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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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Instruction Books

Phrasing Books

Vocabulary Books

Old Shorthand

Instruction Books

The current New Era textbooks generally available are:

  • Anniversary Edition (Audrey O'Dea) (the main text book)

  • Anniversary Edition Key (Audrey O'Dea)

  • Anniversary Workbooks 1 (B Canning) and 2 (Pitman)

  • Anniversary Facility Drill book (Julie Watson)

  • Small Pocket Dictionary (Addison Wesley Longman)

  • Rapid Review & Speed Development (Bryan Coombs)

"Anniversary" refers to the anniversary of the publishers in 1988, and does not signify any change in the shorthand itself, which remains New Era. I have not discovered any other New Era books currently in print, and second-hand books must be relied upon to provide extra reading and learning material.

(Note that in Gregg Shorthand the title "Anniversary" does refer to a particular version of the rules of that system.)

Modern glue-spined textbooks need bending with vigour at every few pages until the book lies flat. If it then refuses to stay closed, so be it you cannot learn from it peeping through the crack between the pages.

The older New Era books that you find on Ebay (especially plentiful on Ebay UK) and in secondhand bookshops will teach you exactly the same New Era Shorthand as the modern book and your learning will not be disadvantaged in the least. Ebay prices for the older books can be extremely favourable, releasing your hard-earned cash for that special pen. I believe the print and presentation in the older books are much clearer, and they have the important advantage that they lie flat on the desk, leaving your hands free to copy and write. The titles are:

  • New Course - The most "modern" after the Anniversary book above, and using approx the 2,000 commonest words

  • Shorthand Instructor - This is the most comprehensive of all the instruction books

    The New Era version of the Shorthand Instructor is now available as free PDF download https://archive.org/details/pitmansshorthand00pitm (please also see their terms of use)

  • Shorthand Manual - This is Part 1 of the Instructor (first 30 chapters) - All the rules

  • Shorthand Reporter - This is Part 2 of the Instructor - More phrases and abbreviations for the verbatim writer

  • Modern Course (with or without exercises) - This book restricts its vocabulary to the more common words

  • Rapid Course

  • Rapid Course, Complete Edition with Supplementary Exercises - Extra 80 pages of exercises and vocabulary building graded to the lessons

  • Commercial Course (with or without exercises) - Slim volume with the basics

  • Shorthand School Edition - Slim volume with the basics

  • Teach Yourself Shorthand

The subject matter of the practice passages reflects the time in which they were written. The occasional antiquated term provides amusement but in no way lessens the usefulness of the books.

The publication entitled "The New Shorthand Teacher" is not a book for teachers, but a thin booklet that repeats the first 8 chapters of the New Course, after which students are expected to follow the New Course book for chapter 9 onwards. I can only guess that this may have been an economical way to introduce the subject by the end of chapter 8, the student or college would know for certain whether the expense of providing the full book was justified; or it may be that these lightweight booklets needed to be mailed to students. (There are also pre-New Era booklets called "The Shorthand Teacher" and "The Phonographic Teacher" which give full, if condensed, instruction for beginners, covering the older 1800's versions of Pitman's Shorthand.)

The pages may be ink-marked, creased or annotated, but the previous shorthand learner would be delighted to know that it is in the hands of someone who values the contents, just as they did. In any case, you will be transferring it all to your memory, where it will remain fresh and alive, growing and improving, and endlessly useful!

Shorthand books compare prices
Both teaching the self-same identical no-difference New Era shorthand. The presentation wording and practice passages are entirely different, with the language style reflecting their different dates, but the theory is the same.

Phrasing Books

Book - Guide to Phrasing in Pitman New Era Shorthand by June Swann  Book page view - Guide to Phrasing in Pitman New Era Shorthand by June Swann  Book - The New Phonographic Phrase Book by Emily D Smith
"Guide to Phrasing" by June Swann
(Official Court Reporter), which is a rewrite of the original "The New Phonographic Phrase Book" by Emily D Smith. I learned from these in the 1970's. They are both equally useful and very similar in content (you do not need to buy both) with full explanations of the principles, long lists of sample phrases and some practice material. A pen lift is equivalent to writing an extra stroke, and phrasing avoids this.

Any shorthand book by high speed (250 wpm) writer Emily D Smith is worth buying, they are all very good and packed with useful information, and their small slim size belies their highly valuable content:

"Guide to High Speed Writing" by E D Smith and A J Munro, detailing technique and attitude necessary to attain high speed.

"The Expert Shorthand Writer" by E D Smith, similar content to above but more chatty, is written entirely in 700 common words shorthand, in a loose handwritten style, with no longhand other than the introduction and chapter subject list.

Vocabulary Books

"Pitman's Shorthand Writing Exercises and Examination Tests - a series of graduated exercises on every rule in the system."

This book is extremely useful for the ultimate in vocabulary extension. Despite the dry-sounding title, the main content is extensive vocabulary lists illustrating every rule of the system, as well as the counted practice passages. Learning outlines grouped by the rule they follow is the ideal, far better than practising by subject matter, alphabetically or random. The Key book provides the shorthand, so you need both to get maximum benefit. These are old books that need searching out on  internet bookshops, and do check that the books are "New Era" before buying.

Pages from books: Pitman's Shorthand Writing Exercises and Examination Tests, and Key

Covers of books: Pitman's Shorthand Writing Exercises and Examination Tests, and Key
Main book: longhand (219 pages) Key: shorthand (272 pages)
Half inch thick and solid gold for the serious shorthand student

Old Shorthand

If you are interested in pre-New Era versions of Pitman's Shorthand (anything before 1922), I suggest you learn New Era thoroughly, and do your dabbling afterwards, as rules have been revised over time, especially the placement of vowels and positions of outlines, rather major things to get confused over if you are still learning. The place to find all the pre-New Era books is www.archive.org where you can read online or download most of them as PDFs, without having to buy expensive and fragile antique books. The text-only versions of the files are often peppered with OCR mistakes, as the letterpress pages are not always sharp, and of course the OCR makes mincemeat of the actual shorthand.

Some of these are being offered as modern reprints of the free PDFs, so caution is required to ensure you know what you are getting, and it is unlikely to be New Era, other than the particular Instructor mentioned above.

Many of the 19th century books attempt to combine practice passages with moral instruction and this can be either amusing, annoying or educational, depending on whether you agree with it. Despite the sometimes condescending tone of the advice, the text keys to the passages can be enjoyed without any knowledge of shorthand and they give an interesting insight into the attitudes of the times, where self-improvement was encouraged for all.



"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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