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Books

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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

Vocabulary

Vocab Intro

Numbers

Punctuation

Word Lists

Text Lists from PDFs

 

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Pitman's New Era: The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it  Chinese proverb
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it Chinese proverb

Proof you can already write fast shorthand
Something for everything
Attitude
Resource file
Posture
Practice
Exams
Fatigue
You can't be a beginner until you begin

Proof you can already write fast shorthand

Numerals are "shorthand" for number words. I am sure you can write the numerals 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 without any thought, hesitation or difficulty, and in any order. One numeral is about equivalent to 1 words written in Pitman's Shorthand.

On a shorthand pad, write those ten numerals as many times as possible (legibly) in one minute. Count how many you wrote, multiply by 1 and that is very roughly your "shorthand" speed. It is a measure of your hand's ability and flexibility at present, when unhindered by not knowing the "outline". I think, and hope, you will be pleasantly surprised and encouraged. (You might also have a go at the Try Your Speed PDF on the Why Learn page.)

Given sufficient practice and better quality writing materials, your hand's speed can be improved and the shorthand outlines will in time become as well-known as the numerals.

Most instruction books begin with the straight strokes and the first few lessons feel more like deciphering sticks and dots than writing. When you get on to the curved strokes, the outlines begin to flow more easily. Eventually leaving out most of the vowel signs is the point at which your shorthand takes wings and speed is achievable.

Numerals versus Pitman's Shorthand outlines
Ten numerals or 15 words (in 7 shorthand outlines) on 8 lines in one minute = 120 wpm
"Dear Sirs Thank you for your recent letter which we have received today. Yours sincerely"


Something for everything

Because Pitman's Shorthand is based on rules, rather than memorising arbitrary combinations of shapes, there does come a point when you can write shorthand outlines that you have not previously seen or learned, in the same way that you can write a nonsense word in longhand, using your familiarity with the words you already know. Pitman's Shorthand's speed comes from the many ways of abbreviating the basic strokes. These abbreviating devices are not "add-ons", they are an integral part of the system, and they actually improve reliability and legibility because they mostly reflect where the vowels occur and where the syllables break. They give you additional information without writing anything extra, in fact writing less, and this is what enables the vowel signs (dots and dashes placed beside the strokes) to be omitted for most words. You can write in the vowel signs any time you feel it necessary, so you are never deprived of them. As you become more proficient, the outlines end up looking like groups of familiar syllables, rather than strings of consonants with unwelcome gaps.

You can record a word in a long, incorrect and doubtful outline, using the basic strokes, and still transcribe it correctly. Circle such words in red pencil, resolve them later with the dictionary and practise them until they are familiar. Writing something for everything is essential in real dictations, but is made easier when you know you have the right habits in place to clear up the difficulties afterwards. A bad outline is better than no outline, but it must not be allowed to remain. The easiest thing to do is to break the word up and write all the bits or syllables separately.

A ton of bricks
Come down on errors and hindrances like the proverbial ton of bricks. They are stealing your shorthand

Attitude

Shorthand writing at speed requires above all concentration on the task in hand. Cultivate cast-iron concentration and learn to switch it on for the duration of the dictation, and of course during the lessons as well. This is a useful skill for any learning situation.

Neighbourhood Watch meerkats  Meerkats
Meerkats alert, attentive and ready for instant action

Learn not to be distracted, either by outside events or intruding thoughts. What sort of concentration would you have if you were listening to a faint voice on the telephone giving you information to save your life, health or family/a cartload of free shorthand books/a pot of gold? Cast-iron of course!

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Pigeons  Hopeful Maidstone pigeons
Stray thoughts during dictation: firmly evict them and provide no crumbs to encourage their return

Shorthand speed examinations tend to make one think in terms of percentage of errors allowed. When you are finally using shorthand in employment, the percentage of errors tolerated will be zero. You will help yourself immensely if you adopt the "zero" attitude now!

Half-learned shorthand is useless. If you are not fully committed, you will probably be wasting your time undertaking to learn it.

Sloppy shorthand going in circles  Margate beach
Sloppy shorthand going in circles the illusion of getting somewhere

Keep to the principles of the system and resist the temptation to make up your own outlines or write your own version of the shorthand. Such casualness and lack of application does not serve you well do not give this attitude any houseroom whatever. Instead trust the experience of countless high-speed shorthand writers and teachers who have contributed their expertise over the years, in the form of your course books and college teachers, towards providing a system that is reliable at all speeds and logical in construction. Outlines can deteriorate at speed and it is built into the system to avoid outlines that rely on slow writing to remain clear. Theirs was the hard part, yours and mine is the easy part. It is possible that someone else may need to read your shorthand one day, and that "someone else" may be you, having long forgotten your hastily-concocted creations.

