Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Just Checking

Just Checking - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

A little while ago I watched a television programme about the Hubble Space Telescope, going through the history of its design, construction and launch, but the most memorable part of the programme was the discovery of the fault with the primary mirror. I saw the looks of puzzlement on the faces of those gathered around the monitor, way back in 1990, who were waiting for a wonderfully* crisp view of the stars, when the picture showed up fuzzy and indistinct, and then the incredulity and realisation that something somewhere was very wrong. The press conferences were polite but strained, and the voices of those explaining were thin and subdued, attempting to speak in unemotional flat tones to cover their dismay, which had completely replaced the former bubbly enthusiasm. After the blame finding and blame shifting had died down somewhat, ideas for correcting the distortion were invited, discussed and decided upon. Three years later, correcting mirrors and other optical instruments were installed and the scientists finally had their long-awaited sharp focus pictures of deep space in all its glorious detail.

* "wonderfully" The short form covers both "wonderful" and "wonderfully" but as both make sense here, the L stroke needs to be added. When an adjective comes after the "wonderfully" then it is always going to need clarifying in this way.

Just Checking - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

What reminded me of this was an article I found today about the new telescope that will replace the 25-year-old Hubble, showing lots of pictures of engineers hard at work, assembling parts and running their tests. I am quite certain that at the top of their list are the tests and checking, this time with more than just one instrument and with absolutely no assumptions being made about the accuracy of the results. This will be the most checked and tested piece of space equipment there ever was and there will be no repeat of the previous blunders and embarrassment. The new telescope is called the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST as the scientists themselves are calling it, at least in print, like they do with all the other instruments. I have a suspicion that the names of some of the instruments are tweaked slightly to make them into pronounceable acronyms.

Just Checking - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

You may not have any interest in science or astronomy, but all shorthand writers*, whether experienced or just starting, will empathise with the unpleasant results that failing to check properly* can have. The amount of checking that a person does seems to be* related to the severity of the results that might ensue. Checking you have enough bread or milk in the kitchen is fairly minor, but checking you have shut the windows and locked the door before going on your way is higher up the priority list, and done even more diligently when going away on holiday.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writers"  "seems (to) be"

* "properly" Always insert the vowel, and the diphone in "appropriate", to prevent misreading

Just Checking - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In our school exams we were allowed to leave the room if we finished before the allotted time was up, but I never did this. I checked for the general sense of my answers, I checked for spelling and grammar, and then checked again for any bits of handwriting that were not crystal clear for the examiner to read, with all the I’s dotted and all the T’s crossed. Some subjects gave me a reasonable amount of time in hand, others were barely finished in time, but a quick read through in the last few minutes was always attempted, with extra facts that had come to mind at the last moment squeezed in between the lines of handwriting, which might give me one more point and bump up my final score into the next higher grading.

Just Checking - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Making a transcription* has one extra danger that ordinary exams do not have. It is so easy to skip a line of shorthand as your eyes go back and forth* between the notepad and the screen or paper. The ideal would be to type on screen from the notes without taking your eyes off them. I generally have a marker on the pad, usually just a flat sided pencil, and I place it just above where I am reading, so that I do not need to move it for every line. I have to do the reverse of transcription* when making the blogs, moving my pencil down the printed text and looking back and forth* to the paper to write the shorthand. The method is the same, although the consequences for me (wasted time) are minor compared to an error going unnoticed and uncorrected in an exam or job assignment. This seemingly trivial little precaution can prevent major errors and damage to your shorthand reputation or your exam pass.

