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Phrasing 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


Vocab Intro



Word Lists

Text Lists from PDFs


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PAGE DATE 17 March 2012   Sounds/syllables/words omitted from a phrase are underlined

Pitman's Shorthand: same sentence phrased and unphrased The advantage of phrasing

A phrase in speech or longhand means a group of words that belong together, acting as one unit. I have referred to these throughout as "word groupings" for clarity. Phrasing is often referred to "phraseography" which simply means "writing phrases" and the shorthand outline for the phrase is called a "phraseogram".

A phrase in shorthand is the joining of two or more outlines into one outline. The purpose of shorthand phrasing is to:

  • Gain speed. A pen lift is equivalent to writing a stroke the pen has to travel between the end of one outline and the beginning of the next outline, and there is inevitably a slight slowing as one repositions the nib to start the next outline. It is the same as the difference between writing longhand in separate "printed" letters and writing in joined-up/cursive letters. Further speed is gained when obvious words are omitted or when some outlines can be written in an even briefer form.

  • Improve legibility, as common word groupings are kept together, and they can be recognised as a whole. The most useful shorthand phrases are those which reflect the natural groupings of words.

  • A few phrases are written with strokes in proximity, or intersected and these save time by their greater abbreviating potential, rather than avoiding a pen lift.


Phrasing 1

Intro below

Phrasing 2 Theory

1. No change of form

2.  Change of form:
(a) Hooks   R   L   N   F/V   Shun Large   Shun Small
(b) Circles & Loops   Circle S   Ses   Sway   Stee
(c) Halving
(d) Doubling
(e) Suffixes

Phrasing 3 Theory 2.  Change of form:
(f)  R Forms
(g) L Forms
(h) H Forms
(i)  W Forms
(j)  Imp
(k) Non-use of Short Form

Phrasing 4 Omission

3.  Omission
(a) Omitting a consonant
(b) Omitting a repeated sound
(c) Omitting a syllable or part word

Phrasing 5 Omission 3.  Omission
(d) Omitting words

Phrasing 6 Miscellaneous

4.  Distinguishing pairs

5.  Joined vowels
(a) Diphthong for "I"
(b) Diphthong for "you"
(c) Joined vowel omitted

6.  Forms exclusive to phrasing
(a) Tick The
(b) He

Phrasing 7 Miscellaneous

7. Position writing

8. When not to phrase

9. Contracted words that use an apostrophe

Phrasing 8 Intersections

10. Intersections list, in stroke order


A phrase is generally one continuous outline, occasionally it may be two parts written in proximity or two parts overlaid (intersected):

it would be, in the beginning, at your convenience

The joining of outlines in a phrase follows the same rules as the formation of normal outlines the joins must form legible angles. Some outlines may change their form for greater brevity, to prevent straggling or make a join possible:

appear, it appears that, it would appear, it would, they would

All instruction books introduce simple phrasing as each part of the theory is presented. In a very short time the phrases are instantly recognisable and it would seem strange and unreasonable to write the outlines separately. They are easy to read because they are mostly groups of short forms and so do not get confused with normal single-word outlines and, because they are the most common words, they become familiar very quickly with constant use.

It would be helpful to reread your instruction book with the specific purpose of searching out all the phrases they offer (both in the theory explanations and the reading passages), which may have become somewhat neglected in the haste to get to the end of the theory. Having gained full familiarity with shorthand theory, you will find it much easier to revise the phrasing and use it more in your shorthand writing. This will also give you a good foundation for your own phrasing and help you avoid the learner's pitfall of creating overlong or unhelpful phrases.

Phrasing was not used in the very early days of shorthand, but once its possibilities were discovered, it quickly became the norm and hundreds of high-speed writers over the years have tried, tested and contributed to the stock of phrases available today in the various shorthand books.

Phrasing is an opportunity rather than a rule, and the writer is free to choose which to use and when. The examples illustrate the general principles which, once studied and understood, can be applied to produce many more combinations. Good phrasing is a big contributor to gaining speed, as well as improving legibility try copying the following sentences, written with and without phrasing, to instantly experience the difference good phrasing can make to the flow and speed of writing:

I am pleased that you will be able to send us the report and accounts this morning.

You might try timing a whole page of each of the above sentences, to see the difference phrasing makes to speed.

There are many thousands of good basic phrasing opportunities to help you on the way to high speed, without resorting to overlong or unnatural ones. Total familiarity with phrases consisting of short forms and simple parts of speech will bring the hoped-for improvement in speed, and there are enough of them to keep the learner constantly occupied, well into the mid-hundreds in speed.

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Four rules of good phrasing:

1. Words must belong together. Even if certain outlines would seem to join well, don't phrase them if they don't belong together, or if there is a slight pause anywhere.

2. Outlines must join well. If no good join can be made, don't phrase.

3. The phrase must be easy to read back. If it is ambiguous or looks too much like another outline, then it should not be used. Sometimes inserting a vowel will overcome this.

4. Phrases should not be overlong. Two or three joined outlines is a good average to work with, with four or five as a general maximum, although the words represented by the phrase may amount to more if there are omissions. The longest phrases would have to be made up of very common short words, if the phrase is to remain legible:

  • In an overlong phrase, there is a greater danger of missing any variations that the speaker might make. The longer the phrase, the less likely it is that you will come across it exactly as you have practised it. You cannot afford to wait until a long group of words has been spoken before you start writing.

