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any brief, rapid system of writing that may be used in transcribing, or recording, the spoken word. Such systems, many having characters based on the letters of the alphabet, were used in ancient times; the shorthand of Tiro, Cicero's amanuensis, was used for centuries. Modern systems date from 1588, when Timothy Bright published his 500-odd symbols for words; a French system was developed by Jacques Cossard in 1651, a German one in 1679. In 1602, Rev. John Willis published the Arte of Stenographie; there followed dozens of systems before 1837, when the shorthand of Isaac PitmanPitman, Sir Isaac,
1813–97, English inventor of phonographic shorthand. In Stenographic Soundhand (1837) he set forth a shorthand system based on phonetic rather than orthographic principles; adapted to more than a dozen languages, it became one of the most-used
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 appeared. This, with improvements, is in wide use in English-speaking countries today; it is perhaps the most rapid shorthand system and is favored by many court and convention reporters. The Pitman system makes use of shading (a line heavily drawn has a meaning different from that of the same line lightly drawn) and of differences in slope and position on a given line; it is geometric in outline and is difficult to master but makes possible very great speed. John Robert Gregg (1867–1948) in 1888 published a popular system of business shorthand that is still in use today. Its outlines are curved and natural, resembling those of ordinary script; need for lifting the pen was eliminated as much as possible, so that a cursive motion is used; there is no shading, but variation in length of line indicates variation in meaning. The outlines were scientifically worked out for simplicity and writing ease. Other shorthand systems employ shortened forms of longhand, e.g., Speedwriting, used where legibility is the principal concern. On the Continent, F. X. Gabelsberger (Germany) and Émile Duployé (France) originated widely used systems; in South America and Canada, the Sloan-Duployan shorthand is favored. Rapid writing with shorthand machines has also developed. Use of keyboard machines such as the Stenotype or Stenograph machines is extensive in courts of law and other places where great speed, silence, and portability of equipment are essential in recording speech; such machines are now computerized, with the transcribed text appearing on a small display screen. Even though now virtually all offices use computers and word-processingword processing,
use of a computer program or a dedicated hardware and software package to write, edit, format, and print a document. Text is most commonly entered using a keyboard similar to a typewriter's, although handwritten input (see pen-based computer) and audio input (as
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 software for correspondence, shorthand continues to have a role in business.


See H. Glatte, Shorthand Systems of the World (1959); L. A. Leslie, The Story of Gregg Shorthand (1964); J. R. Gregg, Gregg Shorthand Dictionary (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also called stenography), a system of rapid writing that uses signs and word and word-group abbreviations to achieve the synchronous transcription of speech and a more simplified and efficient technique of writing. The speed of shorthand is usually four to seven times that of ordinary writing.

Shorthand was known in remote antiquity. One of the earliest records of a shorthand system is an inscription on a marble slab dating from 350 B.C., found in the Acropolis of Athens. In the schools of ancient Rome, a system of rapid writing (notaría) was taught along with ordinary writing (abecedario). This system, which was used until the 11th century, was called Notae Tironianae after its inventor, Tiro (first century B.C.).

The term “stenography” was introduced in 1602 in England, by J. Willis. Since the 17th century, approximately 3,000 shorthand systems and variants have been devised worldwide. At the present time (1976), several dozen systems are used, in view of a continuing tendency to reduce the number of systems. The socialist countries are gradually adopting a unified state system of shorthand.

Modern shorthand has both cursive and geometric systems. The signs for consonants in the cursive systems are taken from elements of ordinary writing and are connected with lines. The signs in the geometric systems are circles, parts of circles, and straight lines inclined at various angles, all combined without connecting lines. Both types were invented in England: the geometric system by Willis (1602) and the cursive by S. Bordley (1789). The geometric systems are generally used for languages with relatively short words, such as English, French, and Spanish; the cursive systems, for languages with long words, such as the Slavic and Scandinavian languages and German. (See Figure 1 for illustrations of several shorthand systems.)

Shorthand systems may also be orthographic or phonetic. Orthographic systems retain the spelling patterns of ordinary writing, while phonetic systems form abbreviations by eliminating those letters that correspond to silent sounds. The Russian systems of M. A. Terne (1874) and of Z. I. Sapon’ko and A. I. Sa-pon’ko (1913) were based on stress: among internal vowels, only those with stress were retained.

Most shorthand systems represent consonants and vowels differently. In cursive systems, the consonants are depicted with elements of standard handwritten script. The vowels are depicted in several ways: by changing the length and direction of the thin line connecting the consonant signs; by altering the consonant signs, especially by making them heavier; and by changing the position of signs—raising or lowering them in relation to the line and to one another. The aggregate of shorthand signs for consonants is extralinguistic, thus facilitating the adaptation of a given shorthand system to different languages.

