Senin, 16 Desember 2013

Chilly Christmas

Chilly Christmas - Part 1 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Ice rinkLast weekend I spent a very pleasant morning at one of our local garden centres. The main attraction was the temporary ice rink, which is set up every year over the Christmas period. The shrub section is moved away to other corners, and the square rink, cafĂ©, snack bar and seating are erected towards the end of November. The sides are all made of sheets of perspex so that children outside and those seated can watch as well. I visited several weeks ago* during the midweek when there were only four people on it. It had been raining and large puddles had collected but this worked to these particular skaters’ advantage, as it smoothed the surface somewhat, allowing them to get up greater speed and there was less of the crunching sound of the skates, more a slushy splashing one. The present rougher frozen surface appeared to be better than a perfectly smooth one as it prevented too much slipping and overly fast skating. However, we did see some falls but I am glad to say that their faces were still smiling through it all. Large plastic penguins are provided for the children to hold on to, and some plain adjustable frames for the older children. Very small children can sit on the yellow sledges and be pushed along. I would like to see all this with some real snow falling, preferably when the light is fading and the Christmas lights are switched on.

* "several wee(k)s ago" Omission phrase

Chilly Christmas - Part 2 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

ReindeerAt the garden centre, they have three live reindeer in a pen in the rear landscaping section. These animals were quite relaxed, although at times a little bored with things, but maybe that is made up for by the guaranteed supply of hay and water. They were completely unaware of why they are the centre of attraction for the children and of all the stories and tales about them, or it could just be that they have been told to keep quiet about their planned activities.  The reindeer theme seems to be everywhere this year, not only decorations large and small, but as cuddly toys, hot water bottle covers, slippers and knitted onto jumpers, hats, gloves and socks. Some of the ornaments made from wood and twigs have been simplified in the extreme, and only the presence of antlers allows you to recognise what they are. Some of the toy reindeer are actually standing up on two legs and wearing Christmas suits and boots, just like cartoon characters – in other words, anthropomorphic* which means human-shaped*.

*resembling or made to resemble a human form or attributes, applied to things that are not human

* "human" above the line, to distinguish it from "humane" on the line - easy to remember if you think of the second vowel as the one giving it its position. Ensure the Tick Hay is clear, and insert the diphthong, so it does not look like "man"

Chilly Christmas - Part 3 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Chocolate umbrellas
Chocolate umbrellas - we
had these in the 1960's
I like to see all the Christmas decorations and I am glad that the shiny ones are now back in fashion, at least for a time. Many years ago most decorations were glistening and reflective, from tinsel to glass baubles, so that there was maximum reflection of light around the branches of the Christmas tree. In later years decorations tended to be duller and not shiny, and I think this may have coincided with the arrival of much cheaper and more reliable lights sets. They provided all the light, and so reflections were not so necessary, and this left the way open to mass produce all sorts of decorative objects from other materials and fabrics.

Chilly Christmas - Part 4 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Christmas light
shorthand pen?
When the cheap lights made their appearance, it increased the craze for covering the house frontage and windows with them, but after a few years this seems to have* reduced as the novelty faded. I am sure having to get the big long ladder* out twice a year in the cold was a large part of the* reason! Increasing numbers of houses had the strings of lights up longer and longer*, and eventually some had them hanging from the gutters all year. It was just too much trouble and bother to remove them and one could occasionally see the wires and dull plastic icicles waving in the warm spring breezes. It is more common now to see lights strung through bushes and trees, where it is easier to take them down at the end of the Christmas season.

* "seems (to) have"  "large part (of) the" Omission phrases

* "ladder" A lone L stroke is doubled for -ter but not -der or -ther

* "longer and longer" See more examples at

Chilly Christmas - Part 5 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowflake decorative lightSnowflakes are the most widespread* Christmas motif of late, being flat they are the easiest of all to incorporate onto pages, clothing and shop windows. The snowflake is part of the longing for snow – not a few flakes that hit the ground and instantly melt, but thick snow that accumulates and turns everything white. I am convinced that this is a desire to make everything come to a stop while we enjoy our victory over the rigours and challenges of winter. When I was a child, Christmas meant that shops and businesses did in fact shut down, some for the whole Christmas week. Apart from emergency services and hospitals, everything was restful and quiet. If it snowed then that was interesting and a good opportunity to play, but it was not necessary to have snow in order for everything to be put on hold. However, all the scenes on cards were snowy ones and the presence of real snow outside would ensure that those lounging about in the warm indoors need not feel any pressure or necessity to do anything that involved going outside. I think the only child disappointed with snow on Christmas Day would be the one who had received a new bike.

