Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Email conventions can be surprisingly useful

I got a letter in “Stiefografie” shorthand from my teacher the other day—seven pages long! So that took a bit of slugging through.

Now I wonder how best to respond.

In the letter, me touched several points that I would like to respond to… and my natural inclination, from email, would be to quote the relevant portion and then to append my comment on that portion immediately underneath, then the next quote from his letter and my reply, and so on; then any original material at the end.

I wonder how best to apply to that to paper mail.

I had actually considered photocopying his letter and actually gluing relevant excerpts to my reply lined paper (copy and paste!), but I somehow doubt this is common.

(Or simply photocopying the lot and writing numbers in the margin next to the bits I want to refer to, then enclosing the photocopy as a kind of “appendix” to my letter, inside the same envelope? [1])

On the other hand, I doubt he has a copy of the letter in his “Outbox” or “Sent Items” shelf anywhere at home, and presumably he won’t have the entire contents fresh in his mind by the time I get around to replying to him, so simply referring to his words (“As for what you said about X, I think you’re right on the mark. And the bit about Y: I hadn’t considered that aspect before! Very clever!”) without actually quoting them might be insufficient.

Makes me wish shorthand were encoded in Unicode so we could do copy and paste in a text-based environment :) Even scanning in his letter and my coming reply and merging the two (series of) images in a picture editing program, then sending the entire lot as a multi-page image or PDF somehow doesn’t seem like a particularly good way to go about this.

What do you do when someone sends you a longish paper letter and you reply on paper and want to address several of the points in the original individually?

(I fear the answer is “I don’t get longish paper letters; all my paper mail is bills and short notices such as greeting cards. So the problem doesn’t arise.”)

[1] This method would also let me correct his spelling mistakes. Since he’s a former shorthand teacher and a regular user of shorthand, I was a bit surprised at some of the goofs. On the other hand, teachers are only human, too. And he has the disadvantage that he has learned several shorthand systems and they sometimes “interfere” in his mind, much like someone who has learned several foreign language might sometimes use a word from the wrong language when speaking “foreign”.

Most of the errors were shifting a sign up or down, thus changing the meaning since the implied vowel—symbolised by the height—selects a different word for the same symbol.

But there was one word that he consistently wrote half a step higher than I had learned it: I’m not sure where that comes from. Did I misunderstand the lessons? Interference from another system? Simple mistake that got ingrained somehow?

I confess that I’ve only gone over the summaries of many of the lessons, not actually done the exercises or read the sample texts. (If I had, I would have noticed something he pointed out in his letter: that a given syllable can be omitted in the middle of words. The description mentions five such syllables but the examples in that lesson show all six of them.)

Tags: shorthand, stiefografie
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