Hamden L. Forkner (1897-1975) was an American educator and writer who created Future Business Leaders of America, an educational organization for high school and college students, and developed the Forkner shorthand system for taking dictation. As an author, Forkner wrote serveral books including “Correlated Dictation and Transcription: Pitman Edition” and “Study Guide for Forkner Shorthand”.

Forkner Shorthand is an alphabetic shorthand that was first published in 1952. Its popularity grew to its apex in the 60s through the 80s as those who needed shorthand every day began to favor the lower learning curve of alphabetic systems to the more difficult, but faster, symbol-based ones. Forkner was taught in high-schools throughout the country with comparable shorthands such as AlphaHand, Speedwriting, and Personal Shorthand.

Forkner Shorthand
The body of letters are, as in many alphabetic systems like it, simplified versions of cursive letters. It is largely phonetic, relying on the sounds actually spoken, unlike others such as teeline shorthand or Personal Shorthand which rely instead on the spelling of the word. The letters used are almost exclusively lower-case, being written from left to right and joined in a standard cursive hand. Capital letters are used to represent special word prefixes, and can optionally be written detached from the word, such as T for the prefix trans-.

The way Forkner represents vowels is unique among alphabetic systems. Instead of using only ordinary cursive forms, the vowels a/i/o/u are reduced to ticks or apostrophe-like strokes written after the body of word has been made, over or under the letters by which they occur. Ordinary cursive vowels are reserved for long e/i, diphthongs (e.g., o for ow/ou), or as affixes (e.g., u for under-).

Forkner makes use of several standard shorthand features to gain additional speed: brief forms, common abbreviations, and phrasing. Brief forms are essentially shortened versions of frequent words or words potentially encountered in business letters. Brief forms are used in conjunction with more commonly known abbreviations, like those for the days of the week and are listed throughout the learning materials.

The shorter brief forms (one or two letters) that follow each other in a sentence are joined together as though they were one word; this is known as phrasing. Those familiar with Gregg Shorthand or Pitman Shorthand will recognize this feature: operating on the philosophy that the time taken to repeatedly lift the pen between short words is wasted, the words in a group such as “will you be able” are compacted into one word. Though it may sound confusing, it is always clear to the transcriber what is meant, both through context and the words most commonly found in phrases.

Punctuation is fairly similar to the ordinary longhand equivalents. A period is a dot, a comma is a comma in a circle to distinguish it from the vowel a, and a question mark is simply ? without the dot. New paragraphs are indicated with double bars ||. Capital letters are marked with a small check-mark placed under the last letter of the word.

Speeds in Forkner are on the higher end of those generally seen in alphabetic systems. Because of the numerous time- and stroke-saving features of the system, speeds of 100wpm and even higher are possible.

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