Pitman shorthand is phonetic; with the exception of abbreviated shapes called logograms, words are written exactly as they are pronounced. There are twenty-four consonants that can be represented in Pitman's Shorthand, twelve vowels and four Diphthongs. The consonants are indicated by strokes, while the vowels by dot and dash..
Common words are represented by special outlines called logograms (or "Short Forms") . Words and phrases which have such forms are called grammalogues. The shapes are written separately to show that they represent distinct words, but in common phrases ("you are", "thank you", etc.) two or three logograms may be joined together, or a final flick added to represent the.
The consonants in Shorthand are pronounced pee, bee, tee, dee, chay, jay, kay, gay, eff, vee, ith, thee, es, zee, ish, zhee, em, en, ing, el, ar, ray, way, yay, and hay. When both an unvoiced consonant and its corresponding voiced consonant are present in this system, the distinction is made by drawing the stroke for the voiced consonant thicker than the one for the unvoiced consonant. (Thus, s is ")", whereas z is ")".) There are two strokes for r: ar and ray. The former assumes the form of the top right-hand quarter of a circle, whereas the latter is like chay (/), only less steep. There are rules governing when to use each of these forms.
The long vowels in Pitman's shorthand are: English pronunciation: //??/, /e?/, /i?/, /??/, /o?/, and /u?//. The short vowels are /æ/, /?/, /?/, /?/, /?/, and /?/. The long vowels may be remembered by the sentence, "Pa, may we all go too?" /p?? | me? wi? ??l ?o? tu?/, and the short vowels may be remembered by the sentence, "That pen is not much good" /ðæt p?n ?z n?t m?t?? ??d/.
A vowel is represented by a dot or a dash, which can be written either lightly or heavily depending on the vowel needed. As this only gives four symbols, they can be written in three different positions - either at the beginning, middle or end of a consonant stroke - to represent the 12 vowels.
The dots and dashes representing long vowels are darker than the ones representing short vowels. For example, say is written as ")?", but seh (if it did exist) would be written as ")·"; see is written as ").", but sih (if there were such a word) would be written as ").".
Another feature of Pitman's shorthand allows most vowels to be omitted in order to speed up the process of writing. As mentioned above, each vowel is written next to the consonant stroke at the beginning, middle or end of the stroke. Pitman's shorthand is designed to be written on lined paper and when a word's first vowel is a "first position" vowel (i.e. it is written at the beginning of the stroke), the whole shorthand outline for the word is written above the paper's ruled line. When it is a second position vowel, the outline is written on the line. And when it is a third position vowel it is written through the line. In this way, the position of the outline indicates that the first vowel can only be one of four possibilities. In most cases, this means that the first and often all the other vowels can be omitted entirely.
There are four diphthongs in Shorthand, representing /a?/, /??/, /a?/, /ju?/, as in the words "I now enjoy music." The first three appear as small checkmarks; the "ew" sound is written as a small arch. Both "ie" and "oi" are written in first position, while "ow" and "ew" are written in third position. And in the same way, the whole outline is placed above, on or through the paper's ruled line. If the diphthong is followed by a neutral vowel, a little flick is added.
The circles are of two sizes - small & large. Small circle represents 's' (sing) & 'z' (gaze). Big circle represents 'ses' & 'swa'. If the big circle comes initially in the stroke it represents 'swa' (sweep, but not sway). Elsewhere it represents 'ses' (the vowel in the middle can be any of the vowel or diphthong (crisis, crises & exercise). If the vowel is anything other than 'e' then it must be represented inside the circle.
The loops are of two sizes - small and big. The small loop represents 'st' & 'sd' (cost and based) - pronounced stee loop. The big loop represents 'ster' (master and masterpiece). 'ster' loop does not come in the beginning of a word (sterling).
At the start. For straight strokes pee, bee, tee, dee, chay, jay, kay and gay the hook comes in both the sides of the stroke. Hook in clockwise direction represents 'r' after the stroke (tray, Nichrome, bigger). Hook in counter-clockwise direction represents 'l' after the stroke (ply, amplify, angle). For curved strokes eff, vee, ith, thee, ish, zhee, em, en, ing the hook is written in before the stroke is written and it represents 'r' after the stroke (other, measure, manner, every).
At the end. For straight strokes pee, bee, tee, dee, chay, jay, kay and gay the hook comes in both the sides of the stroke. Hook in clockwise direction represents 'en' after the stroke (train, chin, genuine). Hook in counter-clockwise direction represents 'eff' or 'vee' after the stroke (pave, calf, toughen). For curved strokes eff, vee, ith, thee, ish, zhee, em, en, ing the hook is written in after the stroke is written and it represents 'n' after the stroke (men, thin).
The big hook after any stroke represents 'shun', 'zhun' etc. (fusion, vision).
1. For straight strokes with initial circle or loop or hook, the shun hook is written in opposite direction (section). Depression & depletion have shun hooks in different directions.
2. For simple straight strokes, the shun hook is written in the direction opposite to the occurrence of the vowel. Caution & auction have shun hooks in different directions.
3. For curved strokes, the shun hook is written after the stroke, continuing the curve (motion, notion).
Big hook for 'wh'. The big hook in the beginning of the stroke way represents 'wh' (whine).
Hook before ell. The small hook before ell represents 'way' before it (well). The big hook before ell represents 'wh' before it (while).
Many strokes (both straight and curved) may be halved in length to denote a final "t" or "d". The halving principle may be combined with an initial or final hook (or both) to make words such as "trained" appear as a single short vertical light stroke with an initial and final hook. There are some exceptions to avoid ambiguous forms: a straight-r stroke can't be halved if it's the only syllable, because that might be confused for some other short-form (logogram) consisting of a short-stroke mark in that direction ("and" or "should").
Doubling of curved strokes
If ter, der, ture, ther, dher comes in the word the preceding stroke is written double the size (matter, nature, mother). There are exceptions to avoid ambiguous forms: for example, "leader" is not written as a doubled-l but as l plus a hooked-d representing "dr".
Doubling of straight strokes
Doubling principle has an exception when 'ter' et al., is preceded by only a straight stroke. Doubling is not employed in that case (cadre). If it has more than stroke before 'ter' et al., or has hook in the end then doubling principle is employed.