Sunday, 29 March 2015

Proverbs Reclaimed

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 1 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Common proverbs are a very easy and brief way of passing on wisdom or advice that one has not had to come up with all on one’s own. They are on permanent* standby, ready to help the speaker summarise their opinion in just a few words. They are a type of verbal shorthand, but probably more used in casual speech than in writing, because of their tendency to be overused. They are not the answer, just an opportunity for the listener to decide which one matches most closely what they actually feel about the situation. Should I look before I leap, or is he who hesitates really lost? Is nothing ventured nothing gained the best way or maybe it is better to be safe than sorry. I ought not to cross my bridges until I get to them, but maybe if I fail to plan, I am planning to fail.

* For prominent, permanent and pre-eminent see

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 2 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

For the shorthand writer*, the most relevant point about proverbs, clich├ęs and common phrases of all kinds is the fact that* you know them so well, that it is easy to write down what you think was said. They come in many slightly different versions, or the speaker may even choose to mangle it for their own purposes. Lazy listening is an insidious trap for the shorthand writer, quite separate from the task of recalling and forming outlines, and if you need a proverb for that, maybe it is “Many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip” or, translated* for the stenographer, “Many a slip between sound heard and written word”. Although proverbs are often criticised as being trite, they would never have survived if they were blatantly false or wrong. So, instead of cringing next time* you are confronted with one, it might be preferable to apply it to shorthand and get some fresh use out of it. After all, waste not, want not!

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writer"  "is the (f)act that" "ne(k)s(t) time"

* Omits the N "tra(n)slated"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. - An outline in the mind is worth two in the dictionary.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss. - A well-used shorthand pen gathers no dust and the ink does not dry out.
  • A thousand mile journey begins with a single step. - The steps get easier as shorthand skill increases.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient. - If you are really interested in the subject, you don't need to be reminded to practise.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. - Learn the short forms thoroughly and save yourself a lot of trouble later on.
  • Any port in a storm. - Write something for everything and correct it later.
  • April showers bring May flowers. - April learning brings May earning.
  • Better safe than sorry. - Miss no opportunity to practise – exams are coming!

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 4 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • Beware the fury of a patient* man. - Pounce on your workplace errors before your boss does.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. - And of shorthand.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. - Always carry spare pens or pencils and extra notepads.
  • Everything comes to him who waits. - Practise shorthand every time you have to wait, even if only mentally.
  • Finders keepers. - Refers to that job opportunity.
  • First come, first served. - Don’t miss that bargain Ebay shorthand book.
  • From small beginnings come great things. - Only if you put the work into it.
  • Great oaks from little acorns grow. - Start now and you could be writing 60 words a minute* in three months.

For passionate/patient, and also impassioned/impatient, see

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 5 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • He who hesitates is lost. - Don't expect to rely on memory to fill gaps.
  • Here today, gone tomorrow. -  Unless it has been captured in shorthand.
  • History repeats itself. - Uncorrected* wrong outlines repeat themselves.
  • Hit the nail on the head. - Nail down the correct outlines in your memory to prevent future hesitation. 
  • Hitch your wagon to a star. - Aim high to prevent complacency.
  • If at first* you don't succeed, try, try again. - Vocabulary extension and facility drills are needed.
  • If you sow the wind expect to reap the whirlwind. - Sow practice in order to reap fast shorthand.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. - Use the textbook* outlines as the ideal.
  • In one ear and out the other. - In one ear and out of the pen nib.

* Insert the first vowel, so it is not misread as "incorrect"

Omission phrase "at (fir)st"

* Omits the T "teks(t)book"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 6 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • It's all in a day's work. - A good speed in hand means a stress-free day of shorthand writing*.
  • It’s no use crying over spilt* milk. – Drill troublesome outlines so that the error does not happen again.
  • Knowledge is power - It looks good on your CV as well.
  • Lay up something for a rainy day. - Prepare some drill pages for times when other things cannot be done.
  • Let bygones be bygones. – Review, revise and then retake the fast passage.
  • Little strokes fell great oaks. - A compact writing style is faster than a large sprawling one.
  • Look and  you shall find. - Time slots for extra practice.
  • Make hay while the sun shines. - Practise all the Hay words over lunch in the park.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"

* "spilled" has a downward thick Ld stroke

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 7 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. - Unfamiliar shorthand can soon be overcome and tamed.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention. - Write something for everything, then look up in the dictionary afterwards.
  • Never cross a bridge until you come to it. - Never write an outline before it has been spoken, as what sounds like a common phrase or term may turn out to be something else.
  • Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today. - Practise today and tomorrow as well.
  • Never say die! - Giving up on one thing* is just the start of giving up on others.
  • Never swap horses crossing a stream. - Never dither over your choice of outline in mid-dictation.
  • New brooms sweep clean. - Clean the pen regularly to keep the ink flowing.

