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A Short History of Shorthand

By on October 1, 2015 in Pens & Pencils


Did you know that writing in shorthand was the 19th century version of tweeting, used as a method of writing down your own thoughts on hot topics of the day?

Shorthand is an abbreviated system of writing based on the alphabet, and it allows someone who is well trained in it to write as quickly as people speak.

The symbols are unintelligible to those who aren’t in the know, so shorthand became  popular with political activists and special interest groups in the mid-19th century.

It was also used to keep one’s thoughts secret from family members, in the days before computers and password protection.

Nineteenth century celebrities, like diarist Samuel Pepys, scientist Isaac Newton and novelist Charles Dickens used shorthand, and so did minority groups, like anti-war campaigners, teetotalers, vegetarians, and anti-vivisectionists.

There was a shorthand craze which paralleled the beginnings of social media.

Isaac Pitman, who created a popular form of shorthand, famously praised the system: “with shorthand, friendships grow six times as fast as under the withering blighting influence of the moon of longhand.”

Despite the digital age, shorthand is still used today by certain groups of people, particularly journalists.


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