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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


Yellow Teddy's page

Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! logo web










































You are thinking of learning shorthand and you don't know if you have what it takes or whether it is worth the effort. I hope these pages provide some of the information needed for you to answer those questions, before you go out and buy expensive books that may end up gathering dust.

We all learned longhand without doing any theory, facility drills or speed tests incentive and practice brought results, greatly helped by being surrounded by the printed word. I remember reading why children are often better at solving computer problems than their parents the answer was given that "they have plenty of time and they didn't pay for the computer" i.e. persistence and a relaxed attitude.


Imagine filling in a vast spreadsheet but having to write all the numbers as full words.
Imagine cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.
Imagine cleaning your entire home with one cotton bud.
Imagine all the phone numbers had 100 digits.
Imagine walking to work with both your shoelaces tied together.
Imagine running for a bus in a pencil-thin ankle-length skirt.
Imagine filling your bath with a teaspoon.
Imagine swimming in treacle.
Imagine cycling through sand.

This is how the shorthand writer feels when obliged to revert to longhand. Writing longhand averages 20-30 wpm. A good typist may average 50-60 wpm, some much more. Shorthand of 80 wpm is a praiseworthy achievement for a student after a course of study, and 120 wpm deserves a box of chocolates/health shop carob bar. Normal speech can easily reach 200 wpm, and a writer who has 250 wpm deserves every penny of the wages earned. 350 wpm is believed to be the fastest speed attained in a timed test this was by Nathan Behrin in 1922 when, I assume, he would have been using Pitman's Centenary Shorthand, the immediate predecessor to Pitman's New Era:

This link takes you to the New York Times Archive PDF showing the cutting from 30 December 1922 describing the contest. Note that he not only wrote at 350 wpm, he transcribed it the important part!

Reporting another shorthand contest in August 1912.

http://www.ncra.org/About/content.cfm?ItemNumber=11462&navItemNumber=11230 A short history of the National Speed Contests held at Lake George, New York, from the National Court Reporters Association.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2007011966/ A photo from 1924 of high speed writers Charles Swem (Gregg), Nathan Behrin (Pitman) and Solomon Powsner (Pitman) seated at a table with their shorthand pens and pads at the ready.

A20 Sidcup Bypass - slow and fast traffic  A20 Sidcup Bypass
Shorthand lane on the left, longhand lane on the right

If you write very rapid longhand, think how good you will be at shorthand. Try the numeral test at the top of the Beginners page. Time how long it takes you to write all these longhand words:

Pitmamn's New Era: We thank you for your letter and your application form for the post of secretary.
We-thank-you for-your-letter and your application form for-the post of secretary.

Pitman's New Era: harmonious usefully well-known necessary personal customer
harmonious usefully well-known necessary personal customer

I think you could probably trace over the above outlines faster than you can write the longhand versions, even without knowing anything about shorthand or what sound each mark or shape stands for. Have a go at the above using this Try Your Speed PDF (137 KB), tracing very lightly in pencil over the printed marks. One word per second = 60 words per minute, already two or three times faster than longhand. A clock with a loud tick makes a good one-second metronome.

Top speed 140 wpm
It's all within reach do the work, get the results

Economy and convenience

More words for less ink, more text on less paper, less frustration, less missing info. More can be written on the average seaside postcard and the postman probably cannot read it!

Tape/digital recordings need transcribing, but your notes can stand as they are, if you wish. You can go instantly to any part without searching or rewinding. You can use anything that will make a mark, on anything that will take a mark.

Hay Wire?  Live Wire!
  Apprentices need tools
"Be with you in a minute, Sir Alan." "Yes Sir, I've got that, would you like me to recap, Sir?"

Batteries run down and may fail at an inconvenient moment. Your batteries are much nicer it's called food (PS: keep the quality up fast food means slow shorthand).

How do you know it's full at a glance? 
Energy supply for rechargeable person


In your conferences, meetings and telephone calls you can take notes and get down exactly as much as you need to. Longhand will never keep up with the spoken word and while you are scribbling the longhand, the next lot of words is going over your head. Shorthand frees you to listen and take part, without losing any information. How many other executives at that meeting will get all the notes that you do? While they are fiddling with their digital recorders (which will faithfully record all the extraneous noises, scraping of chairs, stirring of teacups, and irrelevant chitchat) followed by waiting for their secretary to transcribe the notes, you are acting on your information and have already moved on to the next assignment.

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When inspiration comes, you need to be able to put it down exactly, and then refine later. If someone else were writing it for you, you would be frustrated at having to wait for them to catch up. If you are writing the longhand yourself, the frustration is the same. You need to catch those ideas at the rate they are arriving. You can actually write shorthand on the bedside notepad in the dark at 1 am, and go back to sleep soundly, knowing it is all down in black and white. Just make sure you use pencil for this, and not your precious fountain pen.

"Buy more shorthand books!"  "Buy more shorthand books!"
Good ideas at 1 am


Learning something challenging brings huge satisfaction. If it is not actually useful, this satisfaction can fade. Shorthand will never do that, in fact it increases as greater facility is obtained and using it gets easier and easier. When shorthand is the norm, and longhand a pain to use, you will have arrived.

Another side to this is the realisation how much the hand and mind can be trained, like obedient and willing slaves, to do tasks for you. Training your servants to do your bidding, and watching them happily jump into action is most gratifying and useful.

