Straight line consonants T, C, P, Ch, W, Y, H

T and C

The symbols we’ve looked at so far have been curved. The next ones are straight lines. A vertical line, written downwards, represents the sound of T, and a horizontal line represents the sound of C (or, if you prefer, K).

A downwards-sloping diagonal line stands for P.P

H symbol

The symbol for H is a small clockwise circle, and an upwards sloping line.

W and YThe symbol for W starts with a counterclockwise hook, then turns into a 45-degree line. Y is similar, but starts with a clockwise hook. This is the “Yuh” sound made by the Y at the beginning of the word “yacht”, not the Y at the end of the word “yachty”.

Ch  symbolThe final shape in this group stands for CH. It’s written downwards, and slightly backwards, sloping partway between 45-degrees and vertical.

For T and C, think of a lighthouse – a Tower by the sea. The upright line is T for tower. The horizontal line is the C… I mean sea. C’mon, together we can make this work.

Tower by  the Cea

If you can stretch your imagination far enough, W looks a little bit like the right side of a W. A “singleyou”, rather than a “doubleyou”. Or possibly a Walking stick.


As for Y, it’s practically IDENTICAL to a lowercase Y, with just a couple of its identifying features reversed or removed. .


And H is just a few evolutionary steps removed from an ordinary lowercase H.

Evolution  of H

Once you see it, it’s so obvious!

No, the sad truth is that the Pitman strokes are pretty nonintuitive, and it takes a while to learn them, no matter how many hoops you jump through to make them look like regular letters.

But if you think my mnemonics are bad, check out this handy guide from Phonetic Shorthand : A Complete Manual of Pitman’s Phonography With All The Modern Improvements, written by William W. Osgoodby in 1894. Don’t follow it too closely, though – if you look carefully, you’ll see that some symbols, like Y and W, have changed since 1894.

Osgoodby Mnemonic

Here are some words composed from the Pitman symbols we’ve looked at so far. Try to read them.


crash, plum, hiss, want, shook, fetch, yacht, loch (or lock), Ness, yum, put, ham, risk, preposterous, yuck, push, elephant

Enough of these skinny lines. Let’s see some FAT ones!