* Omission phrase "wu(n) thing"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 8 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • No sooner said than done. - The ultimate goal of all shorthand.
  • Nothing succeeds like success. - Remember past successes in order to strengthen the resolve to continue.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained. - Try a super fast or an extra long take.
  • Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. - One hand writing and the other hand ready to turn the page instantly. This leaves no hands at all to prop up your head!
  • Slow and steady wins the race. - Go as slowly as necessary through* the lesson and then write the exercises quickly.
  • The best is yet to come. - Every minute of practice increases your speed.
  • The early bird catches the worm. - Get up early for extra practising time.
  • The more the merrier. - Outlines in memory and notepads to put them in.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating. - The proof of the shorthand is in the transcription.*
  • The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. - Fast and careless loses the job or exam pass, check all your transcripts carefully.

* Keep the Ith well curved, as it could begin to look like "during"

* Omits the N and the second R "tra(n)sc(r)iption". Compare this with "descriptions" which uses a reversed circle to suggest the R hook.

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 9 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • There is no time like the present. - Keep practice material with you at all times.
  • Time and tide wait for no man. - Pursue maximum speed achievements, not the minimum to get by.
  • Time is money. - Shorthand notes are quicker to read than wading through hours of audio recording.
  • Well begun is half done. – How you write at the beginning of a dictation sets the tone for the rest of it.
  • What's worth doing is worth doing well. - Half learned shorthand is not much use.
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover. - Better a used shorthand book now than a smart new one later.
  • You never know what you can do till you try. - Once you know what you can do, you are encouraged to carry on.
  • You're never too old to learn. - Shorthand is the ideal exercise to keep the mind and memory in good shape. (1326 words)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Here in the South of England I have just about made it safely through this morning's eclipse. The news feeds have told me when it will "hit" and when we will be "plunged" into near darkness, although other feeds are more optimistic about the "spectacular celestial* treat" that we can expect to experience. Today started off grey and overcast. At peak eclipse time, around 9.30, it was a little more overcast, no different from when a middle-sized rain cloud comes over and makes everything a little gloomier for a while. Now that the event has passed, the sky is much brighter. If I had not* read or heard about the eclipse, I would never have known it was happening and would have just assumed that the clouds had decided not to rain and had passed over uneventfully. My experience of the real event occurred entirely online, from the comfort of my cosy computer corner, and I have the satisfaction of a succession of screen grabs of the images supplied, including the diamond ring effect, to help me remember this momentous day of planetary, lunar and solar magnificence.

* Omits the T "celes(t)ial"

* Insert the Hay and vowel dots, so that it does not read as "I do not"

Solar Eclipse - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I am sure there* are many very happy and satisfied scientists, astronomers and stargazers who have really enjoyed witnessing this rare spectacle with their own eyes, and they will be happily talking about it for some time to come, and marvelling at all the pictures of every stage of the event, not only the heavenly bodies themselves but also the weather, sky and visual atmospheric effects. I am sure you know exactly what an eclipse is but having the shorthand outlines for the astronomy terms is the real reason for the rest of the article. However, taking down their discussions in shorthand is possibly going to be quite a challenge, as they will not only be using all these and many more technical terms*, but also chattering at ten to the dozen in their enthusiasm and excitement. Maybe after the event they will calm down and slow down their talking speed a little. To their credit, the scientists I was listening to did in fact cease their commentary for a while, in order to let viewers just experience the sight of the totality, with the sun's* corona shining out on all sides of the black circle of the moon.

* Doubling for "there"

* Omission phrase "tech(nical) terms"

* Normally it is advisable to insert vowels to distinguish between sun/sunny/snow/snowy but the context here makes that unnecessary, but if this article did mention snow, then you would put the vowel in that outline.