Make the rut work for you
  Boot sale car exit in a field
Make the rut work for you, as you train your mind and hand to produce shorthand on demand


Job prospects are improved not only for the shorthand that you can use, but a prospective employer will realise that you are someone who can buckle down and learn things. They will assume your English skills are good, that you pay attention to detail and that your attention span is longer than the average. A shorthand writer has to have solid concentration and listen closely, all good points in your favour.

Busy bees
Working for royalty

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Open Doors

A new skill can often lead you to do things that would not otherwise have been open to you. People with shared skills are more likely to swap information, contacts, and ideas.

Priory Gardens gate, Orpington
  Priory Gardens, Orpington, Kent
New vistas


Shorthand is very different from other academic studies. In the attitude required, it is more like sport or fitness training. You take on a racing mentality, not against others but to get all the words down with no gaps. At the end of your studies, your mind will not be sluggish. It is the difference between stumbling bleary-eyed out of bed and a short while later emerging from the shower, fresh, glowing and ready for action.

You do not have to be aiming at exams. You do not have to put yourself through any speed trials at all. You can benefit from shorthand without any of that hassle if you so wish. Even slow shorthand is going to be a lot faster than longhand. But I would caution a home learner that unhelpful habits in shorthand need a teacher's eye to pick up on, before they become ingrained, and slow writers do tend to draw and dig, rather than write. However, a certificate with YOUR NAME on it does validate all your hard work in a way that nothing else can.

Blue Bell Hill near Rochester, Kent Never without my camera
 (PS: Take the camera!)
View from the top is worth the climb  Blue Bell Hill, Rochester, Kent


It teaches you to pay attention to a multiplicity of small things that may keep you from achieving your goal. Shorthand has been designed and perfected over the years to decrease time and effort, and increase reliability, ease of writing and legibility. You end up with the same mindset, looking for hindrances to prune away and improvements you can take on board, and you carry over this attitude to your other activities. "Many a mickle makes a muckle"

Ant excavations
  Ant excavations
Grain by grain . . . Persist-Ant!

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People often mention this, mainly in regard to writing their diary or Christmas present list. This is good fun and entirely in line with using your shorthand for everything. You need never lose those precious thoughts and memories, and you can get more into the average diary.

For real-life confidential stuff in your employment, you need to know that a shorthand person will most definitely be able to read outlines upside-down as well and they don't all wear a Shorthand Hat to identify themselves, so guard your office dictation pad from unauthorised eyes and never leave it lying around.

 My handwritten shorthand dictionary in an A-Z phone book
Top secret diary

Pen Enthusiasts

There are only so many daily writing tasks that you can use your treasured pen collection for letters, cards, albums, shopping lists, calligraphy for your friends and then you are eagerly looking for something else to write. Real useful writing is what the pens themselves actually want, you only have to ask them and they will tell you so . . .

Between starting shorthand and finishing the instruction book (and beyond) you can fill scores of shorthand notebooks with beautiful flowing outlines, the best use for that bouncy flexible nib with the juicy ink flow.* You can work through your pens and inks at the speed of light (almost), leaving no pen or ink bottle languishing on the shelf for long periods awaiting its turn. With the increased volume of writing, more pens can be inked and used in quick succession, without drying out, with the added satisfaction of knowing that your inky playtime is producing a useful skill. The only work involved is deciding which pen and ink colour to use next, and maybe also actually stopping writing in order to perform the rest of your daily duties!     *See my Noodler's Flex Pen review

The shape and thickness of every outline is fixed and meaningful, so it cannot be embellished, but they do have a calligraphic appearance that will satisfy the artistic writer. Real handwritten shorthand is much more cursive than the carefully drawn outlines in the textbook.

Emily D Smith's shorthand notes


"Why have-you been learning shorthand? What train of-thought led to-your sitting // down to-write for-the first time, perhaps only a short time ago, such // forms as P B T D? The answer is, I-feel sure, that either // you yourself or your mother and-father believed that a knowledge of-shorthand offered // (you very good opportunities for future employment, employment in which you would find both profit and pleasure)."

Emily D Smith's cursive and neat shorthand (250 wpm writer) in "The Expert Shorthand Writer". Her entire book is written in shorthand, using only the 700 Common Word list. The shorthand would be even more cursive if written from dictation, rather than prepared carefully for publication.

My own pens have blue for website outlines, red for revising drafts, sepia in a hard-nibbed pen for longhand notes, and green, turquoise and purple just for a change of ink scenery all accompanied by some talks on the Ipod, where I can either snatch alternate sentences from fast speaking, or, if slower, make an effort to get a whole chunk with no gaps in the shorthand.

Pens, inks, paper and pads  Coloured rubber bands on the ends to show ink colour
Not a hoard of expensive pens, but instead some very favourable Ebay bargains, plus a cheapie, and two from old college days in the 1970's.

Wow Factor

Impressing your friends? As the book/film character Mary Poppins said, "Oh well, if we must, we must!"

A longer-lasting and more generous variety is when you teach your friends some of the "squiggles" and they say the Wow in delight at writing their name in shorthand. When they come back for more, you may have a whole new career ahead of you. But do finish the course book first, please!

The other Wow Factor is more subtle and not expressed out loud. Skill and reliability never go unnoticed and when things get tough and "the rubber meets the road" whose name will come to mind when a job vacancy needs filling?

Speed at any cost?
  Speed at any cost?
Shorthand speed without accuracy or reliability. Would you employ this driver?

Never closed, help yourself, street advert Anti-theft street advert
Apt description of the advantages of a shorthand website

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"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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