vide clear outlines for words of which the full alphabetic form
would involve awkward joinings (see 10).
13. CIRCLES. In Cursive Shorthand the small circle is used
initially for h (forwards) and sh (backwards), and medially
in forming a whole class of characters, as o / (ph) from <"> p,
^ th from v t, <s ch from c k (hard c). This arrange-
ment is easily learnt, and gives very full employment to a
device commonly admitted to be of the greatest utility.
In Taylor's alphabet several characters, such as <* m from
s, \ b from \ / or v, f p from | t, ^ I from / r,
are formed by adding circles at the beginnings of other charac-
ters. Initial circles however are much less facile than medial
or final circles; and a circle on a straight stem tends in rapid
writing to curve the stem, changing its meaning. A circle
between straight strokes in the same direction (thus n .)
is particularly awkward, and liable to be miswritten. The
circle is most facile when it comes between two curves, as in
x^.a/ ; or after a curve, as in ^9 f~i> (^ etc.
In a specimen of Taylor taken at random, three-quarters of
the circles were found to be initial, the majority were applied
to straight strokes, and many of the medial circles were
awkward. In Cursive Shorthand circles occur most commonly
(i.e. in about 90 per cent, of the cases) at the ends of curve
characters, in which case they are not liable to these objections;
initial circles are rare, and awkward circles very rare indeed.
The large circle is used in Cursive Shorthand as a prefix for
con-, and as a termination for -tion, -sion. Used as a prefix it
is always written like the circle of the letters a, d, q, in long-
hand, and is therefore extremely facile, and never clashes with
the small circle. Pitman appropriates circles entirely to the
12 Conditions of Facility and Clearness.
representation of s and z : this hardly gives sufficient scope
to so useful a device.
14. HOOKS are a very common stenographic device. They
are objectionable as limiting seriously the compactness of the
writing, because the characters must be made large in com-
parison, or they may be confused with the hooks. Medial hooks
often present awkward, and sometimes impossible joinings.
Professor Everett uses hooks very sparingly, and even of the
few that he uses he says: "The hooked letters, though neat in
appearance, and convenient for leisurely writing, are particu-
larly liable to be spoiled in scribbling". From my own ex-
perience of Pitman's system I can fully endorse the Professor's
statement. In rapid writing hooks are often so badly formed
as to be misread for ticks or circles, and accidental hooks,
changing entirely the meaning of an outline, are liable to be
introduced in the endeavour to sharpen a blunt angle or ease
the hand. If a hook is made too large it may often be
mistaken for a half-size character. Pitman uses two sizes of
hooks, which considerably aggravates the difficulty.
In Cursive Shorthand very few hooks are used. They are
carefully selected, and restricted to cases in which they cannot
clash with other characters. They are not applied to straight
strokes, because they tend to produce curvature. Medial hooks
are entirely avoided except in cases where they facilitate a
15. LOOPS. The only really facile loops are those which
occur in longhand in the letters \ 7j & *J~ , etc. These are
largely used in Cursive Shorthand and give very facile and dis-
tinctive characters: for example V I, A- A ', CZ ngg as in
anger, y. ngk as in inker, anchor.
Pitman uses loops for st, str in certain cases, applied to the
stems of other characters, thus : \ pst. Thus used they are
not generally facile, they often present bad joinings, which
have to be avoided by arbitrarily writing the word some other
way. They are also very liable to be miswritten, or to curve
Conditions of Facility and Clearness. 13
the character; compare the Pitman outlines V> fst, \ pst.
A strictly geometric system is in its very nature unable to
utilise the facile loops adequately.
16. DETACHED VOWEL MAKKS. Nearly all geometric systems
are driven to the use of detached vowel marks, whenever they
desire to write a word clearly. These marks consist of dots,
dashes, circles and angles (such as . . i i v - o c ), which have to
be placed carefully in position close to the consonants to which
they belong. The position is important because the dot or dash
slightly misplaced may mean something quite different.
