Sunday, 29 October 2017

Crunch Time



One definition of crunch time is: a critical moment or period when decisive action is needed*, especially when pressure to succeed is great. I have just finished a weekend of crunch time situations, dealing with a host of adversaries and opponents. The longer I had put up with them, the more they just kept multiplying*. At first I ignored them, especially when they were few in number, but a sudden moment of shocking discovery pushed me to the brink of my tolerance and the edge of my patience. In short, these admirable qualities were now working against me, as the progressive and unwholesome situation was taking advantage of my inactivity and slackness. My neglect had allowed an accumulation of little nuisances and irritations to turn into much larger ones. I had got very close to an eye-level bookshelf and noticed that the surface was not smooth and white. I ran my finger along it and found a nasty, horrible, embarrassing, unpleasant and humiliatingly shameful thick layer of dust. As far as I was concerned*, this was crunch time for the foe.

* "needed" "ended" Helpful to insert the vowel in these and their variations

* "multiplying" No triphone, as the I sound is included in the Dot Ing

* Omission phrase "I was (con)cerned"


Fortunately I have a very effective weapon, a fluffy nylon duster that attracts the particles, and can be relieved of its load by running the hand up and down it, whilst holding it out of the window. It was very satisfying watching little clouds of dust blowing away into the sky, the ideal use for a windy day. The books are in quite good order, so moving them around to clean resulted in just a few for the charity shop. The miscellaneous shorthand folders were all piled together for future rummaging, little treasure troves of interesting features and outline lists, and that will be a treat to delve into on a chilly wintry day when the sky is leaden and the rain is icy* cold.

* "icy" Insert the final vowel, as "ice cold" also makes sense


Once the shelf dusting was complete, other storage areas had to be attacked. After all, you can’t clean on top of the wardrobes without looking inside to see what needs doing there as well. I did not really need any reminders, as I knew that running out of hangers is just a sign that there are too many clothes in there. I tried on every single item in quick succession and this made it easier to make instant and irrevocable decisions. There were two piles, the keeps and the chucks. The chucks were in two parts, the worn out to be binned, and the purchasing errors to go to the charity shop. The not-so-good items suffered from the instant comparison with the comfortable, elegant and easy to launder ones, so the decisions went unchallenged by the usual nagging thoughts. I think I heard the two wardrobes breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know what the binned items were murmuring, as I deafened* my ears to them.

* "deafened" Same outline as "defend". In order to distinguish, a cross can be placed against the vowel sign of the stressed syllable. In practice, it is generally sufficient to insert the cross, and not bother putting in the vowel.


The shoes and boots in the second wardrobe were in heaps, fighting for space with boxes of photographs and empty albums waiting to receive them. These were evicted and relocated to the top of the wardrobe. This is only permissible for project items that are awaiting time to deal with them, and they will not remain there when done. At last* came the turn of the sock drawer. I was getting quite brutal by now, and having found several bags* of new white socks, I just turfed out the whole lot of current ones, which were nominally white but not actually white at all. Socks are humble little things and they did not squeak the slightest protest. Maybe they did not realise that their end had come, with no return to their comfortable life next to the scented soap that perfumes the drawer.

* "At last" "at least" Always insert the second vowel

* "bags" Insert the vowel, to distinguish from the similar "box" "packs" and "pockets". All these need extra care in formation, as the vowel alone would not distinguish all of them.


The final* job was washing things that will be packed away for winter. As I took them down the garden to place the clothes-horses* in the sunny* patch, I found that the trees had had a clothing clear-out as well, and the wind had brought in extra quantities of crunchy dried leaves and deposited them all over. Their efforts were not quite so tidy and methodical as mine had been but were equally ruthless and unsentimental, and it was definitely crunch, crunch, crunch time underfoot, all the way back up the garden path to the house. (713 words)

* "Final" Helpful to insert the diphthong, and the first vowel in "official", as they are similar and can often both make sense

* "clothes-horses" The first large circle represents two small circles, i.e. a Circle S and the circle of the Hay stroke, see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/theory-12-hay-aspirate.htm#large-medial-circle for more examples

* "sunny" Always insert the vowels, to distinguish between sun/snow and sunny/snowy 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Downward L 2


This section continues with downward L, and in these examples the reason is to continue the curves, rather than have an awkward joining. Neil has gone on his annual walking holiday. He recommends a nylon jacket and a natural wool jumper. Naturally he took his newly purchased boots, as the old ones had a nail through the sole. Surprisingly he saw someone in sandals and strongly advised them that they should not go any* further until and unless they had some exceedingly tough walking boots. Neil enlisted the help of his map of the mainland of England and presently he came to an inlet. He had wrongly assumed that the weather would be cold but the sun* came out and accordingly he took off his jacket to ventilate his clothing. In the sunlight he noticed many snails on the wet grassy path. He thought it was unlikely he would reach the hut before dark as he did not have unlimited hours of daylight and only had a limited supply of food.

