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Theory 2 Vowels

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Theory

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

Contractions Intro

Contractions Main

Contractions Optional

Phrasing

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

Vocabulary

Vocab Intro

Numbers

Punctuation

Word Lists

Text Lists from PDFs

 

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PAGE DATE 16 January 2016

Vowels are indicated by dots, dashes and small signs placed in various positions against the sides of the strokes, and sometimes joined to strokes. The shape, thickness and position against the stroke are all meaningful pieces of information that identify which vowel is meant, i.e. you cannot vary these. Some angles may be varied, some not. Joining to a stroke is not meaningful, just convenient.

They represent the spoken sound and not the longhand written form. Some short forms use just a vowel sign on its own for certain short words (see 2nd half of List4 for short forms derived from vowel signs).

They do not follow exactly the variations in vowel sounds spoken by different regional accents, or even variations within the same accent. Shorthand textbooks and dictionaries follow what is termed Standard English/Queen's English/BBC English/Oxford English/Received Pronunciation which approximates to English spoken in the mid-to-south of the UK. Examples given here will adhere to that and you should make adjustments to suit your own situation.

Substituting other vowels to accommodate your own variety of English does seem reasonable and not likely to cause problems if done thoughtfully and sparingly, bearing in mind that you may be taking dictation from speakers with a variety of accents. This may result in a change of outline position, as you will not generally be writing in all the vowels. It may also throw up a new set of clashing outlines, different from those listed on the Distinguishing Outlines page. You should keep notes of your variations and be totally consistent in their use. It does not seem advisable to attempt learn the system and revise it all at the same time!

If your shorthand becomes highly personalised as regards pronunciation, you will create difficulties for yourself when the speaker does not sound like you. At the lower examination speeds you may be marked on your shorthand outlines, so caution is needed, and if you wished to teach Pitman's Shorthand, then you cannot deviate from the vowel values and signs given in the textbooks and dictionaries.

When taking from dictation, you are not expected to reflect the speaker's accent which may vary from your own. If you had to read it back to the speaker, it would be insulting if you read it in his/her accent! If you came across a dialect word for the first time, you would of course write it exactly as pronounced, as you would have nothing else to compare it with.

On this page I have written in all the vowels, although you will not do this during normal note-taking.

Quick reference table
Short and Long vowels
Diphthongs
Diphones
Triphones
Vowel placement
Intervening vowels
Position writing
Omission of vowel signs

QUICK REFERENCE TABLE

Name & Place Examples Additional vowel Mnemonic
SHORT VOWEL   Vowel plus one = diphone  
1 Pitman's New Era: bat bat Pitman's New Era: sahib sahib THAT
2 Pitman's New Era: bet bet   PEN
3 Pitman's New Era: bit bit   IS
1 Pitman's New Era: tock tock   NOT
2 Pitman's New Era: tuck tuck   MUCH
3 Pitman's New Era: took took   GOOD
LONG VOWEL      
1 Pitman's New Era: pa pa Pitman's New Era: baa-ing baa-ing PA
2 Pitman's New Era: pay pay Pitman's New Era: payer payer MAY
3 Pitman's New Era: pea pea Pitman's New Era: previous previous WE
1 Pitman's New Era: saw saw Pitman's New Era: sawing sawing ALL
2 Pitman's New Era: so so Pitman's New Era: sower sower GO
3 Pitman's New Era: sue sue Pitman's New Era: bluer bluer TOO
DIPHTHONG   Diphthong plus one = triphone  
1 Pitman's New Era: buy by Pitman's New Era: buyer  buyer I
1 Pitman's New Era: boy boy Pitman's New Era: loyal loyal ENJOY
3 Pitman's New Era: out out Pitman's New Era: power power LOUD
3 Pitman's New Era: few few Pitman's New Era: fewerfewer MUSIC

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SHORT AND LONG VOWELS

Short vowels = light dot or dash
Mnemonic: THAT PEN IS NOT MUCH GOOD

Long vowels = heavy dot or dash
Mnemonic: PA MAY WE ALL GO TOO

The mnemonics contain short forms so those particular outlines cannot be used to illustrate all the vowels, but the simplicity of the sentences has served generations of shorthanders very well over the years and they are worth preserving as our "shorthand heritage".

