Vowels – A, E, I, O, U

In Pitman, consonants are usually shown as strokes, while most vowels are shown as light or heavy dots, or light and heavy dashes, with a smattering of other small squiggles. The same dot has three different meanings, depending on its position. This makes them very fast to write, but a little tricky to memorize.

As you can see, a light dot stands for the sounds of A, E, or I (as in “pan”, “pen” or “pin”). If the dot is written in the first position (high up), it’s A. If it’s written in the second position (halfway up), it’s E. If it’s written in the third position (low down on the ruling line), it’s I.

The next two vowels, O and U (“gone” and “gun”), are written with light dashes. O is a dash in the first position, and U is a dash in the second position. And the final dash stands for the sound of “oo” – as in “book” or “look”. It is NOT used for the the longer “oo” sound in “soon” and “kooky”. That’s a different sound, so it has its own symbol – which is a heavy dash.

If we mix some vowels and consonants, we can create words and other wordlike utterances. In real Pitman, this is done by placing the dots and dashes along the consonant strokes. That means that the first position and third position will change, depending on which direction the stroke goes in. But for our quick’n’dirty version, we’re just going to write them all horizontally, the way we do with normal letters. See how many of these words you can read. The answers are below…


men, shell, rush, from, fifth, Sith, sash, less, ominous, shin, fun, lash.

You can see that, when you write phonetically, they often look quite different from the way they are written in regular English. For example, most people pronounce “fifth” as F-I-TH. And “ominous” becomes O-M-I-N-U-S.

You’re probably getting sick of all these curvy symbols. How about some nice straight lines?