Solar Eclipse - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Scanned paper hole
An eclipse is what you get
when you scan paper
with a punched hole
The word eclipse comes from the Greek meaning to leave out, abandon, darken, fail to appear or cease to exist. A solar eclipse is when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, thus causing the moon's shadow to cross the earth, blocking or obscuring the sun's light, the noun being obscuration. In other words, the sun, moon and earth are aligned*, or in alignment*. A lunar eclipse is when the earth casts a shadow on the moon. An eclipse can also mean the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another, or any dimming or obstruction of light. The word also refers to the period of time during which the phenomenon occurs - I spent the eclipse reading my shorthand books, whilst waiting for the daylight to return. The word generally refers to the reduction in light and the casting of a shadow and is a type of occultation, which means the passage of one celestial body in front of another, and so hiding some or all of it from view, for example, the moon passing between an observer and another planet or star. If the further body is not totally obscured, then the occultation is called a transit.

* "align, alignment" Downward L in order to indicate a preceding vowel, therefore cannot take an N hook.

Solar Eclipse - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In Europe, this eclipse was total in the Faroe Islands and the Svalbard Islands off Norway, 97 percent on the Isle of Skye, and reducing to 85% in London. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, and 400 times closer to earth than the sun, and so at certain places in their orbits, the disks of the moon and sun appear exactly the same size to an observer on earth. The moon's shadow or umbra travels over the earth, and those areas experience totality, meaning that the sun is entirely covered. At this point, the sun's corona becomes visible, which are tendrils of charged gases that surround the sun but which cannot be seen by the unaided eye in normal daylight. On the edges of the shadow or penumbra, viewers will see a partial eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farthest in its orbit from the earth, therefore nearer to the sun, and so does not cover it entirely, and the sun's photosphere is seen as a ring or annula around the moon. Variations in the orbits of the sun, moon and earth cause differences in the types and lengths of eclipses, but the maximum duration of a solar eclipse is seven and a half* minutes.

* For more ways to write fractions see 

Solar Eclipse - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The word eclipse is also used figuratively to mean a reduction or loss of splendour, status or reputation and, as a verb, to make less outstanding or less important by comparison. I can truthfully say that shorthand, when written correctly and legibly, totally eclipses and surpasses the lesser glories of longhand, and maybe as a shorthand writer*, your presence in the interview waiting room, or your application on the top of the pile, will entirely eclipse the other applicants who have not studied and achieved  your level of expertise. The most recent eclipse in the UK was in August 1999, and we will have to wait until 2026 for the next one, which will be a partial eclipse. The next total eclipse will be in 2090, so please practise and perfect your shorthand and pass it on to your children so that they can create a blog to write about that one, as it is possible that I may not be writing shorthand articles at the age of 137 years! (970 words)

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Short Letters3

Each paragraph is 150 words, so writing one in 90 seconds will be 100wpm.

Short Letters3 - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mr Green, I am writing to thank you for responding to the survey form in our recent mailout to local businesses. As you know, we are acting on behalf of the local authority, who wish to gauge the effectiveness of their recent improvements to community facilities and grants available, as well as future plans to solve some of the transport problems in the area. We are grateful for you taking the time to provide this information which will be a great help in formulating further improvements and so creating a better environment for future growth of trade in the area, as well as protection for community resources for residents and visitors. A summary of the results of this survey will be made available on our website under the project reference given above and we think you will find the information of interest and benefit to your business. Yours sincerely* (150 words)

* Omission phrase "yours s(in)cerely

Short Letters3 - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Miss Jackson, Thank you so much for coming to visit the Riverside Wetlands Ecology Centre last week* and for giving such an inspiring talk to the school children on the importance of looking after our environment. The children thoroughly enjoyed their day here, and thanks to your very informative explanation on the identification and lives of the various creatures to be found here, they were all very eager to look for and talk about the animals as they explored the site. Everyone was so enthusiastic at the craft activities afterwards, and hopefully many of them will want to return in the summer for one of your bird watching mornings. Some of the older children have already expressed an interest in the afternoon session of identifying and sketching the birds from the hide by the lake. Once again*, thank you so much for helping us in this way. Best wishes* (150 words)

* Omission phrases "las(t w)eek"  "wu(n)s again"

