An orthographic theory of shorthand is based on spelling rather than phonetics. The advantage is that you can (in theory) write any word you know how to spell at least as fast as you can type it, because you do not need a dictionary to convert it from phonetic to written form. This is a sketch for an orthographic theory that might perhaps be implemented on a SOFTHRUF or a Planck, Atreus or other small keyboard that allows easy chording. It is intended to be a less specialised tool than Plover, easier to learn and to use as a general personal keyboard, while hopefully having more significant advantages than a simple change to key layout like Dvorak or Colemak.

Please be aware that this is still only a concept; there is no software or hardware implementation currently available. Feel free to develop and share your own version in the spirit of Open Source.

Update: Vissale NEANG now has working firmware for the Ergodox keyboard - available here.
I will add versions for other keyboards as I hear of them.

The Basic Principles 

As with Plover, words are stroked (ideally) a syllable at a time.  Once you know the basic chords for all the letters it is possible to type anything, but common key sequences can be combined in a single stroke. If you are not sure of how a stroke is formed, it is always possible to type it in sequential parts. The left hand types the leading consonants, the 'onset'; the thumbs type the vowels, and the right hand types the concluding consonants, the 'coda'.  To reduce the number of keys and the finger-movement required, some letters or combinations of letters are represented by a chord. The stoke is separated into four parts, the onset the vowels, the coda and the inflection (both of the latter controlled by the right hand). Each of these is interpreted independently, and their output combined in that order.

Jackdaw on a Conventional Keyboard

This is inspired by  a patent for a 'syllabic typewriter' filed by Dothan Shelton in 1976, adapted for a standard keyboard. 

In general, the white keys (control keys, numbers and punctuation) work as they do in QWERTY, If any control key other than Shift (Ctrl, Alt, Win or Alt Gr) is used then the keys with which they combined with have their usual values - i.e Cntrl-Z, X, C, V, etc. are all where you would expect them to be,

There are eight green consonant keys for each hand (giving up to 255  possibilities each for onset and coda), five blue vowel keys and nine yellow modifiers, taking advantage of the fact that with a staggered keyboard you can press three keys with one digit, but cannot easily press four. 

'Steno order' is left to right. As can be seen, it is possible to stroke many words without knowing any chords at all.A is the most common initial letter apart from T, and it makes it possible to stroke such common words as AGAIN, ABOVE and ALONG in one.  The left little finger operates A and S, and the right one, T and S. Shift only capitalises the initial character of a chord. If you want all the characters in UPPERCASE you must use Caps Lock. 

If the common punctuations ? , . ; or : are combined in a stroke they are placed at the end, and a space automatically added. In the case of . and ?, the next word have an uppercase intial without having to use Shift.

The Missing Consonants

Left Hand

   J=TWN   K=TWH  L=NR    M=WN
   P=CW    Q=TNR  V=TN    X=STW
   Y=HN    Z=CN

Right Hand 

   B=GC    D=NLG or CHS   F=GCH      K=GT 
   M=NGH   P=LC           S=NL or S  
   V=NH    X=LGH          Z=LH

Further Consonant Combinations

Like single letter keys, consonant chords may be combined in the one stroke. For example,  BL = CTWHNR

You can get a long way with just these, but Shelton adds some common and not-so-common combinations that cannot be produced so simply:

Left Hand opening with A


Again, these can be combined with other keys to form a longer chord, e.g. ABBR = ASCTHWNR.

Other Left Hand Combinations


Right Hand












A minimum of four keys are needed to represent the vowels, allowing the the ten most common vowel pairs to be produced in one stroke, because here are eleven possible combinations of more than one key and we need one of those for the missing single vowel. Fortunately the top ten vowel pairs account for nearly 90% of all vowel pairs in typical text, so perhaps that is good enough. A little logic will provide some more. 

Following Plover tradition, they could be coded thus:


In this case it is possible to use more keys. so no such coding is needed. Vowel keys stroked together will always appear in the same left-to right sequence (EOAUI). This sequence is chosen so that the most common vowel pairs are in order, and those that are not are (IO, UA) are often in distinct syllables. The control keys E and Y can also help, as we shall see later.

The Modifiers

The * modifier may be operated by either thumb. On its own, it deletes the last stroke, as in Plover. As part of a stroke, it doubles the vowel if there only one. If there are more than one, it reverses the order of the last two, eg PARANOIA could be stroked CWAR\ANOAI*. The only exceptions are O*UI which produces the more useful IOU, and A*UI which produces UOU. EUA is also found in no English word that I know of, but I can't think of a useful substitute,    

The ' modifier is normally operated by the right thumb. On its own it produces an apostrophe or (with Shift) an @. It is used to modify the output of the right hand keys, signifying for example either a contraction e.g. N'T = 'NT, a doubling of the first consonant -DDL = 'RNLG. or possibly a multi-syllable suffix or the closing part of a phrase.

In a similar way, the \ modifier is normally operated by the left pinkie, produces a \ (or a | with Shift), and is used to modify the output of the onset (typically for the first part of a two-part phrase). 

The E is operated by the right little finger, and the Y by the third finger. They append those letters to the coda, E preceding Y if both are present together with at least one right hand consonant, as in HONEY. Otherwise E follows Y  as in EYE or RYE  If Y follows a right hand consonant and is followed by another stroke for a continuation of the word (does not have a space or a punctuation in the same stroke), then it changes to an I. Thus, BUSINESS is stroked as BUSY|NESS. but the Y in PAY|MENT does not change.  if you really want a Y after a consonant in the middle of a word, combine it with a left hand consonant: BU|SY|NESS. 

ING, ,ER,ED and S on their own, produce the punctuation they normally would (ING does nothing). As part of a stroke, they add their inflection to the coda. More than one may be present in that order, and mat follow either E or Y. If S follows Y and another right hand consonant, it produces IES..

Other Rules

TNR for Q always adds a U, if followed by a vowel in the same stroke.