* "any" Short forms do not have vowels, but here it needs a final vowel, as "in" could also make sense

* "sun" "snow" Advisable to always insert the vowels in these. Unlikely to be misread here, but when writing there is no time to decide whether there might be ambiguity.


He saw some search and rescue personnel* in the distance. They had analysed the situation and drawn an analogy* between climbers and lost sheep. Some youngsters had gone looking for minerals to help with their interest in mineralogy*. Advice that it was safe, which had been given by some stranger, had swindled them of their safety. Neil thought their chances of rescue were nearly nil and that they were in denial over the dangers of the mountain. Unless the team could find them in the endless* expanse of moorland, it was unlikely they would survive and there would be needless* distress. Unlike the hapless climbers, Neil made it to the hut before dark. He then phoned his brother Noel and sister Nellie, and sent a text to his friend Stanley. He then unlaced his boots and slept soundly, dreaming of his future career in oceanology* and his hobby of sinology*. (mineralogy)

* "personnel" Compare the outline "personal" which uses N with L hook

* "analogy, mineralogy, oceanology, sinology" Most other n-logy words are written using N with L hook plus J. Optional contraction for “mineralogy” shown at the end.

* "endless" "needless" Special outline for "needless" to distinguish it, and it is also easier to put in the vowel


This letter* is not very business-like, in fact it shows an insolent attitude and is a senseless insult to the recipient. This second letter is nicely* and honestly* worded and is immensely complimentary to the council. He filled in the cancellation form in pencil which was almost noiseless and his writing was full of densely packed letters. I emailed* the consul asking him to cancel the visit. We all know the tensile strength of tinsel is almost zero. He thought that a woollen hat would be a good insulator and should help him avoid colds and nasal problems in winter.

* "this letter" Downward L in order to make the phrase

* "nicely" "honestly" Always insert the vowels. "honestly" omits the lightly-sounded T sound, as this is a flattened circle S, not a Stee loop

* "emailed" Always insert the first vowel, to distinguish from "mailed"


We had to deal with faceless and unhelpful people on the phone. The boys talked for ages about the fossils they had discovered but we knew interest would fizzle out when dinner arrived. A vassal state is one that is controlled by another. There were* many sailing vessels in the harbour. Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly used as a hand cream. The applicant had vastly* overestimated his ability and sat nervously and almost voiceless in the waiting room. Conversely, the second applicant was not adversely affected by the interview at all.

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "vastly" Omits the lightly sounded T


The emblem of Scotland is the thistle and this will* appear on the badge. The shorthand students* started their lesson. They did some easy writing to loosen their fingers. Although the teacher was losing his voice, he said he was much better after his convalescence. He had finally mastered the elusive skill of presenting lessons to the class. He thought it was a hallucination when all the students managed the two hundred words a minute* piece. He was now far from his adolescent days in Los Angeles as a penniless unskilled student.

* Omission phrase "this (w)ill" Downward L in order to make the phrase

* Omission phrases "shorthand s(t)udents" "words (a) minute"


Sometimes the main word or a derivative has to have an upward L in order to be able to* join the next stroke. His reputation was unsullied. The question* remained unsolved. The villagers had to eat unleavened bread. The students had to unlearn their old habits. He has a facile and easy way of writing, and that is because he has done lots of facility drills. I am going to ignore this insult, although I have never been so greatly insulted in my life. We were advised to insulate the loft but after we had insulated it we found other problems. I had to load up the car and then unload it again. I will download the instructions from the website.

