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Stenographers document a speech in the German Bundestag , 2020

Stenography or shorthand ( IPA [ ˌʃtenogʁafiː ] shortly Steno , even Engschrift, shorthand, shorthand, Tachygraphie, phonograph, speech draftsmanship) is formed of simple character Abbreviaturschrift that can be written faster than the conventional "longhand" and allows, in normal Writing down the speed of spoken language or jotting down your own ideas more quickly.

The term stenography is derived from the Greek words στενός stenós ("eng") and γράφειν gráphein ("write", "scratch"). A document written in shorthand is called a shorthand . A person who uses this script as a scribe or recorder in negotiations and the like is a stenographer . Franz Xaver Gabelsberger , Wilhelm Stolze and Ferdinand Schrey are of particular importance for the use of shorthand in Germany .

Modern shorthand systems are by their nature letter fonts . They also contain elements from the syllabary as well as characters for whole words ("abbreviations"). Additional brevity is achieved by symbolizing certain sounds and fixed syllables.


The first four letters of the alphabet in German standard shorthand (DEK)

High writing speeds can be achieved with shorthand systems, as the linguistic information content is condensed with graphic and linguistic means (abbreviation technique, see below). Stenography systems were already known to the ancient Greeks and Romans ( Tironic notes ) and were used as files and chancellery script until the Middle Ages . In modern times , geometric shorthand systems were widespread, particularly in England and France, from the end of the 16th century . In Germany, too, geometric shorthands were known since 1678.

Since the syllable structure and sound frequencies of languages ​​differ, language-specific shorthands are required. In English these are u. a. the systems of Isaac Pitman and John Robert Gregg .



Marcus Tullius Tiro is considered the inventor of shorthand , who created the Tironic notes named after him in the first century BC . They were widespread in the Roman Empire ; “Note writers” made their way to Greece , Egypt and Central Europe . Tironic notes can be found in monastery manuscripts and office files until the Middle Ages. In ancient Greece there were partly independent developments. More and more detailed studies have been undertaken on the shorthand of antiquity since the 19th century.


The birthplace of modern shorthand is England. Here was the introduction of the Reformation and the desire to keep the more important teachings from that time faithfully as possible, the first powerful impetus to the development of shorthand ( English shorthand ). Timothy Bright's work from 1588 is considered to be the first shorthand system of the modern era. The practical application of his system " Characterie " has been documented since 1589; it was also used to transcribe Shakespeare's plays. In 1602, John Willis set up a complete shorthand alphabet for the first time. In 1626 Thomas Shelton published a shorthand method in which, among other things - with some individual modifications - the famous secret diaries of Samuel Pepys were written.

In England only "geometric" shorthand systems were in use. Simple geometric basic elements (point, straight line, circle, ellipse and their partial lines) are used to form letter characters. The geometrical principle came to the fore through John Byrom in 1726. In contrast, there are “cursive” systems, which form their characters from parts of ordinary cursive letters and thus achieve more familiar features that correspond to the direction of writing.

The geometrical system of Samuel Taylor (1786), which also became authoritative for later French, Italian and Spanish systems, found further distribution . Taylor described the Toggle and -final vowel with a point that inlautenden but not vocal. However, this script was found to be difficult to read, so Isaac Pitman created a full vowel designation with his new system in 1837. He used points, small horizontal lines and angles in different positions and strengths. Its spelling is a sound, phonetic . In an effort to create a fast-learn compared to Pitman shorthand, created James Hill 1968 Teeline -Stenographie. In contrast to the traditional geometric-phonetic English shorthands, Teeline is an italic alphabetical system. There are Teeline adaptations for various languages ​​(including German ), but this shorthand is mainly used in Great Britain . In total there were more than 200 shorthand systems from England.


In France, Abbé Jacques Cossard created the first shorthand system in 1651. It was superior to later approaches in terms of system theory, but according to the current state of research, it found no demonstrable practical application. In 1792 the English system Taylor was transferred to the French language by Théodore-Pierre Bertin and improved in 1826 by Hippolyte Prévost and his pupil Albert Delaunay with regard to its readability. The vowel writing systems of Aimé Paris (1822) and Émile Duployé (1867) found further distribution .


In Italy u. a. an adaptation of the Taylor system by Amanti (1809) used, before Enrico Carlo Noë transferred the italic Gabelsberger system to the Italian language (1863). In addition, the semi-geometric systems of Cima and Meschini are mainly used today. Italy can look back on the most varied developments in Europe in terms of the writing styles and techniques used.