The following passage*, engraved in Pitman's Phonography,
will serve to illustrate both the care with which the detached
vowel marks must be located, and the necessity of inserting
vowels to distinguish words. The reader should also notice
particularly the distinction between light and heavy dots and
ticks, and thick and thin strokes.
A A , A A, A -A . A. 4x A <1 ' A,
XI -A , 1 ' */l A , ' -A A ^ ' -A
A4, C '44,'A.4,^.AAA,
^ A ' A A c ' 4- A , / A ' A. A,
A ^ A , N A . A 4 A ^ x
* The key and explanation of this passage will be found, together
with the Cursive Shorthand version, on p. 92. The reader must not sup-
pose that it is an exhaustive list of all the words that can be written with
this outline in Pitman's system. A few of them, those that begin with h
or end with -ing, can be written in other ways : but there are several other
words (such as erode, errata, rid, rideau, redo, arrete, radiated, etc. ),
which might have been included, having the same outline /\ rt, and
differing only in detached marks and thickening; and there are large
classes of words (such as riddle, etc., ordain, retain, etc., rotating, re-
treating, etc., writer, reader, etc., roared, etc.), having outlines, either
identical with some of the above, or so similar to them that it would be
difficult to distinguish them safely in rapid writing.
14 Conditions of Facility and Clearness.
The congonant outline of each word is written first, and the
vowels are dotted in afterwards in their proper places. This is
called ' vocalizing ' the outline. The writer has to go over each
word twice, in a highly artificial and unnatural order, if he wants
to put in the vowels, that is to say, if he wishes his writing to
be legible (see 27).
This very serious and oft-repeated objection is so generally
admitted, even by the partisans of Pitman's system, that it
would be waste of time to argue the point, were it not that
special attention was given to detached vowels in the chrono-
graphic experiments, the results of which seem to throw some
light on the question.
It is often maintained that a detached vowel mark counts
in loss of time only about as much as an extra lifting of the
pen. This is very- far from true. In addition to the lifting of
the pen there is the time occupied in making the stroke or dot
and locating it carefully in its proper position. This is not
unnaturally found to be longer than the time required for the
mere making of the same number of dots and ticks irrespective
of position. Besides this, detached vowels usually involve
hesitation: after finishing the consonant outline the writer
has to make up his mind what vowels to insert and where, or
whether he can leave the outline unvocalized : with unskilful
writers this is a fruitful source of loss of time : with skilful
writers it is often almost unnoticeable. But the most serious
hesitation generally occurs, and this even with very skilful
writers, after inserting the vowels and before proceeding to the
next word. This is most strongly marked after inserting two
or more vowels in one outline. It is probably due to the
illogical order in which the vowels are written. The mind
momentarily loses its place in the sentence, and has to go
back and pick up the lost thread, so as to find what comes
next. The result is that the insertion of detached vowel marks
always involves such a disproportionate expenditure of time,
that they must be omitted in writing at any reasonable speed.
The reader must understand that we are here dealing with
very small intervals of time, such as a few tenths of a second :
Conditions of Facility and Clearness. 15
that it is difficult to take account of such small periods or make
any accurate observations upon them, otherwise than by means
of an automatic record, which can be read at leisure and com-
pared with the actual writing.
A distinction is theoretically made between a light dot for
the short vowels a, e, i, and a heavy dot for the long vowels
ah, ay, ee. Practically this distinction cannot be clearly made
in writing, and is often badly given even in printed specimens.
In the attempt to preserve it the light dot is frequently made
so evanescent as to be mistaken for a flaw in the paper or
altogether missed ; such minute distinctions are very trying to
the eyes in reading.
The chief advantage of detached vowels is that they present
an appearance of brevity, and look neat, especially in print.
They are so inconspicuous that the inexperienced eye does not
realize the difficulty of inserting them accurately, and takes
no account of the aerial movements of the pen which their
To illustrate what is meant by the 'aerial movements of
the pen', we subjoin a short sentence carefully engraved in
Pitman's shorthand, in which these movements are indicated
by faint dotted lines showing the order in which each vowel is
The sentence represented is as follows : "Detached vowel
marks always involve disproportionate expenditure of time".
