German unity shorthand

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Shorthand recording of a Kolping quotation, written in 2009 in German unified shorthand (traffic script): “The youth must be happy, so they deserve relaxation, which strengthens the strength to work and the desire for it. Everything that disturbs or destroys the desire to work is evil. "
Text in traffic script: Wikipedia is a project to build an encyclopedia from free content, to which you are very welcome to contribute.

The German standard shorthand ( DEK ) is a widespread German shorthand system, today de facto the national shorthand system of Germany and Austria - in both countries the DEK is "official". It was created in 1924 by a state-appointed commission of experts and is based on font ideas from earlier shorthand systems ( Gabelsberger , Stolze-Schrey , Faulmann ) and many years of experience with their use. System revisions took place in 1936 and 1968.


The beginnings

At the beginning of the 20th century there were a total of ten large “shorthand schools”, including Gabelsberger , Stolze-Schrey , Stenotachygraphie and Faulmann , who on the one hand fought each other, on the other hand were connected in the knowledge that a uniform system would be best.

In 1906, the federal chairman of the Gabelsberger School proposed calling a shorthand conference based on the model of the 1901 orthography conference. In November of this year, a proposal was also circulated to set up an expert committee of 23 people from various schools.

The way to the unit system

Between 1912 and 1914 a draft was drawn up after four meetings. A secret counter-draft, which became known a short time later, met with fierce criticism from the schools and was dropped at a fifth meeting in October 1917. Furthermore, the participants agreed on a new draft, which was no longer a mixture of the current systems, but should only contain essential elements of these.

In February 1918, in a sixth meeting (also the last of the 23 Committee), a draft compromise between the Gabelsberger and Stolze-Schrey systems (later “Draft B”) was rejected and instead the so-called “Draft A” presented, which has more similarities with the Stolze-Schrey system.

On May 1, 1918, both drafts were presented to the Reich Chancellor . In the daily and specialist press, however, both designs met with scorn and ridicule. Both the Prussian Landtag and the German Reichstag discussed the shorthand question twice or once. In the end, both were dissatisfied with both designs. The desire for a unified system remained.

In 1919 Heinrich Schulz , the new State Secretary in the Reich Ministry , took up the matter and convened a committee on which a representative from each system sat. The vote fell 10: 1 on the introduction of "Draft A". The vote against came from the representative of the Gabelsberger school, who at the same time refused to work on the committee. However, since Schulz realized that further work would be pointless without the representative of the Gabelsberger system, he dissolved the Elfer Committee and started negotiations with representatives of the Gabelsberger and Stolze-Schrey schools on the basis of "Draft B".

In July 1922, after numerous specialist committee meetings, subcommittee meetings and government conferences, the “July Draft” was drawn up, which all Reich ministries and states approved; except for one thing: Prussia . Many important personalities in the Prussian ministerial bureaucracy were supporters of the Stolze-Schrey system and absolutely wanted to get “Draft A” through.

In 1924 the Reichstag was on the verge of deciding on comparative rates for all systems, but Schulz's optimism as a reporter in the Reichstag ensured that this was again rejected by the same. On April 12, the Reich Minister of Transport decided to introduce the Gabelsberger system into the administrative service. In May Schulz wrote that if no last-second agreement could be reached, an almost unimaginable system battle would break out. In July, the Prussian cabinet decided in a secret meeting to introduce the Stolze-Schrey system should efforts to reach an agreement finally fail. Schulz saw the only possibility of reaching an agreement to take up the "July Draft" from 1922. On July 21, another intergovernmental conference took place. However, the representatives of Prussia tried again to bring down the conference, which they succeeded this time. Therefore, the decree to introduce the Stolze-Schrey system was sent in August, but the system should be improved beforehand. On September 1, Schulz wrote to the Prussian Prime Minister Otto Braun and urged him again to subsequently accept the “July Draft”. On September 3, the Prussian State Cabinet finally agreed to approve the draft, should all other countries approve by September 20. To this end, Schulz traveled independently to the respective countries and persuaded the responsible ministers to agree. In the end he managed to get approval from all ministers.

This created the German unified shorthand on September 20, 1924. From now on Germany also had a uniform shorthand system. The German standard shorthand consisted of two levels: the lower level or "traffic writing" and the upper level or "speech writing"

Many opponents of the unified shorthand nevertheless tried to undo what had happened. 165 Prussian high school directors suggested comparative courses to the Reich Minister of the Interior. However, on May 16, 1925, the German Reichstag finally adopted the unified shorthand and a little later issued numerous decrees and orders that regulated the introduction of the system.