* "spread" on its own has stroke D

Chilly Christmas - Part 6 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowy footpath
Winter Wonderland footpath, but
only enjoyable if you have rubber soles
After Christmas, snow and ice take on a completely different significance, and mean delays in getting to work or shops, danger on the roads, and soaring heating bills. The failure to take precautions, that were considered but not carried out, is now being regretted – insulating the loft, checking water pipes, sealing draughty windows and doors, buying a snow shovel, or getting those snow boots before the shelves are emptied of them once the snow has started to fall in quantity. I did once get some ankle boots in preparation for further snow, but made the mistake of opting for a cheap pair, as I thought I would not really be wearing them very much. The soles, although ridged*, were unfortunately made of a plastic type material. I slipped three times on the same journey, on a particularly icy bend in the footpath, once on the way out, and twice on the way back. It was true that I did not wear them much at all as they went straight into the bin when I got home and I visited the garden centre as soon as I could to get some big chunky rubber Wellington boots, with no expense spared.

* "ridged" For "rigid" insert the second vowel to differentiate

Chilly Christmas - Part 7 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Knitted mittensI used to live in a very old, cold and draughty house. Each winter we taped plastic sheeting to the window frames against the draughts, but on those windows not covered, the condensation would run down the glass and freeze on the inside sill overnight. The pencil shaped pieces of ice could be prised up and removed next morning, sometimes bringing bits of paint with them! We kept warm through layers of clothes and had a coal fire only in the living room, the other rooms remaining unheated. Frost would form on the panes in fantastic flower and leaf shapes. Nowadays I would be wanting to take photos of it but then I just had to admire the frosty decoration while it was there, not knowing when it would be gone. I gained an interest in hoarding a supply of woolly* hats, scarves and mittens which my Mum and Nan made for me, and the furry slippers were always a special Christmas present and worn until they fell apart. In my teens I acquired a pair of hook lace-up sheepskin suede boots, and I really felt I was ready for anything the weather could come up with.

* "woolly" Insert the last vowel to differentiate from "wool" and ensure it does not acquire a hook at the end of the L stroke, which would be "woollen" - all three words have the same meaning when used as an adjective.

Chilly Christmas - Part 8 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snow chunks accumulating in mesh fencing
Snowball factory
If we really wanted to stay warm over Christmas, we would not be wishing for snow, but for unseasonably mild weather and abundant sunshine. It seems that what is wanted is not a cold chilly Christmas but a white one – snowy outside, but with clothing and housing that prevents it from affecting our comfort level. Without the luxury of these items, snow and ice go back to their real job of freezing not only the water, the ground and the plants, but also fingers and toes, and bringing greater discomfort, danger, disruption and even a halt, to all the essential activities that we need to do. The day after Boxing Day is when the weather conditions can be viewed more objectively, and not seen through Christmas-coloured glasses. (1400 words)

Shop window models with big fluffy white wigs
Snowball wigs - to keep warm or cold in?

Selasa, 03 Desember 2013

Padded Letter

Padded Letter - Part 1 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Pile of spiral notepads
Spiralling into control
Dear Mr Jones, I am writing this letter to thank you for your recent communication with this office, and I apologise for the delay in my reply. I would like to confirm that we have now received your credit card payment and we will be despatching the multi-pack of High Flyer Spiral Notepads you have ordered within the next day. I trust that you will find these goods satisfactory in every way, but should you wish to exchange them, you may do so within three weeks of receipt of the order. I am very pleased to enclose herewith* a discount voucher for your next purchase with us, and if you wish to use it for an online transaction, please enter the Voucher Code during the checkout process. During the month of December, all our Christmas Season goods carry an extra 5% discount for returning customers (which you can use in conjunction with the Voucher) and I hope that this will be of interest to you for your Christmas requirements. If you would like to receive our regular newsletter by post or email, which contains special offers and money-off coupons, you can sign up for this on our website. Just go to the My Account page and click on the Newsletter link. There is also a feedback form which you may wish to visit and tell us how we are doing. I trust that you will find the order satisfactory and hope that you will shop with us again in the near future. If I can be of any further assistance*, please do not hesitate to contact me, when I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Yours sincerely*, John Smith, Customer Services Department.

