Back in the Day: A Look at Transcription Technology Through the Ages
How does shorthand work? Making sense phonetically
Shorthand (also called stenography) refers to systems of writing which symbolize sounds, words and phrases, speeding up the process of writing. There are several systems of shorthand, invented at different times, each promising more efficiency in transcribing spoken dictation or dialogue to text. Two popular types in North America and Europe are Pitman and Gregg.
(image from Long Live Pitman’s Shorthand Blogspot)
(Image from American Treasure of the Library of Congress)
Most shorthand systems are phonetic. English often has multiple ways of spelling the same sound. (For example, look at the sound ‘sh’ in these words: crustacean, potion, shell, machine, crucial, tissue, fission…and there are more.) Shorthand systems use one symbol per sound, reducing the number of symbols that make up a word. They also use the simplest possible symbols – one stroke, perhaps, rather than three. Words are abbreviated–often vowels are omitted. Some shorthand systems produce writing that is as complete and explicit in meaning as longhand, if you know how to read it. Other systems, such as the widely used Gregg, must be transcribed into longhand soon after writing, or the meaning of the transcript may become difficult to glean. Accuracy depends on memory and context.
Dennis Hollier Jun 24 2014 theatlantic.com
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