German-speaking systems

Comparison of different German-language stenography systems using the word »Wikipedia«

The first German-language shorthand textbook was published in 1678 by Charles Aloysius Ramsay under the title "Tacheographia". The system goes back to the old geometric English shorthand by Thomas Shelton and was taught at a Württemberg university, the Hohen Karlsschule , from 1787 . Later, among others, Friedrich Mosengeil (1796) and Carl Gottlieb Horstig (1797) followed with adaptations of the neugeometric system Taylor.

Franz Xaver Gabelsberger , Bavarian ministerial official, founded the cursive German shorthand derived from cursive. It is called italic or graphical because of the style of its writing . Gabelsberger's main work “Instructions for the German Art of Speech Marking ” from 1834 is a milestone in the history of shorthand. His shorthand style also influenced the development of shorthand in Northern and Eastern Europe and partly in Italy, while England and the Romance countries stuck to geometric systems. One of the first official applications was the shorthand form of the negotiations for the trial against the "conspirators" of the Hambach Festival in 1833, which Gabelsberger himself recorded in the shorthand he had invented. In the exhibition in Hambach Castle, a special showcase is dedicated to this process.

Other well-known German system inventors were Heinrich August Wilhelm Stolze (1798–1867), Leopold Arends (1850), Heinrich Roller (1839–1916), August Lehmann , Carl Faulmann , Ferdinand Schrey (1850–1938), Karl Scheithauer and the Albrecht brothers Felix von Kunowski . Overall, the total number of German shorthand systems is estimated at 800 to 900. Some of the representatives of the shorthand schools polemicized each other violently.

Eduard Pfaff (1868–1943) summarized the religious-political dimension of the dispute over the more correct shorthand in the article "Stenography and Politics" in his Darmstadt newspaper in 1913 :

“After Neuwacht (No. 9) a note in the Offenburger Zeitung of May 2nd tried to advertise the Gabelsberger system by pointing out that Gabelsberg belonged to the Catholic Church and his opposition to the German Catholicism that was emerging at the time. The Roller's system is fought in the note with the fact that the Roller's school is accused of community with social democracy. It is actually superfluous to state that the whole Gabelsberg school condemns such a way of fighting. Stenography is neither a religious nor a party matter; but one does not need to brand such a derailment of a young, inexperienced, enthusiastic supporter of his system. How often has it been countered to us, especially in Prussia, by representatives of government authorities, that Gabelsberger is the Catholic and Stolze-Schrey is the Evangelical system, so there is no need in Prussia to learn the Gabelsberger system. "

At the beginning of the 20th century, the desire to create a uniform German shorthand system, which should combine the advantages of all important systems in itself, increased.

After many years of negotiations, the German Standard Shorthand (DEK) was adopted and officially recognized in 1924 . It is mainly based on the Gabelsberger and Stolze-Schrey systems as well as Faulmann's vocalization and consists of the three script levels traffic script, express script and speech script (building on each other, with increasing level of abstraction). The DEK was reformed by specialist committees in 1936 and 1968 (in the GDR 1970). This is where the system of German shorthand taught in the GDR came into being . Today the DEK 1968 ( “Wiener Urkunde” ) is the standard system in Germany and Austria. In Switzerland, preference is given to the Stolze-Schrey (German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino) and Émile Duployé and Aimé-Paris (French-speaking Switzerland) systems.

Various new shorthand systems were also developed for the German language after 1945. These claim to be easier and faster to learn than the DEK. The best known of these new systems was stepography .

Modern cursive shorthand systems consist of the parts of the usual cursive script, symbolic representations - mostly the vowels - and fixed abbreviations for frequent syllables and words (abbreviations). At higher levels, various abbreviation rules allow both linguistic redundancy (e.g. endings or end syllables that are unnecessary for understanding words) and graphic means (covering of lettering, merging, etc.) to be used.

In addition to the systems mentioned, there are also several systems of the blind stenography, namely the so-called blind shorthand and the so-called blind stenographies with six, seven or eight points. Many printed works for the blind are produced in the blind shorthand; it is the normal slang for the blind. The six point system is the logging stenography of the blind in use today. The seven-point system, especially common in East Germany, has not been taught since German unification. The eight point system is used by only a few blind negotiation stenographers.


