A Very Useful Skill
I taught myself Pitman’s shorthand, years ago, and have used it ever since for taking notes at meetings and on the phone and, occasionally, for making a private note, since so few people seem to be able to read it, these days. It is possible to take a shorthand note and look at the person I am talking to, at the same time.
The basic idea is that the shorthand represents the sounds, not spellings, of words. If speed were not an issue, to ensure legibility you would write on lined paper, with a sharp pencil or thin nibbed pen, because the thickness of each line determines the sound it represents, as does its position in relation to the line. The third ingredient is a series of dots and dashes. In practice, if you are writing fast, most of the latter get missed out and you may not have lined paper, so interpreting what you have written is harder. As a final hurdle, you can learn standard short form symbols for common words (or words which were common when Mr Pitman devised his system! (My favourite of these is possibly “incandescent” which, these days, is not exactly on everyone’s lips.) You don’t need to know these, to write shorthand, but you won’t be able readily to read back someone else’s, if they use them but you do not.
I should be interested in seeing whether anyone on EP can read shorthand, so I have reproduced an extract from a story below, in order to see whether there are others with this skill around. It is on lined paper and most of the dots etc have been included to make things easier! Sorry it's a bit small, as reproduced by EP!