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January 2015


Short Letters


Tall Ships Regatta


Making A Start


Martian Bombshells

Short Letters 1 (9 January 2015)


Here are some simple business type letters. The content may not be wildly interesting but I hope that you will be able to write these more easily and so have the satisfaction of achieving a higher speed on them. Any* one passage can be used in several ways to get the most benefit. You could* first take it unseen which would mean getting a friend or a text-to-speech programme to read it to you. This is the most lifelike version of practising, not knowing what is coming next and surviving the assault of unknown words having to be written without hesitation. What you are practising is your reaction to the situation rather than learning new outlines.

* "any" The dot vowel is not part of the short form, but can be added to help reading back

* "you could" is not phrased, so that it does not look like "you can"


After that, you can use the passages to improve your shorthand reading speed, going faster each time and recording your own voice on the last attempt. Next you can write the passages as many times as it takes to get it down smoothly, completely and legibly*, starting with copying* and going on to dictation. Anything that you hesitate over should be drilled thoroughly. You can lengthen the recording by inserting silences at intervals, or using the free Audacity programme to reduce the tempo for you.

* “legibly” Insert the final vowel, as "legible" would also make sense

* “copying” No diphone, as the second I sound is included in Dot Ing

Finally, once you are sure you know all the outlines well, you can reuse the passages by mixing up the sentences, so that the words come in a different order, or substituting* other words to provide some variation. It is also very useful to do all this quite quickly and then come back and repeat it all after a gap of several hours or the next day, as that is the real test of whether you have learned the outlines sufficiently, or whether they are merely "hanging out" in your short term memory! As you can see from the blog title, this type of offering will be repeated, to give beginners more practice in easier matter, as the blogs are mostly aimed more at vocabulary extension and are not written specifically to be simple. The paragraphs below are all 150 words long, so it will be easy to calculate your speed - 60 seconds will be 150 words a minute, 90 seconds will be 100 words a minute, and 180 seconds will be 50 words a minute.

* "subs(t)ituting" Omits the first T

Each of the following paragraphs is 150 words, so writing one in 90 seconds will be 100wpm:


Dear Sir, Thank you for your prompt reply to my email* which I sent to you last week*. I am glad that you have now been able* to read the report and make some valuable comments on the contents. We shall be meeting next week* to discuss all these matters. The meeting will take place* in the new conference rooms at our head office in New York and I enclose an agenda and a copy of reports for the previous two years. The Chairman and Secretary of the company* will be present, as well as our financial advisers, and we look forward to the challenge of drawing up the plans for our activities over the next few years. I look forward to seeing you at the meeting but if you have any questions* in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Yours faithfully, John Brown, Senior Director (150 words)

* “email” and “mail” Always insert the vowel to ensure they are not misread for each other

* Omission phrases "last (w)eek" "ne(k)s(t) week"

* "been able" omits the N as the grammar lets you know it is "been" and not "be"

* “will take place” Compare the phrase "taken p(l)ace" which omits the L hook

* For "Company Secretary" you would place the K stroke over the "sec-" part

* "questions" Optional contraction

Dear Madam, Your recent letter* addressed to the Customer Services Department has been passed to me for attention. I am very glad to hear that you are happy with the order which you received a few days ago. Thank you for taking the time to send us your comments on the item, and for the suggestion on the improvements which would make the item more useful. I have forwarded these to our Design Department, who are always looking at ways to improve our products, so that we can maintain a high level of service to our customers. I would like to add that we do have plans to expand* this particular line to include more sizes and colours, and these will be available online in about two months' time. I have enclosed our latest online discount voucher code which you may find helpful. Yours sincerely*, Mary Green, Development* Team Manager (150 words)

* "recent letter" Downward L to make a good join

* "expand" Keep the P sloping, so it does not look like "extend" which has a similar meaning

* Omission phrase "yours (sin)cerely"

* “Development” Optional contraction

Dear Sirs, It has come to my attention that our invoice dated 31 December is still outstanding. We would be grateful if you could* attend to this at your earliest convenience*. If there is any query regarding this or some other problem, please advise us as soon as possible so that this matter can be sorted out quickly. We have noticed that one of our previous letters was returned to us by the postal services and wondered whether we have some error in your address on our database. If you can confirm your correct name and address* details in your return email*, we will update our records immediately, so that no further errors are made and delays are avoided. We thank you for your valued custom over the past five years, and look forward to continuing to provide our services to you in future. Yours faithfully, Roger Black, Finance Manager (150 words)