The dashes are written at 90 to straight strokes, therefore they change their angle as the stroke changes its angle. The dash is generally written from the stroke outwards and about a quarter of the length of a normal stroke; a dash should not be written straight up or straight backwards, in order to maintain smooth writing and avoiding catching the nib against the paper. Against horizontal strokes the dash is always written downwards. For curved strokes, the angle of 90 changes along the length of the stroke. The angle of a dash vowel is therefore not meaningful when used in an outline, but is only meaningful when used alone as a short form See Short Forms List 4 page Short forms from vowel marks:

Pitman's New Era: tow gnaw know noose maw mow moon bought
toe gnaw know noose maw mow moon bought

Some dash vowels end up being written with an upward slant and this is the only time that any thick mark is written upwards, as in the outline "bought" above. The angle of the dash may be adjusted slightly in places where there is limited room between strokes:

Pitman's New Era: droll dhurrie roach
droll dhurrie roach

Heavy dots and dashes must be written with one stroke of the pen, not moved around on to thicken them up.

Students of phonetics will notice that in Queen's English "pay" "sew" and similar words are not simple vowels but diphthongs, despite all the shorthand books describing them otherwise. They and the diphthongs below are, however, single phonemes (meaningful units of sound) in English, and generally found within one syllable, which is why they are perceived as one sound. I suspect that such words are pronounced with simple vowels in English accents other than the present Queen's English standard. This is borne out by a teachers' textbook that I have which advises south of England teachers to place extra emphasis on the "pure long vowel" of "lake", which to southern English ears does sound more like an accent from further north of the country.

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DIPHTHONGS (pronounced dif-thong **note** )

Two vowels sounded in quick succession, glided together and producing one syllable.

Mnemonic: I ENJOY LOUD MUSIC

  • There are 4 diphthong signs - two first place, two third place.

  • There are no second place diphthong signs.

  • No heavy versions.

  • The first three never change angle, the last may be rotated when joined.

First place

Pitman's New Era: pie tie china lie rye my nice

pie tie china lie rye my nice

Pitman's New Era: fine vie thigh sigh shy sky wise high I

fine vie thigh sigh shy sky wise high I/eye

Joined at the beginning of some downstrokes and in phrases:

Pitman's New Era: ice eyes idea item Ivan ire, I have, I think, I say, I shall

ice eyes idea item Ivan ire, I have, I think, I say, I shall

For convenience, joined finally to stroke En (despite being a first place vowel) when no other stroke or ending follows:

Pitman's New Era: night nigh deny downright fortnight finite Anno Domini nights denies fortnights

night nigh deny downright fortnight finite Anno Domini but nights denies

Contracted to a tick on upward Ell:

Pitman's New Era: isle/aisle island  islander Eileen/Aileen

isle/aisle island  islander Eileen/Aileen (but Aileen if so pronounced)

As short form for "I", contracted in phrases where convenient:

Pitman's New Era: I believe, I propose, I regret, I can, I am, I will have

I believe, I propose, I regret, I can, I am, I will have

First place

The top half of the sign is written horizontally:

Pitman's New Era: poise toy joy coy coil moist noise foible voice hoist

poise toy joy coy coil moist noise foible voice hoist

Joined only to upward Ell. The angle is adjusted slightly but this does not clash with the third place vowel "owl" because of the outline's position. Not joined to other strokes because not convenient and could be confused with "of the":

Pitman's New Era: oil oiled oil-field oil-tanker oil-well

oil oiled oil-field oil-tanker oil-well

Third place

Pitman's New Era out ouch joust cow mouth noun found shout loud how
out ouch joust cow mouth noun found shout loud how (short form)