* "wish" is a downward Ish, but upward in this phrase in order to join

Short Letters3 - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Friends, It is that time of year again when we are finalising our plans for our Club's schedule of events on the river and I enclose a list of outings which I hope you and your family will find of interest. As usual there are quite a few trips to places of interest along the river, plus our annual Gala Day held in June in the grounds of the Harbour Inn, all of which are open to anyone interested. We are delighted this year to be able to offer for the first time* two trips to Rocky Island to watch the seals and other marine wildlife. Captain Morrison will again be holding seminars on seamanship and river craft at Riverside Hotel, which were very well* received last year and which resulted in many new members to our Club. We look forward to another exciting year of activities. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* Omission phrases "for (the) first time"   "very (w)ell"

Short Letters3 - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Sir, Thank you for the quotation to rebuild the garages at the rear of our office premises. We would like to make a few changes and additions. Could you please change the colour of the bricks to the darker version that we looked at, as this would blend in with the surroundings much better. We require the roof to be of glass fibre laminate rather than the rubberised coating that we originally requested, and the guttering and downpipes should now be in grey rather than black. We have also changed our electrical wiring and lighting requirements, including two extra outside sensor controlled security lights, and I enclose a revised plan that reflects this, if you could include this in the building plans. Could you also please clarify the rising door colour, as your quotation only gives a reference number. I look forward to receiving a revised quotation. Yours faithfully (150 words)

Short Letters3 - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mrs Bolton, I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies for student placements or internships at your college. We have a number of business studies students and graduates on our books who are very keen to gain experience and use their skills in a commercial college environment. We specialise in finding placements for high achieving students who have made a firm career decision and wish to benefit both themselves and their hosts. We vet all our applicants very carefully, with extensive* testing, interviewing and taking up multiple references on ability and character. They are used to working hard and are keen to learn. If you are interested in helping these students in their careers, as well as gaining some useful extra temporary staff for your busy periods, then please contact me with the types of subjects that you would like our students to help with. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* Keep the T clearly vertical and insert dot, as it could look like "expansive" which has a similar meaning.

Short Letters3 - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mr Black, Last week we held a special meeting of the Consultative Committee to discuss the issues that were raised at last month's Planning and Strategy meeting of local managers and senior staff. It is our job to give advice on the feasibility and legality of the decisions made, and the possible consequences not only for the business but also the staff and indeed our many valued customers. I attach a report of our meeting and invite you to send us your candid comments on the proposals and tentative decisions made. We want to ensure complete cooperation with everyone who will be affected, so that the proposed new measures benefit everyone involved in our business. You can send us your comments by post or email, or fill in the comments questionnaire online. I look forward to your views on the matter* and thank you for your cooperation. Yours sincerely (150 words) (Total 900 words)

* Omission phrase "on (the) matter"

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Facility Drills

Facility Drills - Part 1 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I hope you are not going to be put off by the word "drill". Unlike the exercises endured by army recruits, a shorthand drill does not consist of marching around a bleak parade ground at the crack of dawn on a cold winter morning before breakfast. On the contrary*, it can be done on a soft seat in a comfortable room in pleasant surroundings and need never interrupt your meals or other activities of the day. The dictionary definition of drill is: any* strict, methodical, repetitive or mechanical training, instruction or exercise. The verb is defined as: to impart knowledge or skill by strict training, discipline, or repetition. The idea of repetition to gain a manual skill is an obvious one for many other* activities, such as sports, dancing or music, and as long as shorthand is seen as a manual skill and not an intellectual one, there should be no difficulty in accepting that this is the principal method needed in order to achieve the desired result. I knew you would not be put off, as all my readers are quick witted, astute, shrewd, smart and perceptive persons with sharp minds and the determination to pounce on anything that will get them to their goal quickly and effectively.

* Omission phrases "on (the) contrary"  "many oth(er)"

* "any" The dot vowel is not part of the short form, but can be added to help reading back

Facility Drills - Part 2 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
With this in mind, I have begun the creation of facility drill booklets. I am taking one of each month's blogs and rewriting it as a drill book and also recording it as an additional slow dictation of 40 words a minute*. A drill page consists of a line of shorthand, followed by three blank lines for you to copy onto, thus making six lines of shorthand per page. They help you get into the habit of writing in an even flowing style with no stopping and starting to interrupt the flow. This is the reason they are called facility drills - facile means moving, acting, working or proceeding in an easy or unconstrained manner. Their specific purpose is to get the learner out of the habit of slow laborious drawing of the outlines and into an even writing pace, and this skill is the foundation of future speed achievements, even though the drills themselves are not meant to be done at high speed. Copying from the line above is not a good habit to settle into and so the blog drill books are only useful if you are at that particular stage, having completed the theory and just beginning to work on speed improvement, and so are best left behind once you have acquired a smooth style of writing.