* "you could" See note paragraph 1

* "convenience" The intersection "Vn" can be either written through or tucked under e.g. at your convenience

* Omission phrase "name (and) address"

* "email" See note paragraph 4


Dear Miss Smith*, I have pleasure in enclosing our latest catalogue of our summer clothes collection, as requested, which I hope you will find of interest. We have introduced many new lines, including for the first time* a very attractive range of summer footwear*. We are giving an introductory discount to all existing customers, just send in the discount voucher with your order, or quote the discount code online, to get a twenty percent reduction on your first order from this catalogue. This in no way affects our returns policy, and if you are not delighted with your purchase, it can easily be returned for a full refund. We also have an online offer of a further discount to the first 50 customers who order this month*. I hope you will enjoy browsing the literature and find some great items to add to your summer wardrobe. Yours sincerely*, Sarah Williams (150 words)

* "Dear Miss Smith" could be phrased, using a Ses circle for the two S sounds

* Omission phrases "for (the) first time"  "Yours (sin)cerely

* Insert the vowel, so it is not misread as "knitwear" or "underwear"

* “this month” Intersection Ith for "month" is sometimes better joined, also "ne(k)s(t mon)th"


Dear Friends, I am delighted to confirm the results of the shorthand speed exams. All the class members reported back to me that this set of exams was a really tough one, and the political passage, given at a hundred words a minute, had quite a lot of tricky* words in it. I am glad that those taking it managed to overcome this and get down something for everything. Only one person has failed, but this is no reflection on their ability*, as we all knew that they were aiming for a really high speed. I am sure this can easily be retaken quite soon, and maybe at ten* words a minute slower to ensure a pass. Well done everyone, and I look forward to seeing you all at the next session. Meanwhile, we welcome comments and exam hints on our Facebook page to help future students. Regards, Joan Anderson (150 words) (Total 1128 words)

* "tricky" Insert the final vowel, as “trick” would also make sense here

* "on their ability" Disjoined stroke B for the suffix "-ability" is here used for the whole word

* "ten" Always insert the vowels when using the outline for eight, ten, eighteen

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Tall Ships Regatta (16 January 2015)



Last September we visited the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta and Festival. I always enjoy going back to Greenwich, where I used to live, as there is much to see, both in Greenwich Park and by the riverside. Greenwich is always full of tourists and the town centre, being small, gets very crowded but this time the whole river front area was thick with people, families and children, enjoying all the historical displays and stalls. The event had begun with a 4-day regatta in Falmouth, Cornwall, followed by a 3-day race to Greenwich, and then a further 5 days of events held at both Greenwich and Woolwich, which is a few miles further down the river. Our first thought was to get to the riverside to see the ships sailing up and down but we found that the people at the railings formed an impenetrable wall of backs! We decided to look round the stalls first and later on find a riverside gap away from the main events area.


Most of the stalls were manned by history enthusiasts in full period costume. The most popular seemed to be the sailors, from the simply dressed humble seamen up to the officers in their bright red uniforms, with gold buttons and gleaming swords. They spent most of their time posing with people for photographs, and answering questions* about their lives and jobs. In such a grand historical setting, it seemed to me that it was the ordinary present-day people who looked out of place, and I really felt as if all the characters from the paintings in the nearby museums had just walked out for some fresh air and to meet their descendants. As I looked at them, it was difficult to imagine them in suits or jeans, wearing trainers, at work in front of their computers, driving a bus or flying a plane, or serving in the local supermarket. Fortunately not one of them was tempted to use their smartphone whilst on view to the public!

* "questions" Optional contraction



I enjoyed visiting the stalls that showed the occupations and daily lives of people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries - sewing and making clothes, wool dyeing, food preparation and storage, book-binding, navigation, medicines, wheelwright, wood turning, care and repair of swords and guns, and making lead shot, ropes and fishing nets. One of the tents was made up as an officer's quarters, with the table outside displaying maps, charts, compass, sextant and other navigational equipment. The most noticeable aspect of all these was how everything was hand-made by the artisan, something that was to disappear rapidly as the Industrial Revolution got underway in the mid eighteen hundreds.



