1          “. . . And therefore, this appears likely to be the more appropriate solution to our problem. I look forward to hearing from you, yours very truly—got that, Miss Morris?” Miss Morris nods. Her boss has just finished dictating a letter to her, and she has taken everything down just as he spoke it, at his normal rate of speaking. She employed a system of writing called shorthand, which uses special symbols and abbreviations to permit a secretary to record rapidly the words of anyone talking. How did shorthand develop, and how does it work?


2          Shorthand was invented because a need for it existed. People needed to find a fast way to write down the spoken word. The first system of shorthand was invented about 2,000 years ago by a man named who was the secretary to the ancient Roman politician Cicero. Tiro recorded Cicero’s speeches by using a system symbols with which he could write down a word by using a few quick, simple strokes of the pen. Tiro’s system was adopted by the early Christian churches in their correspondence. The system had two advantages: first, it allowed someone to take down words spoken at a normal speed; and second, it was a code that only a few could decipher, so it ensured the secrecy of the correspondence.


3          Shorthand languished during the middle Ages. It was reinvented around 1580 by an official in the government of Queen Elizabeth I of England For a long time; however, there was not much need for shorthand outside government circles, since trade and business were just beginning their large-scale development. But by the 1800’s, business was expanding rapidly, and there was an ever-increasing need for improved written communication. So in 1837, the first modern system of shorthand was developed by Isaac Pitman. This system is still used today. Pitman’s system uses geometrical forms—its symbols are built up of straight lines and curved strokes. Different sounds are shown by different positions, directions of slant, and thickness of the symbols. Vowels are shown by dots or dashes placed outside the main part of the word. Here is an example, the sentence “This sentence is written in shorthand,” in Pitman:


4          In the late 1800’s, John Gregg developed another system of shorthand, which also continues to be widely used. In Gregg shorthand, the symbols slant the way we write, and vowels are not placed outside their words. The Gregg symbols are not supposed to be written thick or thin—they can all be the same thickness. Here is the sentence “This sentence is written in shorthand.” in Gregg:


5          The third system of shorthand, Speedwriting, is a child of the20th century. In Speedwriting all the unnecessary vowels are dropped, and the word is written by using the letter of the alphabet and common punctuation marks to represent the sounds. Speedwriting is easier to learn than Pitman or Gregg shorthand because the student already knows how to write the letters of the alphabet, but it is not quite as fast as the other two systems. This is what “This sentence is written in shorthand” looks like in Speedwriting:


6          The three systems of shorthand share common techniques. They use only the letters that are sounded in the spoken word and leave out those that are not. For instance, in the word knee, we do not pronounce the letter “k” or the second “e.” So in shorthand, only the “ne” is written. In addition, very commonly used words are given brief forms that make for extra speed in shorthand writing. Common word endings such as -ing and

-ation, are also given brief forms, as are common phrases such as to be, there are, I am, you will, and it is. A good secretary may improve on the system by further developing her own special signs. For example, if her boss usually begins a letter with a standard phrase such as “In reply to your letter of January 15th . . .“ she might write something like X 1/15.


7          There is a great demand in almost all fields for people skilled in shorthand. Businessmen, politicians, lawyers, doctors, scientists, scholars, and writers all need secretaries to take down their reports, letters, and notes. A person who knows shorthand will find the door open to many interesting jobs.







------READING CHECK------


1. In the beginning of this selection, Miss Morris is

a. explaining shorthand

b. learning shorthand

c. taking down a letter in shorthand


2. When Miss Morris’s boss dictates a letter to her, he speaks

a. slower than his normal rate of speed

b. at his normal rate of speed

c. faster than his normal rate of speed


3. (Paragraph 2) The first system of shorthand was invented by

a. Cicero

b. the early Christian church

c. Tiro




4. (Paragraph 3) The heavy need for shorthand in business appeared

a. during the Middle Ages

b. around 1580

c. in the 1800’s


5. (Paragraph 3) The first modern system of shorthand was invented by

a. John Gregg

b. Queen Elizabeth I

c. Isaac Pitman


6. The system of shorthand that uses the letters of the alphabet is

a. Gregg

b. Pitman

c. Speedwriting


7. The person who uses shorthand writes down the symbols for

a. all the letters in the word

b. only the consonants

c. only the letters that are sounded


8. Common phrases like there are are

a. given brief forms

b. replaced by the letter “X”

c. written out in full


9. In which system is the thickness of the symbol important?

a. Gregg

b. Pitman

c. Speedwriting


10. What form of shorthand do you think was used most heavily during the time of the American Civil War?

a. Pitman

b. Speedwriting

c. Tiro’s system



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