* Omission phrase "enclose (herew)ith"  "further (assi)stance"  "yours si(n)cerely"

Padded Letter - Part 2 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Dear Mr Smith, Thank you so much for your recent letter which I received yesterday morning. I was delighted with the information and the content, as I am learning to write shorthand really fast, and your letter is absolutely full of useful phrases and words commonly used in business correspondence. If I practise these regularly, I am sure I can increase my speed quite rapidly. This will be all the easier, as I am now using your excellent High Flyer pads for all my shorthand work and my pen is fairly flying across the pages. The paper is smoother and better quality than other similar-priced pads that I have used, which means I can write on the back as well, and the pages turn very easily without getting caught in the spirals or getting stuck together along the top edge. It is also a big advantage that the margins are printed in, and this is definitely a welcome time saver.

Padded Letter - Part 3 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Bowl of Christmas sweets
Not suitable for
speed-eating practice
I shall no doubt be ordering more quite soon, as I am planning to do extra practising in the run-up to Christmas and I think that my current supply of pads will probably be used up fairly quickly. It is likely that there will be the occasional lapses in my study time when all the good Christmas films are on and we are eating the sweets and chocolates. However I will certainly have one of your excellent pads on my lap and will make an attempt to write down some of the dialogue*, especially in the less interesting bits when we are waiting for the exciting action to start. Thank you once again* for your speedy service and I look forward to purchasing again from your company in the next few weeks*. Yours sincerely, Robert Jones. (583 words)

* The similar but less common word "duologue" is written with a downward L, to help differentiate it.

* Omission phrases "o(n)ce again"  "next few wee(k)s" - this is slightly faster than the alternative version "next few (w)eeks" which is written with a joined U diphthong and K+s.

High Flyer notepads is a fictional brand name

Jumat, 29 November 2013

Martian Comet Update

Martian Comet Update - Part 1 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Sun shining over cloud bank
The commencement of the Hurl,
glinting in the early morning over the
team's home village of Marsingley
Readers of the Martian Chronicle will be delighted to hear that the famous Comet Hurling Team (Northern Hemisphere) are once again on course to score very well in the National Comet Hurling Contest. For those not familiar with this event, the rules are that the comet must swing round the sun, remaining intact as it approaches the halfway point, and then all or part of it must be seen to emerge from the other side of the sun. Fragments and vapour earn fewer points than a complete unbroken comet. Our scientists are beginning to suspect that it may have broken up, but there is still hope that something identifiable will survive for the return journey.

Martian Comet Update - Part 2 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Four vapour trails in blue sky
Kick-off at last year's pole-to-pole
school Comet Fling race
The Martian Space Agency do keep a supply of large comets for our planet’s water requirements, especially ones with a high ice content and low rock content. Once they have mined most of the ice out of it, the remains are donated to local Hurling Teams for their games. When a spent comet becomes available, the teams are called together from all over the hemisphere and submit their plans for propelling it towards the sun, in the correct direction and at the correct speed. The team whose plans are chosen by our top scientists will then be awarded points if the Hurl is successful. Any team gaining maximum points then goes on to become Comet Consultants in future games. The points can be exchanged for Martian Government Tokens which can then be used by the team on science facilities and equipment for their chosen Technical College*, and so enable future generations of school children to learn elementary astrophysics.

*Omission phrase that leaves out the repeated KL = "techni-college"

Martian Comet Update - Part 3 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Orange vapour trails at sunset
Our municipal orbiting water-supply comets
provide great sunset photo opportunities

One of our technicians has reported that Earth scientists are also taking a great interest in the progress of the comet, and like us they are hoping that it survives its journey round the sun, although probably for different reasons than we do. We are very close to finding out if the Team have gained the maximum score possible, and if we see an intact rocky nucleus emerging, then there will be celebrations taking place everywhere on planet Mars, and probably on planet Earth as well. Obviously they are equally interested in teaching their youngsters all about our wonderful solar system, and the beautiful and useful treasures that it contains. For further news, we suggest you log in* to the Public Information Database of the Martian Space Agency, or one of Earth’s many astronomy websites, all of which are being updated regularly on this comet’s progress.