Getting somewhere  Petts Wood railway
Travelling hopefully AND arriving

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Resource file

I would encourage you to keep a resource file or notebook, so that no useful outline or item of information is lost. I kept one book as a dictionary of unusual words, and another for reminders of theory that I needed to work on, lists short forms and special outlines to practise. A miniature notebook in your pocket or bag can accompany you everywhere fill it with bits and pieces to learn read it on the bus or in a queue. I keep several A5 binders full of items for the websites, with blank pages under each subject tab ready to write in the outlines and ideas as they occur. See Print Your Own Shorthand Notepad PDF on the Downloads page for A5 ring binder pages and tabs.

Taking a shortcut off the main road
Staying on the straight road gets you arriving as quickly as possible. Save the winding lane and personalised shortcuts for later (much later).

Posture

Sit on your armless chair with both feet uncrossed on the floor, at a firm table surface of sufficient height not to have to stoop over the notepad.

Sit with your weight going down the spine, and not leaning on either arm. The non-writing hand should be ready to turn the page over, getting hold of the bottom corner in readiness. This hand is not there to hold your head up! Avoid floppy sleeves, dangling jewellery, oversize rings, over-long fingernails or a huge heavy watch.

The pad should be at right angles to your forearm, not the edge of the table or your body. If you draw a vertical line on the pad, you will find that having the pad at that angle produces the most accurate and comfortable line. Use a fountain pen for this so that there is only one direction that the nib is happiest with, and this will make it easier to find the correct angle. The top of the pad will probably be facing 10 or 11 o' clock for right handers. The side of your hand or part of the little finger may touch the pad very lightly, if at all. The reason for this is that the arm should be positioning the hand along the line, leaving the hand at a constant angle and with only the work of forming the actual outlines. Your hand should not be sweeping left and right to travel along the line, like someone watching a game of tennis. The wrist can take the weight of the arm in lulls, but not when writing (sorry, no lulls in practising and exams, only in office work!).

If you Google or Youtube for "computer posture" you will get lots of advice to choose from.

Try Something New Today  Well-known supermarket truck
Did they mean Try Something New Era Today, I wonder? The flowing style of longhand increases speed of writing, and shorthand is the same.

Practice

Make up your own drill books and keep them in readiness for practice. Write the beautiful shorthand on the top line and leave the rest blank. Fill these in during spare moments. The idea is to practise without having to create the outlines from your memory. Instead you are consolidating their place in your memory.

When you have filled in a page, you can reuse it by writing over the top of ink outlines very lightly in pencil, leaving almost no mark. Keep writing over the outlines until paper falls apart. Say the words out loud, or a least mumble, while writing, in order to associate the sound with the outline.

Never go back and correct an outline it is completely pointless, a waste of time and you end up with an inky ambiguous scribble. Just circle the outline and write it again. Note the difficult outlines and drill those ruthlessly. Do not be tempted to do only easy outlines, but planting a difficult or new outline amongst some easy known ones in a sentence is a good way of keeping the shorthand flowing during the drill.

Chickens Stockwood Park Discovery Centre, Luton
  Dig For Victory Garden, Stockwood Park, Luton
Pounce on the difficulties like a chicken on a bug

Theory needs to be understood, but not memorised, like grammar in a foreign language. Just keep writing as many examples as possible, over and over gain. It's like walking to lose weight something simple, but done consistently and persistently. While you are learning one lesson, the items of the previous lesson are settling in comfortably. Once you know the outlines for a batch of similar sounds, new similar words will be easily learned or created, because you already know the general shape they take. Being acquainted with the theory allows you to see the sense in groups of similar outlines and makes it easier to learn them.

It is not helpful to be distracted by the desire to be able to write any word you come across, or keep a shorthand daily diary, in the very early stages of learning the system. The frustration is counter-productive and I believe time is better spent consolidating what is presented in the book. You cannot really take proper dictation from television or radio before finishing the course, although it is beneficial to make an effort to produce outlines for some of the common words. However, the telephone message pad is a painless place to start using your new skill. Every minute spent getting through the course book, and in practice and fluency drills, will bring you closer to the day when you have the whole system at your command.

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Exams

Take a new unused shorthand pad of good smooth quality that you have already tried, tested and trusted. Go through and check all the pages are separated, undamaged and do not contain any marks or spots. Rule all the margins.

Have main and spare pens, cleaned and filled with ink. You do not want to run out of ink during a longhand transcription, therefore take some biros as well.

Immediately upon finishing the dictation, read through the entire piece and rewrite troublesome outlines in the margin, while they are still fresh in your mind do not alter your actual notes in any way.

The Chequers pub sign, Swanley  Pub sign in Swanley
A reminder to check, check and check again.