* Omission phrase "in ord(er to) be able to"

* "question" Optional contraction


It was a lovely cake but it was presented in a rather unlovely and unattractive box. The young rabbits looked lovable but we thought the venomous snakes were quite unlovable. He was a slave to the television and had become enslaved by certain programmes. The coats are in a saleable condition but the jackets are entirely unsaleable. The shoes have been sold but the sandals remain unsold*. Their boots were soiled by the mud but they managed to keep their hands unsoiled. I had a pearl necklace and a pearlescent ring to wear with it. The two substances coalesced into a milky liquid. The coalescence of these substances produced a dangerous* and noxious gas. (841 words)


* "unsold" Special outline to distinguish it from "unsoiled" both of which could make sense in regard to goods for sale

* "dangerous" Full stroke S to distinguish from "dangers"

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Downward L 1



Here are some examples where the choice of upward or downward L is used for vowel indication. The four paragraphs below deal with initial vowels. If the word starts with a vowel and the L is followed by a plain horizontal stroke, the L is written downwards. If there is no initial vowel, and those strokes follow the L, then the L is written upwards. Remember that L is generally an upstroke, and there has to be a reason for it to be written downwards. There are other reasons to use the downward L and these are all explained in detail on the Theory L Forms page*.



Alex and Alexander look just alike as they are twins. They are studying electrical* engineering and the use of electricity* in industry. They became familiar with the electron microscope, electronic* equipment and the history of alchemy. They were elected onto the students committee. Their election means that they have been allocated a small office in the admin block. They had to investigate* allegations of cheating in the exams. I like to make sure I have locked the doors. I noticed a lack of security at the lakeside building and a leak which was located in the lecture room.

* "electrical, electricity, electronic" Contractions

* "investigate" Omits the lightly sounded first T


Mr Alec Alcock has had a meeting with Mrs Laycock regarding this matter. They thought there was a legacy of laxity regarding security in the offices. We did not* know whether the bottle found contained alcohol or an alkali mixture. We did some tests to find out whether it was alcoholic, acidic or alkaline. Mr Logan and Mr Elgin play in the football league. Their team badge is quite elegant and shows an elk and an alligator. It is made of aluminium and the figures are set on a lemony coloured background. They keep a copy of it in the clubhouse alcove, as there is a lack of space in the reception area.

* "we did not" Not phrased, as that would be "we do not". Adding the vowel to "did" would be "didn't" so the only option is to write the "did not" on the line.


I met Alan last week* at college. His sister Ellen did not want to be alone for the evening so she came along to the meeting. They have rescued the ailing business with the help of Mr Allen and his wife Elena*. Their daughter Eleanor assisted with the office work. There was one lone person in the room. His name is Len but we call him Lennie. Later on my friends Lena and Elaine arrived wearing their long party dresses. Leon also came dressed as an alien. He is from Illinois in the United States* but now lives in Ealing in the United Kingdom*.

* Omission phrases "las(t w)eek)"

* Omission phrase (U)nited K(ingdom)". If the text said "UK" then write as pronounced "yoo-kay"

* Omission phrase N-s-s for "United States". Add stroke K for "United States (of) America". If the text said "US" or "USA" then write those letters in lowercase longhand, this is quicker than attempting a phonetic outline.


I went to the doctor at High Elms Clinic to get something for this ailment. In the waiting room the element in the light bulb had gone and so there was no illumination. By a process of elimination, we finally discovered the cause. This enabled us to eliminate the problem. Dr Lamb advised me to drink lime juice or dilute lemon juice. I did not give some lame excuse as I knew that my appointment with the health visitor was looming. I will not be lamenting this situation, and I am now improving. I will now be able to visit the Alhambra next year. Thoughts of my past Olympic achievements brought a lump to my throat. It was the ultimate highlight of my sporting career. But my doctor had given me an ultimatum and now I take it easy on my allotment.


The next examples deal with final vowels. After F V SK Ray and Yay, the L is downward. If a final vowel follows the L in these words, then it is upward, and this is continued on into any derivative. The downward versions have the advantage that the motion of the curve is continued. Note that some words ending in “-ful” and “-fully” use a hooked F stroke.


I would feel awful if I should fail the exam next Fall. But I have a feeling I will be successful, as I have been careful to practise and remember all the useful advice*. Falling into error and failing the exam is therefore not an option. We fell on the chocolate cake and had our fill of it until we were quite full. We had fallen into temptation and this may have been folly for our figures, but it was fuel for our muscles. We will follow it with lots* of exercise and we shall be following the advice in the book. Our fellow workers are fully behind us in this and we will successfully avoid the consequences. This will be followed by a period of time when we will be usefully and carefully employed in filling out forms, filing papers and writing follow-up letters.