The unified shorthand and National Socialism, second reform from 1936

In 1933, the opponents of the unified shorthand saw another chance: They demanded that the National Socialists introduce a new system and new negotiations. Nevertheless, they did not come into play, because the man who had the decisive connections was himself a standard stenographer. This man was Karl Lang, who was later named "Expert of the NSDAP for shorthand" by Hans Schemm , the Reichsführer of the Nazi teachers' association. In April 1933 he had a memorandum made in which it was stated that the Reich Government had enforced a uniform shorthand in 1924, whereby the shorthand was a matter for the state. In May the government of the Reich also advocated the unified shorthand via radio. However, the system was renamed "German shorthand".

In November 1934, the Reich Ministry of Education declared that the standard abbreviation had not proven itself and that the question of the system would have to be examined again.

In 1934/35 the system was checked and revised in secret negotiations with constantly changing participants.

On January 30, 1936, a new document was finally adopted. For example, the number of abbreviations (108 abbreviations) and abbreviations in the lower level was reduced and the upper level was renamed "express writing". In addition to the traffic writing, there were so-called “optional provisions”, the application of which was left to the scribe's discretion.

After World War II and third reform in 1968

Although classes were resumed after the war and new clubs were established, opponents of the unified shorthand also became active again, this time with a certain degree of success: In Rhineland-Palatinate, the 1936 system was banned and, in addition to the 1924 system, older systems were also banned admitted to teaching.

In the course of time, however, several efforts arose to improve or change the previous system. Georg Paucker and Josef Brandenburg did particularly well there , who divided the optional provisions into traffic and express writing in order to eliminate them as an intermediate stage.

On October 10, 1952, the Standing Conference of Education Ministers announced that only one system was permitted for teaching and that there was no reason to change the system from 1936. Nevertheless, the countries could decide on the presentation of the material themselves. This later resulted in differences between the individual system forms of the countries. The uniformity was disturbed.

On December 5, 1959, the Conference of Ministers of Education revised the decision of 1952 and set up an "Expert Committee for Shorthand Issues" with the aim of developing a uniform presentation.

In 1962, after four meetings (three in Bonn , the last in Vienna ) , this committee presented the so-called “Vienna Draft”. This envisaged the breakdown into "Verkehrsschrift" and "Schnellschrift" (divided into "Expressschrift" and "Redeschrift").

On March 29, 1963, the plenum of the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education discussed the draft, but then postponed the decision because Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg did not approve the draft.

On January 19, 1967, during a renewed plenary session, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg declared that the efforts for uniformity should not fail because of them, so that the “Vienna Draft” was adopted unanimously (with two abstentions).

In November 1967 the Committee of Experts revised the draft again, which was subsequently approved by the plenum of the Standing Conference of Education Ministers on March 28, 1968.

On June 20, 1968, the new “Vienna Certificate” was published, which then came into force on August 1, 1968.

On June 1, 1970, led GDR a separate, new system certificate , which split the system into three stages "note writing", "dictation writing" and "speech writing".

The system of the German unified shorthand

Signs and word examples of the German unity shorthand according to the Vienna document of 1968

The DEK is based on special characters for consonants, consonants and vowels, abbreviations for frequently occurring syllables and words as well as parts of syllables or syllable characters . Vowels (vowels and diphthongs) are only represented with fixed characters if they are not followed by a consonant, for example at the end of a word. Usually they are indicated in the following consonants or final sounds. For example, the e is represented by closely connecting two co-letters at the same height; To represent the o , it is connected widely (about three times as far as in the case of e ), the i indicates a closely connected consonant that is half a step superscript, the u a subscript with a close connection. Also with superscript or subscript, but further connection, ei and eu are indicated. There are also reinforced consonants that, depending on the length and height of the connection, represent a preceding a, au, ö, ü, ä or äu . If two consonants or abbreviations are to be represented without an intervening vowel, these signs should be connected “as closely as possible”, i.e. even more closely than with the close connection.

Connection type Simple representation of
the consonant
Enhanced representation of
the consonant
Close connection e (also for ä ) a
Wide connection O ö
Tight superscript i ü
Wide superscript egg Ä
Tight subscript u ouch
Wide subscript eu uh

The abbreviation of the script is achieved through the simple, no-frills form of the characters, in addition to the general renunciation of signs for vowels, the grouping of consonants in so-called consonants and the use of abbreviations. For example, a t is a short straight line. If it is written in double size, it can be read as tr . In addition, the German standard shorthand does not use any double sounds (except for ll, ss and rr ) and does not differentiate between upper and lower case. The bed and the bed are mostly the same in the shorthand representation; the difference arises from the context in which the word stands. There is also no need for the stretching h in drive . The relatively complex ä (superscript, widening and reinforcement) is usually replaced by e as long as there is no risk of confusion.

Since 1968 the system has been divided into the successive system levels of traffic writing , express writing and speech writing . The latter offer rules for further shortening or shortening. For example, in many final syllables is he the e omitted, so that, among other things in the word or just a sign of dr is written instead of d and r .

