Stenoscript Shorthand by George Oliver

I saw that there had been some mention of Stenoscript Shorthand by George Oliver on the forum. I’ve had a copy of this system for quite a few years now, and thought it would be good to post a something about it as well as pass it along to Carlos, so that – hopefully – any forum members may be able to look into it further if they wish and see what they make of it.

I could not find a copy of it on the internet at all, only a brief mention on a Bulgarian forum. I think it was published about 1931. It is a script system, that is to say, it tries to keep as close as possible to the natural movements of the hand when engaged in regular longhand writing, and as such stands in contrast to Pitmanic systems which are based on the geometry of the circle and line.

The system aims at brevity and legibility not by producing exceedingly brief outlines, but by producing outlines which are easy for the hand to execute, and thus fast for the hand to pen down. Unlike most geometric systems there is a virtual absence of obtuse angles (I don’t think there are any!) to be made in forming shorthand outlines.

The vowels – as one would expect in a script system – are represented ‘in-line’ so to speak, and not by seperate marks. The system can represent 15 vowel, including compound-vowel, sounds. I must say I find Stenoscript easy on the eye.. different to look at than Sweet’s Current Shorthand, but just about as attractive.

Kind regards

Attachment: StenoscriptEnglishOliver.pdf

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  1. Both in its appearance and in its general conception, Stenoscript seems to bear a clear relationship to the German shorthand systems. Gabelsberger initiated this type of shorthand, and further systems in the same style are Stolze-Schrey and the Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift. Other European languages adopted systems of this sort–e.g. Dutch, Polish, Russian, Italian. Some of these systems had official government support. The notable languages that stuck predominantly with geometric systems are English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, whose most popular systems are generally based on or strongly influenced by Taylor. Gabelsberger-like systems for these languages do exist, of course, of which Stenoscript is apparently one. I have seen others as well.

  2. This is a very interesting system! Thanks to Irons for bringing this up, and to Carlos for posting the PDF.

    The stated goals of simplicity and completeness are goals that have been in my thoughts. Gregg for stenographers was not simple. Exceptional speed was bought at the expense of many special forms, making learning it equivalent to learning Chinese, with some phonetic clues to help. It does, as the authors in the PDF state, take a special type of person to learn it successfully. Notehand and Greghand addressed this somewhat by cutting down on the special forms, losing some speed for greater phonetic representation. However there was still a lot of ambiguity with vowel sounds, prefixes and suffixes, etc. The ambiguity slows down the reading. I've recently tried to reduce ambiguity by using Gregg's system to mark the long vowels, but as noted in the PDF, that slows things down too.

    The idea of using different connecting strokes for vowel sounds is intriguing. They do use different line thicknesses on the following consonants for distinguishing long and short vowels, which is a little distressing. I see a way to do this with my customary writing tool, a broad nibbed fountain pen, by giving a little twist on the downstroke, but I hate to have tool dependence built into the system.

    This certainly gives me some things to think about. There may be potential modifications to Gregg in here that would increase its legibility and learnability. Alternatively, I can imagine adapting stenoscript itself for writers of italic who use broad nibbed pens as I do. That may be a lot of work for a tiny audience, but it would be something I could use also.

    I wonder how Stenoscript worked out. Gregg has a long track record of various uses. I wonder how many people used stenoscript successfully for stenographic or note taking purposes?

    1. There's a handwritten manuscript at Ryder Uni (Louis A Leslie shorthand collection) for Mares' Rapid Shorthand. He really tried hard to enable successful representation of vowels, and used short, medium, and long, upstrokes to indicate short, long, and broad, vowel sounds. Mares also included seperate vowel marks if one needed to supplement the upstrokes. Very thorough!

      The manuscript includes a thorough introduction which explains what he was trying to achieve by designing the system the way that he did. Here is the link for the pdf at Ryder's.

    2. The numbers using Stenoscript would have been vanishingly small as it was not published in textbook form for students, but was published by The Institute of Linguists (London) in 1934. There is no evidence it was ever taught in a college.

      I've dug up (using Google) one of georgeamberson1 MSN's posts from 2007 as I remembered he posted something on the extent of use of the shorthand systems of the day in the early 20th Century. Here's the link

  3. There are a wealth of references in that link. Thank you. It is most interesting to find many of my thoughts echoed by the scholars of old who studied different shorthand systems. Many of these seem to have taken the trains of thought further than I have.

    Shorthand was derailed for a century or more by its diversion into verbatim transcription. Now that is no longer necessary, due to advances in technology, and it may be time for some of these earlier considerations to once again come to the forefront.

  4. Yes, no doubt about it, 'expeditious writing' and verbatim reporting are best tackled as different endeavours even if they are related. Henry Sweet's Current Shorthand is made for swift writing as opposed capturing verbatim speech. Here's the link for the webpage at Ryder's

    At least one of the forum members has had some success with it. I'm intending to to have a closer look at it sometime. I think Sweet was giving consideration to these issues that you allude to, which are, I think, to do with developing a swift and legible alternative to longhand that can be read at sight and serve as a substitute for for longhand when composing one's own notes, and is not reliant on being translated into longhand to make the notes straightforwardly intelligible. Sweet even mentions in his "Current Shorthand" that a typeface could be developed to for his system!

    I wonder what systems people have had success in as described in the above manner. I wander if there are some journalists in the UK using T-Line as there default medium for, say, personal journaling? Or if any Europeans are using a script system for their own writings?

    Glad you found the link useful.

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