* "advice" Insert the first vowel, as "device/devices" could also make sense

* "lots" "masses" Always insert the first vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning


The weather was foul, in fact* it was quite vile, but we carried on over the hill and down into the vale. We saw a vole on the riverbank where the ground is level. My companion Mr Lovell said we should avail ourselves of the facilities at the nearby Villa Hotel. A table was available and we ordered veal pie. We continued our walk through the lovely green valley. We greatly value our countryside and think it is the most valuable asset in this area. I have been learning the skill of piano playing. I have a good brain in my skull and I have spent much time practising the scales. In other words, I have been scaling the heights of musical achievement. In my spare time* I have built a scale model of the tower. Mr Scully said that the fish was slimy and scaly, and looked rather sickly.

* Omission phrase "in (f)act"

* "spare time" Halving for the T of "time"


The pupil has a real problem with this subject and really needs some help with it. I have kept to the rules and I even sought a ruling from my teacher. His name is Mr Reilly and I rely on him to answer my questions*. After the class I walked down the lane past the railings and went home by rail. I was wearing the correct apparel for the very rainy night. On Monday I will be going to the car rally, where I hope the crowd will not be unruly. John studied at Yale University and stayed on campus over the Yule* period. He was tempted to yell at the driver in the yellow car. He told him, “You’ll have to wait here for a while.” There are three words where the medial* L is downward to make a compact outline. The newspaper column gave a review of this film. I had to turn down the volume of the radio. (1085 words)

* "questions" Optional contraction

* "Yule" Note that "Yuletide" has an upward L in order to be able to join the T+D

* "medial" Always insert the diphone, as "middle" is the same outline and same meaning

Friday, 13 October 2017

Short Letters 11



Short paragraphs are an ideal way to ease yourself into a faster dictation, as there is no stress build up.  An effective way to prepare is to break down the practising into single sentences. Pick out and drill any new outlines before starting, so that there are no hesitations. Read and remember one sentence, then say it out loud over and again, as you write it in shorthand, filling half a notepad page. Repeat this for the next sentence, filling the next half. It is important to hear the words as you are writing, so that the sound always triggers recall of the outline. I have kept the sentences quite short for this purpose, although one would use longer and more flowing sentences if these were real letters.


Finally, having mastered each sentence individually, read the whole passage out loud from the printed shorthand, recording yourself at the same time*. This ensures your reading speed matches your shorthand writing* capability. Now is a good time to introduce* a rest break, then take down the whole passage from your recording. Swiftly* move on to the next passage, to keep things rolling along and to prevent the mind from getting fatigued with the repetition. Delay reading back your take* of the whole passage until you have forgotten the text, as this is the real test of whether your shorthand is up to scratch or not.

* "at the same time" Halving to represent the T of "time"

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"

* "introduce" Note that "introduction" is a contraction written on the line

* "swiftly" Downward L to continue the motion of the F curve

* "take" Shorthand jargon, your "take" is what you have taken down, either one piece during a lesson dictation, or all the writing done during a single session e.g. minutes or courtroom.


It is important to take lots* of short breaks between practising spurts, walking away from the desk to give fingers, eyes, mind and limbs a rest, even if only for a minute or two. You don’t have to calculate* what the dictation speed is, all that is necessary is that you are  under some pressure to keep up, but can still maintain flowing and readable outlines. Going from stressed scrawl to confident outlines at the same speed is a major achievement in itself. To provide extra stretching, you can increase the speed of the sound file in Audacity, using the Change Tempo setting, or in Express Scribe, which has a speed percentage slider*.

* "lots" "masses" Always insert the first vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "calculate" Vowels shown for learning purposes, it is clear enough without them

* "slider" The L can be doubled for -der here because it has an initial circle, compare "ladder"






Dear Mr White, We would like to thank you for your recent order with this company. This will be delivered to you on Friday morning of next week*. We are working to improve our services to our customers. We have appointed several* new area managers. We wish* to get to know our clients better. This will* enable us to provide an improved service. Your area manager Mr John Black will be contacting you within a few days. He will explain our new Customer Care policy that aims to expand our service. Please let us know if there is* any way in which we can help you. Thank you for your valued custom over the years.