*For "log on" you could use the N Hook

Martian Comet Update - Part 4 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Latest news: We have to report that the Comet appears to have broken up, but we are nevertheless awarding a Consolation Prize to the Marsingley Village Preschool where the children have imaginatively renamed it the Mince Pie Comet - just when you think it has been entirely demolished, you keep finding lots of crumbs floating around. (475 words)

Kamis, 28 November 2013


Sneaky - Part 1 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Motorway slip road approach sign
Sneaking up the slip road until you
have achieved the same speed
After all the long words in the other blogs, I think a simple piece is overdue, with no special outlines to learn. The advantage of a passage with common words is that you are giving yourself a greater chance of success at writing it really fast, because you already know most of the outlines. I like to call this “sneaking up” on the higher speeds. I prefer regular small successes than a big one now and then, as it enables me to see ahead and know that I will definitely reach my goal, if I continue to work at the same rate. I do not like successes to be hit and miss, and any method that makes it easier and quicker is worth considering. If you can sneak up on your quarry to catch it, that has to be better than an occasional mad dash on difficult matter that has a low chance of success and a high chance of failure that will harm your progress and drain away your energy to continue.

Sneaky - Part 2 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Birthday milestone wrapping paper
Always chasing the next number -
birthday milestones sneaking up
Once you have gone from 60 words a minute to 70, you not only quite rightly feel you are improving, but the new figure becomes the "new you". Yesterday, 60 was a huge improvement over the previous 50, but now it has to be considered beneath your best. If you have a class teacher, you will probably know by now that he or she will never let you go back to that old figure. Some lazy little part of you is saying a sad goodbye to the comfort of 60, but the stronger and better part of you welcomes the 70 – and of course 80 is the next in line. All the other higher figures start looking closer and you can now say to them, "You're next!"

Sneaky - Part 3 of 3 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Collared doves on lawn
Flighty collared doves on my lawn -
camera sneaked up behind
the kitchen curtains
Perhaps this method would be useful for those who feel they are on a “speed plateau”. I do not like this term at all, as labels tend to stick hard once they are applied and in themselves hold back progress. You will always have a whole range of speeds that you can do, depending on the difficulty of the passage. A victory on an easy passage is a reliable way of loosening an unhelpful label. Once you have achieved a speed goal on simple matter, then that number starts to seem normal for you, and it is only a matter of time (with regular practising) before you can achieve it on the harder passages. I hope the Sneak Method will be a useful tool for you to consider. (428 words)

Rabu, 27 November 2013

Comet Ison

Comet Ison - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Municipal Christmas tree decoration
My local municipal Christmas tree -
or is there an astronomer
on the team?

Comet Ison is presently passing through the earth’s orbit and will slingshot round the sun on 28 November 2013*, much to the delight of astronomers and stargazers, both professional and amateur, in observatories all over the world. Its name is an acronym of International Scientific Optical Network and was discovered on 12 September 2012* by two Russian astronomers using that establishment’s telescope, Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. Information from Nasa’s Swift satellite has enabled scientists to estimate its size as 3 miles in diameter, calculated by measuring the amount of ice and dust emitted from its surface. Nasa’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) is monitoring the event, with images and video beamed from its spacecraft’s Heliospheric* Imager showing the comet’s progress towards the sun.

*Long slash representing current century, see

*heliosphere – the sun’s magnetic field, the extent of the solar wind, from “helios”, this outline is based on the dictionary outline for "helispheric" which has a different meaning = spiral shaped, from “helix”

Comet Ison - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

"Comet" dry cleaner's shop
No dirty comets here

Comets are composed of ice, rock and metal, in fact all the materials left over from the formation of the planets of the solar system, and have been humorously described as “dirty snowballs”. It appears that Comet Ison is only passing through our solar system, and is not in an elliptical orbit that would bring it back this way again in the future. During the month of October the comet has brightened to magnitude 10*, and it may be possible to see it using ordinary binoculars. However, as it travels towards and behind the sun, the glare will obscure it and followers are advised to cease trying to observe it with the naked eye. Advances in telescopes and imaging technology will allow scientists to analyse the behaviour and composition of the comet, and spectrometry will provide information on the water signature of its ices.

*Always insert vowel in outline for "ten" to distinguish it from "eighteen"

Comet Ison - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowball-shaped Christmas decoration
Cometary disruption in the
Christmas decorations department

Its speed has increased from 95,000* mph at the beginning of November to 845,000 mph when it catapults around the Sun at perihelion (the point closest to the sun). It will pass within 730,000 miles of the sun on 28 November, and on its return journey will pass within approximately 40 million* miles of the northern hemisphere of earth on 26 December, and travel back roughly the way it came. It is possible that* it will be visible to the naked eye between the middle of November and the middle of January. This comet is a “sungrazer” and there is the possibility that its close fiery encounter with the sun will break it up, the intense sunlight heating its surface to a temperature approaching 5,000 degrees Centigrade, speeding up the vaporisation of its exterior ice and the gravitational pull of the sun deforming its shape and pulling it apart – termed cometary disruption and spontaneous disintegration.

