Handwriting: Val's Shorthand Suggestions

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Wed Dec 24 10:45:18 UTC 2008

On Mon, 2008-12-22 at 14:26 -0800, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> SignWriting List
> December 22, 2008
> Here is a quick Shorthand example...
> One of the tricks of Shorthand, was to write one-handed signing when  
> possible, but that was because we were writing fast...for real daily  
> Handwriting we could write both hands....but these examples show how  
> the fingers are written without the base of the hand, since the  
> fingers hold the meaning:


Of course this goes along with how signers actually sign in practice
when they've only got one free hand, so there's no reason why it
shouldn't be used for convenience in writing just as it's used for
convenience in actual signing.

The question arises, though, of whether this is actually shorthand or
whether it's actually cursive writing. I use Teeline shorthand, and some
of the principles for making it fast are:

   o    it can't be written on blank paper because the position of the
words with respect to the line on the paper is significant;

   o    you only write parts of letters, so that almost every letter is
just one stroke;

   o    you don't lift the pen between letters, you just write each
letter from where the last one ended (hence all the fantastic shapes you
get that mystify readers who don't know the system);

   o    if you do lift the pen in the middle of a word then that means
something different (for example, a pen lift followed by "i" means

   o    you need context to understand what you've written: for example,
if you've written the word "tea" by itself, then you might later not
know whether that was supposed to be "tea" or "Tuesday";

   o    shorthand needs to be transcribed into longhand, because there's
no guarantee that you'll still be able to understand what you were
talking about when you read it over six months later.

Pitman shorthand follows similar principles, but takes things to further
extremes for extra speed (so it's much more difficult to learn, and
harder to read).

So in deciding whether our writing is shorthand or just cursive writing,
I'd suggest trying to answer the following question:

"If I write a single word on a post-it, will I still be able to read it
correctly next year?"

For Teeline the answer is "No", because if we wrote, say, "tea", then
next year we might not be able to remember whether we were reminding
ourselves to buy tea or to go back to work next Tuesday: so Teeline is

I think this test could be a guide to how much we can leave out of
cursive writing before it turns into shorthand. Cursive writing can be
written on blank paper and can be read years later even if it's just a
single word; with shorthand this isn't guaranteed: ruled paper must be
used and information is sacrificed for speed and must be recreated from
the context.

Sandy Fleming


SW-L SignWriting List

Post Message
SW-L at majordomo.valenciacc.edu

List Archives and Help

Change Email Settings

More information about the Sw-l mailing list