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Theory

Theory Intro

 1   Strokes

 2   Vowels

 3   Forming Outlines

 4   Circles

 5   Loops

 6   Hooks Intro

 7   Hooks R L

 8   Hooks N F V

 9   Shun Hook

10  Halving

11  Doubling

12  Hay Aspirate

13  W Forms

14  L Forms

15  R Forms

16  Imp/Imb

17  Ish

18  Prefixes

19  Suffixes General

20  Suffixes Contracted

Short Forms

SF Intro

SF List 1

SF List 2

SF List 3

SF List 4

Contractions

Contractions Intro

Contractions Main

Contractions Optional

Phrasing

1 Phrasing Intro & Contents list

2 Theory

3 Theory

4 Omission Part words

5 Omission Whole words

6 Miscellaneous

7 Miscellaneous

8 Intersections

Distinguishing Outlines

DO Intro

DO List 1 A-C

DO List 2 D-H

DO List 3 I-P

DO List 4 Q-Y

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Name

Beryl Pratt

Location

Bromley, Kent, UK

Hobbies

Painting, drawing, photography, shorthand of course, gardening, sewing/knitting

Aims

My aim is to encourage you if you are thinking of learning shorthand, or relearning from rusty, and to make available my own experiences, notes, lists, artwork and photos, in a form that is easily accessible and free. Free resources are a lifeline to so many people in the world who are struggling to improve their education, with limited or non-existent resources, in order to earn a living.

I also want to make it a bit more fun. Shorthand belongs in your life, not just in the office, and this was Sir Isaac Pitman's primary intention when he invented the system. When you want to write something, there has to be a very good reason not to do it in shorthand. For the novice, it's the quickest way to make it totally familiar and stress free. Even when you are proficient, shorthand never runs out of interest, as there is always something to learn and new words to find the outlines for.

Education

Charlton Manor Primary School, Charlton, London.

Roan School for Girls, Devonshire Drive, Greenwich, London.

I learned Pitman's New Era Shorthand in 1973-4 at Woolwich College for Further Education in London, under the skilled guidance and gentle encouragement of Miss Jefferson, who retired several years later. She showed no partiality and everyone was encouraged equally. The girls* in my class were there because they chose to be, and every one of them wanted to learn – and earn. The practicality of our secretarial training was the complete opposite of the lessons that one enjoys or endures in compulsory schooling, where there is often no obvious reason to remember any of the facts beyond passing exams.

*Shorthand is for everyone!

I obtained a Teach Yourself Shorthand book and read up on the subject, several weeks ahead of starting at the College. This took away the strangeness of the shorthand, and made the first lessons much easier. I continued reading ahead in the New Course book that we were using, to get an idea of what was coming next, and found this approach very helpful.

We were taught Business English by Mrs Bravery, another lovely lady, who also did some shorthand with us. Our typewriting teacher Mrs Trimnell was very friendly and efficient, and I remember one lesson when she stood in for Miss Jefferson: she expected and insisted that we write fast, and it was our first taste of rapid dictation – a few words to be repeated along the line, and then silence as we struggled to catch up. There were no concessions to our delicate novice status. It was like constantly running after your hat in a gale. We had gone from drawing outlines to writing outlines in one lesson, from walking to running, and never returned to our previous frame of mind. Speed was no longer just a word, it was our goal, and I am sure Miss Jefferson noticed the change in our demeanour on her return.

My "speed mate" was Sue, a left-hander, and together we made a matching pair, using both hands between us. It was disconcerting to see shorthand written so quickly with a left hand, but no doubt Sue was more used to watching people use the "wrong hand".

Sometimes Miss Jefferson would dictate something for Sue and me without telling us what the speed would be. "Would you like a really fast test?" she would ask, realising that students tend to give up when something appears impossible. We struggled through that 30 seconds of dictation, relieved only by the thought that it was a super-stretcher, done for fun. She gave the rest of the class their dictations and came back to us. "Did you manage to read anything back?" – "Only about 10 words." With relish she told us it was 200 wpm and although we were shocked, her eyes were beaming with delight. The others were delighted too, because they had been invited to have a go as well; I think they assumed it must be faintly possible, otherwise the teacher would not ask them, and on this premise some of them duly wrote what they could, although gasps were heard after about 3 seconds. A glow of satisfaction filled the room, because of the attempt rather than the results. The most important point is that, because of that attempted high-speed spurt, the rest of the dictations for all of us seemed very slow, and Miss Jefferson certainly knew what she was doing.

