- 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 shorthand systems).
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