* "transcription" Transcribe and derivatives omit the second R, to prevent a misreading with describe and derivatives

* Omission phrase "back (and) forth"

Just Checking - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Of equal importance is the checking of my own outlines and so dictionary delving is top priority for the blogs. Checking your own outlines is essential and you will get the best results if you write down all your lookups in a notebook dedicated* to that purpose, so you can review and practise regularly until they are totally familiar. As your vocabulary of outlines increases, your speed will increase as well. It’s all down to checking, testing, inspecting, examining, assessing and investigating*, so that your shorthand speed and accuracy can shoot off into gravity-defying orbit, without the need for major correction of errors, and requiring only regular adjustments and maintenance to keep it on track and performing well. (855 words)

* "dedicated" Best insert vowels, otherwise similar to "deducted" and "educated"

* "investigating" omits the first T

Magnifier lens on shorthand dictionary
Optical correction equipment

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Had Do Did

Had Do Did - Part 1 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

This article practises all the following: had, do, did - had not, do not, did not - hadn’t, don’t, didn’t

  • I had some notes from him. I do like to read them. I did get them in time.
  • You had a good week. You do the work very well*. You did everything you could.
  • He had a report to write. What should he do? He did get some help.
  • She had to go to town. There were* things she must do. She did it yesterday.
  • We had an email* from them. We do reply to everything. We did send a reply.
  • They had a nice day. They do like it when that happens. They did enjoy themselves.

* Omission phrases "very (w)ell"  "there (w)ere"

* "Email" Always insert first vowel, compare "mail"

Had Do Did - Part 2 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In a phrase “had” may need a dot vowel to differentiate it from “do”. It would be quicker to just not phrase the “had” but you might have already written the phrase before realising there is a clash. Some books show two dots i.e. dot hay and the vowel. In the following sentences, the dot is essential.

Had Do Did - Part 3 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
  • We had let many people visit the office. We do let many people visit the office.
  • We had many emails and letters. We do many emails and letters.
  • We had loads of work every week. We do loads of work every week.
  • They had come to see us quite often. They do come to see us quite often.
  • They had a lot of crime in the area. They do a lot of crime in the area.
  • They had a very good meal at the cafe. They do a very good meal at the cafe.
  • We had expected some mail. We do expect some mail.
  • We had believed his report. We do believe his report.
  • We had informed the foreman. We do inform the foreman.
  • They had remembered my name. They do remember my name.

Had Do Did - Part 4 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The tense of the verb tells you whether the phrase should read “had” or “do” but sometimes the verb is the same in both tenses e.g. put, let, come. Short forms and contractions like “believe” “expect” “inform” are identical for present and past tenses, but you can write a short dash through the last stroke to indicate the past tense, to further help out with reading back correctly. There is no time to consider* possible clashes during a dictation, and indeed they might only be noticed later on when transcribing*. For this reason it is helpful to always write them in such a way that they could be read correctly even if standing alone without any context.*

* Omission phrase "to (con)sider"

* "transcribing" This and its derivatives omit the second R, compare "describe" etc (see para below) which has a similar meaning.

* "context" Always use the Con dot, never proximity, to prevent misreading as "text"

Had Do Did - Part 5 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

NEGATIVES - “had not, do not, did not”. The first two are identical, and once again “had not”* can be vocalised with the dot if necessary. “Did not” omits the second D sound and would more accurately be described as an omission phrase. It must always be written on the line. Sometimes this is possible in the phrase, other times you have to write it separately. It cannot be helped out with a dot vowel, because that would turn it into the apostrophe version “didn’t” described below. The examples show the optional dot and the second paragraph gives instances where the dot is essential.

* Showing the two dots

Had Do Did - Part 6 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • I had not received it. I do not receive visitors. I did not receive the gift.
  • I had thought of a good answer and had not written it down.
  • I will be meeting a customer and do not know his first name.
  • I lost my keys and did not know where to look.
  • You had not received a reply. You do not have the time. You did not get an answer.
  • He had not seen the man. He did not get the email. 
  • She had not been there* long. She did not go to the house.
  • We had not expected them to come and so we did not have everything ready.
  • We do not believe him. We did not believe him.
  • We did not get his message and did not go to the meeting.

* "been there" Doubling for "there"

Had Do Did - Part 7 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • We had not given it to them. We do not give it to them.
  • We had not believed it. We do not believe it.
  • We had not inspected these items. We do not inspect these items.
  • They had not manufactured them. They do not manufacture them.
  • They had not put any effort into it. They do not put any effort into it.
  • They had not let us in. They do not let us in.
  • They had not come to town and had not given us the letters. They do not come to town and do not give us the letters.