The sounds are written in the following order :
dtchtea vlowe mr-ksah awlwseh invlvo dsrppr-s/mtoawe
ekspndtr-eiyu of tmei.
(The italicized letters represent sounds which are expressed,
not by their alphabetic characters, but by abbreviations ; the
hyphens represent indicated vowels, and the spaces lifts of the
16 Conditions of Facility and, Cieanwaf.
We have followed the Dictionary* outlines, except that we
have ventured to spell the word expenditure with a d, and to
write the word always in full. Initial vowels are supposed to
be written first for the sake of the logical order, and to save
distance traversed. The first vowel in the word disproportionate
cannot be clearly inserted, and the r hook cannot be properly
made. The way in which each word is accented can only be
marked by inserting small crosses near the accented vowels.
For the sake of contrast we give the same sentence in
Cursive Shorthand, written on the same scale.
It is evident that this is not only much briefer, but also
more facile and lineal than the Pitman version. Moreover it
represents much more accurately the correct pronunciation of
the words, and shows in addition exactly how each word is
accented. Every sound is fully expressed in its natural order.
The dotted lines are therefore not really required, and only
serve to confuse the outlines. They are inserted to make the
specimen match the Pitman version as exactly as possible.
There are twenty- six lifts of the pen in Pitman's (omitting one
vowel), as against fifteen in the Cursive version; and the
'aerial movements' involved in the latter are much shorter
Enough has been said to show that detached vowels are far
interior to joined vowels in point of speed and clearness. This
is indeed generally admitted. But after all, so their advocates
argue, these detached vowel marks are rarely required. In
reporting, they say, only one vowel in every twenty words
on the average, is needed to make Pitman notes (if they are
well enough written and the subject is not too technical)
decipherable without serious errors, with the aid of the
memory and the context.
This line of argument altogether misses the point. One
vowel in twenty words may be sufficient for reporting, if the
Pitman's Phonographic Dictionary, 5th Ed. 1884.
Conditions of Facility and Clearness. 17
reporter is sufficiently skilful and has succeeded in learning
all the conventional outlines. But vowels cannot be thus
omitted in Pitman's system without the most serious loss of
legibility, such as would make it quite unsuitable for general
purposes ; and, in point of fact, they are not so omitted in the
published specimens of the 'corresponding' style. Taking a
printed specimen of this style at random, it was found that,
excluding grammalogues and special abbreviations, more than
one hundred and sixty vowels on the average were inserted in
every hundred words. Some of these vowels, no doubt, might
have been omitted if Pitman's Phonography possessed a reliable
system of vowel indication : since, however, it does not, it is
the more dependent on the aid of detached marks for legibility.
If the young reporter starts with the resolution of omitting
all vowels, and is prepared to face the difficulty of reading,
detached vowel marks are all very well; there is no difficulty
about omitting them, and if he does not intend to use them, he
need not waste his time in learning them*. But in shorthand
for general purposes vowels cannot be thus neglected, and their
expression by detached marks is therefore a fatal objection to
the general utility of a system, though, as we shall see, it is
by no means the only, or even the chief objection to which
Pitman's system is liable.
On the other hand, the expression of vowels by joined
characters or ' by mode ', is much clearer and does not involve
the same disproportionate expenditure of time, so that it is
possible to write words in full at a reasonable speed. In
reporting at high rates of speed, words cannot be written in
full ; but it by no means follows that recourse must be had to
the wholesale omission of vowels. The expression of vowels
in the outline, enables us to employ better and more rational
methods of abbreviation.
17. 'LIFTS' OF THE PEN. ' MODES'. The time occupied
in lifting the pen and replacing it on the paper, supposing there
* Many systems make no provision for the distinction of vowel sounds.
Many Pitmanite reporters never insert them, but trust to memory and
18 Conditions of Facility and Clearness.
to be no hesitation between the words, varies according to cir-
cumstances from one- to three-tenths of a second ; but is rarely
so small as one-tenth. It depends of course on the nature and
direction of the movements before and after : the lift involved
in travelling backwards to dot in a vowel is one of the worst.