Never leave the exam room before the end of the time. Use every second to read, check, reread and recheck. Even if you believe you have correctly transcribed every word of your shorthand, spend the remaining time ensuring that your longhand handwriting contains nothing ambiguous if the examiner misreads, or cannot read, your longhand, you will still lose a mark. Consider the other students, who will get distracted seeing you leave the room (if it is allowed). They may become discouraged even if you just put your pen down, yawn and cross your arms.

I believe it is better not to consume food or drink laden with sugars or preservatives, before or on the exam day. You want to be alert, and not a ghastly combination of sugar-sedated and preservative-edgy-jumpy.

If you stress your hands/arms on the day of the exam, e.g. carrying heavy items, bike riding or winding in the anchor, the hands can remain shaky until the muscles have recovered and it will take some time for them to regain precision of control.

Do not attempt to cram or learn anything on the exam day. Restrict yourself to hand-relaxing fluency drills. In my exams we had warm-up passages at a slightly higher speed, mainly to allow the students to get used to the reader's voice. Warm-ups are a great help in getting your mind in gear, but you should check up on the arrangements for your exam.

You should ask your teacher whether your actual shorthand will be marked. For the lower speeds it probably will.

In cold weather, do everything possible to keep your hands warm hot water bottle, disc-activated gel hand warmer*, or holding in warm water in the washbasins. Cold hands are unlikely to produce fast writing, so allow extra time to do this.
*Outdoor/hiking clothing shops often sell these.

Supposing your flustered shorthand classmate has forgotten their pad an unbearable thought. Be kind and take a spare one!

Arrive early and be a model of calm, collected confidence, someone to whom shorthand is as natural as breathing.



Fatigue

Fatigue and tension from long periods of study is no encouragement to carry on with studies. Purposely avoiding it will speed up progress. Learn one short item of shorthand theory at a time, practise well and then leave it for something else. When you come back to it after your break, the "new" item will look like an old friend.

I discovered this principle by accident when learning to touch type at home, and narrowed it down to 20 minutes on and 10 minutes off. When I came back to the typewriter keyboard, my fingers instantly flew to the correct keys, because they had had a rest. I did not know how it worked (I think it is called "muscle memory"), but I certainly made full use of it from then on and found it can be applied to mental processes as well. The main point is not the number of minutes, but to stop well before the point of fatigue and change the type of activity.

Time off is allowed and you can't do without it, but . . . exercise and fresh air are better than half-hourly visits to the fridge!

Time off from shorthand  Even the shadows on the parasol will look like outlines

Talking of the fridge ... My own battle with fatigue was solved by improving diet. Unhealthy eating habits cloud the mind and prevent weight loss. I heartily recommend home-made fruit smoothies as a contributor to improved health and a clear mind. If you include milk (cow's, rice, oat, soya etc) and some banana, it is a complete meal in itself. On the day of the shorthand exam, you need an instantly-digested meal that will leave you awake and alert, not sluggish and falling asleep while heavy foods are being digested. In fact, why wait until an exam day?

Pitman's New Era shorthand in peelings: mango banana smoothie Long Live Mango & Banana Smoothies!

When you are drinking your smoothie at work/college, the answer to enquiries is "I am getting in shape for my shorthand exam." "Oh really? They're looking for someone with shorthand over at xxx office, earning xxx, wish I could apply for that job!"

You can't be a beginner until you begin

On these pages you can take a peek at the system, play with it and hopefully make an informed decision to study something a little different, to stretch your mind and add to your qualifications. Professional instruction is the ideal, however, to present the material in easy chunks, in the correct order and with graded exercises and live dictation. Just as importantly, your teacher will see where you are going wrong and step in to correct it. Seeing the whole system at once, in minute detail as described here, may be off-putting for the beginner, so concentration on the book with its gradual presentation is what is needed at first. You can learn and use shorthand proficiently your entire life without knowing the minutiae of shorthand theory. These pages are best used for revision, or for clearing up any query when there is no tutor to ask.

I hope your shorthand colleagues are as friendly as mine were, sharing each other's speed triumphs and competing only with the "dictator" and not each other.

One last thing to remember not one of the high speed 200-300 wpm writers was born knowing a single stroke or dot of shorthand, their first efforts were exactly the same as yours or mine.

Snowy orchard at Hewitts Farm, Kent  Bramley apple tree blossom  Royal Gala apples on tree
Snowy orchard at Hewitts Farm, Kent Bramley apple blossom Royal Gala apples

Stage 1: Beginning shorthand/Do these trees have what it takes to produce? Is it visible yet?

Stage 2: Getting near the end of the theory/Looking good, feeling great, things speeding up.

Stage 3: Achieving the speed aimed for/Juicy fruits, increasing in quantity and quality every year.

Wisteria stems growing in knots  Wisteria
How a beginner might feel after their first shorthand lesson. This is short-lived and not worth giving any of your precious time and energy.


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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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