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What Is Pitman's Shorthand? (3 April 2012)
Pitman's Shorthand is
a method of writing that enables you to record words as fast as they are
spoken. The system is written according to sound rather than spelling.
Straight and curved strokes are used to represent the consonants. Vowels
are indicated by dots, dashes and ticks written alongside the strokes.
In this way the entire sound can be represented accurately and needs no
guesswork to read back. In practice, you will find that the strokes on
their own are sufficient to recognise the word and the vowel marks can
mostly be omitted, enabling the higher speeds to be achieved. The
commonest words such as “to, of, and, be, is” are represented by short
forms, which are single strokes and signs, in the same way as we use cm
for centimetres or MS for manuscript. There are many abbreviating
principles, so that you do not have to write a full stroke for every
consonant. For example S is shown by a small circle added to the stroke
and a small hook at the beginning turns P into PR. Prefixes and suffixes
like con-, -ing and many others are written very briefly. In this way
outlines are kept short and in fact* they
are more readable than just joining all the strokes end to end in one
long squiggle. I hope you will be encouraged to study the subject
further and eventually be able to read this from the shorthand above
instead of the longhand text. (243 words)
Shorthand About Town (4 April 2012)
Today is a warm sunny
day, the daffodils are blooming and the fresh air outside beckons. How
can anyone possibly practise their shorthand on such an inviting Spring
day? However, it is always possible* to
find an opportunity to practise your outlines, even when away from your
desk. Make a shorthand list of the written words that you are most
see, such as road and building names, or shop and traffic signs. As you
are out and about, each time you see these words do your best to recall
their outline. Obviously, not to be done whilst crossing the road or
driving, but maybe you can redeem the time spent waiting at a bus stop
or standing in a supermarket queue. You can increase your skills without
having to find extra minutes in your busy day. (138 words)
Practically Perfect (6 April 2012)
Please take a moment to study these outlines and practise them thoroughly:
* "less than" Downward L in order to make a join in the phrase
* "at least" and "at last" Always insert the vowel
When you take a shorthand examination, you need to be “practically perfect” as there is generally a percentage of error allowed in the transcription (but please check up on the exact requirements for your next exam). In employment, what is expected is “perfect” and this is what I recommend you aim for. For a particular report or letter, you may have the liberty to fill in gaps or edit poor English, but it is not an opportunity to get lax about shorthand accuracy. Why don’t you write Mary’s long word in shorthand on your teeshirt in fabric crayons and underneath “Ask me what this Pitman’s Shorthand says!” as a way of advertising your knowledge of shorthand? (251 words)
Exams Looming (8 April 2012)
* "this will" Downward L to enable the phrase to be formed
Shorthand knowledge is only part of the picture. Two other things need attention: you, and your materials.
* Omission phrase "was(te of) time"
On the day:
These points worked for me and I hope you find them useful in gaining
your certificate. (511 words)
Meet Robin (9 April 2012)
There is one puzzling thing that I don’t understand and that is a strange new garden tool. It is a big tripod with a little silver box on top and a sort of lens eye looking at my shed entrance hole all the time. Sometimes people come out and press a button, and sometimes they take it away. I think it is quite harmless as it doesn’t walk or move. I am so fortunate to live here and I know that the people love us robins because they want to be just like us, look at these photos! (366 words)
Running Commentary (11 April 2012)
* "response" Always insert the second vowel, as otherwise this outline is identical to the contraction "responsibility"
* "nobody" Although this is one word, it is written with the N on the line, so that it is different from "anybody". It is always advisable to insert the vowel in the "no-" version of such pairs e.g. no-one, nowhere, at no time, and many other phrases.
* "dangerous" Written thus to differentiate it from "dangers"
* "innocent" Insert vowels, as it could be misread as other words - insane, unseen, or nuisance if written hastily
I was not wise to this when learning shorthand, and suffered endless hold-ups whilst my personal internal Running Commentary Department provided me with numerous variations on this theme. I think it was in league with the Comfort Zone Department and they were both trying to save their lazy skins from further disturbances to their life of ease and tranquil contentment. It chose its moment to intervene very carefully for maximum effect. On the few occasions when I had the sense to refuse those thoughts, I managed to catch up and continue, but never really applied myself to finding out how these essential little victories could be repeated at will.