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute)

Facility Drills - Part 3 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The ideal way to use them is to first read the actual blog shorthand, with all its helpful vowels, until you can read it all without hesitation. You may have to practise some of the new outlines separately to get more familiar with them. Then you can work through the drill booklet, which has only the essential vowels, doing your best to write neatly at an even speed and with a light-handed touch. As you write, you are reading and copying the printed shorthand above, and preferably saying it out loud to yourself as you go. One thing* you should not use the facility drills for is to write the matter from dictation, or attempt fast writing. Dictations should always be done on blank lined paper, so that you learn to recall outlines in response to the spoken words. If you prepare a passage sufficiently* beforehand, reading it several times and writing out the new outlines, then taking dictation in the proper manner will be no hardship and the correct habits will be formed.

* Omission phrase "wu(n) thing"

* This short form includes the "-ly" version, but an L stroke can always be added if preferred (in this case it would be disjoined).

Facility Drills - Part 4 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Other types of drills will always be useful throughout your shorthand writing life. Drilling single outlines, either new or ones that need correcting, enables both mind and hand to learn new matter intensively. The new outline is written in the margin and copied repeatedly along one or two* lines, or you can do a whole line of new words or phrases and leave several blank lines underneath. These types of drill are the quickest way to ensure no new outline is forgotten or escapes. Phrase drill books of this kind will be made available at a later date. To consolidate knowledge of the items learned, it is helpful to construct a short passage using all the new words and take it down from the spoken word, in order to establish the habit of reacting to the sound and getting away from copying.

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writing"  "one (or) two"

Facility Drills - Part 5 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

A different type is a speed drill which can be made by writing a short sentence on the top line and repeating it down the page. The idea is to go as fast as you can but without descending into scrawl. It is a good antidote to the visual exercises of copying. After a few lines the text and outlines will be in memory and there is no need to glance at the line above and it becomes easier to speed up. These make good impromptu* speed tests. Just write for one minute then multiply the number of words in the sentence by the number of lines you have written, plus any odd words on the last unfinished line, and you will have your speed. This will be faster than your general dictation speed as the matter is known beforehand and you are not really having to think very hard about the outlines, but it is a great encourager to know what your hand can do and what you can expect to be able to do as your knowledge of the most common outlines increases.

* Omits the lightly-sounded P, so uses M stroke and not the MP stroke

Facility Drills - Part 6 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

When I was learning shorthand at college the drill books were thin, sparse and quite expensive for the little contents they had and so we did not make a lot of use of them. They were eked out and made to last as long as possible, as cost meant there was no incentive to fill the pages rapidly. As you will be printing the pages yourself, the cost should be far less than* buying a printed version. They are the "disposable paper plates" of the shorthand world, to be used, filled up and thrown away as quickly as possible. The more drills and notepads you can get through at this stage of learning, the quicker your progress will be. Using text more to your liking is as easy as copying passages from the instruction book into your usual notepad, leaving the blank lines between, and this will be necessary for the beginner who has not finished the theory and needs to have graded matter to practise on that matches their place in the lessons.

* "less" has upward L, but written downward here to enable the join

Facility Drills - Part 7 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

There is one particular drill that most people are likely to have done very willingly and enjoyably at an early age - writing one's name in real grown-up and joined-up letters, with an extra large initial capital letter, loops and swirls, and somehow including a magnificent flourish or underline to finish off the masterpiece*. There is something very pleasing and irresistible about going from drawing single letters and struggling slowly along the line, to finally joining them up and gliding along, with the possibility of actually speeding up. The letter forms change from angular, drawn and dug into the paper to being more fluent, lightly written and of course faster. I did this as soon as I was allowed to at school, when we were first permitted to use a fountain pen and were shown how to form the letters into cursive writing.