Had Do Did - Part 8 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

APOSTROPHES - The versions with apostrophes do not use the short forms, they are all full normal outlines, treating the phrase as if it were just one word, like the longhand does. These are best always vocalised, so that there is no possibility* of misreading. “Don’t” must always be vocalised and is written above the line to match with the unvocalised “do not”. Their position above the line is simply to make them different from “did not” and “didn’t”. “Didn’t” omits the second D sound and must have its dot. My personal preference is to avoid* the official “didn’t” outline because it adds to confusion with the other three and instead write it as a full outline, a formation similar to “trident”. This means I can use the dot for “did not” if necessary, thus keeping that set of three all distinct from each other whether they are phrased or not. However, the official version of “didn’t” is shown in the blogs.

* "possibility" Optional contraction

* "avoid" Insert the diphthong and keep unphrased, compare "evade" which has a similar meaning

Had Do Did - Part 9 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • I hadn’t seen the person before. I don’t know his name. I didn’t meet him yesterday.
  • We hadn’t any idea of the cost. We don’t know what it was. We didn’t ask them.
  • You hadn’t been there* before. You don’t recognise the town. You didn’t look at the map.
  • He hadn’t written his report. He didn’t give himself enough time.
  • She hadn’t passed the test. She didn’t read all the books.
  • They hadn’t seen the group. They don’t know their names. They didn’t want to know.

* "been there" Doubling for "there"

Had Do Did - Part 10 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

UNPHRASED “NOT” - If the two words do not naturally belong together, or if the “not” (or any other word) is being emphasised, then phrasing is not appropriate*. They must be* written as separate outlines so that the meaning is clear. Constructions like this are best set off with dashes in the shorthand. The accuracy of your transcription relies on getting this right. The first set of examples have opposite meanings, depending* on where you indicate the pauses. Pauses can make a difference to many other* types of sentence as well, and using the dash in the shorthand notes will help you read it back, get the correct meaning and then punctuate the transcript to reflect that meaning, using dashes, commas or parentheses. A comma in shorthand is unsafe, being too much like an outline, although you might see them and other marks typeset in old shorthand books and magazines within a story that has conversations, but these are reading practice and not dictation pieces. The first paragraph below shows how the meaning can change according to the* punctuation.

* "appropriate" Insert the diphthong, and the first vowel in "proper" as these two are similar in meaning

* Omission phrases "they mus(t) be"  "many oth(er)"  "accord(ing to) the"

* "depending" Keep the Ing clearly full length, to prevent misreading as "dependent"

dependent = adjective, hanging down, or relying on for support
independent = adjective, not relying on anything or anyone
independence = noun, freedom of action

dependant = noun, a person who depends on another

Had Do Did - Part 11 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • They do, not surprisingly, know his address. They do not, surprisingly, know his address.
  • We had, not unusually, received a call. We had not, unusually, received a call.
  • Did you finish the work? If you did, not many people noticed it.
  • Did you finish the work? If you did not, many people noticed it.

Had Do Did - Part 12 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • Because of the difficulties that they had, not many of them returned the next day.
  • They are pleased with the success they had, not the work that led to it.
  • This is the work our staff do, not every day but at least* three days a week.
  • If you do as I do, not as the others do, you might* finish it earlier.
  • I want you to copy what I do, not what the others may tell you.
  • Do you send emails? Yes, I do, not every day though.

* "at least" Insert the second vowel, and also in "at last"

* "might" is best not phrased, to prevent misreading as "may", do the same with the other halved outlines"not" (vs "no") and "could" (vs "can")

Had Do Did - Part 13 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • Despite the work that the staff did, not much improvement was seen.
  • This happened because of what he did, not what he said.
  • Whatever he did, not many people appreciated his efforts.
  • It was clear what they did, not to say that they will admit to it.
  • There is a lot of unseen work that I do, not to mention replying to all the letters.
  • We had, not without some suspicion, watched everything they were doing.
  • They had, not to put too fine a point on it, made a great number of errors.