*Ith and Em alone would mean "thousand million"

* "it is possible that" - ensure the first circle S is clear. If it resembles a hook, that would mean "it appears that"

Comet Ison - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

This local business vaporised
last year under the intense heat
of the economic conditions

There is also the chance that the whole comet may vaporise, which will be somewhat of a disappointment to the many observers who will be waiting expectantly for it to reappear from behind the sun. However, astronomers are agreed that any fragments would continue to follow the same trajectory and so pose no threat to planet earth. As Ison emerges from the glare of the sun’s corona, assuming that it survives the encounter, the 8 million mile long tail will become visible first, as it always follows the direction of the solar wind, followed by the gossamer green atmosphere (coma*) of the nucleus. The best time to view it will be in the morning before sunrise on the eastern horizon. By Christmas it will have climbed higher in the sky and so remain visible throughout the night.

*Insert the first vowel, so it does not get misread as "comet"

Comet Ison - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Snowflake decoration stickers on shop window
Unimaginable cold of deep space has
arrived at the shopping centre

This Comet of the Century, as it is being called by the press, originates from the Oort Cloud, a belt of trillions of ice and rock fragments – possible future comets – at a distance of one light year* from the sun, on the edge of the solar system. After 4.5 billion years in that deep freeze, it is now hurtling towards a near miss with the furnace of the sun, and in the process providing a wonderful opportunity for astronomers and amateurs to practise their observational and predictive skills, as well as a hoped-for spectacular light show. You as a shorthand writer have also been given a great opportunity, as the many scientific news articles offer quite a collection of words whose outlines use the initial stroke Ess. Here is your “ought” cloud, which you may consider* you ought to practise, all spread out for you in a long line just like the comet’s watery tail, trailing into space in glorious and luminous magnificence:

  • Ison, ice, icy, isotropic, astronomy, astronomic, astronomical, astronomer, astrometry, astronaut, astrophysics
  • asteroid, aster, easterly, east, eastern, eastwards, ascend/ascent, ascertain, assortment, science, scientist, scientific, scientifically

* "light year" - you could also use Yay and Ray joined to "light", which would be quicker to write - similar to the outline for "lawyer"

* "you may consider" - if you join on the "consider " part, it would look like "you must consider". If you had already written it all as one outline, then you would need to put the vowel after the Em to prevent misreading.

Comet Ison - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! BlogSpot

Fizzers sweets packet
Disintegrates nicely on the tongue
I know you will be writing all these examples millions if not billions and trillions of times, and your shorthand pen will be travelling across the page at an astronomically high rate, close to the speed of light, and may even start to glow in the dark, perhaps rivalling our rare and honoured heavenly visitor in scintillating brilliance and luminosity. Everyone wants a dazzling display from Comet Ison, although I suspect* it will fade rapidly from the news by next month. However, unlike the ephemeral enthusiasm of the news media, you and your expanded shorthand knowledge will definitely not* fizzle out, diminish, break up under pressure, evaporate under the intense heat of the moment, or disappear once again into the obscurity and inky-black darkness of deep space. On the contrary, you will have improved your shorthand ability and attained a reputation of radiant splendour, allowing your skills to shine brightly, through both the day and night-time, for many years to come. (910 words)

* "suspect" - the contraction is used only for the verb. The noun is a full outline.

* Hook N and halving used to represent "not"

Get all the facts and updates at:

Christmas reindeer models in shop window
No need to worry about Comet, every child will tell you
that he is perfectly capable of circling the sun harmlessly,
as long as he gets his breakfast of reindeer moss

Senin, 25 November 2013

Raw Beginners

The text is addressed to those with no knowledge of shorthand, the JPGs are there to keep everyone else gainfully occupied ...