* There are a few outlines that have a stroke following the loop, see

Facility Drills - Part 8 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

On arriving home after school that day, I began writing my name on every scrap of paper I could find and discovered that the more I did it, the faster I could go. Unfortunately in my enthusiasm I was inexcusably careless in those first attempts and misspelledmy first name, transposing the last two letters. When this was pointed out by my Mum, I wrote the correct version as many times as possible that day, and in the following days, to eradicate this embarrassing mistake that I had taught my hand to do. Fortunately no-one else ever saw the error and I never made it again - the drills worked! Next time* you write your signature, it may deserve a bit more admiration, with never a variation or mistake in its flawless formation and more importantly not the slightest hesitation or thought given to how it should be written, obviously the result of unconscious drilling and perfecting during those early years of learning to write longhand. (1413 words)

* "misspelt" has an upward halved L

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t)  time"

Download the Facility Drill Book PDFs at:

Monday, 23 February 2015


Conversations - Part 1 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Train seats
Sit down, relax and keep talking.
The person behind is studying shorthand.
Recently I was travelling across London on the train. My seat faced backwards and after a while my eyes needed a rest from the rapidly receding buildings and trees. Then three talkative lads* boarded the train and sat a few seats behind me. The lively conversation was mainly on the merits, failures and career prospects of various footballers. I thought I would follow my own advice and visualise some of it in shorthand. I am usually successful at this when it is a television or internet broadcast. However, these lads were so intent on voicing their opinions to each other that the sentences came out in short and very fast bursts, no doubt to get their point over before one of the others butted in with a counterclaim*. A slow talker would not havestood any chance of finishing his sentence! Their speech was terse, clipped and abrupt, mostly phrases and exclamations more than complete sentences. The rapid-fire delivery and the difficulty of making out every word precisely made me give up on the shorthand exercise. The arrival of a few expletives was my cue to "tune it out" but I did muse on what might happen if a shorthand writer did get it all down and decided to read it back to them, swear words and all.

* Insert the vowel in "lads" and "ladies" to prevent misreading

* "counter" is doubled but written this way here in order to join to the next word

* "would not have" Write separately, to prevent it looking like "would never", or, if it has already been written, insert the vowel in "not" to clarify

Conversations - Part 2 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Train at platform
I Spy a train full of dictators
Having changed trains, the next conversation that filled my end of the carriage was between three children playing a game of "I Spy" - I spy with my little eye something beginning with T. Well, it had to be train or tracks or tunnel. I followed the game, unable to not listen, as it was all going on right behind me. After a while the rules changed slightly as they started giving the first sound of the word rather than the letter of the alphabet. They were young enough to probably not be quite sure of every spelling, or at least an older child would do this so that a younger one could take part. The other problem was that the train was moving, but this made it more of an interesting challenge that spiced up the game. If one of them spied something while the train was stationary*, then the others had to guess it quickly before the scene slipped away. Sure enough, several of the responses were, "Too late" followed by the answer. As long as all three had their opportunity to be the quizmaster, they were all happy. Later on the game mutated into spying things consisting of two words, such as tall building, factory door etc. The game had run its course as these longer versions were all but unguessable, especially as the objects themselves were whizzing past out of sight.

* "-ary" when it means not moving, liked a pARked cAR, "-ery" when stationery means papER

Conversations - Part 3 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Information boardMy third attempt at amusing* myself with the surrounding words was to write in mental shorthand the constantly repeated announcement giving a list of destinations. This was not as easy as it first seemed, being almost entirely place names which needed more thinking about than normal sentences. I could either follow the announcer's voice or look at the information board with the scrolling list of stations. The board was not easy to follow as it was further down the carriage and the words formed by lighted dots moving from right to left* were hard to read rapidly. The voice was much easier but I think I would have done better if I had actually been writing them on paper, not being distracted by dotty words or surroundings, and I am sure I would have written most of them in two or three pieces, one mark for each syllable.

* Always insert vowel in amazing/amusing and derivatives

* Omission phrase "right (to) left"
Conversations - Part 4 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Station clock at Uxbridge
Countdown to success
(Uxbridge Station, SW London)
The easiest way to practise when the overheard conversations are too fast is to pick on random words or phrases, either all the simple well-known ones or perhaps just the ones that you think you would hesitate over if writing for real. The train or bus is the ideal place for practising shorthand in this way. If there are no conversations going on, then shop and road signs can all be translated* into shorthand as they come into view. This particular variation should improve each day, as you pass the same shops and signs over and again. Many business names make an effort at writing by sound, in order to arrest your attention with the strange spelling, but you now have the satisfaction of writing the true version, and can thank them for helping you think only of the sound and not the wayward English spelling. In your warm and comfortable train or bus seat, you will be able to give yourself lots* of brownie points for getting ahead with the shorthand, making good use of the spare minutes and maybe even shortening the apparent length of the journey, as well as shortening the time taken to achieve shorthand fluency and skill. (803 words)

* Omits the N "tra(n)slated"

Insert the vowel, so it does not look like "masses" which has the same meaning

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Short Letters 2

Each paragraph is 150 words, so writing one in 90 seconds will be 100wpm.