Wanderer's night song in Gabelsberger shorthand (around 1905)

Until the middle of the 19th century, shorthands were generally only used by a small elite who knew how to write. Its use has been proven by numerous scholars such as Gerard van Swieten , rulers such as Emperor Leopold II, as well as by professional chancellors and clerks in the service of the church, politics, economy and administration.

Since shorthand was often taught as an optional subject at high schools, many academics were shorthanded until the beginning of the 20th century. They used shorthand as a working and conceptual typeface and sometimes wrote extensive drafts, lecture notes or research reports in shorthand (for example Alfred Brehm , Otto Lilienthal , Max Planck , Joseph Schumpeter , Dolf Sternberger , Rudolf Virchow , Konrad Zuse ). For example, the philosophical legacy of the scientist Edmund Husserl comprises around 40,000 manuscript pages that were written in the Gabelsberger system and transcribed for publication as a printed work.

At the beginning of the 20th century, shorthand was comparatively widespread in the population of Central Europe. For example, learning shorthand was part of the training of staff officers in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. It was also firmly established in judicial training.

From the beginning of industrialization  - in Germany only since the beginning of the 20th century - the mastery of shorthand as dictation was an essential main skill of stenotypists , but also of secretaries , to record the dictations etc. for letters in shorthand and then with the typewriter or telex had to be transferred ("shorthand dictation"). With the advent of dictation machines , later the personal computer and finally word processing programs, as well as the accompanying development of not dictating letters any more, but writing them yourself, the importance of shorthand as dictation began to decline.

The profession of press stenographer for newspapers and court stenographers hardly exists today; however, parliamentary stenographers are active in plenary and committee services in most of the German state parliaments and in the German Bundestag . You can write at speeds of up to 500 syllables per minute.

Today, Steno is used in particular as a note and concept font, for quick notes e.g. B. in meetings, conferences, negotiations, seminars, lectures and presentations or for the preparation of drafts, notes, marginal notes, telephone notes, etc.

Shorthand is also used as a hobby. This gives hobby stenographers the opportunity to measure their skills in regional and international competitions. These events are organized at the national level by the German Stenographers Association and at the international level by the Association Intersteno. The annual federal youth letter is carried out for special support for young stenographers .

In addition to hand stenography , a number of states such as France, Italy, and the United States also use shorthand stenography machines. The recording system used is completely different from the German standard abbreviation, but offers the advantage that texts can be digitized in real time and reproduced immediately if necessary. This is useful, for example, when subtitling live broadcasts on television. Machine stenography has traditionally been widely used in the United States and is also used to document court hearings.

Since the 1990s, shorthand teaching was gradually discontinued as a compulsory subject at secondary schools and vocational schools in Germany, and in Bavaria after the year 2000, in addition to secondary schools, also at business schools . As a result, shorthand is rarely used in everyday office life. However, it is still possible to learn at adult education centers , in stenography clubs and in self-study.


Shorthand performance is measured in syllables per minute . In normal cursive writing, 30 to 40 syllables per minute can be recorded. Anyone who masters the traffic script (first level of the German standard shorthand ) can capture around 120 syllables per minute and is thus three times as fast. When using express writing (second stage), in which additional abbreviations and some basic abbreviation methods are used, the speed of traffic writing can be doubled, i.e. about 240 syllables per minute. When using speech writing, the speed doubles again through the use of linguistic and graphic abbreviation techniques, so that around 480 syllables per minute can be achieved (for comparison: messages are read out at 260 to 340 syllables per minute).

For transcripts in courses, lectures and congresses, shorthand is a valuable, hard-to-beat tool for verbatim or extracts. It is also more efficient than other recording techniques (sound recording, PC text input via the keyboard) for logging parliamentary debates, conferences, court hearings, etc. Professional stenographers are expected to be able to record more than 360 syllables per minute to keep up with speakers in quick discussions. At this speed they could write the seven stanzas of Goethe's “Sorcerer's Apprentice” in just under a minute and a half.

The main areas of application result from the speed levels:

  • The traffic writing can be used as a personal, faster memo.
  • The express writing was used as dictation writing. Dictations are spoken at a maximum speed of 180 syllables. Technical development has only supplanted dictation stenography, which was important for every commercial profession and from which whole professions could live in the past. In order to understand the speech and to improve traffic writing skills, however, express writing is still used. B. be a useful working technique for journalists.
  • The speech is used to record negotiations. Around 150 parliamentary and negotiation stenographers work in Germany.