Raw Beginners - Part 1 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
Road Narrows sign
Narrow your focus
If you are a raw beginner about to learn shorthand, I think it is very likely that you will be learning at home from a book, without the luxury of having a shorthand teacher to direct your studies. I did learn in a classroom situation, over the course of one college year, and so I would like to pass on to you what I learned from my excellent teacher. When you have mastered something and have many years of it behind you, it is easy to think that all the methods are obvious, but learning shorthand is not at all like normal academic school subjects. It is more like learning a language, a musical instrument, sports or dancing, where theory and rules introduce you to the general scheme of things, but after that you must actually do it as much as possible in order to be able to perform it with increasing ease, speed and confidence, and without thought or hesitation. There are three items of kit that you will need to make a start. You must have an instruction book, a notepad and a pen or pencil and I give* the links to my website if you wish to read further on each of these.

* "I go" would need a vowel inserted

Raw Beginners - Part 2 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

4 different instruction books
Take your pick,
same shorthand within
BOOK – Each chapter or unit of the instruction book introduces a point of theory, broken into several single steps with example outlines, and the chapter ends with example sentences and, later on, passages all in shorthand. Sometimes a key book is available, giving transcriptions of the shorthand passages. While not essential, this could be helpful if you wish to easily record your own dictations or get someone to read them to you. Drill books and workbooks are like notepads, printed with lines of shorthand, each followed by three blank lines for you to copy onto. These I feel are not necessary to buy, as it is the easiest thing in the world to copy lines from the instruction book into a blank notepad. If you buy a drill book, the cost is a disincentive to use it up quickly, and the serious student should be filling piles of them as quickly as possible.

Raw Beginners - Part 3 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

3 x notepads
Good pads for dictation, work
& exams, cheap brick-sized
for practice and drilling
NOTEPAD – This should ideally be top spiral bound, so that you can flick the page over rapidly. If you must use lined A4* paper through necessity at times, then rule or cut it vertically in half, so the line lengths are similar to the average notepad. Narrow vertical spacing of the printed lines is not helpful, as your shorthand will get cramped. You will do yourself a favour if you can be choosy about the quality of the paper and you should test it with your chosen pen or pencil before buying in quantity – for ease of writing, and also for bleed-through if you are using ink. Bleeding doubles the cost as you can only use one side, and sometimes marks also go through to the next page, something definitely to be avoided. Please see my Print Your Own Notepad, where you can produce exactly the right size and spacing of lines on printer paper of a quality of your own choosing, and this may work out cheaper for practising purposes. For real life shorthand work and exams, though, you will need a proper* top spiral notepad.

*A4 in longhand would probably be just as quick to write

* "Insert vowel in "proper" and the diphone in "appropriate" to help distinguish between these two

Raw Beginners - Part 4 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Noodlers Flex Pen and pencil
Pen is best for speed, pencil is
more convenient for practising in public
(This is Noodler's Konrad Flex)
PEN OR PENCIL - An HB or B pencil will serve well, and if any harder than these it will not produce the thick strokes without serious digging of the paper which slows you down. Softer leads will wear down far too quickly. The best implement is a fountain pen with a flexible nib, and using ink will make a big difference to speed of writing and ease of reading your notes. There is no time during dictation to sharpen a pencil, advance a worn-down or snapped lead, or change a cartridge. However, a manually filled fountain pen can see you  through many hours of continuous writing.

Raw Beginners - Part 5 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Large and pocket dictionariesDICTIONARY - Although the three items above will get you started, you are at some point going to need a shorthand dictionary. You could finish the instruction book just using all the outlines they give, but even before that you might want to remind yourself of an outline already met with, without having to flip through the chapter pages to find where it occurred. The largest dictionary will accompany you through an entire lifetime of shorthand writing, but the small pocket dictionary may serve you better to begin* with, as it is more portable and quicker to consult. There is the temptation to want to use new words not specifically given in the instruction book before all the theory has been covered, and having a dictionary will avoid incorrect guesses. I would say that this is an inefficient way of going about learning. Giving priority to completing theory, using only the outlines given, is more important and a better use of your time until the book is finished.

* "to begin" written through the line, based on the phrase "to be"

Raw Beginners - Part 6 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Take A Break sign
Little and often
gives best results
There are also three other things that are needed as well to ensure success – invisible inside your mind, but necessary – and these are Decision, Determination and Timetable. The decision is a dividing line between thinking about it and actually committing yourself. Determination will provide the energy to carry out the decision. A timetable keeps you on track, with the satisfaction of getting you ever nearer to your desired goal at an even rate. It can be as flexible as you like, but without it you might drift off and let other things crowd out your good intentions. Short study or practise sessions at frequent intervals are best, as they keep the momentum going and prevent you from having to spend too much time recapping when you should be moving forward. Lengthy sessions with long periods of nothing in between can be rather daunting and can attract excuses why you should not start it just yet – a bit like clearing out the garage!

