PCS Blog

Modern Shorthand Techniques

Posted by Allyson Walters | 06 October 2014

Modern Shorthand Systems

In The Typographer's Dream, the character Dave is a stenographer who uses a CAT steno machine (computer aided transcription) for his job as a court reporter.

Shorthand writing is another style of stenography that transcribes the spoken word in a very rapid manner through various lines and symbols. The symbols translate into a representation of phonemes, words and phrases.

Here's a look at some of the most established forms of shorthand still used today. 

Pitman Shorthand

Created and published by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837, Pitman shorthand has been adapted to include 15 different languages. The Pitman method is most commanly used among reporters, secretaries and writers. 

  • It is phonetic: it records the sounds of speech rather than the spelling.
  • Vowel sounds are optional and are written with small dots, dashes or other shapes next to the main strokes; this allows for an increased writing speed. 
  • Thickness, length and position of the strokes are all crucial. Originally, special fountain pens were used to record the Pitman shorthand, but today pencils are the writing tool of choice.
  • The record for fast writing with Pitman shorthand is 350 words per minute during a two-minute test by Nathan Behrin in 1922.
  • In the 2005 movie, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Vogons use a variation of Pitman shorthand.


Example of Pitman Consonants:

Example of Pitman Vowels:


Gregg Shorthand

Invented by John Robert Gregg and originally published in 1888, the shorthand Gregg is most commonly used in the U.S. However, it has adapted to include a few more languages. 

  • Gregg is phonetic: it records the sounds of speech rather than the spelling.
  • Vowels are written as hooks and circles on the consonants

Example of Gregg Consonants:



Example of Gregg Vowels:


The Typographer's Dream opens October 10 and runs through November 16.


Preview performances begin October 4.


Source: Omniglot, The Language Encyclopedia


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