Joined initially to upward Ell, despite being a third place vowel, for convenience:

Pitman's New Era: owl owlet owlish owl-like

owl owlet owlish owl-like

Joined as short form in phrases:

Pitman's New Era: how many, how long

how many, how long

Joined finally where convenient:

Pitman's New Era: bow prow pout brow browed dhow/Dow doubt vow thou sow Howe

bow prow pout brow browed dhow/Dow doubt vow thou sow Howe

Contracted after stroke N, when nothing else follows in the outline:

Pitman's New Era: now Lucknow nous

now Lucknow but nous

Third place

Pitman's New Era: puma tune tuna tube cube suitable fume music Hume you

puma tune tuna tube cube suitable fume music Hume you (short form)
(the surname "Hume" is sometimes pronounced "home")

Joined finally where convenient, when nothing else follows in the outline. Rotated when joined finally to horizontal strokes or upward ell. Do not rotate when free-standing, because this clashes with the W series of signs:

Pitman's New Era: few pew cue/queue/Kew due/dew mew new continue pursue value

few pew cue/queue/Kew due/dew mew new continue pursue value

As short form, joined where convenient:

Pitman's New Era: thank you, if you will, for you are, you should, can you, may you

thank you, if you will, for you are, you should, can you, may you

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DIPHONES

A simple vowel followed immediately by another separately sounded vowel, thus forming 2 syllables.

  • Written in the correct place of the first vowel of the pair

  • Angle never changes

  • Never joined

  • No heavy versions

Arrowhead, at 45 angle pointing south west, is used for a dot vowel plus any other:

Pitman's New Era: sayer layer weighing previous readmit create neon tiara Maria

sayer layer weighing previous readmit create neon tiara Maria

Arrowhead, at 45 angle pointing north east, is used for a dash vowel plus any other:

Pitman's New Era: sower snowy stoic poem gooey bluey jawing gnawing rawish

sower snowy stoic poem gooey bluey jawing gnawing rawish

Diphones are often encountered as extensions to an original simple vowel, and so the vowels are perceived as two separate phonemes (meaningful units of sound):

Pitman's New Era: pay payer mow mowing mower high higher hire

pay payer mow mowing mower high higher but hire

Also used for these types of endings, although the vowels are barely sounded separately:

Pitman's New Era: righteous question suggestion combustion pinion onion bunion Bunyan

righteous question suggestion combustion pinion onion bunion but Bunyan

Pitman's New Era: trachea tracheae
trachea
* tracheae*
Separate dots are used for the plural to distinguish the outlines - the extra dot cannot be mistaken for Dot Hay, because Dot Hay is never used finally.

*pronounced track-ee-uh and track-ee-ee

Diphones are not used for:

(a) short forms that have stroke Ing added, because short forms are not vocalised, and the Ing needs only its own dot:

Pitman's New Era: be being go going do doing

be being go going do doing

(b) when adding "dot ing" because the dot represents the whole "ing" extension:

Pitman's New Era: paying toying trying tryingly

paying toying trying but tryingly

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TRIPHONES

Three vowels sounded in succession, normally a diphthong plus one other, producing two syllables. Shown by extending the diphthong sign with a tick.

  • Written in the correct position of the first vowel of the pair

  • Only joined finally

  • No heavy versions

Pitman's New Era: diary dial briar trier diameter flyer denying ionise

diary dial briar trier diameter flyer denying ionise

Pitman's New Era: loyal royal joyous soya boyish moiety annoyance sequoia

loyal royal joyous soya boyish moiety annoyance sequoia

Pitman's New Era: power tower flower/flour towel vowel

power tower flower/flour towel vowel

Pitman's New Era: viewer duet continuous puerile steward skua skewer secure

viewer duet continuous puerile steward skua skewer but secure

Some triphones consist of a simple vowel followed by a diphthong: write the diphthong next to the vowel (note the light dot is used):

Pitman's New Era: radii genii denarii nuclei

radii genii denarii nuclei

As with "tracheae" above, the dot cannot be mistaken for Dot Hay, because Dot Hay is never used finally

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VOWEL PLACEMENT

1. A vowel sign is placed to the side of the stroke, at the beginning, middle or end. The vowels are therefore described as first, second and third place vowels.