  • A very long phrase lacks legibility. A really long group of words that you are dealing with regularly and that never varies is a good opportunity for more extreme abbreviation, but such compressed phrases should not be used by the learner or in exams outside of a particular field of work or interest, the frequency would be very low, and hesitating over a half-remembered phrase loses more time than it was supposed to save.

  • Your hand may need to move along the paper before the phrase is completed the wrist or little finger that is resting on the paper is best moved along between outlines and you cannot do this if you are attempting an overlong phrase. Although you write long "outlines" in longhand, these are not being done at speed. Normal handwriting often introduces breaks within a word, for the same reason, to reposition the hand.

The ideal is: lots of short phrases in succession for the most common word groupings. This will keep the shorthand flowing, legible and not straggling to the lines above or below.


There are many variations on common word groupings, and a textbook phrase that you have learned may differ from what was actually said. Once you are familiar with a particular phrase, you tend to hear (and write) that phrase to the exclusion of slight variations on it. Such an error will be undetectable and only come to light when it causes a problem, embarrassment or a lost exam mark. Alertness is the only safeguard against this.

For this reason, phrases should be practised in as many different combinations as possible. This will reduce hesitations and leave you free to pay closer attention to the exact words being used. It also provides excellent intensive practice on short forms, which are the main source of phrasing material.

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Which phrases to learn

Every type of phrasing opportunity has been described in this section. It is up to you to choose those that are going to help you. Best results will be achieved by concentrating your efforts on simple phrases using the commonest words, not specific to any subject. Opportunities to use them will occur in every dictation you take. Your time savings are therefore greatly multiplied and you are able to increase your speed, neatness and accuracy.

The most useful and frequently occurring phrasing opportunities are the simple ones, joined end-to-end without any change in the outlines. In these sections, the other types of phrases have more numerous examples, simply because they need to be described and illustrated, not because they are more frequent.

Beginners should resist the urge to adopt every example indiscriminately, in the hopes of instant speed improvement. If you are struggling to recall an advanced or obscure phrase, this can lose you more time than you hoped to save, possibly resulting the loss of the next few words as well. The time to consider adopting those is when you are fluent in the simpler phrases and also in lines of work/interest where they are occurring regularly. If you pick out your favourites and compile a "to learn" list in your shorthand resource file, you can review, revise and build upon them in a controlled manner.

Extreme abbreviation in phrasing should never be resorted to through failure to learn the main outlines thoroughly.

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Lagging behind the speaker

Some writers advocate staying behind the speaker in order to take advantage of phrasing. Learners already have the struggle of keeping up, without deliberately putting themselves further behind the speaker. The speaker could suddenly speed up or, just as alarming, come out with a string of "impossible" technical words. You would then get even further behind, with little chance of catching up. How far you are behind the speaker will settle itself naturally with your level of skill compared with the speed of delivery and the difficulty or otherwise of the subject-matter. As a phrase would seldom be more than five words, that would seem to be the most that would be necessary to take advantage of all phrasing opportunities. However, you don't have to hear the whole phrase before you start writing it.

If you can make or find dictations that are comfortably slow for you, then as you write with an even and steady flow, you will be sometimes with the speaker and sometimes slightly behind. This is the best position to be in, as your shorthand will be neat and legible, your writing experience pleasant and free from anxiety, and you will be relaxed enough to deal within any sudden increase in the speed, or challenging outlines. Such slow exercises are a good way to practise this even writing rhythm, and are just as helpful as the speed-pushing dictations. They are a good corrective against the erratic "stop-start" writing that can sometimes beset the learner, especially in the early stages, and give a taste of the ideal writing experience that will be achieved in due course.

It also helps your posture, as relaxed writing does not need you to hunch yourself desperately over the notepad to capture those elusive outlines. Going from one flustered writing experience to the next without respite is no way to maintain enthusiasm. Recording passages from your instruction book is the easiest way to produce such practice material, as the correct shorthand is already there for you to consult beforehand. If you leave them untimed, you won't get caught up in the "numbers game" whilst you are doing them. When they feel intolerably slow, you will know it is time to produce faster ones.

A speaker may say half of what is "obviously" the start of a phrase, then pause. In such a case you should write what has been said so far, and forgo that particular phrasing opportunity. If you don't write down the words dictated before the pause, you may find that, even within a few seconds, you have forgotten exactly what they were, when the speaker decides to continue. Any situation where you are "hoping" for a favourite phrase to be completed is one that reduces your concentration on the exact words being spoken.

Sometimes when the speaker resumes after the pause, he/she may finish the phrase, but by then you will have already written part of it in normal separate outlines. It is a waste of time, effort and ink to cross these out and replace with the textbook phrase, when you could be writing the next few outlines. Accuracy is the aim, not phrase-counting.

Red Paint Pot Syndrome

When you have a pot of red paint, bright and shiny, you may be tempted to go round looking for things to paint red and only stop when the pot is empty or everything in sight is red. Don't do this with phrasing. Phrasing is a pot of grease spread it around to get things moving faster, but too much in the wrong places will cause slip-ups and regrets!

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