At the end of the 9-months course, I obtained 120 wpm Royal Social of Arts certificate, and 130 wpm Pitman Examinations Institute certificate. At the time the PEI exam was considered to be slightly easier to pass than the RSA.

Teeline had just been invented, which I viewed as a greatly simplified way to write condensed longhand letters of the alphabet. Compared with what I was learning, the outlines struck me as being more angular and less flowing. It was clearly aimed at those who preferred a far simpler system, and it could be incorporated into longhand writing while being learned, thus bringing the benefits of shorthand to even more people.

When I started work, one of the ladies wrote Gregg shorthand, just as fast as the rest of us did our Pitman's, so I spent a short time having a go at that, to see how it compared. Interesting as it was, I quickly decided that those hours could be better spent speeding up my Pitman's and a couple of years later I attended evening classes and in 1980 I gained a Royal Society of Arts 140 wpm and a Pitman Examinations Institute 150 wpm. After that I ran out of energy for further speed learning, and the tiring evening classes after a full day's work, although I always maintained the habit of looking up and practising outlines that I had stumbled over. The evening classes were mainly dictations, and a lot of practice work at home was also necessary, to work on the faults and omissions shown up by the dictations. Classes alone are not sufficient to get the speed up. It is well worth taking exams at various speeds, and not letting everything rely on one exam at the end of the course. They are lessons in themselves, as practising can never quite be the same as the real thing. Nothing succeeds like success!

Aims

This quote from a shorthand book by Bates Torrey sums up my own endeavours to present Pitman's New Era. Although I have not watched lots of students work, other than my classmates, I do vividly remember all the difficulties that we eventually (and cheerfully) demolished as we went through the college year, the evening classes and the examinations:

“To the Student: This book has been made especially for you after watching a great many of you work, and inspired by your work, appreciating your needs. Likewise your discouragements have been noted, and a mitigation sought for and found. The aim has been to render shorthand study interesting. If interest can be awakened early, and maintained continuously, good work and tangible results will follow. Assuredly work is necessary in shorthand study; but it would be unreasonable to expect it to continue with stolid doggedness when all the conditions were unfavorable. We have endeavored to make them favorable by divesting the subject of disagreeable and useless features, and clothing it with pleasanter ones. We trust that success has attended our efforts. At any rate may it attend yours. Therefore work - win!” Bates Torrey, Instruction in Practical Shorthand, 1893 (Graham version of Phonography)

Conclusion


I always enjoyed writing and drawing, playing with paper and ink, and almost stumbling across shorthand – filling in a year between A Levels and University with something useful – was the best thing I ever did. I discovered something I thoroughly enjoyed, that was practical and artistic at the same time, and one hundred per cent useful all the time. The girls I studied with were those "not good enough for A Levels" and by implication our course was some sort of "second-best", at least that seemed to be the flavour of their friendly, cheerful but somewhat resigned attitude. Absolute nonsense, of course. The skills they learned on that business course required attention, thought, work, application, determination and practice, which they undertook with all the energy that they could find in themselves. They all acquired varying shorthand certificates and went out with the tools of their trade literally in their hands. I would call that "first best" and furthermore, unlike other exams, open to endless improvement through speed classes. At the time I rather thought that even attempting a shorthand speed exam deserved a medal for bravery, whether one passed or not.

Nothing one learns in normal school education compares with the rigours of attempting to write as fast as speech. It is a workout for the brain, doing for the mind what a brisk walk in the fresh air and sunshine does for the body and the mood.

If you never use it beyond the shopping list, you will have achieved something a bit different, and maybe get encouraged to find another subject that provides for you the same absorbing interest that this has done for me.

Up, up and away - airplane at Luton
Up, up and away!

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"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

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All original material, images and downloads on this website, on the shorthand reading website and on the Blogger sites is copyright © Beryl L Pratt and is provided for personal non-commercial study use only, and may not be republished in any form, or reposted online, either in full or part. If you wish to share the content, please do so by a link to the appropriate page of the website.

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