Had Do Did - Part 14 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • We do NOT wish to know all about what happened there.
  • I do NOT appreciate this extra work that has come in.
  • He said very loudly that he had NOT seen them for a week.
  • The children did NOT hand in their work on time.
  • Most assuredly we did NOT give our permission for this.
  • Visitors do NOT have permission to enter this door.
  • I DO like ice cream and I do NOT like boiled cabbage.
  • I had NOT been told about this and I do NOT want to hear any excuses.

Miscellaneous practice:

Had Do Did - Part 15 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • I had arrived in town, I had not taken long, and I hadn’t experienced any delays.
  • We had eaten the meal, we had not received the bill and we hadn’t seen our friends.
  • Mr Smith had come to the office but had not seen the staff and hadn’t noticed my absence.
  • They had come a long way, they had not brought any cases and they hadn’t found the hotel.
  • I do like this house but I do not like the garden, and I don’t think I will buy it.
  • We do have the staff, we do not have enough customers and we don’t know when this will* change.
  • The people do want to come, they do not want to be left out and they don’t mind saying so.

* "this will" Downward L in order to join in this phrase, likewise "this letter"

Had Do Did - Part 16 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • They do as they want, they do not follow the rules and they don’t get good results.
  • I did want to travel, but I did not want to go very far and I didn’t really have any plans.
  • We did receive his letter, we did not agree with him and we didn’t reply until later.
  • They did enjoy the evening although they did not stay long and they didn’t meet him.
  • Mr Brown did the work, he did not complain and he didn’t leave the office until late.
  • They do not like this town and they don’t want to come here again.
  • I do not wish to go to the house and I don’t have any plans to do so.

Had Do Did - Part 17 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • If you do not see the staff this morning, they might think you don’t care about them.
  • If you do not understand, then don’t hesitate to ask me and don’t forget to write it down.
  • We do not have to come to the office tomorrow and we don’t think it will be necessary.
  • Do not lose any time and don’t forget to take your books.
  • We do not have a lot of time and I don’t believe we should stay too long.
  • The people do not speak the language and they don’t know what is being said.
  • The men do not want to work there and we don’t know what we should do about it.

Had Do Did - Part 18 of 18 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
  • The children do not like to eat that food because they don’t know what it is.
  • I do not understand at all why I did not see him at the office yesterday.
  • I do not work in that town and so I did not get to see him.
  • Be very careful* that you do not upset him, as he did not get his exam pass.
  • You do not have to write the report because you did not attend the meeting.
  • Do not write in the report that he did not agree with the others.
  • Do not worry about what we did not do, but remember what we did do. (1990 words)

* "careful" Optional contraction

As the material is rather stilted and lacking in phrasing opportunities, speed practice might be disappointing, so best used for accuracy and neatness practiceThe Facility Drill book for this article will contain only the black ink practice sentences. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Finally Winter

Snowy countryside

Finally Winter - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

At last the winter weather has arrived that deserves the name. Here in the south east of England our autumn and winter months have been very mild, with barely a frost to be seen. Last October was the only time that I have ever managed to put the garden to bed absolutely perfectly, with new trees, rose bushes  and bulbs planted, fences repaired and painted, and paths pressure cleaned.  What spurred me on to these efforts was the prolonged* mild and mostly dry weather, accompanied by nagging memories of smarting frozen* fingers and numb toes, and regrets for not getting those last few jobs done earlier. October was my “any moment now” month, when it could turn cold, wet and windy without the slightest warning - but it didn’t*.

* "prolonged" Stroke Ing cannot be halved

* "frozen, freezing" Insert vowel to prevent misreading

* "didn't" Inserting the vowel is necessary. Without the vowel it is "did not"

Finally Winter - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Pine cone pattern wrist warmer in progress on needles
Started at last -
pine cone pattern wristies
My devotion to all things green and flowery evaporates in an instant once the air starts to bite my fingertips. I make up for it by getting some replacement floral decoration onto my computer screen wallpaper and find ways of persuading  the column of hot air from the radiator to waft a little closer to my computer seat. I did manage this recently, when I came home on a cold night, by tucking the edge of a small blanket behind the corner of  the radiator and then draping the rest of it over my shoulders, making a perfect little hot house for the few minutes needed. The glove supply is checked over and plans are considered (although not always carried out*) for knitting some decorative lacy wrist warmers so that I can keep my hands going for the typing and pen writing without looking like a fishwife from centuries ago with their cloth-wrapped fingers. No such niceties for the feet, though, which at present resemble shapeless teddy bear’s legs, with layers of socks and leg warmers.