Past high speed writer Emily D Smith gave us the answer to this temptation to hesitate and waver. She recommended getting into the frame of mind where you tell yourself that the dictation is never going to end and so there is no point in hoping that the allotted minutes are nearly over. You might just as well get on and write the outlines, unimpeded by any other considerations. Later on you can consider any genuine issues, but not in the middle of a dictation. Whatever the flavour of the intruding thoughts, they find the door shut in their face. They don’t have an invitation, they were not summoned, and they are not on your to-do list, your monthly planner or even your ten-year diary. You will let them know if their application to be heard was successful, and they may never hear from you at all. I think that settles the matter, if only I can train myself to actually do it! (728 words)
Pros and Cons of Shorthand (17 April 2012)
* "postal" Omits the lightly-sounded T
* "cramped" Omits the lightly-sounded P
* "less than" Downward L in order to make a join in the phrase
* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"
* "habit" "hobby" Always
insert the first vowel, as these two are similar in outline and meaning
River Cray (17 April 2012)
Just a moment away from the pad and pen, and time for a stroll along the River Cray while the sun is out and between the windy showers. The few downpours have put a little bit more flow in the river, and some of the silt is now stirring and producing grey patches where it is slightly deeper. All the woodland birds are singing loudly, bluetits, blackbirds, robins and wrens, and a couple of ducks and one moorhen are picking over the weeds. (83 words)
Shorthand Is Cool (22 April 2012)
Do you think that being able to write shorthand is “cool”? Maybe it is the “hot” subject of the moment in your studies or interests. As long as you are not “lukewarm”* about it you will achieve your goal. Your description of the subject is an indicator of how interested you are and it seems to me that the word cool does include an element of admiration from others. This is a great encourager when beginning but I would hope that continued enthusiasm does not rely entirely on this. As your shorthand victories increase, hopefully motivation will become somewhat more self-propelled* and self-perpetuating*.
* "lukewarm" Uses the Kway stroke to get a very convenient outline, even though the K and W sounds belong to separate syllables
* "self-propelled" "self-perpetuating" Outlines beginning with the "self-" prefix are always in second position, to match the E in self, regardless of the position that the remainder of the outline would have on its own
* "mistakes" Omits the T. The past tense "mistook" does include the T stroke, so providing a distinction between the tenses.
* Omission phrases "short(hand) writing" "frame (of) mind"
* "you are not" Use full strokes in this phrase, and halving in "you will not", so that these phrases do not look too similar
No dictation will teach you any shorthand theory, outline or phrase. It will let you know what you can do right now and show up what you don’t know or what needs improving, so that you can apply yourself to correcting these. You will also find out whether your writing materials are of sufficient quality for the task. It will get you in fast-thinking mode and blow away any lingering cobwebs! An equally important advantage to be gained during dictation practice is the opportunity to observe your own adverse reactions, because that is when you find out whether they are stronger than you or not. Without a plan of action to deal with them, they will just run roughshod over your best efforts and you may end up thinking that the problem is merely an insufficient knowledge of your shorthand outlines.
