Monday, December 7, 2009

The Best Use For Shorthand

This time of year always reminds me of how we would go through the Christmas catalogs marking the things we'd like for Christmas and my mom making up her shopping list--in shorthand, leaving it on the table in plain sight to tease us! I found secret codes fascinating. (I still have my code book, Codes and Secret Writing by Herbert S. Zim.) Shorthand is a great type of secret writing because not too many people know it anymore and it's very difficult to figure out if not impossible. Here is a sample of it--can you read it?



Try as I might, I could not break that code--could you? It just looked like scribbling to me. I don't think it's even taught in schools anymore since most dictation in offices is done on tape with a transcription machine. This way is more efficient because the secretary isn't waiting for her boss to think what he wants to say. I do use shorthand sometimes for phone messages or transcribing voice mail messages or for a short, quick letter now and then. It will always be good for secret shopping lists!

When I took shorthand in school, I wondered why this way of writing wasn't taught to everyone instead of cursive because it was faster and made more sense. Strokes represent sounds so the word "know" and "no" would look the same. There are no useless letters in words either such as a silent "k" in the word "knife." The only bit of confusion is that some strokes can represent different things such as a dot can be the word "a" or "an" or the ing suffix at the end of a word. Phrases is another characteristic of shorthand that provides more speed--kind of like our URL's today. Common phrases like "Thank you for the" would be written all together like "thankyouforthe." Shorthand is definitely easier to write than to read later because of these little quirks, but after awhile, you get to recognize the phrases as well.

Learning shorthand is similar to learning a foreign language. My mom used to be at the top of her class, able to take dictation for 3 minutes at 150 (or it might have been 180, I'm not sure now) words per minute! I never came close to that because it takes a lot of practice and I just didn't want to put that much time into it. Yes, I was lazy and I HATED homework. I hated homework so much that I used to just turn in class dictation as my homework and always got credit for it.

I'm glad that I learned shorthand because I still think it's cool! Oh, the shorthand translation pictured above is here: "This is a post about why I decided to learn shorthand. Can you read this?"

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10 comments:

Junk Drawer Kathy said...

My eldest sister still knows and writes in shorthand. She was a secretary for a law firm for many years and took diction. It absolutely looks like a foreign language to me. Your mother's use of it for Christmas gifts is a "stroke" of genius!

Daisy said...

Wow, it looks hard!

Sandee said...

Nope, I can't read it. I would guess that shorthand comes in very handy if you are the scribe at a meeting.

Have a terrific day. :)

Lin said...

I don't think there are many folks who know how to write in shorthand anymore. My mom does, but I'm sure she is rusty now. I'm always amazed that nobody knows how to keep score manually when we bowl either. It's a lost art.

Mountain Woman said...

I went to secretarial school before most people reading your blog were born. I had been to college and learned quick notes there and I was never able to learn shorthand but I did learn to type so that was good. It's an art and not easy for sure. Remember when all bosses asked their "girls" to come in and take a letter. Wow, I feel ancient.
Thanks for the memories.

Sarah Brown said...

WOW--I NEVER would have figured that out! Such a cool skill to have. Thanks for visiting today!

PurrPrints said...

wow - i only knew vaguely about shorthand - i kind of have my own private shorthand for note-taking developed out of going to school so much (i finish my phd this spring) but it's nothing like that...that's impressive!

Dan River Mama said...

My older cousin learned shorthand in school. I always wanted to but never had the chance. Great post! Merry Sitsmas!

Life with Kaishon said...

I think my Mom might know a little. They had secretary classes in her school. I am going to ask her. I think it looks very cool!

Fruitful Vine2 said...

I think it would be great to learn shorthand. It would definitely make it easier to take notes at church.

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