The tables showing the sailors' food had salted meat, coarse bread, dried beans, dried fruit, and ship's biscuits called hard tack. An original ship's biscuit can be seen in the museum, full of weevil holes. Some large earthenware jugs contained grog, which was a mixture of weak beer or rum, lemon or lime juice, and sometimes with additional sugar or cinnamon. The flavours were added to the grog to disguise the taste of the water, which would quickly turn green in storage, and also the water diluted the alcoholic element. In contrast, the spread on the table of officers' food was very much more* attractive. The tablecloth was covered in fine china plates laden with delicious looking food, including fresh fruit and vegetables.

* Omission phrase "very much mo(re)"



One very interesting activity was a large rectangular blue paddling pool, not for paddling but for model sail boats. The boats were simple sturdy chunks of wood plus sail, and two very large fans provided the wind to blow along the length of the pool. The boats plied back and forth*, surrounded by excited shrieking children, who turned each boat around as it came up to them, and sent it back across the miniature ocean again. I think many of them were having competitions with their friends as to whose one would arrive at the other side first, and were probably also making plans to construct their own boats as soon as possible when they got home. It was great fun to watch and very educational*, showing how sailing ships can travel in a direction different from the one in which the wind is blowing.

* Omission phrase "back (and) forth"

* "educational" The U diphthong sign is normally written outside a shun hook, but here there is nowhere else to put it



In the grounds of the Royal Naval College were rows of tents, displaying the literature and wares of many societies and organisations that one could support or join, such as sea cadets and marine conservation. One tent had seascape paintings and giant wood carvings in the manner of figureheads, which one could place an order for. Further along were some wooden masts with sails and rope ladders, where children could try their strength, skill and bravery in climbing, with safety harness, to the top of the rigging. At the far end were two traditional fairground rides - a helter skelter and the swinging gondolas. Along the other side were a multitude of food and refreshment stalls with seating* areas, smelling very delicious and causing some hunger where there was none before! Fortunately, we had our sandwiches in our bags, and the only problem was finding somewhere to sit. Eventually we ended up by the riverside and entertained ourselves with throwing some spare old bread to the seagulls, with one person throwing and the other taking video and photos of the birds swooping and screeching.

* "seating" Essential to put in the dot vowel, very clearly thick, as "sitting" has the same meaning


We returned the next day in order to see the Queen's royal row barge Gloriana come past at midday. We knew that there would be few gaps at the railings and we wanted to get good photos, so we travelled the short distance on the Docklands Light Railway to the other side of the river, where there is a small park and plenty of space to view the river scene. The barge came past right on time, although a good zoom on the camera was necessary as it stayed nearer to the far bank. It went on round the bend of the river and out of sight, on its way to Woolwich, and after a short while I was delighted to see it returning upriver again, with the skilled oarsmen working hard to keep the vessel moving at a good speed. The sun was out and the sparkling river and golden barge made a glorious spectacle. In the National Maritime Museum is Prince Frederick's state barge of 1732, gilded in 24-carat gold leaf, and seeing the Gloriana made me wonder how that one must have looked when it was in use.


Queen's row barge Gloriana


We returned via the foot tunnel which goes directly from the park to the Cutty Sark area on the other side*. The Cutty Sark was teeming with visitors as usual but was rather outshone by the other sailing vessels going slowly up and down the Thames. Their slow progress seemed unhurried and stately, as we are used to seeing the river traffic moving much faster, with the Thames clippers constantly zipping past at high speed. The ships were giving tours of their decks when moored, and rides along the river. I enjoyed seeing the various figureheads, from pale seahorse to a fiery flying serpent in brilliant colours. My favourite was the beautiful mermaid, guiding the ship across the seas and ensuring its safe arrival in port after its hazardous journey across her domain.

