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Distinguishing Outlines – Intro

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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 Intro

Contractions Main

Contractions Optional


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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Distinguishing outlines can be the banana skins of shorthand. Deal with them and instead you will be “Top Banana”!

There are various reasons for the pairs, but I have kept to an alphabetical list, because you will need principally to consult and learn the list, not memorise the reasons.

  • In most cases, both words in the pair could make sense in the same sentence, therefore the outlines need special care to maintain the difference when writing under pressure. Generally the outlines are actually different when written according to the rules, either in shape or the writing position, but at speed the outlines are apt to stray from perfect. Insertion of a vowel always helps, more so if it is the accented vowel that is put in.

  • With some it is essential to put in the vowel. The best thing is to always put the vowel in one, and not in the other, and be consistent about it. In some cases I have shown both so that you may choose which to show.

  • Lists  of distinguishing outlines in instruction books are limited to those pairs where one of the outlines breaks the rules in order to be distinguishing. The lists given here include all those, plus many more that are written according to the rules and are already different from each other, but that need care in writing and reading back.

  • Some are given because, although the outlines are quite different, they would be the same/similar if you were tempted to write one of them wrongly, and their inclusion here is a warning not to make up a wrong outline in haste, but to learn it in advance.

  • In a few cases, I have also included derivatives, for the sake of completeness.

Knowing the reasons help you learn them more effectively, and also be on the lookout for more to add to your list. But you don’t want to be thinking of that when writing in dictation, so drills and practice are the order of the day. I suggest you print the lists for study and practice, and also read them in spare moments, adding to them whenever possible. You would benefit by making your own list and including all the derivatives, for further practice.

Writing neat and accurate shorthand is better than extending the list indefinitely. Do not be daunted by the length of the list. You brain is an amazing servant with hundreds of thousands of words at its command. All you have to do is feed these outlines in a few at a time and they will be there in storage forever. You would be learning all these anyway as your shorthand vocabulary expands, but it helps to have these ones tagged in your mind as needing extra care.

The list is in alphabetical order according to the first word of the pair or set, but the words in the set do not all necessarily start with the same letter.

Notes column:

"Vowel" = instances where the vowel is the only difference and must be put in. It is often useful to always vocalise one and not the other, therefore reducing the amount of writing being done. However, it is always advisable to insert vowels whenever you feel you need them. However, do not vocalise short forms because that would make them look like other words.

"No difference" = outlines are the same, but care needed in transcription.

"Suggestion" = not in any dictionary or rulebook, but my own best guess at how to differentiate if you consider it necessary.

Distinguishing Outlines List 1 – A to C     Page date 21 October 2015

Distinguishing Outlines List 2 – D to H     Page date 21 October 2015

Distinguishing Outlines List 3 – I to P      Page date 21 October 2015

Distinguishing Outlines List 4 – Q to Y     Page date 21 October 2015

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