* "carri-dout" Halving to represent the "out"

Finally Winter - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Frost flowers on glass
Flowers on the car window
Unresponsive fingers means typos on every line and, having been brought up on a typewriter, I always appreciate that wonderful indispensable backspace key. Screen typing is a million miles from typing on a real mechanical typewriter. The most important* thing was to hit the correct keys all the time, as it was ink on paper, not pixels on screen. Speeding up beyond what one could do accurately (through skill level or hand flexibility) was a complete and frustrating waste of time*, because it took so long to make the corrections, erasing with a gritty typewriter rubber on the top copy and all the carbon copies underneath as well. Fortunately the firm’s glossy headed paper helped, but erasures were rarely* invisible, despite a judicious smear of white chalk before typing the correct replacement letters or numbers. Sometimes starting again with a fresh sheet was the only answer but I did not like this wasted time and it was an incentive to improve first-time accuracy.

* Omission phrases "mos(t) important"  "was(te of) time"

* "rarely" Vowel advisable, as it is similar to "really"

Finally Winter - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Multicoloured random wool glove
A meadow of tulips, daffodils and bluebells
Many years later, I have finally had to admit that the best way* of keeping extremities warm is exercise, warming from within. Maybe I should stop typing this paragraph and walk briskly up and down the stairs for a while, but that might end up being an excuse to extend* the exercise to the kitchen and its store of snacks, if done too often! In past centuries, some of the old country mansions had long galleries running the length of the house, so that the occupants could walk up and down and get some exercise without venturing out into the cold. Many of these originated from open walkways that were later enclosed, as their use changed from access to exercise. No doubt the house itself was very draughty and chilly anyway, and the only warmth was to be found immediately in front of the fireplaces.

* Omission phrase "bes(t) way"

* "extend" Keep the T vertical, so it does not look like "expand" which has a similar meaning

Finally Winter - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Activity to improve the circulation is most needed in winter but if it is snowy or icy, then picking one’s way over the slippery surfaces hardly counts as sufficient exercise. Maybe the best place to stretch the muscles properly is in the local shopping mall, walking up and down the galleries where the only falls are those into the temptation to buy a big fleecy scarf, a well padded hat with added earmuffs, or cosy faux fur lined  mukluk boots. Backdrops and posters around the shop showing wintry landscapes add to the sense of urgency*, despite the fact that the* snow outside is really only a dusting and may even be rained away by the time I emerge from the mall. This is all to the good in terms of being able to stride energetically (especially if the bus is just coming around the corner), but my little triumphs over adverse weather will have to wait until another day. (772 words)

* "urgency" Optional contraction. Full outline has N stroke, not a hook

Omission phrase "despite the (f)act that the". Keep the "fact" part very close underneath, so it is clear that it is not an outline from the line below. "Fact" is only shortened like this in some phrases (either joined or disjoined), not on its own.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


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

Geffrye Museum, Shoreditch, London
Geffrye Museum - History of the
English domestic interior
We have been making efforts to visit some of the museums and exhibitions in London over recent months. They are all only a train or bus ride away, so they make a good day out and a break from the computer screen and other indoor duties. I find the journey equally interesting, seeing various other districts from the top deck of the bus or zooming past in the train, all the more pleasant at this time of year because of the hot air emanating from under the train seats. This does have the disadvantage of the shock of the cold air when we get off at the terminus.

