Why Is There a Line Down the Middle of a Steno Pad Book?
Ever noticed there is a line that runs down the middle of a steno pad book? It actually has a very real purpose that most people do not know about or use anymore. Every time I see someone using a steno pad at work, they are jotting down notes and pay no attention to that line in the center.
I suspect that using a steno pad for its real purpose is a lost art. I'll try to explain why that line is there.
Why There's a Line
Steno pads were originally used for stenography, or shorthand. Stenography is a method of taking of very fast notes. These notes, in written form, are called shorthand. The main purpose is to take down what someone is saying word for word. Secretaries and news reporters, before voice recorders, had to use shorthand.
Sentences in shorthand are much shorter because the words are made up of short symbols and short abbreviations. The page of a steno notebook is divided in half to help the note-taker to move quickly. If you write using the whole line, from far left to the far right side of the page, it takes considerably more time—twice the time, in fact—than it takes to bring your pen back from the middle line to the left (or from the far right to the middle line). The middle line helps to keep your hand from "traveling" unnecessarily across the page.
You can also squeeze in more phrases and sentences in the distance between the left side and the middle line in shortand than in longhand/cursive.
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What Are Shorthand and Stenography?
Shorthand is basically very abbreviated words. For example, in Gregg shorthand the word "please" is simply written as "pl". More common words are written in quick stroke symbols. For example "shall," "which," "it," "at," and "the" are all written in forward slashes "/" of varying lengths and curves. The purpose is to speed up writing so you can keep up with the speaker verbatim. Someone proficient in shorthand can keep up because the length of the words are so much shorter.
Try it yourself. Turn on the television, grab a piece of paper, and write down everything you hear during a commercial, word for word. By the end of the commercial your hand will be really tired and you probably won't have kept up with the actors.
Since you are likely not proficient in shorthand, let's just pretend you are. For every word they say, just write down the first letter. Better yet, just make this slash mark, /, for each small (is, a, the, etc.) word. I know, that isn't exactly shorthand, but you'll see that it is way easier to keep up. Shorthand language is more complicated than that to memorize, but once you know it you could write down a long, ranting run of words in about as long as it took the speaker to say them, or close to it.
Now draw a line down the middle of a page and try writing down everything said in a commercial again. This time, use your new "system" of slashes and first letters and only write in half the page. See how much faster that is?