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Short Forms 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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Pitmans New Era: One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.
"One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell."

Short Forms are outlines of one stroke or one vowel sign, used for the commonest words. They are not full outlines, but they always use one of the sounds of the word. They are a fixed part of the system, to be learned and practised. The short-term work involved in learning is vastly outweighed by the permanent advantage gained in brevity and speed. As they are such common words, they quickly become second nature as study progresses, and the beginner should not be daunted by viewing what seems to be a long list.

Half the words of normal speech/text consists of 47 short forms, 20 single-stroke outlines and 2 double-stroke outlines. The 9 most frequent of these make up a quarter of speech: the, of, and, to, a, in, that, it, is. Learning them thoroughly is well worth the effort.

Short forms are not vocalised. In phrases, only four of them need to have a vowel (go, him, own, those) for clarity, because they are out of position. When a short form has another stroke or outline added to it (e.g. dearer, chairman), the short form must retain its original position. The remainder of the outline may be vocalised but the short form part remains unvocalised.

There are two other names for the short form outlines which you may find in teaching books:

  • Logograms
  • Word Forms or Wordsigns (American)

The English word itself (not the outline) is sometimes referred to as a grammalogue, i.e. a word that is represented by a short form. The reason for this is to differentiate between words that are identical in sound, and sometimes in spelling, but different in meaning:

  • "Till" meaning "until" is a grammalogue, as it is represented by a short form.
  • "Till" meaning "work the soil" or "cash register" is not a grammalogue and has a full vocalised outline.

Other pairs are more obvious, such as "be" and "bee" or "you" and "ewe". The second of the pair is clearly not a common word and the use of a short form would be more of a hindrance than a help.

In the same way, short forms are not generally used for personal or place names e.g. Mr Short, or Wye Valley. Names should be formed with full outlines, and clearly vocalised wherever possible. In this respect the form of the outline relates to the meaning of the word, not just its sounds, and this is therefore a small departure from the phonetic basis of the system. The reason for this is that no amount of context would help you to read back a personal name, if it were written using a short form. Legibility is the top rule here.

Shortened outlines of more than one stroke are known as contractions.

One might think that all the derivatives would be based on the original short form, but this is not always the case. For this reason, I have given a selection of derivatives, related and similar words.  Hopefully this will save you from hastily writing a short form and then trying to add bits on to it, when another outline altogether is called for. It is generally safe, however, to add circle S to any short form. You would benefit from adding to the list of additional words, in order to build up your study material library.

All the short forms of the system are shown, in stroke order, as it is more helpful to study them in batches of the same stroke, but there is only a selection of derivatives. Some short forms do not seem to have any obvious derivatives. The short forms list is now fixed, as far as textbooks go, although some of them are less common and would probably not make it onto the list if it were being created today, e.g. shalt, aye, aught, Lord, but I have kept the list complete.

In dictation, if you do not know or cannot recall the short form, then you should never hesitate to write a full outline of some sort red pencil it during transcription and learn the short form as soon as possible. Knowing that you are thorough about correcting your shorthand will enable you to write a "wrong" form without wavering. You should be doing this all the time with any new words that require attention/dictionary delving, and keeping a notebook of items to practise.

I have split the list over 4 pages, as there are a large number of jpgs involved. The short forms are available in the folded booklet PDF and as JPGs (suitable for phone/Ipod) from the Downloads page. I will provide the complete list that includes the derivatives as a PDF for ease of download at a later date. You can easily clipboard the tables, and produce the list in alphabetical order but keep a separate copy in stroke order as well!

Short Forms List 1 Strokes: P B T D
Short Forms List 2 Strokes: Chay J K Gay
Short Forms List 3 Strokes: F V Ith Thee
Short Forms List 4 Strokes: Circles Zee Ish Zhee M N L Ar Ray Way Vowels

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