Personal Shorthand in Use

Working off the last post where I introduced my shorthand, I figured I should follow it up with another about what it looks like in use.  Below I have written Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Simple enough, and a good illustration of what a text in my shorthand would look like (Omniglot tries to use it for every language and script they have on their site).  Below, I have the same text written in four different ways: my normal handwriting (which is awful), the “standard” version of the shorthand, my personal note-taking shorthand style (which is more cursive-y), and my calligraphic form with lots of flourishes.  I apologize that I didn’t touch these up or make them all professional, but I tried using Illustrator to trace them out and pretty them up, and it was hell.  Straight scans for you, instead.

Hopefully that illustrates how I use my own script.  I use the third one, the cursive-y form, the most; the second style is used for labels or other lengthy texts I write to myself that demand some semblance of order; the fourth style is used for decoration or artsy purposes only.  I pretty much never use the first style, actual English script, anymore.

In addition to writing notes and texts in this shorthand, I also use it to make sigils.  Let’s say I want to sigilize the phrase “Planetary hours are so cool” (because I’m a total geek).  According to the rules I was taught, you remove all vowels first from a phrase like that, then remove all repeated consonants.  Given that phrase, this leaves us to work with the letters “P L N T R Y H S C” (I consider Y to be a consonant).  To make a sigil out of this, I usually link up all characters, H, N, M, W, and V, since they all share the same basic zig-zag shape.  I do the same for Y, L, and T, which share the same step-like shape, and B, C, D, P, S, and R, which all share the same wavy shape.  Putting this all together, we get the following shapes:

However, I’ve recently gotten into the habit of forming some kind of “circuit” or closed loop for my sigils, so that there are no loose ends in the image.  Plus, within the enclosed space formed by the sigil, I have some sort of monogram with the initials of the person(s) the sigil is made for.  By linking the C, S, R, and P in a slightly different way and attaching the Y, L, and T differently, I can make an enclosed space as the following, with my initials inside.

Then, I’ll make the sigil mantra based on the visual sigil and where the letters appear in it.  I take the letters as they appear from left to right and top to bottom.  For the first sigil, the order of the letters becomes “C S R P Y L T H N”, which I might intone as “KASER PEEL TAYHEN”; for the second, the order is “Y H N R S C P T L”, which might be intoned as “YAHEN RAS KEPTEL”.  The letters V and W might be used as an “OO” or long-u vowel or as a consonant, depending on where they appear, much how the letter Y was vocalized as “EE” or a long-i vowel in the first mantra above but a consonantal-i/y sound in the second.

Personal Shorthand

My penmanship is awful.  Sure, I do calligraphy once in a while, and I can write clearly enough for business use.  However, it can get to the point where even I can only stare in confused befuddlement at what I had written a few days earlier.  I can abuse the proper letterforms of the Roman script pretty fierce, y’all.  I make no claim as to the contrary.

To fix this awful state of illegibility, back in high school, I developed my own version of the Roman alphabet to be used as a cursive or shorthand for personal notes, journal entries, and the like.  I was big into developing writing systems back then, and came up with a number of them, some even with their accompanying languages (yes, I’m a conlang nerd, go away).  I ended up sticking with this script I developed, and over the six or seven years it’s been in use I’ve made a few changes to it.  It’s getting slightly more elaborate, but only for the sake of making writing easier without sacrificing clarity too much.

I claim that this shorthand, which I just call my shorthand, cursive, or “it’s how I write, stop treating it like some arcane manuscript (even though it probably is, wink wink)”, is simple to learn.  Most of the letterforms are simply the Roman script reduced or simplified in some way: there are no capital letters, double letters are usually represented with a single dotted letter, the letter A is the same with the horizontal bar removed, the letters B, D, R, and P are the same with the vertical bar removed, and so forth.  There are some new letters I devised, based on Greek, Tironian notes, and so forth, that account for ligatures or digraphs in English, but they’re easily learned.

As you can see, most of the letters have a 1-to-1 correspondence with those in the Roman alphabet for English.  There are also several new letters for the digraphs Ch (like in “chance”, not “chemistry”), Gh, Ft, Ng (like in “angle”, not “angel”), Ph, Qu, Sh, Th (like in “thence” not “Thomas”), and Wh.  Two special symbols is used for the words “and”, which is basically a simplified ampersand, and “of”, which is a lot like the Japanese hiragana character “no”, which is also the Japanese possessive particle.

There are also special forms for Ee, Ff, Jj, Ll, and Tt; these double letters are written and cross or join each other, although the other letters simply take a dot.  In theory, all letters that aren’t those listed above take a dot for doubled forms, some are simply never used in English (one will never have a doubled Q or Sh, though this may be the case in other languages).

Because there are a lot of Latinate derivatives in English, which often use trigraphs like “sio” or “tio”, I also have forms for these groups of letters.  Although there may be others, the only letters I can remember having these forms are Gio, Rio, Sio, Tio, and Xio.  Adding an N to make Tion or Sion to them is natural and can be done by simply continuing the stroke.

Some letters have descenders and ascenders that go over the next or previous letters.  This is more to save space on the actual line of text than anything else, and is also why, from an aesthetic standpoint, the letters F, J, L, and T have special doubled forms.

The letters K, N, U, V, W, X, Ch, Ph, Th, and Wh are special since they fall into a class of letters that have a high diagonal stroke upwards and to the right.  Some letters join them easily, such as K and D.  However, when the letter E or Ee follows these letters, their forms are changed into little dashes that cross the diagonal stroke on these letters.  The E dashes on these words come last in stroke order so that other letters might be able to join up with the base letter first.  This is a time-, space-, and ink-saving gesture.  Wh also falls into this class, but only for the letters E and Ee; other letters don’t do anything with this letter since its diagonal goes too far up.

So, putting this all together, we can write words that are both easily read by someone not used to the shorthand and those that take some practice to read.  All, however, take fewer strokes and less time to write.

Notes on the above:

  • “Never”, “Version”, and “Chess” are all written with a single stroke with the addition of half-E strokes and doubling dots.
  • The S in “Version” looks similar to Ph, since it’s joined to the preceding R and is in its Sio form.  However, I don’t use Phio for anything, so it by default has to mean Sio.

Why am I showing you all this?  Well, a drunken conversation with my sister helped spur this post when we were talking about how we do our sigils.  Some people might be interested to see what kind of script I use for devising my sigils, since the simplified letterforms lead themselves well to sigilization and linking up with each other for an appealing but still easily visualizable shape.  I have a few rules for making sigils using this shorthand, such as always linking all Ms, Ns, Hs, Vs, and Ws (which all share the same basic zig-zag shape), and so forth.

Otherwise, if I die and someone wants to claim all my journals and notes, this post will help them decipher my otherwise unintelligible handwriting.  I have the convention of using my shorthand for notes, directions, and instructions in my notebooks and tomes, with Roman script used for orations or prayers.  Plus, if I ever decide to hand-write and -illustrate a tome for myself (either as a completed copy of my current vademecum or as a gift for someone else), I’ll probably use the calligraphic form of my shorthand, which will look pretty indeed for a whole book.  Tedious, but pretty.  That’s all that really matters, right?