Pitman shorthand, first introduced in 1837 by English teacher Sir Isaac Pitman, and improved many times since. Pitman’s system has been used all over the English-speaking world and has been adapted to many other languages, including Latin. Pitman’s system uses a phonemic orthography. For this reason, it is sometimes known as phonography, meaning “sound writing” in Greek. One of the reasons this system allows fast transcription is that vowel sounds are optional when only consonants are needed to determine a word. The availability of a full range of vowel symbols, however, makes complete accuracy possible. Isaac’s brother Benn Pitman, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, was responsible for introducing the method to America. The record for fast writing with Pitman shorthand is 350 wpm during a two-minute test by Nathan Behrin in 1922. Despite being 175 years old Pitman’s shorthand is still relevant today and used by thousands of journalists, executive PAs and secretaries across the world. In Europe, particularly in Great Britain there are thousands of educational institutions teaching Pitman’s famous shorthand.


Originally, the shorthand was written with old-fashioned pens which had nibs.  This made it easy to write both light and heavy strokes.  With a pencil, your light stroke should be a fine line on the paper, and a heavy stroke should be only a little heavier than a light stroke.You need lined paper, preferably one of those “steno” notepads with a line running down the middle, dividing the page into two columns.  The preferred Pitman line-spacing is lines 3/8″ thick.  In Pitman, if you make a mistake, you don’t waste time erasing — you just circle the mistake and rewrite it, which is quicker.