Mirror writing and left-handedness

The beginning of the 1950s there was a textbook for use in the USA Gregg -Kurzschrift (Gregg Shorthand) in mirror writing to left-handers to enable the writing from right to left and thereby facilitate the shorthand. Whether or to what extent the learning effort was worthwhile has not been proven, especially since the assumption that left-handers are at a disadvantage compared to right-handers when it comes to shorthand is unlikely to be confirmed in practice. You write from left to right as quickly as a right-handed person.

System development

Shorthand systems are developed as follows:

Character set

First, the character set is determined. In contrast to long script, even the smallest graphic details are given a meaning:

Whether you write with rounded arcs or acute angles, for example, does not matter in long script, in short script a single smear can mean 4 different characters, depending on whether you write above or below, each with a curve or an acute angle.

Whether the distance between the characters is longer or shorter is unimportant in longhand, in shorthand at least two, often three different connection lengths are distinguished.

Whether one writes thin or thick lines (bold) is a calligraphic ornament in longhand, in this way more characters are created in shorthand.

Characteristic for the DEK is:

Consonants and consonant groups are represented by smears (so-called literal spelling), vowels and diphthongs symbolically by superscript, subsidiary and subscript, as well as short and wide connections, and by unenhanced or reinforced writing of the following consonant (so-called symbolic final representation). This gives 12 possibilities to represent vowels and diphthongs.

This symbolic representation of the vowels is the most common criticism of the DEK, as it is too difficult to learn. It is also the reason why shorthand should not be learned before the age of 13 or 14, because the child's language development is not yet sufficiently advanced to use the distinction between vowels and consonants as a systematic writing rule. The criticism, however, is unjustified insofar as the aim of shorthand is not to make it easy to learn, but rather to make particularly effective use of the given graphic possibilities to reduce the writing effort, but not necessarily the learning effort.

Once the set of characters has been determined, meanings are added to the characters. All shorthand letters also assign their own characters to frequent letter combinations. The DEK, for example, has its own symbols for: qu, ch, sch, pf , but also schr, pr, pfr, tr, dr, mp, mpf , etc. Here, too, proper writing fluency and readability are more important than easy learning. For example, there are two different characters for the letter t (so-called smear and upstroke t), which experience has shown to require longer practice to use them correctly.

This defines the given shorthand system.


Next, abbreviations are determined, i.e. special (irregularly formed) characters for writing particularly frequent words (e.g. der, die, das, and, is, are, ... ) or comparatively frequent but difficult to write (so-called unwieldy) Words. In DEK, words that contain many large characters or long connections or frequent changes of writing direction (left and right turns of arcs and loops) are unwieldy. Examples are: especially, maybe, before, been .

With the traffic script developed in this way, the writing speed can be doubled or tripled compared to long script (60 to 120 syllables per minute).


However, the really high writing speeds can be achieved by applying systematic abbreviation rules. Systematic abbreviations are called abbreviations (as opposed to abbreviations, which are irregular). These are omission rules. You don't learn a new character for every word, for example, but by mastering these rules you acquire the ability to meaningfully abbreviate entire parts of the vocabulary and thus to write faster.

The first German shorthand systems and the first version of the DEK (1924) did not yet have a gradation in different learning and speed levels. But these levels differ essentially in the type and scope of the reduction rules.


Traffic script:

Individual letters are shortened (omitted).

There is no doubling of the consonant (exception ll, rr, ss ).

In connections with final-t, either the final-t or the following vowel (e or i) is often omitted.

Vowel doubling, stretching h or the distinction between i and ie are dispensed with. Upper and lower case is not used.

Express writing:

Unstressed non-stem syllables and other individual letters are omitted. Unstressed el, er, en can be omitted:

Water becomes water, devil becomes devil, frame becomes cream.

halt will have , puppy will wepe , hard will have , edge will be kate .


Stem syllables are abbreviated:

pull is ieh , pupil is ögling , train is ug , writing is yew ,

Question becomes fra , stretcher becomes tra

German becomes sch , autumn becomes bst

High practice (§ 20):

Whole words and groups of words are shortened:

so-called is so- , so to speak, is to do so , unprepared is unvorbe

If a verb has several prefixes or adverbs, the verb stem can always be left out with almost no loss of information.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen will be preiarr

(The salutation Mr is completely omitted, pr for President, ei for mine, a for women and rr for men)

Sincerely , miteuü

The most interesting thing about these abbreviation rules is certainly that, in contrast to the "naive" abbreviation rules of the long script, according to which one always abbreviates to the first letter, not only many more, but also much shorter ones and still can produce easily readable abbreviations.

