PAGE DATE 19 June 2016
Sounds/syllables/words omitted from a phrase are underlined
When not to phrase
Contracted words that use an
7. Position writing
The first outline of a
phrase is written in its normal position, and the other outlines
follow on. Sometimes a first position outline can be raised or
lowered to enable the second outline of the phrase to also be
written in position.
much, with which, with each, I saw, I say, I see
More examples in
When this cannot be
done, a vowel sign may be needed to differentiate, especially with
short forms or single stroke outlines. Where there are two similar
outlines, only one of the pair needs to be vocalised. Vocalising the
least common one leaves the fastest phrase for the more likely one,
but you must be consistent in which one you decide to vocalise:
which person, for each person
we saw, we say, we see, you can saw*, you can say, you can see
*as in sawing wood
As "say" is probably the most common of these three, you could
omit the vowel for that word, and always vocalise the other two.
A phrase can sometimes look like a compound word. In
a phrase, the first outline is written in position. In a
compound word (shown in red below), the whole
outline is treated as one
unit, with the first up or downstroke written in position, even if
that stroke occurs in the second word of the pair. (Note that the longhand for compound words
is written either as one word or with a hyphen):
make up a story. This shop sells
I shall cut out the shapes. Stick the
cutouts onto the paper.
They got close up to the door. The photo is a
In the first of each of the above sentences "make up, cut out,
close up" could equally well and correctly be written as separate outlines
instead of phrases, if the writer so chose.
Top of page
8. When not to phrase
A reminder of the rules
of good phrasing – any phrase should fulfil all four:
1. Words belong
together – if the words do not form a natural group or if there is
any pause between them, do not phrase.
2. Good joins – Even if
words form a natural group, if a good join cannot be made, do not
3. Easy to read back –
A phrase that cannot be read back easily will invite errors in the
transcript, and should be rejected.
4. Not overlong –
resist the temptation to form very long phrases, they do not save
time and legibility is low. Many short and easily recognisable
phrases is the ideal.
similar outlines with difference meanings – To avoid clashes, one of the pair is not phrased.
This is more extensively illustrated in
Phrasing 6/Distinguishing Pairs:
unnecessary, it is not necessary
To avoid being misread
for Tick The, "and" is never written at the end of a phrase, and
in practice "should" only occurs finally after "you":
the/you should, for you should/for you the, if you should, I think
"of" can be used at the
end of a phrase, being the more frequent word, but "to" at the end is generally avoided:
in the case of, because of, because of the, by means of, all sorts
I mean to, going to, we wish to, went to,
went to the
There are many common phrases that omit "to" at
the end, see
"on" is never used at
the end of a phrase,
and often it can be shown using the N Hook:
lean on, carry on, going on
A pause, whether in
speaking or in meaning, should not be phrased over. This will ensure
your shorthand accurately reflects the words spoken, preserving the
meaning and helping you read back fluently.
busy? BUT We are, you know, very
come? BUT If you will, you can come
it will not only where the last two words
It will not only be cold, but rainy too.
It will not, only don't tell him.
"I think," the man said. I think the
man said something.
Phrases that may have
several variations: you should phrase the commonest one, and
phrase differently (or not phrase at all) the less common one(s). This
keeps the fastest phrase for the one you are most likely to
of the order but balance of your order
reply to your letter, in reply to your letter
but in reply
to the letter, in reply to a letter
parts of the world economic situation
but all parts of world
Top of page
that use an apostrophe
These are words that
have an alternative contracted form in informal speech e.g.
do not = don't
In longhand the missing
part is indicated by using an apostrophe. In shorthand they are
mostly written entirely phonetically as single outlines, not using
the normal short forms:
isn't = "izzent", wasn't = "wozzent",
you'll = "yool"
They should always be
vocalised, as in many cases the shape of the outline is the same as
the full phrased version. In the list below, these are marked in
red italics =
she's, can't, don't,
mayn't, they'll, she'd, they've, gotta
A few continue to use
the short form, as being more convenient and legible than changing
the outline to an entirely phonetic version, but they still require
a vowel. These are marked with
If you have already
written the normal version e.g. "is + not" and realise you need to indicate that it
is the contracted version that was spoken, just put a wavy line
underneath the outlines to remind you. This is also useful if you
are not sure of your outline or where to put the vowel sign.
I am, he is, she is
we're you're they're
Note that the noun "yore" is written on the line, with a second place vowel.
who is, how is
is not, was not, are not
were not, you were not, we were not
weren't, you weren't,
will not, would not, shall not, should
won't wouldn't shan't shouldn't
cannot, could not
do not, did not*,
*The middle D is omitted, so
the outline says "dint"
*See note opposite
we do not, we did not*
*This is best unphrased, as
inserting the vowel to distinguish turns it into the
apostrophied "we didn't". Compare this
with "had not" below.
we don't, we didn't
we have not
haven't, we haven't
had not*, we had not*
*The dots (Dot Hay and vowel
dot) are optional, but they distinguish it from "do not".
You can use one or two dots, the instructions books vary in
this. It is much quicker and more reliable to just not
phrase at all, and only insert the dots if you have already
written the phrase, in order to clarify.
hadn't, we hadn't
may not, might not*
*Do not join "might not",
although they are the same length the outline would be unclear
(1st is archaic, 2nd not commonly used)
I will, he will, she will
it will, we
will, there will
it'll we'll there'll
you will, they will, who will
I would, he would, she would, we would
I had, he had, she had, we had
you would, they would, who would
you had, they had, who had
you'd they'd who'd
I have, we have, you have, they have
I've we've you've
am not, has not, is not, are not*, have
Phrasing 2/are not
*This is lax/colloquial, and not acceptable in
that is, what is, what is it, who is it
Top of page
that's, what's, whatsit*, whosit*
*Used when the speaker cannot remember, or wishes
to avoid, the word
it is/it has Note also:
*Both these are short forms;
"its" is possessive, like "my" or "his"
It is cold. It's cold.
The cat ate its food then cleaned
Normally stands for "it is". The only time this stands for "it has" is in a
past tense (i.e. "is" would not make sense):
It's being delivered = It is being delivered
It's been delivered = It has been delivered
It's taken all day = It has taken all day
It's got to go = It has got to go
going to, want to
These are lax/colloquial, and not acceptable in
do not know, got to
These are lax/colloquial, and not acceptable in
*The apostrophe in "you's" is for easing the flow
of reading, not because there are any letters missing. Otherwise "yous" might
These are regional/colloquial, not used in the
UK, and transcription should follow the accepted norm for your area.
Mr Smith is here
Jones here does all the work.
No special treatment is needed for the following, as the sense indicates where
apostrophes should go, although you should remain alert when
dealing with names that already end in "s":
Mr Smith's here
Joan's here to do the work.
Possessive does not need indicating:
Mr Smith's car, Joan's desk
the man's name, children's toys
St James*, St James's Park
*Names beginning with "St"
are more conveniently treated one word, here putting the Jay on the line, and not
You will have to use your best judgement as to how you
represent these in your transcript. Shorthand exams have
always required a completely verbatim transcript, as they
are testing your ability to record and reproduce the
words exactly as they are spoken. You should find out beforehand the exact requirements
of any transcript or exam that you plan to undertake.
The exact version might also have to be
preserved when producing a transcript of a conversation, a
play or script, a well-known phrase, a play on words, or a joke. In employment
it may be necessary to convert casually spoken words to more formal written
English for a report, minutes or a business letter. If you
know for certain
that you will be expected to convert the conversational tone
to formal written English, then you may decide you can
safely write the normal phrases, and not use the apostrophied versions.
Top of page