  • All the strokes of the outline or phrase must be completed before any unjoined vowel is written.

  • The beginning of a stroke is counted from where the pen starts writing it. With strokes that can be written in either direction, the vowel placement will vary, and care should be taken when the stroke stands alone, both in writing and in transcription.

  • Vowel before: place to left of up or downstrokes, upper side of horizontal strokes

  • Vowel after: place to right of up or downstrokes, lower side of horizontal strokes

Pitman's New Era: ape pay, Abe bay, aid day, age jay, ache Kay

ape pay, Abe bay, aid day, age jay, ache Kay

Pitman's New Era: aim may, inn no, ingle swinger

aim may, inn no, ingle swinger

Pitman's New Era: if fee, Eve vie, either thought, thin

if fee, Eve vie, either thought, thin

Pitman's New Era: us so, owes zoo, ash show

us so, owes zoo, ash show

Pitman's New Era: ale low, air row, awake way, ayah yes, ahem high

ale low, air row, awake way, ayah yes, ahem high

2. Place outside of circle S, Sway, Stee and Ster loop:

Pitman's New Era: bees beast swan star stock stopper poster blister

bees beast swan star stock stopper poster blister

3. SES circle is deemed to include the vowel in "pen"; if it is a different vowel, write it inside the circle:

Pitman's New Era: success masses bases basis bases emphasise emphasis exercise

success masses
bases
(plural of base), basis, bases (pronounced baseez, plural of basis)
emphasise emphasis exercise

Dash vowel inside the circle Books vary in showing at what angle it is written:

Pitman's New Era: census Colossus exhaust
census Colossus exhaust

4. Shun hook vocalise the stroke just as you would if the shun hook were not there, with the following exceptions:

(a) Third place dots written inside the shun hook:

Pitman's New Era: fashion fission vision revision mission permission lesion

fashion fission vision revision mission permission lesion

In most cases the dot inside the hook is the vowel immediately before the Shun, but sometimes it is the vowel before that:

Pitman's New Era: remission television initiation
remission television
compare initiation

(b) Third place dashes, diphones and diphthongs are written outside the shun hook when the hook is final (because they need more room) and inside when the hook is medial (to avoid the sign being read as belonging to the next stroke).

Pitman's New Era: fusion solution ammunition revolution revolutionary education educational

fusion solution ammunition revolution revolutionary education educational

Pitman's New Era: radiation mediation pronunciation renunciation deviation deviationist
radiation mediation pronunciation renunciation deviation deviationist

The vowel between the Sh and N of the "shun" is not vocalised at all, and the fact of  the vowel being written inside or outside the hook is coincidental to getting the dot or dash or other sign against its own stroke, i.e. it is not part of the "shun" syllable.

Circle S + Small shun hook the hook is deemed to include the vowel in "much" and requires no vocalisation itself. The vowel that comes between circle S and the small shun hook:

  • Dash vowel: never occurs
  • First place dot: never occurs
  • Second place dot: omit
  • Third place dot: write outside the hook (underlined below)

Pitman's New Era: possession position precision decision condensation physician incision sensation musician recession recision

possession position precision decision condensation physician
incision sensation musician recession recision

In these examples underlined above, the vowel sign is actually being written against the little hook and not against the stroke, i.e. it is sounded after the S and before hook, and not sounded before the stroke. A third place vowel before the stroke should be placed a little way inwards from the hook. The following illustrates two vowels on the hook side of stroke:

Pitman's New Era: apposition opposition imposition

apposition opposition imposition

5. Ell is normally an upstroke, therefore:

Pitman's New Era: ell ill ale eel isle oil owl Eli Leah

ell ill ale eel isle oil owl* Eli Leah

*In "owl" the third place vowel is joined to the beginning of the stroke for convenience, the only word that does this.

