Other Systems

Pitman's New Era is the name of the revision undertaken in 1922. It is the fastest version, aimed at top speed and reliability, and has long been used by verbatim writers e.g. Hansard and court reporters. There have been no amendments to New Era rules since then, so any New Era instruction book will give you exactly the same system, whether it is a well-worn older copy from Ebay or second-hand shop, or the more modern Anniversary edition (this refers to the anniversary of the publishers in 1988 and is not a version name). The difference is the presentation and the subject matter of the practice passages, which naturally reflect the terminology and usage of the time. I consider New Course and Rapid Course to have the clearest presentation. See my website for a list of the names of instruction books. The name "New Era" was chosen as a hopeful description for future peace after the wars that preceded it.

If you acquire a shorthand book written before then, the version will be Twentieth Century (1900) or Centenary (1913, centenary of Isaac Pitman's birth) and some of the rules and outlines are different. An even older 19th century book published by Pitman may describe it as just Phonography, which Isaac Pitman first introduced in 1837. Versions of the system published in the United States during the 19th century may also have differences, as some of Isaac Pitman's later amendments were not adopted by his brothers Benn and Fred Pitman. During the 19th century many other shorthand writers made their own minor amendments to Pitman's Shorthand and named their version after themselves e.g. Graham, Munson, so these do appear very similar and quite often they do not acknowledge or mention that they did not invent the system, or give credit to Isaac Pitman.

Books - Ebay UK will have more Pitman's Shorthand books than other Ebays. It occurs to me that the same amount of money would buy a well-used older second-hand book plus a new Noodler's flex pen, or alternatively a smart newly-published shorthand book plus an indifferent pencil! It all depends whether you are teaching yourself, or following a course where you have to use a certain book. The older books lie flat on the desk, as they are stitched not glued, and this makes a huge difference to your learning comfort. You cannot learn from a book that is constantly trying to close itself! It would be better to break it apart, introduce holes and keep it in a ring binder.

My own original 99-year-old
Centenary dictionary
Please be aware that some "newly printed" books offered in various places seem to be simply brand new paper versions produced from the PDFs of very old pre-New Era shorthand books that are freely downloadable from the Internet Archive at archive.org. This especially applies to the dictionary, which is likely to be the Centenary version, please look closely at any picture of the title page that the seller provides. You might want to compare the cost of printing the PDF at home, versus the cost of buying from others. New Era versions of books are unlikely to be out of copyright at present, although the New Era Shorthand Instructor PDF is now available as download:


To my knowledge there is no New Era book that does not have those words on the cover, spine or title page, and if your copy does not have them, then it is unlikely to be the New Era version.

Pitman 2000 was introduced in the 1970's, aimed at office workers who did not need to attain high speeds, with simplified rules and fewer short forms and contractions. The aim was easier learning, at the cost of some outlines being longer or slightly more awkward to write, but it was felt that this was not an issue at slower speeds. It was not created to replace New Era, but as an alternative for office workers who do not need such high speeds as verbatim writers. New Era writers can read it without any difficulty, but the reverse is not so. If you have learned Pitman 2000, there is no reason why you should not adopt any New Era outline that you feel is more convenient, as long as the change does not produce hesitation instead of the desired increase in speed. As you would not then be writing pure Pitman 2000, you should check the rules for any speed exams that you might wish to take, where you have to state the system you are using. This would also be an issue if you wished to become a shorthand teacher, when you would have to backtrack on your adopted outlines. It would be helpful to keep a record of any non-P2000 outlines you are using, to cover all eventualities and to use for your own further drilling to remove any hesitations.

Sample of Teeline Shorthand
Sample of Teeline from the original 1969 manual
Teeline is an alphabet-based system created and published in 1968 (trial handbook) and 1969 (first manual) by James Hill (a Pitman's writer) and consists of streamlined versions of the normal Roman alphabet with omission of most vowels. The similarity of the shapes with letters of the alphabet is helpful in overcoming unfamiliarity in the early stages. This produces outlines a fair bit longer than either Pitman's or Gregg, and therefore a much lower speed ceiling. It is the system presently taught in the UK to journalists. It is ideal for taking journalist-type notes rather than prolonged and fast verbatim work.

Sample of Gregg Simplified Shorthand
Sample of Gregg Simplified from a 1959 manual
Gregg is the system popular in the USA, created and published in 1893 by John Robert Gregg. It is equal to Pitman's in speed capability. It does not use thick/thin lines and so does not need a flexible nib. It does not use position writing but includes vowels within the outline, therefore lined paper is not essential but useful in encouraging a consistent outline size, which is important as the line length in outlines is meaningful. It is sometimes referred to as Lightline Phonography.

There are several versions of Gregg of differing simplicity, and you should be aware that here Anniversary is indeed a version name, often called just Anni by devotees. Ebay US will have the most books on offer.

Sample of PitmanScript
Sample of PitmanScript from manual "Basic Text"
PitmanScript This is a method created by high-speed Pitman's writer and author Emily D Smith in the 1970's. It replaces the most common letters of the alphabet with simple strokes, but retains the other normal letters of the alphabet. The aim was similar to Teeline, to enable the average officer worker to speed up their writing without having to learn a complete new system. PitmanScript never seems to have taken off, being superseded by the concurrent Teeline, which had similar aims but is able to reach reasonable shorthand speeds as well as being simpler.

Ford Shorthand sampleFord Shorthand For those who do not have the time or inclination to learn any sort of shorthand, I would like to draw your attention to Ford Shorthand www.fordshorthand.com  The author offers an alphabet very similar to the Teeline one, but removing ambiguities and making it possible to combine it with the normal alphabet. The purpose is replace traditional alphabetic characters, in order to speed up your longhand, not to write verbatim. There are no rules so learning time is negligible. As nothing is left out, it remains legible at all times. There is also the advantage that you could easily make the jump to Teeline if you so wished, or at least borrow abbreviating techniques from that system. Worth a try by those with hand problems e.g. stiffness, cramp, as there is less to write and neatness can be maintained. It may also possibly help those with poor sight, as the characters are plainer. Free to use but please see website for terms of use.