An ordinary ' lift ' takes a little longer than the description of
the quickest connecting stroke (not necessarily the shortest),
but takes less time than a connecting stroke which involves an
Thus Professor Everett's ' modes ' of expressing vowels by
lifting the pen and writing the consonants in position, are by
no means so slow as Pitman would have us believe. They are
in fact very far superior to detached marks in point of speed,
facility, and clearness, and possess the further advantage of
expressing the vowel in its logical order between the consonants.
In Cursive Shorthand detached dots are used, as in longhand,
for punctuation, and to mark abbreviated words. They are
also occasionally used as diacritics, like the t'-dots in longhand.
Expression by mode is employed for various subsidiary
purposes, those modes being chosen (Everett's nos. 2, 3, 4)
which are always applicable and clear.
CONDITIONS OF SIMPLICITY.
18. A system of shorthand for general use must be simple
and easy to learn : few people can afford to spend a lifetime
in acquiring it. It is far best in every way that shorthand
should be taught, like ordinary writing and reading, at a very
early stage ; it should therefore be made as simple as possible,
and should be independent of the ordinary spelling.
It is difficult to make a system of shorthand at once simple
and complete. It is very easy to secure an appearance of sim-
plicity by making the system incomplete, by suppressing points
of difficulty which are certain to meet the student sooner or
later, or by giving vague general directions and loosely worded
rules ; by telling the student for instance to write according to
sound, and leaving him to find out for himself how it is to be
done, or by giving him several alternative ways of writing a word
and leaving him to choose which is the clearest and easiest.
Conditions of Simplicity. 19
In Cursive Shorthand I have spared no pains to avoid this
fault. I have endeavoured to foresee and to illustrate every
difficulty which the learner is likely to experience, and to make
the rules so definite that any given sound cannot be correctly
written in more than one way. I can hardly hope to have
completely succeeded at the first attempt, but it is undoubt-
edly a step in the right direction and will commend itself to all
who seriously desire to utilise shorthand for practical purposes.
It is of no use to make a system simple without making it
complete and accurate. Systems which, like Taylor's, content
themselves with writing the consonants only, may have the
merit of simplicity, but will always be found unsatisfactory for
any sort of work where accuracy and legibility are essential.
19. WRITING BY SOUND. It is by this time agreed by all
good authorities that a system of shorthand to be simple, con-
sistent, and complete, must be Phonetic. It must discard the
inconsistencies and difficulties of the common orthography. It
is almost impossible to make a system represent consistently
and simply the endless variety of combinations in the common
spelling : but it is quite practicable to represent with sufficient
accuracy the comparatively small number of sounds which are
used to distinguish words in speech.
In constructing Cursive Shorthand I have made it as
strictly phonetic as is practically possible. This not only
renders it more complete and self-consistent, but considerably
enhances its educational value, especially as a training in
The phonetic principle itself is not altogether free from
disadvantages. Phonetic spelling, though much simpler than
the received spelling, presents some difficulties to beginners,
who seldom realise at all accurately how they pronounce, till
their attention is specially directed to the subject. Moreover,
all people do not pronounce exactly alike ; hence slight varia-
tions of spelling may arise in a phonetic system corresponding
to variations of pronunciation.
In order to minimize these disadvantages, I have published
20 Conditions of Simplicity.
a separate pamphlet* explaining in considerable detail the
phonetic notation and the standard of pronunciation which are
adopted as the groundwork of the present system.
One of the commonest objections to phonetic spelling is
that it confuses words, such as write, right, rite, which are
pronounced alike but differ in meaning and orthography. This
objection is not serious, because such words are comparatively
rare, and are scarcely more likely to cause confusion in cor-
respondence than in speech. In writing from dictation it is
actually a disadvantage to have different outlines for words
which are pronounced alike, because it is often impossible
to tell, till the end of a sentence, which word is intended.
