Do You Recognize This Strange Script? It Was Invented To Make Note-Taking Easier

Do You Recognize This Strange Script? It Was Invented To Make Note-Taking Easier

Before the digital age, people jotted down notes using shorthand.

The digital age has been a blessing for organizations. Everything discussed during a meeting can be documented with the help of a recorder. Let's not forget the plethora of apps that exist to document, shorten, and utilize the information procured from said meeting. The digital age has us spoilt for choice, and we wonder how people survived without access to technology.  The answer to that: shorthand. It is impossible to keep documenting words at the exact speed at which it is spoken. 


Did you know that the average person speaks about 125-150 words per minute? Thus, invented during the Victorian period, shorthand became a handy tool to take down notes, according to The EpochTimes. Apparently, the shorthand has two different systems, one of which developed by Thomas Pitman and was widely used in Britain. The other, developed by John Robert Gregg, was used commonly in the United States. 


Both these systems were designed to help take notes at the same speed as it was spoken. This ensured that you got everything down without having to miss any of the vital information that was discussed. Pitman's version included 25 single consonants, 24 double consonants, and 16 vowel sounds. The term "longhand" was used to describe cursive writing because of all the lop strokes used, and the art of shorthand is called “stenography,” which comes from the Greek for “narrow writing.” Shorthand was thus designed to reduce letters to its simplest forms, making it easier to document notes faster.


People often mistake shorthand for ancient text because it bears very little resemblance to the actual words it represents. The text looks like small curved lines with the odd dot and dash. Some of the letters are cursive and loopy, which makes it resemble more like Arabic than it does English. While Thomas Pitman developed the initial system, John Robert Gregg revolutionized shorthand as he focused more on the sounds of the words, rather than the alphabets.


For example, the symbol for the sound of k could either represent the letter c or k, and it could be explained by reading the rest of the word. Gregg grouped similar-sounding letters and it reduced the time taken to document speech drastically. Yet another example of this was him grouping the sounds of letters d and t. He also devised symbols to denote commonly used words such as it, the, to and for.


Gregg also varied the lengths to differentiate between diagonal lines and loops. Gregg's system was centered around circles, hooks, and loops. He first published his work in the form pamphlet, Light-Line Phonography, in 1888. The Pitman shorthand was used in the United States but it wasn't very popular. John Robert Gregg took his revised version and traveled through the Midwest, the West, and the South, to teach and implement his system, and soon enough, it caught on and became the standard in the country.


Once someone picks up the shorthand system of John Robert Gregg, it allowed them to jot down an astonishing 280 words. The system hasn't entirely gone out of practice and is still being used to take notes in legal, medical, and secretarial fields. Knowing shorthand was also considered an indispensable skill and it could also be used to take notes or pass messages as it helped maintain secrecy, since not everyone was familiar with shorthand. 




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