The Vowels

At the heart of every syllable is a vowel.

The vowels in steno are written using the thumbs. As you can see below, there are 4 keys that relate to vowels on a steno keyboard.

Qwerty Steno Keyboard

We'll break the vowels up into groups.


Keys Example
A Mat, Ant
O Got, Pocket
E Let, Fed
U Grump, Bull
EU Grip, Pit

Notice how you make the vowel "I" by pressing both "E" and "U" together.

These five vowels all have "long" versions. The way to make the long version of the vowel is to add the two vowel keys from the other hand.

For example, you can press "A" to make a short "A" as in "cap". If you add the vowels from the other hand ("E" and "U"), you get a long "A" as in "cape"

This works for all vowels except "O" which is written "OE".


Keys Example
AEU Grape, Hay
AOE Free
AOU Glue
AOEU Pipe, Eye
OE Show, Joe

Can you see how you add the vowels of the other hand in order to make a vowel long? This is an easy way of remembering it, just watch out for the exception: "O".


Keys Example
OEU Toy, Joy
AU Bought, Faun, All
OU How, Mound

And finally...

Spelling Differentiators:

Keys Usage
AO Spelling "oo" or "oa"
AE Spelling "ea" or "ae"

An example of using spelling differentiators would be when two words sound the same but you need the steno software to output the correct word. For example when writing "Pair" or "Pear". Both of these words sound the same and would be written phonetically on a steno keyboard as "PAEUR". But the steno software can only output one word. In this case the output would be "Pair". So in order to write "Pear", we use the spelling differentiator and write "PAER".

While steno is mostly phonetic, sometimes it uses spelling to inform how to write a word. So if a word is written with a short vowel, it will usually be written with the same vowel on the steno keyboard, regardless of what it actually sounds like. For example, "Pert" and "Purr" have the same sound, but "Pert" is written with the "E" key, and "Purr" is written with the "U" key.

Now, let's practice the vowels.