Bavarian reservation

According to the announcement of August 2, 1968 by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, shorthand teachers can, at their own option, deal with the following provisions of express writing in whole or in part in the training section of traffic writing. These provisions create an intermediate level of optional provisions between traffic writing and express writing that is not covered by the system document.

  1. The possibility of covering hairstrokes according to §11.6 of the system certificate, in cases in which a symbolically identifiable a or -ik , -ion or -iv follow the line -t (for -tik, -tion as in the system certificate of 1936 , -tiv are to be written with the expulsion-t).
  2. The following additional abbreviations:
    1. according to § 12: busy, on, dis-, you, about, demand, support, cooperative, total, business, big, -ial, -i (e), -ie, -iell, - (t) isch, always, int (e) r, -ism, -isms, -istic, power, some, human, at least (ens), must (ß), point, -sam, -selb, independent, self-evident, otherwise, soci (al), day, day, people, least (ens), -z-ung;
    2. according to § 13: society, large, must, -nis, -tnis, -nis, -tnisse, - (i, e) ity, trans-, economy
  3. The application of § 11.1d to abbreviations: All abbreviations for verbs also apply to the second person.
  4. The anticipation of Section 11.2 sentence 1: merger is applied with the mergers contained in the 1936 system deed.

In the meantime, this exception has taken a back seat, but is still part of the relevant curricula in Bavaria to this day.

System performance

The amount of information that can be recorded - expressed in syllables per minute - depends on the system level used and the routine of the writer. The traffic script achieves an average of 80 to 120 syllables per minute , which is already two to three times as effective as normal handwriting (long script).

The express writing leads to a recording speed of up to about 200 syllables per minute and contains further abbreviations as well as various abbreviation and abbreviation rules. For example, the e is suppressed in many final syllables (spoken syllables) on -er , so that two hand movements are saved and, for example, the word savior is only written with the character r , a connecting line and the subsequent character tr . Without this shortening, another connecting line and the r would have to be written at the end.

Speech writing makes optimal use of fixed idioms as well as graphic means of shortening and offers the tools for high-performance stenography. The phrase “I stand on the standpoint” , for example, consists of the abbreviation I and a period below it. With speech writing, some stenographers briefly achieve writing speeds of 500 syllables per minute and more. Top writers who use the DEK regularly achieve top places at the shorthand World Championships.

The current record using the German standard shorthand is 520 syllables per minute and was set in 1974 by Josef Hrycyk.

The average stenographer is expected to achieve around 150 syllables per minute and 210 strokes per minute. It is therefore expected that he can record a text almost three times as fast after dictation as he would record it on a keyboard. With more professional experience and consistent expansion of skills in shorthand and machine writing, the ratio should move even further in favor of shorthand.

As a dictation, the shorthand has largely lost its meaning, in contrast to its use as a note, for example when taking minutes.

Criticism of the DEK

Criticism was occasionally made of the reinforcements used to indicate vowels such as a , etc. because they required special pencils (shorthand pens) or nibs. Since the revision of 1968 - specified in the so-called Vienna Certificate - the entry level (traffic writing) has been designed in such a way that the writing can be read without these reinforcements and therefore any writing utensil can be used.

In 1925, shortly after the German unified abbreviation was introduced as an official system and there were requests to reverse the introduction, there was a discussion in the German Reichstag, during which the member of parliament Theodor Heuss said that the new system was worse than Gabelsberger, too worse than Stolze-Schrey, but unity is necessary.

In professional circles, the lower level of the uniform shorthand, the traffic script, has been under strong criticism since the 1950s for use as a notepad because it is supposedly difficult to learn, too extensive a set of rules and an allegedly too long and too great learning curve. Alternative systems have been published repeatedly, which should enable faster and easier learnability. The best known of these were the “Notepad on the basis of the German standard shorthand” by Hans-Jürgen Bäse (published for the first time in 1986) and the stepography . In 1972 the magazine “Die Volkshochschule” published a comparison of the stepography with the German standard shorthand.


  • Arthur Mentz, Fritz Haeger: History of the shorthand. 2nd Edition. Heckners Verlag, Wolfenbüttel 1974
  • Paul Strassner: Theory of shorthand. Heckners Verlag, Wolfenbüttel 1949

Web links

Wiktionary: German unified shorthand  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Standard shorthand  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

References and comments

  1. a b c Official system document of the German unity shorthand, Vienna document, August 1, 1968, Winklers Verlag Gebrüder Grimm, Darmstadt.
  2. Fast writers wanted. In: The time . August 19, 1999, accessed June 1, 2012 .
  3. With an average syllable length of 3.8 letters (including spaces), an average stenographer uses 150 syllables per minute to get 570 letters, which is 2.7 times faster than 210 characters per minute.
  4. Arthur Mentz, Fritz Haeger: History of the shorthand . 3rd, revised edition. Heckners Verlag, Wolfenbüttel 1981, p. 91 .
  5. Official assessment of stepography by the adult education center , quoted on the stepography website.