When Ell is written downwards, the vowels follow suit:

Pitman's New Era: like alike

like alike

6. Ish is normally a downstroke, therefore:

Pitman's New Era: ash shy shah shot show shut she shoe/shoo shoot/chute sheet shout

ash shy shah shot show shut she shoe/shoo shoot/chute sheet shout

When Ish is written upwards the vowels follow suit:

Pitman's New Era: shaggy shagreen/chagrin, shack shackle, sham shammer

shaggy shagreen/chagrin, shack shackle, sham shammer

7. After a halved stroke, the vowel should be written against the second stroke, as it is sounded after the T or D:

Pitman's New Era: cottage pottage bandage octopus potato written

cottage pottage bandage octopus potato written

8. All dots and dashes should be just far enough away to be distinguishable as separate marks, so that they do not interfere with the recognition of the strokes themselves. Only these instances have a dash vowel joined:

Pitman's New Era: awl also, almost already

awl also; the short form "all" may also be joined as in: almost already

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INTERVENING VOWELS

Intervening means "coming between"

(A) coming between two strokes

1st and 2nd place vowels: place against the preceding stroke:

Pitman's New Era: pod paid bat boat dock duck tag take jag jug

pod paid bat boat dock duck tag take jag jug

Pitman's New Era: mock make notch nape shadow shed lock lake

mock make notch nape shadow shed lock lake

Pitman's New Era: rag rug wad wed yak yoke hack hake hang hung

rag rug wad wed yak yoke hack hake hang hung

3rd place vowel: place before the following stroke. This is because a third place vowel written after the first stroke could end up in an angle between strokes and therefore be ambiguous you would not know whether it was a third place vowel after the first stroke, or a first place vowel against the next stroke:

Pitman's New Era: peel pull big beet book tick took

peel pull big beet book tick took

Pitman's New Era: deep jig cheap fig food video meal nil

deep jig cheap fig food video meal nil

Pitman's New Era: pip peep bib beep cook gig

pip peep bib beep cook gig

If the two strokes are separated by a circle S or S-plus-hook, then the vowel must remain with the first stroke, it cannot "jump" over the S, because it is sounded before. The presence of the S or S-plus-hook enables the vowel to be written in its correct third place with less ambiguity:

Pitman's New Era: Dick disk, leap lisp, creep crisp, ping pinning

Dick disk, leap lisp, creep crisp, ping pinning

A compound word is one that is made up of two other words. In the outline for a compound word, the vowel often remains where it would be if the words were written separately, thus aiding legibility:

Pitman's New Era: headache book-end steam-engine steamer

headache book-end steam-engine

Compound words are treated as one outline as regards to position (unlike phrases where the first word is written in position and the others tag along). Therefore the first up or down stroke might reside in the second of the two words, such as "steam-engine" above.

The above does not apply to derivative words, where there is one word and one affix; these have the vowels placed normally according to the basic rules:

Pitman's New Era: unable inorganic inactive fewness

unable inorganic inactive fewness steamer

(B) coming between an initial hook and the stroke (e.g. PR and PL)

See also Theory 7 Hooks R L/Vocalisation and Theory 15 R Forms page/R Hook For Brevity for more examples.

Although the R and L hooks are primarily used to represent the two consonants together, sometimes the hooked form is used even though a vowel is present, in order to avoid an awkward outline or obtain a better outline for very common words. Most of such intervening vowels are only lightly or indistinctly sounded.

If the vowel is "-er" as in "permit" it is not shown. It is however taken to be a second place light dot vowel (and is in fact shown as such in other outlines that are not using a hook) and so the outline takes second position, where this is the first vowel.

Pitman's New Era: permit perfect persist term germ therm
permit perfect persist term germ therm

Other vowels between the stroke and hook are indicated as follows:

A dot vowel is written as a disjoined circle, in its correct place, after the stroke unless that place is occupied by another vowel or there is no room to write the vowel.