For example, and so on is in longhand with so abbreviated in shorthand to write instead undso .


Page from a dictionary of the German unity shorthand (around 1930)
Shorthand recording of a Kolping quotation, written in German unified shorthand (traffic script) in 2009: The young must be happy, so they deserve relaxation, which strengthens the strength to work and the desire for it. Anything that disturbs or destroys the desire to work is evil.
Color postcard with King Ludwig II of Bavaria, around 1900, with space-saving stenography message

The example of German shorthand (around 1930) first shows the word in its basic form in the first column, then one or more words derived from it. The second column shows the abbreviation of the respective word in the next higher system level (in the DEK 1924 there was still no clear three-way division of the system as according to the "Wiener Urkunde" 1968 valid today):

Word in basic form Cuts
Devil, devilry Cuts from this
Text, texts Cuts from this
Textile, textiles, textile industry, textile goods

(Read more precisely these abbreviations are → til , tilin , til + abbreviation for industry , tilwan . They are therefore “ fragments of words ” that are derived on the basis of clearly structured rules and can therefore be easily deciphered again by stenographers.)

Cuts from this
Theory, theoretical [theoretical], theorist Cuts from this
deep, deeper, deepest, deepest, deepening, deepening, profound Cuts from this

(The examples shown here are not abbreviations, but abbreviations.)

System inventor and shorthand systems

The following system inventors and shorthand systems are listed in chronological order. The year of the first publication of each system is given.

See also


  • Viennese certificate. System certificate of the German unity shorthand . 9th edition. Winkler, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-8045-8292-3 .
  • Ilse Drews: Steno today. German unity shorthand . Bildungsverlag Eins, Troisdorf.
    • - traffic writing. 5th edition. 1999, ISBN 3-8242-6100-6 . (available for this purpose: key, worksheets, methodology)
    • - Start in express writing. 3rd edition, 1999, ISBN 3-8242-6104-9 . (available for this: methodological explanations)
  • Ilse Drews: Steno today - programmed. A tutorial for self and class teaching. (Traffic writing) . 1st edition. Bildungsverlag Eins, Troisdorf 1996, ISBN 3-8242-6106-5 .
  • Franz Moser: Lively shorthand story. A guide to shorthand theory and shorthand history . Ed .: Karl Erbach. 9th edition. Winkler, Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-8045-8708-9 . (updated 1995)
  • Beate Sander-Jaenicke, Hans Karpenstein: Type and construction of the most important shorthands . 5th edition. Winkler, Darmstadt 1988, ISBN 3-8045-8721-6 .
  • Karl Erbach: Handbook of the German standard shorthand . 11th edition. Winkler, Darmstadt 1983, DNB  870322567 .
  • Arthur Mentz: History of Shorthand . Ed .: Fritz Haeger. 3. Edition. Heckner, Wolfenbüttel 1981, DNB  750004754 .
  • Peter Franzen, Otto Blaubart: Shorthand through the ages . 2nd Edition. Winkler, Darmstadt 1965.
  • Hans Lambrich, Aloys Kennerknecht: History of the development of the German shorthand. Winkler, Darmstadt 1962.
  • Christian Johnen: General history of shorthand . 4th edition. Apitz, Berlin 1940, DNB  574143149 . (best and most detailed German overall presentation)
  • Laurenz Schneider, Georg Blauert: History of the German shorthand . Heckner, Wolfenbüttel 1936.
  • Journal of New Stenographic Practice . (Berlin), previously published 1 (1953) - 63 (2015) [negotiation stenography]
  • Journal archive for shorthand. (Bayreuth), previously published 1 (1954) - 50 (2008)
  • Hermann Meinberg: Brief history of shorthand . Bleifuß, 1892 ( digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Shorthand  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Stenography  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Shorthand  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Website on the trial in Landau 1833. Retrieved on July 27, 2014 .
  2. Quoted from the Kölnische Zeitung of September 21, 1913, first morning edition, p. 1.
  3. So it was introduced in the area of ​​the Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1925 : Reichsbahndirektion in Mainz (ed.): Official Journal of the Reichsbahndirektion in Mainz of May 16, 1925, No. 28. Announcement No. 510, p. 320.
  4. ^ Luis A. Leslie: Methods of Teaching Gregg Shorthand . McGraw-Hill, US 1953, pp. 128-129 .