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t w)eek"

* "several" Ensure the V finishes straight, as it could begin look like "seven" if the end curls slightly

* "We wish" Write the W more shallowly, so that the Ish goes through the line for "wish" compare with "we shall" in para 10

* "This will" Downward L to continue the motion of the circle and so enable the join

* "if there is" Note that "if" can be doubled for "there" but "for" is never doubled


Dear Resident, I am writing to let you know about our new community club. We will be opening at the Green Road Centre on the first of November. We will have lots* of activities for everyone in the area. There will be a playgroup twice a week for preschool children. We will be offering after school activities throughout the year. Summer school holiday clubs are planned for next year as well. There are three groups during the week for older people to meet each other. I enclose our flyer giving full details of what is on offer. In the future we plan to increase our schedule* to cover the needs of other local groups. I do hope* you will be able to come to our opening day. I look forward* to welcoming you and showing you our wonderful new facilities.

* "lots" "masses" Always insert the first vowel as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "schedule" Use Circle S and K instead of Ish for the pronunciation "sk-"

* Omission phrases "I (h)ope"  "look fo(r)ward


Dear Friends, I am delighted to report on the success of our latest Society meeting. This took place* on Monday the first of October at the Grand Hotel. The morning opened with a review by the Secretary of the year’s activities. Our Treasurer presented a copy of the audited accounts to all present. Mr Brown gave a progress report on the new building work that is now underway. Mrs Gray gave a presentation showing photos and videos* of the summer conference. Our new President Mr Greening spoke to us about the society’s future plans. The meeting finished just after midday and was followed by a buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant.

* "took place" Note also the omission phrase "taken p(la)ce" which omits the L Hook

* "photos and videos" Insert the vowels as these are similar in outline and meaning


I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies for a shorthand writer in your company. I understand that you undertake a large amount of court and government work. I am very interested in pursuing this type of career. I have achieved a shorthand speed of 150 words a minute*. I have experience of taking notes of meetings, interviews and public speaking events. I also spent seven* years working as a freelance* reporter. This did include some court work on several* high profile national cases. I enclose details of my qualifications* and employment history. I would be grateful if you could* keep my details on record for the future. I look forward* to hearing from you.

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

*  "seven" "several" Keep the N Hook clear, and the plain V with no curl at the end, so that these two are not misread for each other


* "qualifications" Vowel shown for learning purposes, it is clear enough without

* "if you could" Generally write "could" separately, not phrased, to help differentiate it from "can"

* Omission phrase "I look fo(r)ward"


Dear Customer, I hope* you will enjoy reading the enclosed catalogue. I am sure you will find many ideas for gifts to give at Christmas. Don’t forget that there is a discount on your purchases when you place your order within the next six weeks*. Our prices are much cheaper than many of the larger high street stores but at the same quality. You can order with confidence knowing that your items will arrive long before the Christmas rush begins. You can then continue to finish your gift shopping in a more leisurely way. I am confident that our vast range of gift products will give you many ideas for the Christmas season.

* Omission phrases "I (h)ope"  "six (w)eeks"


Dear Friends, I hope* this letter* finds you all well and in good health. I just wanted to thank everyone for their* kind wishes and lovely presents on my recent retirement. I shall be thinking of you all each time I see them. My years at the firm have been long and happy, but now is the time for something different. As a family we shall be taking a sailing holiday around the coast of this country. I intend to take up some new hobbies* that I have been wanting to start for some time. We will have more time* for taking long walks in the countryside. We are considering moving to a village where life will be less busy than here. I will let you know how we get on with all these new activities. The family send their best wishes for the future to you all.

* Omission phrase "I (h)ope"

* "this letter" Downward L in order to join the phrase

* "for their" Note that "for" is never doubled for "there", but "if" can be doubled

* "hobbies" "habits" Insert the first vowel in these two, as they are similar in outline and meaning

* "more time" Halving to represent the T of time


Dear Students, Here we are at the end of the college term. I hope you have all had a good time learning how to write in shorthand. I am pleased to say that* no-one dropped out of the class this year. I am so glad that you have all kept on to the end of the course book. We shall* soon be breaking up for Christmas. I would like to encourage you to continue practising over the holidays. If you can read through* all the exercises again, that will be of great value. We now have February’s exam dates confirmed, which are listed below. I am sure you will all do well if you keep up daily practise. We will spend January on revision and working towards your speed goals. With best wishes for a good holiday break, ready to start again next term with renewed energy to get those shorthand certificates that are now within your reach. (1248 words)

* Omission phrase "I am plea(sed to) s(ay) that", the one circle does duty for both S sounds

*  "we shall" Compare with "we wish" in para 4 where the Ish goes through the line

* "through" Needs the vowel written in, as it could be misread as "read three of the exercises"