Rooms - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
Room from the 1700's
After Christmas we visited the Geffrye Museum of the Home in Shoreditch, which has been on our list for some time, which displays rooms as they were furnished during various centuries. The room exhibitions were decorated for the Christmas season, so that made us hurry up and visit before it all changed. The earliest room was from the sixteen hundreds, and then on through each century, up to the beginning of this century. The older rooms were quite sparse and my first thought was how cold and bare each one looked. It was not the norm then to have lots* of soft furniture as we do today, but just wooden tables and chairs. These rooms looked cold, draughty and difficult to heat, so keeping warm was more a matter of dressing oneself appropriately*, rather than following our relatively recent custom of insulating and heating the whole house, or at least as much of it as we can* manage on the household budget.

* Insert first vowel to prevent misreading: "lots" vs "masses"

* Insert the diphone in "appropriate/ly" and the first vowel in "properly" to prevent misreading

* "As we can” SW circle used for “as we”

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

Victorian room
With chilly rooms on my mind, I was relieved when we came to the Victorian drawing room, with its thick curtains, carpet, and heavy velvet tablecloth, and at last* I felt this was somewhere that would keep the winter cold out and enable the family to enjoy Christmas in front of the fire. It was in this era* that houses began to have decorated Christmas trees, popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, so this was the first room to show the beginnings of this tradition. Cleaning up the dust and the crumbs from afternoon tea would not have been so easy, without the convenience of a hand-held vac to speed things along, but it did have a cosy and friendly atmosphere and one could imagine songs being sung around the upright piano and the Noah’s Ark toys on the table making their way to the floor in order to play out their stories and adventures.

* Insert the vowel in "at last" and "at least"

* Insert vowels to prevent misreading as "year"

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

Room from 1960's
The rooms from the nineteen thirties onwards were much simpler and plainer, with fewer pieces and a general absence of decoration. They were certainly tidy and easy to keep clean, with light and space as their primary aims. Moving on to the fifties and sixties, I realised that our own rooms from past years had eventually made it into a museum exhibition. All the rooms were set up alongside one long corridor, so visitors just walked past each one, not into them. I felt like a time traveller going back to visit houses I had never seen and then houses I had indeed seen, and finally ones I had lived in, with the same furniture, furnishings, Christmas decorations and wrapping paper that was so new and exciting at the time. Although the experience was interesting, I would not wish to return to the style of those eras*.

* "eras" insert vowels to prevent misreading as "years"

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

Room from 1990's
Now that we have such a wide variety of styles to choose from, and considering the ease with which we can re-create past styles according* to our own taste, it is difficult to know what a future museum might exhibit to typify our current possessions. I am sure they are at this very moment acquiring items for future displays, as once a style goes out of fashion, it is generally shunned for a while, resulting in loss and destruction, until it is far enough back in time to become someone’s exciting retro find, a fond reminiscence or item of nostalgia. The few remaining pieces suddenly gain in desirability and value, because the majority have been disposed of as outdated and unwanted.  I like to see these historical re-creations, using real pieces from the past, but I am glad to be able to return to convenient, clean, warm modernity. (721 words)

* When "according" is used in a phrase, the "to" can be omitted e.g. "acccording (to) the"  "according (to) my". "Accordingly" is a full outline.

Thursday, 31 December 2015


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

We are now in that in-between period after Christmas and before the New Year. Only a few days ago I discovered that there is a name for it, Twixmas, the period "betwixt" the two celebrations. I do not know how long this word has been about, but it exactly fits the situation. If there* were no New Year afterwards, it would be tempting to pack up the Christmas things quickly and get on with normal life*, but we need all the trimmings to remain for a while so that the New Year celebrations are also full of light, colour and sparkle. The word seems to be* British slang introduced by the tourist industry and no doubt this word was sorely needed to avoid having to continually use a long phrase such as "the period between the 27th of December and the first of January". If you Google the word, most of the entries will be advertising holiday breaks and get-aways. I think it is in the process of escaping from its former existence as tourist industry jargon and has found an exciting new life in the winter holiday brochures and adverts.

* "if there" uses doubling for "there" and can be halved for "it". The word "for" is not doubled or halved in such phrases.