Pitman's New Era: challenge sharp carbon philosophy varnish flashily atmosphere

challenge sharp carbon philosophy varnish flashily atmosphere

Note: Very many "car+consonant" words use the R hook

A dash vowel is written across the beginning of the stroke, through the centre or through the end; it is not written across the end because that would look like the "ings" suffix. Where a second place dash vowel is written through the stroke, the following vowel has to be written against the next stroke, as in "courage" and "occurrence" below:

Pitman's New Era: tolerable correspondence church George shovelful fulfil courage occurrence
tolerable correspondence church George shovelful fulfil courage occurrence

A diphone or diphthong may also be written through, or at the end of, a hooked stroke:

Pitman's New Era: healthier junior direct direct

healthier junior direct (2 pronunciations)

Pitman's New Era: temperature mixture capture captures capturing
temperature mixture capture captures capturing

The above use of R or L hook plus intervening vowel is not generally used for words of one syllable:

Pitman's New Era: pale pair tall tore jeer mare

pale pair tall tore jeer mare

Some short words use the intervening vowel to gain a brief outline, where clashes are unlikely:

Pitman's New Era: nurse dark gnarl barm course Turk

nurse dark gnarl barm course Turk

NOTE: The prefixes "self-" and "self-con-" also use a circle (in this case representing the S sound), and the outline is always in second position to match the vowel in "self".

  • "Self-" circle is written before the stroke in second position. It might therefore look identical to a 2nd position intervening vowel, but the rules state that the short E vowel between stroke and hook is not shown (whether accented or not), although all other vowels may be shown. Therefore no clash occurs.
    Pitman's New Era: self-defence self-employed Jersey shelf
    self-defence self-employed, Jersey shelf (2nd position vowel not written)

  • "Self-con-" circle is written against the top end of the stroke, replacing the "con-" dot, so this cannot be mistaken for an intervening vowel, which is always against the side of a stroke.
    Pitman's New Era: self-confidence self-control
    self-confidence self-control

"self-" and "self-con-" must always be written, unlike the vowels which are only written when needed (see Theory 18 Prefixes page).

POSITION WRITING

Position writing is a great strength of the system, enabling vowels to be indicated without any extra writing. Position writing combined with the various choices of abbreviating methods combine to make it clear which word is signified, without guesswork, when the vowels are eventually omitted. Unlike omitting vowels, position writing is not optional and you should practise inserting vowels until you know their placement perfectly, for two reasons: you need to know what and where they go in order to write the outline in the correct position, and when you do need to insert them, you have to do it very rapidly.

The first up or downstroke of the outline is placed in one of three positions in relation to the ruled line of the page, to match the place of the first vowel sound of the outline: 

First position:
ABOVE the line
Pitman's New Era: pa PA ALL THAT NOT I
ENJOY
Second position:
ON the line
Pitman's New Era: pay MAY GO PEN MUCH  
Third position:
THROUGH the line
pea WE TOO IS GOOD LOUD
MUSIC

Note: the vowel in the prefix dot "con-" is ignored when deciding on the first vowel sound of the outline. As there is such a large number of con- & com- words, a means of vowel indication through position writing has to be maintained. Words beginning with the disjoined circle for "self-" or "self-con-" are always written in second position, to accord with the vowel in the word "self".

As the second and subsequent up or downstrokes in the outline simply follow on from the first one, their position with regard to the ruled line carries no meaning. An outline that is written as part of a phrase may end up out of position and may need a vowel inserted to keep it readable.

If the first up or downstroke is a doubled one, then the first half of it is placed in position:

Pitman's New Era: father curvature alter latter letter litter

father curvature alter latter letter litter

"Father" should be started at high up as possible, and the end of the stroke will probably run through the ruled line, unless your shorthand writing is very small. With "latter" the end of the stroke may invade the ruled line above, but this is acceptable. You should not reduce the full double length in order to squeeze it within the ruled lines. You need the full length for clarity, so aim for longer rather than shorter. Inserting the vowel helps when there is only one stroke the vowels are placed further apart on doubled strokes.

