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Posts Tagged ‘Dictaphone’

Tech Use and Shorthand

January 2, 2012 11 comments

Anyone who takes the time to think about it has realized how much of our communications have devolved into graphics and monosyllabic use in the past couple of decades. Technology use, rather than the technology itself, appears to be the culprit in this case. Keep in mind the EMOTICON.

Whether emoticons came first or the graphics 🙂 people latched onto them immediately. Twitter, texting, and other networking uses demand similar communications skills.

Writers get hit with communication shorthand as much as anyone else. To truncate speech or not, that is the question. There’s no clear answer.

We’re accustomed to using shorthand for written note-taking and dictation. Some will ask “What is shorthand?”

Shorthand was a human skill, a hand-written encoded form used as late as the early ‘80’s, when the Dictaphone took over operations. All well-paid professional secretaries were required to have the skill. It’s fantastic for taking notes in university classes, too.

It fell out of favor, considered labor intensive and inefficient around 1980 and was replaced by dictating machines. In this century we have Dragon and other voice recognition specialty software that will take your dictation and produce your text.

Of course, Dragon can only do what its user tells it to do. It’s fast and that’s deemed important in today’s world. It takes dictation and writes it to a file. All punctuation, word choice, syntax, etc. must come from the user, which is as it should be. Yet, none of these conveniences can help the user until the user has “taught” her dragon how to recognize her speech patterns and the like.

In the “old” days the one dictating expected the secretary to come fully loaded (no pun intended) and already programmed with all the skills necessary for the job. Dragon doesn’t expect a paycheck at the end of the week, which gives it another advantage.

What does any of this history have to do with today’s use of the shortcuts in written communications? Actually, it relates well how our use of language evolves and changes within its mediums of expression.

Verbally, people can have entire conversations without using more than one hundred or less real words. Comedians do skits about this truth all the time. Ask Jeff Foxworthy.

We use verbal shorthand and probably always have used it. Hmm, um, ah, oh, huh, etc. are all part of the lexicon of communication’s shortcuts. Body language falls into a sister category of communications. Recognize the pattern here?

If you follow Foxworthy, you’ll know many of  the Phrase-Turned-Word combinations which complete a conversation which uses only one real sentence and the rest filled with PTW combos.

PTW’s, such as “yantu”, “j’eatyet”, and of course, “y’all” all get used on a regular basis, and not just as Redneck words used in the South. Common use words like “gonna” or “whatya” can be heard anywhere on any day. These “words” are comfortable and easily transfer from one region to the next. That reason alone might be why the word “ain’t” could never be successfully stomped out of use and was finally added to the dictionary.

Humans redefine and create new language each day. We do it for convenience’s sake, for jargon needs, and just to bug other people. “Bug” See what I mean. The old ‘50’s-‘60’s word still gets used and understood so many years after its creative definition shift.

We use emoticons to express emotions without having to verbally define them, a visual cue to our body language when line of sight is impossible. Graphic display of emotions serves the same purpose; expression without words.

Writers must use words to create mood, express characters’ emotions, etc. Today’s technological shorthand both encourages expression and redefines its use. The quality that disturbs some writers like me, however, is whether its use will soon disrupt an individual’s ability to express herself in words instead of graphics.

I’d like to know how others feel about the rampant use of verbal shorthand across today’s world. It brings us together, allows one to say much in a small space, and affords quick communications, but does it add to our lives anything other than speed? What is its intrinsic value? Will it be decipherable a century from now?

You tell me. Until next time,

A bientot,

Claudsy