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Reflections on Shorthand, 2016-07

Saturday July 30, 2016

Holy cow, this is awesome.

It’s been about 8 months of solid progress in shorthand use and I LOVE IT.

Since I frequently answer questions about shorthand practice, and since INTJs tend to appreciate the shorthand concept, I thought I’d share an update here.

I started learning shorthand for these reasons:

  1. I like writing by hand but I type so much faster. Couldn’t my handwriting be made faster, closer in speed to my typing?
  2. I was testing my theory that technology doesn’t really go obsolete in the way we think it does. Shorthand may not, by objective measure, be used much anymore, but I had a hunch that it would give me a crucial benefit in some situations.
  3. I liked the idea of being able to write in obfuscated language. I frequently write in my notebooks in public—in church, on airplanes, etc. and I like to write without wondering if what I am writing is of any concern to the person who’s reading it over my shoulder.
  4. I enjoy reading about subjective frameworks like shorthand that were created back in the day by people who were chasing methods of improving their standards. This historical aspect felt like a real connection to my spirit, something that made sense on a less-conscious level.

After making little progress with Gregg shorthand over the period of a year or so, I started to search for simpler shorthand systems and came across Ford Improved Shorthand. If you want to learn shorthand, I can highly recommend it. Especially if you are an INTJ or Te (extraverted thinking) user. If you’re more of a Ti user, you might have already developed your own shorthand system, for all I know.

I’m still learning Gregg slowly when I have the time. I have also since picked up dscript and like to write with it sometimes.

To get to the common concerns:

It doesn’t look fast. It looks like it uses lots of straight lines. Isn’t cursive longhand faster than this?

Nope, it’s still faster than longhand. Try it!

Doesn’t this make your handwriting worse?

My handwriting has improved dramatically. Want to know how? Grab the free PDF on handwriting repair from the Operina website. You can learn nicer handwriting and fast shorthand at the same time, as I did.

But this is impossible to read, or at least very slow to read. You won’t be able to decipher it.

Some very intelligent people have asked about this. At this point though it’s so common a point of disagreement, and my experience has been so much the opposite, that I am starting to think it is an example of dysfunctional Ni in INTJs.

But I, too, felt a little bit of the fear myself when I was starting out. What if I write it down and then can’t read it?!

It’s like JPEG compression, right? Lossy compression! I’m losing more meaning the faster I write!

Well, that was wasted fear. I can read my shorthand almost as fast as I can read my longhand.

I have found myself unable to decipher hastily-written words at times. However in those cases, I have the wider sentence and even page context to help me. So let’s say I never figure out the word (which has happened once, maybe twice in 8 months). Well, it was part of the final to-do list of Project X, which was completed to my satisfaction just yesterday. The project meets all criteria for success. Thus: I don’t care about the word anymore anyway.

So it’s kind of like compressing a high-resolution JPEG with quality set to 99 or something. Lossy? Yes, and very happy with the result.

Finally, I actually don’t need to go back and read my notes very much. In the case of notes I take for work, I transcribe them once and then never read them again. In the case of most other notes, they were simply helping me organize my thoughts at the time and when I go back and read them they don’t hold my interest for long.

But no one else can read it—not your wife, not your kids [implied: After you die]. Right?

I still keep journals in “normal” writing and update them from time to time. Anyone who wants to read more of my day-to-day thoughts (examples: How many calories I ate today, reminders to myself to do mundane task X, things I want to research) will need to learn shorthand.

But.

After my dad’s passing I find that no one really spends much time reading his journals. And he was an INTJ and someone who was a really respected thinker. People just have other things to do.

I did read about one guy who buys old shorthand journals off eBay. He buys them from families of deceased shorthand-writers and noted that most family members won’t bother to try to decipher your shorthand. I guess as a counterpoint to that though, there are people who occasionally post shorthand letters for deciphering on e.g. community sites like Reddit.

But this is obsolete. People use laptops or audio recorders for transcription now. Right?

This is a really strange conclusion. The fundamental difference between interacting with a laptop and a pen, or an audio recorder and a pen, or a phone and a pen, is huge.

As one example: In my work, I often draw shapes on paper for the client or for myself. I never even enjoyed doing this on a tablet, it’s very awkward to do on a laptop (not casual at all, and it starts to transition into graphic design), and an audio recorder allows only audio descriptions of shapes.

In practice, it’s quite handy to be able to take shorthand notes. You can write in tighter spaces, too.

Where I’m at now:

  • I timed myself and I can write something like 2x-6x faster than normal, depending on the circumstances. I find it very easy to determine how much I will shorten words while writing. However, I can also see where a system like Yublin would help me increase the speed even more. Still, with where I’m at now, I don’t see speed increases as super critical. I write very fast and it works just fine.
  • I can comfortably read my shorthand.
  • People ask me about shorthand all the time. Some just like to look at it. Others have taken classes and forgotten it. One told me, “I took typing and shorthand. I remembered the typing. I never kept up the shorthand practice. But to this day (retired government official) I wish I would have kept up my practice with the shorthand.”

Finally I wanted to mention that some INTJs hesitate to write in a journal because others will read their thoughts and e.g. ridicule them or gossip about them. In the past I wrote in Japanese for this purpose. But Shorthand is a simpler cure for that. It is a shame for INTJs not to feel free to write their thoughts, because Te and writing go hand in hand, and Te is our problem solving function. It’s critical that it be used freely whenever and wherever.

So: Highly recommended. Would not change a thing.

If you want to casually slip into shorthand practice, cnsdr drppng vwls frm yr sntncs whn y wnt t wrt fstr.

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