In prerevolutionary Russia, shorthand was rarely used. Predominating were variations of German cursive systems. The first original shorthand system for Russian that was put to practical use was the system of M. I. Ivanin, published in 1858 in his On Stenography or the Art of Rapid Writing and Its Application to Russian. Shorthand (Ivanin’s system) was first used in Russia in 1860, at the University of St. Petersburg, to transcribe a debate between Academician M. P. Pogodin and Professor N. I. Kosto-marov on the origins of Rus’.

After the October Revolution of 1917, new systems of shorthand appeared, including those of M. I. Lapekin (1920), N. I. Fa-leev (1922), and N. N. Sokolov (1924). During the 1920’s, when shorthand was taught according to different systems, the development of stenographic education was impeded.

A theoretical and practical comparison of the seven best shorthand systems was conducted by the People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR in 1933. The all-Union Central Executive Committee of the RSFSR then adopted a decree introducing the Uniform State System of Shorthand (GESS) in the RSFSR, based mainly on Sokolov’s system.

The GESS system, now used in the USSR, is a cursive system based on a study of the biomechanics of writing, the frequency of the letters and morphemes in standard written material, and the frequency of the signs in shorthand systems. One of the principles of GESS is standardization: each word can be written in only one way. Vowels are indicated by changing the position of signs in relation to one another. The most convenient shorthand signs, that is, those most closely resembling elements of ordinary writing, are used to represent the most frequently occurring linguistic units. The GESS system has been adapted to Ukrainian, Uzbek, Georgian, Polish, and other languages.

The GESS system is continually being improved and simplified, with the aim of achieving maximum ease of transcription and of learning. Major efforts are being directed toward closely approximating shorthand signs to elements of the letters used in ordinary handwriting, toward eliminating signs impeding standardized connections between combinations of consonants and vowels, and toward reducing the number of composite signs, that is, those representing consonant clusters.


Ershov, N. A., comp. Obzor russkikh stenograficheskikh sistem: Istoriia, kritika i literatura russkoi stenografii. St. Petersburg, 1880.
Sokolov, N. N. Teoreticheskie osnovy gosudarstvennoi edinoi sistemy stenografii. Moscow, 1949.
Iurkovskii, A. M. Stenografiia skvoz’ veka. Moscow, 1969.
Petrásek, J. Déjiny tésnopisu. Prague, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


From "alphanumeric," meaning a combination of letters and digits, alphanumerish uses digits and single letters as shorthand for words. It came about as more and more people began to routinely send short messages on tiny pager, PDA and cellphone screens. For example, 2U means "to you." UR means "you are." See emoticon and digispeak.


Using acronyms as a shorthand for phrases in email, instant messages, texting and chat sessions; for example, BTW for "by the way" and IMHO for "in my humble opinion." The acronyms have turned into a new language, also called "techspeak," "textspeak," "geekspeak," "Internet speak," "Webspeak" and "IMglish." For people who cannot type fast and hunt and peck every letter, these acronyms are a blessing. Following are some popular examples. See leetspeak and alphanumerish.

 .02        My two cents worth.
 <3         Sideways heart (I love you).

 ADIP       Another day in paradise.
 AFAIK      As far as I know.
 AFK        Away from keyboard.
 A/S/L      Age, sex, location.
 ASIG       And so it goes.
 ATM        At the moment.
 AWGTHTGTTA Are we going to have to go
             through this again.
 AYS        Are you serious?
 AYT        Are you there?

 B4N        Bye for now.
 BAK        Back at keyboard.
 BBL        Be back later.
 BFF        Best friend forever.
 BFN        Bye for now.
 BLNT       Better luck next time.
 BM&Y       Between me and you.
 BME        Based on my experience.
 BRB        Be right back.
 BTDT       Been there, done that.
 BTW        By the way.
 BWL        Bursting with laughter.

 CMIIW      Correct me if I'm wrong.
 CRBT       Crying really big tears.
 CTN        Can't talk now.
 CU         See you.
 CUL        See you later.
 CWYL       Chat with you later.
 CYA        See ya.

 DETI       Don't even think it.
 DILLIGAF   Do I look like I give a f***
 DQMOT      Don't quote me on this.
 DUR        Do you remember?
 DYJHIW     Don't you just hate it when..

 EBCAK      Error between
             chair and keyboard.
 EBKAC      Error between
             keyboard and chair.
 EMFBI      Excuse me for butting in.
 EWG        Evil wicked grin.