Only a full up or downstroke can be written through the line, so if the first up or downstroke is halved, or there are only horizontal strokes in the outline, third position is also ON the line, sharing it with second position.

Although horizontal strokes and halved up or downstrokes have no third position, vowels still have a third place against the stroke. For halved strokes, the three places are closer to each other along the shorter length:

Pitman's New Era: fat fate fit

fat fate fit

Pitman's New Era: pit bed jade Mick moon noon cook

pit bed jade Mick moon noon cook

Note:
Vowels have a PLACE against a stroke
Outlines have a POSITION in relation to the ruled line

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OMISSION OF VOWEL SIGNS

Inserting vowel signs in an outline is called vocalising. Although the beginner will write fully vocalised outlines, this is a temporary state of affairs while the vowels are being learned. At some point your textbook will encourage you to omit writing all the but the most necessary vowels. This does seem a great hurdle to the learner but once this step is taken, any perceived difficulties soon melt away. After a very short while this will become second nature, and you will recognise instantly when a vowel needs to be inserted.

Omitting vowels is the very first step in writing at speed, which is why it is introduced at an early stage. This transition resembles writing separate letters of the alphabet and then going on to "joined-up" writing you write lightly, flowingly and speedily, rather than slow  drawing and pressing into the paper. This is the point in your learning when you realise that shorthand can be written fast, and eagerness takes over from frustration.

There are two reasons why omission of vowels is not a problem:

  • The varied ways in which the presence of a vowel can be indicated without extra writing i.e. position writing, choice of alternative strokes and the use of full strokes versus hooks, circles, semicircles, loops and halving.

  • The shorthand you read is generally what you have written yourself, therefore you are seeing it for the second time. Reading matter provided by others tends to have more vowels inserted.

  • The type of material you write will generally be repetitive and as you become more familiar with the subject matter, writing and reading back becomes much quicker.

It is advisable to vocalise the following:

  • Single stroke words, as there is no other stroke to reduce the possibilities.

  • Diphthongs joined to a stroke should not be omitted, they should remain with the outline and be considered part of it.

  • Unusual words and names of people and places, at least on their first occurrence in the dictation, as context does not give you help with those.

  • Words in phrases that end up out of position may need the help of a vowel.

  • One or both of pairs of Distinguishing Outlines.

  • If you know you have written an outline badly or wrongly, you may only have time to insert a vowel or two, rather than rewrite the outline.

  • Some scientific words are distinguished only by a change of vowel, as well as some non-English plurals:

Pitman's New Era: sulphate sulphite, antennae formulae larvae amoebae

sulphate sulphite antennae formulae larvae amoebae

It is absolutely essential to have a thorough knowledge of the vowels and their positions, as you will always be writing the outlines in position, and to do this you must know what vowel sign goes where, even if it is not being shown in ink. You also have to be able to insert them when necessary i.e. during dictation, when you will not have time to mull over where to put the dots and dashes. Unfamiliar words, names and places will need their vowels inserted without hesitation.

When dictation speed is slow, you can use the extra time you have to insert vowels that will help your transcription, but you should not rely on always having the time to do so. Do not insert them for the sake of it, because this will get you in the habit of putting them in wherever possible and relying on having them there, which is a backward step.

You will be leaving out writing vowels, not leaving out learning them! It is helpful to occasionally write out a passage including ALL the vowels, so that you know where your weaknesses are it is too easy to assume that you know, when you do not. Be surprised now, while the dictionary and textbooks are at hand, and not later during dictation or an exam.

Vocalising everything will hold your speed down to below useful levels. There are no prizes for how many helpful vowels you can do without, but there are prizes for getting a complete and correct transcript speed certificates, salary and personal satisfaction!

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*** A Dip Thong is a sandal that you dip in your tea to stir it when there is no teaspoon handy not recommended! back

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