Short Letters 2 - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Sir, Thank you for your enquiry regarding taking out a maintenance contract with us for your office and warehouse premises. I have enclosed our estimate sheet which gives an approximate idea of the annual costs for various levels of maintenance and size of buildings and area covered. Our estimator would be happy to visit you to survey the premises in order to* submit a tender for the contract. We can offer a discount if you decide to commit to a longer-term contract and we hope that you will be able to take advantage of this. We have operated this business very successfully for the past 25 years and are confident that we can supply you with a first rate* service at a reasonable cost, as confirmed by the excellent feedback we have received* which you can read on our website. I look forward to hearing from you. Yours faithfully (150 words)

* Omission phrases "in ord(er to)"  "firs(t) rate"  "we have (re)ceived"

Short Letters 2 - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mrs Murray, I am writing to thank you for your recent letter and the enclosed donation towards our work with disadvantaged children and young people in our city centre. We are very grateful to all our supporters who help us carry on this valuable work. I attach our latest newsletter which describes the progress of our projects, and we are delighted to report that the new club building is now complete, where we will be able to help train young people and improve their prospects of gaining employment. There will also be an area where younger children and their parents can come, so we can help them apply for government grants for their* education and housing needs. We are also excited about our new project to provide short holiday breaks for the families, which they could not otherwise afford. Thank you once again* for your kind generosity. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* "for their" is written with full outlines, "if there" is doubled

* Omission phrase "o(n)ce again"

Short Letters 2 - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mrs Clark, Thank you for writing to me about the delays you have experienced with the building work to your side house extension carried out* by our operatives last week*. I have spoken to them and to our site manager, who has informed me that this problem with the foundations was entirely unforeseen at the time that our survey and estimate were prepared. It is not always possible to know what will be found when excavations start, but we always endeavour to inform our customers of variations required in the work and provide immediate information on the extra costs or delays that may result. We estimate that the work of moving these pipes will take an extra half day's labour, and I attach a revised quotation that includes these costs. If you have any further concerns or require any amendments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* Special use of halving "carri-dout", more examples at

* Omission phrase "las(t w)eek"

Short Letters 2 - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear John and Joan, I am writing to invite you both to the opening of our new restaurant in Green Road. We are looking forward to meeting up with all our long-standing customers and friends who have supported us at our previous premises in White Lane. The event will take place in our spacious new dining and conference room, with drinks and nibbles buffet provided. There will be a speech by the manager and some of the staff, followed by a celebration meal which we hope all our friends will enjoy. The invitation is to yourselves and two children if you wish to bring them, so please let us know how many of you wish to come. In parting, we are giving out a book of discount vouchers for future meals with us, with sweets and a balloon for each child. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Best wishes* (150 words)

* "wish" is a downward Ish, but upward in this phrase in order to join

Short Letters 2 - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Sir, I am writing to congratulate you on the excellent service I received at your store last week. I had bought a set of clothes to wear to a wedding, but when I got home and inspected them, I found some faults with the sewing and had to return them straight away. As the wedding is coming up very soon, I was concerned* I would not be able to find replacements in time, but your staff member Jackie was extremely helpful and offered to find an identical* set as soon as possible. She contacted the other store straight away and made arrangements for the dress and jacket to be sent over immediately. I spent an hour shopping elsewhere and when I returned, the items had arrived. Nothing was too much trouble, and Jackie really saved the day for me. Please pass on my grateful thanks to her. Yours faithfully (150 words)

* Omission phrase "I was (con)cerned"

* Contraction "ide(n)tical"

Short Letters 2 - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mr Brown, Last week our members had a meeting to discuss the new financial arrangements that are now in operation for Grays Lane Sports Club. We are delighted that this will mean we can now get on with the new building work and the summer's events. Mr Black has volunteered to oversee the changeover and we trust that under his direction this will all go very smoothly. I have attached a report of the meeting, which was very well* attended, and fortunately everyone was in agreement over our future plans. We were also able to draw up a schedule of events for the coming year and we hope that these will result in increasing our membership and providing a better service for those who wish to enjoy sports in our area. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments that will improve our service. Yours sincerely (150 words) (Total 900 words)