Taking control against distractions, mental or external, is exactly what you do when you are crossing a busy road or during any other activity that must be done right first time, with no second chance. No shorthand dictation is life-threatening but you can borrow that frame of mind* that you already use elsewhere and apply it during your studies. Removing this unhelpful drain on your mental resources leaves you free to concentrate on the subject itself. You will have fewer “hot under the collar” days and hopefully many more when you are cool, calm and collected. (485 words)
* Omission phrase "frame (of) mind"
London Marathon (22 April 2012)
I like to watch the London Marathon on television, sometimes live and sometimes in the summarised reports on Sunday evening*. It is especially interesting to me as I used to live a few roads away from Greenwich Park and know it all very well. I am always amazed at how many people can fit into what is normally a very peaceful and uncrowded park. I am not particularly interested in who wins the race, because I like to think that everyone is winning in their own way. They have taken the plunge and applied for a place, and have put in the necessary effort in training and creativity with their costumes, to ensure their victory, whether it is running in a set time or raising money and publicising their chosen charity. When the crowds are cheering, they are congratulating the runners for entering the race, regardless of their performance. There never seems to be any sense of rivalry with other runners, only a competition against their own timings and goals. I admire their stickability and resolve, and hope that those taking part and those watching can apply some of that attitude to other more practical issues of life, other than personal fitness for the runners or entertainment for the audience, in order to solve problems or get through difficulties victoriously. (220 words)
* Omission phrase "on Sunday ev(en)ing"
Cutty Sark (25 April 2012)
I am delighted to see that the tea clipper Cutty Sark has been reopened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh today, after five years of restoration. During the 1960’s I passed this ship every day on the bus to school and sometimes got a longer view of it on the days when there was a traffic jam, although I was more concerned* about being late for school than enjoying the cultural scenery. Living so near to all these historic buildings and sites gave me a strong sense of the continuity and development* of the area. I was faintly aware of the miseries of the poor villagers in days long past when it was a tiny fishing hamlet, and the more comfortable but eventful lives of the nobility, and the rich and powerful, residing in the mansions up on the hill and around Greenwich Park. I did not spend too long imagining their lives, I was just glad that we were living in the neat, tidy, clean and prosperous modern world, in our warm houses with the luxury of indoor plumbing and good medical care. I considered* our modern conveniences to be the greatest riches, as I was certainly not one to relish adventure or discomfort.
* Omission phrases "more (con)cerned" "I (con)sidered"
* "development" Optional contraction
Occasionally I went on board the Cutty Sark as a local “tourist” and always enjoyed seeing the colourful figureheads lined up in the below deck area and the many glass cases with models of similar ships in full rigging. The cramped and musty cabins, bunks and workshops on the ship produced more revulsion than interest, and once again* I felt grateful that I could* leave the ship for the sweeter-smelling modern world outside. At that time the ship was docked in a big concrete hole, and it was possible to go down some steps to the very bottom, with the great hull looming above and one could not help wondering about the strength of the stays that held her up. None of the experience was very appealing and I am looking forward to seeing the refurbished Cutty Sark in all her glory, gleaming and beautiful, sailing on her very own sea of glass. (360 words)
* Omission phrase "and wu(n)s again"
* "I could" Not phrased, so that it does not get misread as "I can"; similarly "you, we, he could"
A Little Cross (29 April 2012)
I once had the experience of taking dictation from a man who liked to give the impression that he knew just what you were* writing and he often jabbed his finger down on the pad when he wanted to change a word, implying that he knew which outline was that word. I suspected* that he did not, as he would have occasionally had to dig into Gregg outlines as well. Sometimes he would continue dictating with the finger still firmly on the pad for emphasis, and I (and others) had to write on immobile paper, instead of being able to slide it up the pad, ready to turn the page over. He was pleasant and friendly, but this was a very mild power balance game, and quite understandable, when his important work might be held up or done incorrectly by an incompetent, slow or dull girl from the typing pool. This was a niggling intrusion, as the paper on the pad was my territory, but reacting to it would have been most discourteous and ultimately unhelpful.
* Omission phrase "you (w)ere"
Both present and past tenses would make sense here, so use the optional short dash through the
last stroke, to signify past
tense in a short form or contraction that has no other method to show
At some point I came to the conclusion* that the only sign he recognised was the cross which I used for a full stop. If I wrote the cross before he had finished his sentence the correcting finger would start tapping. It is recognisable from any angle, and easily learned by him, as he always saw it being written when he finished a sentence. I decided to test my theory. I followed the advice in a speed book and began to join the cross into the one you see here. It is a lot quicker. In fact*, at the end of his sentences I hesitated to write it because I did not want him to learn it, and sometimes I only wrote the cross when the next sentence started, definitely not a recommended practice! I wrote it in a variety of contortions and even tried lagging behind now and then*, so that he could not match my outlines to his words. This seemed to solve the issue, or maybe he eventually realised that his letters did not get mangled or edited* beyond recognition. It is more likely that this behaviour just died off, as his retirement was approaching, bringing with it a more relaxed attitude. If anyone ever complained about his occasional fussing, I could truthfully say that I never had any trouble and that doing his work was as easy and pleasant as that of anyone else on the staff. (417 words)
*Omission phrase "came (to the con)clusion" "in (f)act" "now (and) then"
* "edited" Helpful to insert vowel, as "audited" is similar in meaning
"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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