20. WRITING BY ALPHABET. Further, in order to be easy
to learn, a system must be Alphabetic. It must be capable of
representing all words with neatness and precision by means of
a few fundamental forms, the characters of the alphabet, com-
bined according to strict and simple rules. It must not be
encumbered with a multitude of arbitrary signs and abbrevia-
tions. It must not abound in special exceptions made in favour
of individual words. For although such devices impart brevity
to the writing, and may be of use to men whose life is spent in
reporting, they are an immense tax upon the memory and
make a system quite useless for ordinary purposes.
The majority of geometric systems which employ symbols
freely, cannot be called strictly ' alphabetic '. For instance in
Pitman's, \ represents p, and ^ or ~\ r, but \ represents
pr as in person or prison: the symbol representing the r is a
hook, which not only has no similarity to either character for
r, but also comes fee/ore t the p. Again, (. represents th and
) s, but J represents, not sr, but thr. Moreover all these
combinations may have other symbols attached at the end,
and may be halved to add t or d, or lengthened for tr, dr, or thr.
* Phonetic Spelling, by H. L. Callendar. Same publishers.
t The use of the initial nooks to add r and I after a consonant, though
strictly speaking illogical, is doubtless a matter of practical convenience
at the beginning of a word; but when medial they often join awkwardly
and thus entail special devices.
Conditions of Simplicity. 21
Any such combination must be regarded as a single whole,
or ' compendium ', and not as being made up of separate charac-
ters. The number of such possible compendiums in Pitman's
system is very great, and largely increases the mental effort
required for writing and reading.
The worst objection to the extensive use of compendiums,
unless governed by very strict rules, is the variety of outlines
with which the same sound may be written, and the consequent
endless hesitation in choosing between the different possible
ways of writing a word.
Pocknell (Legible Shorthand) does not employ the halving
and lengthening principle, and although he uses symbols
freely, his method is not liable to the above objections ; each
letter has a separate recognizable representation, written in
its logical order, and used according to strict rules of vowel
Cursive Shorthand is very strictly alphabetic, and avoids
the use of arbitrary signs. It employs but few compound
consonants, and these are generated by simply combining their
component characters in the clearest possible way ; the use of
these compounds is governed by one strict and simple rule, so
that no hesitation can arise from uncertainty as to when they
should be used.
CONDITIONS OF LEGIBILITY.
21. The word 'legible' is not used as synonymous with
' decipherable '. The ideal of legibility is that each word when
correctly written should be readily and instantaneously dis-
tinguishable from every other word without reference to the
memory or the context. The more nearly a system approaches
this ideal, the greater its claim to rank as ' legible '.
A system which does not express vowels and often includes
twenty or thirty words under the same outline, can only be
deciphered by guess-work, and cannot with any truth claim to
be as 'legible as print'. The context, to which so many steno-
graphers trust, is often a very unreliable means of distinction.
As Mr T. A. Eeed says: "I am disposed to think that it is
possible for any two words, however dissimilar in character or
22 Conditions of Legibility.
meaning, to be so placed as to render it difficult to tell by the
context which is intended".
SIMPLICITY is one of the conditions of legibility. If
a system is too complicated in the number of possible forms
and combinations of its characters, or too involved in the
application of the rules which determine its outlines, it will
be difficult to read in proportion to the intricacy of the mental
operations required to decipher it.
FACILITY is another of the conditions of legibility. If
a system cannot be written easily, it will probably be written
badly, and will therefore be difficult to read.
Under this heading I have already discussed most of the
conditions which depend upon sharpness of outline, and on the
clearness and ease with which the hand can make the required
distinctions between the characters. The conditions which I
now proceed to consider are important even if the writing be
engraved with the greatest skill and care, so that each character
The general condition of legibility in a phonetic system
is that SIMILAR SOUNDS SHOULD BE REPRESENTED BY SIMILAR
SIGNS, and conversely different sounds by different signs. It
is one great advantage of a phonetic system that if this
condition is observed a slight error in reading or writing will
correspond to a slight error in sound, so that the word though
wrongly read or written may still be recognizable. On the
other hand a considerable difference in sound will correspond
to a considerable difference in outline, so that words of different
sound will not be likely to clash*. In longhand the forms of
the letters have no relation to their sounds, and the writing is
less legible than it would have been if any definite phonetic
plan had been adopted.