* Omission phrase "normal (l)ife", see more at

* Omission phrase "seems (to) be". As the stroke B is not written through the line for "to be" in this phrase, it cannot be inferred here under that rule.

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

This leads very well* on to some revision on how to represent this particular pair of initial sounds. Sometimes the stroke Way is used to get an outline that is clearer to read back and sometimes the semicircle sign is the correct form, which, as it is mostly omitted in writing, results in a faster outline. Writing shorthand does not in the main involve creating outlines, it involves writing ones that you already know, and the best way* to do that is to practise them in bulk. It does help if you concentrate on sets of words that have a similar rule or sound, as each one consolidates knowledge of the others in that group. There is not* a large quantity in this set, so practising these paragraphs several times should be no hardship. Once they are more familiar, it would also help to make up your own sentences using more of the derivatives of each word.

* Omission phrases "very (w)ell"  "bes(t) way"

* It is safer to always insert the vowel in "not", especially in phrases, so it is not misread as "no" or "any"

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

‘Twas the night before Christmas. I looked out of my window at twilight*, just before darkness fell. The stars began to twinkle in the clear night sky. I heard a late blackbird twitter in the tree and a lone robin tweeting from the top of the twining and twisting vine growing on the fence. I twisted the belt fastening on my twill fabric skirt and gave it a twirl before the mirror. I searched twice for my new tweed coat, a present from my twin sister. I twined my scarf around my neck. I felt a twinge of hesitation at the door, before going out into the cold. The twinkling frost made me feel even colder and my nose twitched as if to sneeze.

* Upward L to keep the original form of "light". Compare with "twill" below, and "dwelt", both downward

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

I was going to meet my friend Edwina from Ghana, whose first language is Twi, and who speaks with a slight twang in her English. She will be bringing her brother Dwayne who is an expert guitar twanger. In fact* he twanged* his first notes at the age of six. He is also an enthusiastic twitcher, which means he likes to spot all the rare birds on his list. His dwelling in the countryside has a garden planted with dwarf shrubs to attract the birds and his house is dwarfed by a huge oak tree. Twitching is a healthy outdoor hobby*, but I would feel like a proper twit and twerp* standing in a muddy field for hours looking for a bird, twisting my neck skywards, and twirling the binoculars left and right. I would rather sit at home* with a cup of Twinings tea, eating a Twister ice lolly, and reading a twee little book on the feathered tweeters in my garden.

* Omission phrase "in (f)act"

* "twanged" Stroke Ing cannot be halved for a following D sound, as that is used for Nd

* Helpful to insert the vowel, so it is not misread as "habit" which has a similar meaning

* "twerp, twirp" was current in the mid 20th century, meaning a stupid or inept person

* "at home" The H is always omitted in this phrase, although it can be inferred by the fact that the vowel is against the M and not after the T

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

Today is the twenty-first* of January, the day of the shorthand exam. Some of my friends think my writing is nothing but twaddle but I have not been lazily twiddling my thumbs. I have been practising since the twelfth of September last year and filled up twelve notebooks in the first two months. I have tweaked my exam technique and cleaned out the pen with tissue paper and tweezers. So here I am at the college at twenty to ten on the day after the twentieth of the month. The saying goes "Many a slip twixt cup and lip" but I am sure that by the time the twigs on my apple tree are in bloom I will have my certificate in my hands. I will not let my enthusiasm dwindle and I will continue to practise betweentimes* and, as you might have twigged* already, by next Twixmas I will have doubled my shorthand speed. (790 words)

* Omission phrase "twenty-(fir)st"

* "betweentimes" Halving for the T of "times" See more at

* To twig means to find out or suddenly realise, derived from Irish or Gaelic

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Departures boardDuring December we have been making more visits than usual up to Central London*, to see the Christmas decorations, markets and other seasonal attractions. We mostly go up by train, which often involves some waiting around, whether on the concourse staring at the departures board to see which platform* our train will be arriving at, on the platform itself until the train comes in, or sitting on the train waiting for it to depart.

* "London" The L is written downwards to enable the hook and N to join, to form a shorter outine for a common placename. "linden" and "Landon" are written with upward L, stroke N, Dn, as per normal rules.