 F2F        Face to face.
 FCOL       For crying out loud.
 FOAF       Friend of a friend.
 FUBAR      Fouled up beyond all recognition.
 FWIW       For what it's worth.
 FYEO       For your eyes only.
 FYI        For your information.

 GAL        Get a life.
 GD&R       Grinning, ducking and running.
 GMTA       Great minds think alike.
 GR8        Great.
 GTG        Got to go.

 HB         Hurry back.
 HBU        How about you?
 HHOK       Ha, ha, only kidding.
 HODL       I am hodling (holding).
 HTH        Hope this helps.

 IANAL      I am not a laywer, but...
 IAW        In accordance with.
 IDK        I don't know.
 IIRC       If I recall correctly.
 ILY        I love you.
 IMCO       In my considered opinion.
 IMHO       In my humble opinion.
 IMO        In my opinion.
 IOW        In other words.
 IRL        In real life.

 JFF        Just for fun.
 JK         Just kidding.
 JOOTT      Just one of those things.
 JW         Just wondering.

 KIA        Know-it-all.
 KIT        Keep in touch.
 KK         Okay, all right.
 KNIM       Know what I mean.
 KPC        Keeping parents clueless.

 L8R        Later.
 LMAO       Laughing my ass off.
 LD         Later dude.
 LOL        Laughing out loud;
             Lots of luck.
 LMIRL      Let's meet in real life.
 LULz       Lots of laughs.
 LY         Love ya.
 LYLAS      Love ya like a sister.

 MEH        I fell so-so.
 MGB        May God bless.
 MOO        My own opinion.
 MNC        Mother nature calls.
 MWA        A kiss (the sound of "mwa.")
 MYOB       Mind your own business.

 N2M        Not too much.
 NALOPKT    Not a lot of people know this.
 NIGI       Now I get it.
 NIH        Not invented here.
 NM         Nothing much.
 NOOB       Beginner (see  newbie).
 NP         No problem.
 NTMY       Nice to meet you.
 NVM        Never mind.
 NW         No way.

 OIC        Oh, I see.
 OMG        Oh my God!
 OMW        On my way.
 OOH        Out of here.
 OOO        Out of office.
 OTFL       On the floor laughing.
 OTOH       On the other hand.
 OTP        On the phone.

 PAL        Parents are listening.
 PEBCAK     Problem exists between
             chair and keyboard.
 PEBKAC     Problem exists between
             keyboard and chair.
 PIR        Parents in room.
 PITA       Pain in the ass.
 PLBCAK     Problem lies between
             chair and keyboard.
 PLBKAC     Problem lies between
             keyboard and chair.
 PMJI       Pardon my jumping in.
 PMO        Piss me off.
 POS        Parent over shoulder.
 POTATO     Person over 30 acting 21.
 PRW        Parents are watching.
 PTG&LI     Playing the game & loving it.

 RBAY       Right back at you.
 RHIP       Rank has its privileges.
 RL         Real life.
 ROFL       Rolling on floor laughing.
 ROFLMAO    ROF, laughing my ass off.
 RT         Real talk.  Being honest.
 RTFM       Read the f***ing Manual (see  RTFM).
 RUOK       Are you OK?

 SC         Stay cool.
 SFAIK      So far as I know.
 SIT        Stay in touch.
 STFU       Shut the f*** up!
 SUP        What's up?
 SWL        Screaming with laughter.
 SYS        See you soon.

 TANSTAAFL  There ain't no such thing 
             as a free lunch.
 THX        Thanks.
 TIA        Thanks in advance.
 TLDR       Too long, didn't read.
 TMTH       Too much to handle.
 TTFN       Ta, ta for now (goodbye).
 TTT        Thought that too.
 TTYL       Talk to you later.
 TTYS       Talk to you soon.
 TU         Thank you.
 TY         Thank you.

 UCMU       You crack me up.
 UDM        You da man.
 UOK        Are you OK?
 U2U        Up to you.
 URTM       You are the man.
 UTM        You tell me.

 VBS        Very big smile.

 WFM        Works for me.
 WTG        Way to go.
 WUF        Where are you from?
 WYHAM      When you have a minute.
 WWJD       What would Jesus do?
 WWNC       Will wonders never cease.

 XLNT       Excellent.
 XME        Excuse me.

 YGTBKM     You've got to be kidding me.
 YMMV       Your mileage may vary.
 YNK        You never know.
 YOLO       You only live once.
 YT         You there?
 YW         You're welcome.
 YWSYLS     You win some, you lose some.

 ZUP        What's up?
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