Raw Beginners - Part 7 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Man Digging road sign
Get stuck in
You are now sitting at your desk with the book, a pad and a pen. Each chapter consists of several related pieces of theory. Read the first piece and then write the outlines presented, at least three times each, saying them out loud to yourself as you write. You need to hear and associate all the spoken sounds with their outlines. Keep the pressure light and do not stop at the angles between strokes – you are writing, not drawing. Read the practise sentences several times until you have gained familiarity with the outlines. Then write them out, and read back from your own notes. As soon as you can, write the matter from the spoken word. An alternative* is to remember one sentence, look away from the book page, and then say it out loud as you write the shorthand.

* "alternative" can also be written as an intersection, using T + V Hook

Raw Beginners - Part 8 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

New Lines Added shop signYou do not have to perfect your knowledge of each chapter before moving on to the next. The theory and vocabulary in the next section will automatically include what you have just learned, and I can assure you that whilst you are working on the next chunk, the previous one will start to seem rather obvious and get more so as you progress. A few lessons down the line, the first chapter will seem really simple and basic, yet at the beginning you were working hard to master it. Every time you sit down to a session, it is helpful to first skim over the previous section and write out a few of the outlines and read some of the sentences, as your warm-up exercise.

Raw Beginners - Part 9 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Drill pad pages
Prepare in advance: single outlines in margin,
or sentences with blank lines underneath
At the end of each session, you might find it useful to create a few pages of drills, so that you have something to work on in odd moments before your next session. Write some sentences copied from the book neatly down the page, leaving three blank lines underneath each one. To drill you just copy the sentences onto the blank lines. It might be helpful to use a different colour pencil or ink or run a highlighter marker over the sample lines, so that your eye can pick them out easily. The drills are best kept in a separate notepad, firstly so that you can carry it around with you throughout the day and secondly so that you can reuse the sentences for further practice and revision. If you start this habit early on, you will certainly speed up your arrival at the ultimate goal of writing as fast as people speak.

Raw Beginners - Part 10 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Slow road sign
The longhand route
At college we learned all the theory in the first term, and this is a good pace to set yourself. We were expected to read our notes fully at home, as well as do plenty of practise each evening. The rate at which you progress is determined by the time and effort you put into it. It is worth pressing through in the early stages, so that familiarity comes quickly and you can have the satisfaction of using it for real things as soon as possible. As soon as theory knowledge permits you might consider using my Perpetual Calendar which has been created to encourage learners to use their shorthand every day for telephone calls, memos, engagements and diary entries.

Raw Beginners - Part 11 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Crawler Lane road sign
Never again
Everything you achieve in shorthand is a reflection of how much you enjoy the subject, as well as the amount of time spent applying yourself to its study. Shorthand theory can sometimes seem to go on forever, even though you know perfectly well that the book has a finite number of pages! But when you finish that, there is a great sense of freedom that you can now write anything without worrying whether there is some yet-to-be-discovered piece of theory that affects it. Your next task is to increase your vocabulary of outlines and that is done by reading as much correct shorthand as possible - the very purpose of these blogs. Reading is the most efficient way of increasing your skill, as you can assimilate new outlines in large quantities, avoiding the slow process of dictionary leafing and the risky habit of making wild guesses that will have to be corrected later on. Once the theory is all covered, you will want to avail yourself of any other shorthand books that you can get, such as those covering review and phrasing. As usual Ebay UK is the place where these abound.

Raw Beginners - Part 12 of 12 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Don't Sit On It, Use It sign
Your smarts, good
sense, nimble fingers and
unwavering determination
Obviously this particular blog is addressed to those who cannot yet read a single word of the shorthand JPGs above. I want to assure you that you can certainly be reading them with ease in three months, if you apply yourself consistently and purposefully. You will be able to take your student or reporter notes with ease, missing nothing, or write that report or book as fast as you can think of the ideas and compose the sentences. You will be able to record speech totally free of reliance on expensive technology and finger-cramping longhand, and yet still have access to these, but at your choice and discretion, and not through necessity. Once you learn something useful, it is almost impossible to imagine not knowing it, and I am confident that your shorthand will be the same, and that writing it will become an easy, pleasant, useful and normal part of your daily life. (1867 words)