* Optional contraction "platf(orm)"

Mind The Gap - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

London bridge signI find that most passengers are occupied with the screens of their smartphones* but I think the regular commuters can be identified as those who bury themselves in their book or work on their laptop. I prefer to follow the scene beyond the window as we travel through different types of district. The views are interesting but not always the smartest or most appealing. Most of it is close-up views of the unkempt back yards of factories, warehouses and building sites, with broken fences, graffiti and rubbish accumulating in the corners. The least attractive are the tiny backyards of the terraced houses from the 19th century, which provide little scope for making a garden or a sitting* area out of the few square yards of land at the base of the railway embankment.

* The halved Ray is the "first up or down stroke", so as long as that is above the line, it does not matter where the F stroke comes

* "sitting" Keep the dot small if you choose to insert it, and a good large dot for "seating" as meanings are almost identical

Mind The Gap - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Direction lines on station concourse
No escape from lines
In each carriage there is generally an LED* display with a scrolling message showing the names of all the stops and the final destination of the train. It is accompanied by a spoken version of the message, although the voice goes much faster than the display. It is a good piece of shorthand practice material and I sometimes find myself doing mental outlines for all the station names. Firstly I look at the display and think how each word should be written, and then after that just follow the voice on the next repeat, and visualise the outlines. Being entirely place names with no ordinary words between, this can be a bit of a challenge. A learner obviously does not need to know obscure place names but it is good practice in the art of getting something for everything, even if it is* only a mental picture of what might be written. When a particular word defeats your efforts at bringing to mind a readable outline, the best method to follow is to write a separate outline for each syllable, and so prevent a gap in the notes. A gap causes disturbance to the rest of the notetaking, so it is better to write something, however small, rather than nothing.

* "LED" If you prefer to use longhand letters, use lower case, which are quicker to write than capitals

Mind The Gap - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mind The Gap sign on platformThere are many other messages to be heard on the train or platform, just waiting to be converted to shorthand,  but preferably not those that occur whilst you are on the move, for the sake of safety. If you do a regular commute, it might be worth making a list of those occurring on your route.

“Welcome to this south eastern service train. Please mind the doors. When leaving the train, please mind the gap between the train and the platform. The first two doors and last two doors of this train will not open at the next station, please move to the centre of the train to alight. Please remember to take all your personal belongings with you when you leave the train. Do not leave your bags unattended, they may be removed without warning and destroyed or damaged by the security services. Please stand well away from the edge of platform one, the next train is not scheduled to stop at this station. If you see anything suspicious, please report it to the police or a member of staff. The ten fifteen to London Bridge will be arriving at ten twenty five. We apologise for this delay and any inconvenience caused to your journey.”

Mind The Gap - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Buses also use standard voice messages, and I have often wondered* whether they are recordings of real people or computer generated. I use a good quality text to speech programme to check my typed paragraphs against the scanned shorthand, and although it is excellent for this purpose*, the voices are not always accurate either in pronunciation or, more often, correct intonation. With this in mind, my best educated guess is that they are voiceover actors. I then looked up the subject online and the link below reveals some interesting facts about the origin of some of the British travel announcements. On your regular journeys, such announcements will always be the same ones, an ideal opportunity to consolidate knowledge of outlines, if you prepare your list and look up the outlines beforehand*. Two half-hour journeys a day add up to five hours of extra practice a week, which seems to me* a profitable way to redeem the travelling time. You not only arrive at your physical destination, but also at your desired speed destination. (796 words)

* Many doubled words use a halving in the past tense, e.e. thundered, pondered, meandered, see (past tenses)

* "for this purpose" Ps or PPs can both be used for "purpose", joined or intersected. PPs has the advantage that it cannot be misread as an intersection for "parties"

* "before(h)and" Halving for "hand", omitting the H sound

* Omission phrase "which seems (to) me". This is similar to the phrase "which seems important" which would have an Imp instead of M. If felt necesssary for clarity, include a vowel for "me"

Welcome aboard sign in railway carriage