Omission phrases "very (w)ell"

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Sea edge
Tides - Part 1 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Sea tractor Burgh Island
Burgh Island 1981
I was watching a television programme the other day about the tides around the British coastline*. The beach scenes and shots of sea and waves were interspersed with chats with those living and working there. As the presenter was talking to a fisherman on his boat out in the bay, the man said that phrase that everyone is familiar with, "Time and tide wait for no man." Instantly my mind turned, of course, to shorthand, and I think the same would occur to anyone with a different interest or hobby that needs instant action or reaction. In my case, the speakers who would never wait were my shorthand teachers, as they always went faster than was comfortable, so that we did not get lax or lazy. With some skill in hand, these difficulties were not so apparent at work, unless someone was reading from their scribbled notes, which was not often. Like the sea, there is no holding back the torrent of words, and you have to either be prepared or get out if you don't want to drown!

* Full strokes for "coast" to enable it to join

Tides - Part 2 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Newquay waves and rocks
Newquay - Shortly after
This reminded me of a holiday we had in Cornwall many years ago. We took a day trip to Newquay which has several beaches separated by small cliff promontories. When the tide is out, it is one long strip of sand, and we wandered round the little headland to the next beach. When we saw that the tide was coming in, a little way off, we turned back to retrace our steps, not wanting to take the longer and less interesting route of continuing up the second beach and making our way back along the cliff top road. It was only a few yards to get round that corner, and although we started off walking on damp sand, within a minute we were splashing through the incoming ripples. Behind those tiny advancing wavelets was a huge expanse of grey sea that had no intention of letting us keep our sandals dry. The view in front of us of yellow sand, deckchairs and distant shops and car park* was much more attractive than the view behind us of rows of waves of ever-increasing height as one looked farther* out. I did not enjoy having crossed the line from being by the sea to being in it - an ever moving boundary, one that has to be predicted and avoided.

* "park" on its own has full strokes

* Distinguishing outline, compare "further" which is doubled. Farther refers only to distance, further refers to distance, subsequent/another, additional/more

Tides - Part 3 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Trevellas Cove Cornwall
Trevellas Cove, Cornwall
Later on in the seaside television programme they were looking at an old mechanical tide prediction machine, that could be fed information and produce tide tables for any place in the world*. The presenter talked to a lady who had worked there for many years before it was discontinued in the 1960's. He commented on the neatness of the index cards that contained the data*. She said that neat handwriting was essential, as accuracy was paramount, and that mistakes were not tolerated. This last phrase fairly jumped out at me, as one of my shorthand tenets, learned at college, although with much less serious consequences than issuing an inaccurate tide table. The necessity for accuracy was not an added extra because the lady and her colleagues were especially keen at their jobs, but an indispensable and immovable part of their work, never to be disregarded or neglected*. I am sure that if they had the slightest doubt about anything, it would be checked and verified until it was perfect. In shorthand this attitude is the only one that will bring constant improvement as well as the approval by an employer of your error-free work. Wrong outlines have to be tolerated for the sake of* getting something down and it is easier to allow them during note-taking if you know you will be sorting them out later, so that they do not trip you up again.

* Omission phrases "in (the) world"  "for (the) sake (of)"

* Small dash through a contraction signifies the past tense

Tides - Part 4 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Burgh Island helping the tide come in
The moment captured
Burgh Island 1981
On another seaside holiday on the south coast of Britain, we visited Burgh Island near Plymouth, which can be reached on dry sand at low tide. When the tide was in, a sea tractor conveyed visitors across to the island. We walked back in good time, but stood a while looking at the waters creeping very slowly round both sides of the island, waiting for the moment when they would meet. With holiday-makers and eager children watching intently, the two leading edges approached each other and were a minute away from meeting. At that moment two children decided to intervene and rushed in, and with their hands started quickly scraping two small channels between them*. The waters were desperate to join up and knew exactly what to do, rushing along the shallow groove and meeting with a bit more force and splash than they would otherwise have done. I am sure they spent that night making plans to come back the next day and repeat the performance, probably with a few more minutes in hand, in order to dig a bigger trench. I took a photo and called it "Helping the tide come in". The sea had not been stopped but it had been controlled in a small way - the vast ocean altered in its course using nothing but hands. (853 words)

* Omission phrase "betwee(n) them" Tide prediction machine