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Shorthand Stenography Online Course Chapter 2 “What is Stenography ?”, ” Pitman’s system of Shorthand”

What is Stenography ?

The term ‘Stenography’ is composed of two words ‘steno’ and ‘graphy’. ‘Steno’ means narrow, ‘graphy’ means to write. So, Stenography means the art or any method of writing very quickly.

Stenography was later known as Shorthand. Shorthand has been described by Sir Isaac Pitman as ‘the art of representing spoken sounds in shorthand characters (written signs)’. Shorthand provides a way of representing every sound heard in English words. Originally the transcription of shorthand notes was done in longhand or the language script, which involved a longer time to transcribe. The transcription of shorthand notes speedily and neatly be done on either the typewriter or computer.

Pitman’s system of Shorthand

The system of shorthand invented by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837 in England, has been found to be scientific and complete. In this system all minute sounds of English words can be written in shorthand, and the shorthand outlines can be read back accurately without any difficulty. Since this system is widely practised all over the world and each and every town of India, it has been adopted by the NIOS for imparting instructions to the students.


Shorthand may be briefly and accurately defined as “the art of representing spoken sounds by geometrical characters. It is also called ‘Phonography’ or ‘Sound Writing.’ It is a system to write words as they are pronounced. Since shorthand is written as briefly as possible, it is called Stenography.

Pitman’s system is phonetic

It is a philosophical system of writing – a method based on phonetics (sounds). Ordinary longhand is seldom phonetic. But Pitman’s shorthand is phonetic, that means, words are generally written as they are pronounced, and not according to ordinary longhand spellings. With a few exceptions, only such sounds, as are heard in pronouncing English words, are written in shorthand. Unspoken or unheard sounds are not to be written. A few illustrations are given below :-

Words Sounds to be written

palm           p-ah-m
tomb           t-oo-m
ache            a-k
coal             k-oh-l


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