* Omission phrase "on the oth(er) side"

The next Tall Ships Races will start in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in July 2015 at the Titanic Maritime Festival, and the ships will go on from there to events in Norway at the end of July and Denmark in early August. Greenwich will have to wait until April 2017 when it will be the starting point for the Transatlantic* Tall Ship Regatta which will go via Portugal, Bermuda and Boston to Quebec in Canada, and finally returning to Europe in September. (1300 words)

* "Transatlantic" This can also be contracted to "tra(n)slantic"

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Making A Start (25 January 2015)


Here we are, three quarters* of the way through January and somehow I have avoided being sucked into the mire of New Year's Resolutions. My view is that when someone really is enthusiastic about doing something new, it is likely they would start as soon as possible, preferably immediately, and not wait for the excuse of just filling the empty months at the beginning of the year. When I clear away after Christmas, I often find myself continuing on with sorting out the cupboards and, with the first sunny day, it escalates into a spring clean of the corners most in need of attention. If you are one of those making a start on shorthand or making that extra push towards speed goals, then I suggest you get stuck in straight away*, and not wait until you have an expensive pen, deluxe notepaper and a pile of books with all the supposed miraculous* shortcuts. You can use a pencil on cheap notepaper and learn the strokes from the main website without any delay and put your decision into action so that it does not evaporate before the ordered books arrive.

* “quarters” Optional contraction

* “straight away” The archaic version "straightway" would be best signified by a wavy line underneath, or writing in two parts so that the "way" can go on the line

* “miraculous” Advisable to insert last vowel, as the noun "miracle" is sometimes used as an adjective

Yippee, Ebay books have arrived!

Making a start is the biggest hurdle, but once you have begun your shorthand journey, there will be no stopping you and you will not* care whether it is new year or old year. I have found that it is not resolutions that are needed but plain resolve which my onscreen thesaurus describes as ambition, aspiration, commitment, concentration, decisiveness, dedication*, determination, diligence, dynamism, energy and enthusiasm. Here are some more - firmness, fortitude, intensity, interest, keenness, motivation, perseverance, persistence, resilience, self-discipline*, steadfastness, tenacity and willpower.

* "you will not" Note that "you are not" uses full strokes, if halved it would look too similar

* "dedication" Keep the D clearly halved, so it does not look like "education"

* "self-discipline" On the line, as the first vowel is the E in self, not the I in discipline. Of all the prefixes, only the Con Dot is ignored for outline placement, because con words are so numerous.

Step over the line, no going back (Meridian Line, Stratford Station, North London)

All these are different flavours of the same thing, but I prefer the more punchy single syllable versions: drive, zeal, guts, nerve, pluck, bottle, grit and, my favourite, oomph. Excuse me while I get a drink and a snack, and settle down in the comfortable armchair with the shorthand dictionary, before I think about beginning to get ready to make the initial preparations for a small preliminary start on one of them, if I feel up to it. I feel I need some inspirational quotes from the past to help me get moving.

Everything looks like outlines (Blackfriars Bridge, London)


The best time to do something worthwhile* is between yesterday and tomorrow. - Unknown

A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. - Harvey Mackay

In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind. - Louis Pasteur*

The only place where Success comes before Work is in the dictionary. - Anon

That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps. - David Lloyd George

* “wor(th)while” Omits the Ith

* “Pasteur” The French vowel is signified by writing the dash parallel to the stroke


Looking for one that says "Hundred Wpm Town" (calling at All Speeds In Between)


Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. – Nido Qubein

The secret of a good memory is attention, and attention to a subject depends upon our interest in it. We rarely forget that which has made a deep impression on our minds. – Tryon Edwards

Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed. – Peter Drucker

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. – Daniel J Boorstin

No great man* ever complains of want of opportunity.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

One's mind has a way of making itself up in the background, and it suddenly becomes clear what one means to do. – A. C. Benson

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. - Sir Winston Churchill

Regret for wasted time is more wasted time. - Mason Cooley

Speech is the mirror of the mind. - Seneca (for speech read: your written outlines)

* "man" Helpful to insert the vowel, as "mind" would also make sense in this context


Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits*; habits* decide character; and character fixes our destiny*. - Tryon Edwards

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. - Anon (the hammer is your shorthand and the nails are outlines)

The world belongs to the energetic. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Enthusiasm moves the world. – Arthur Balfour

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (804 words)

* "habits" Always insert the first vowel, as this is similar to "hobbies"


* "destiny" Ensure the N is not curled at the end, so that it does not look like "destination" which has a similar meaning

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Martian Bombshells (27 January 2015)



It is easy after a long day of working in front of the computer screen to find one's eyes beginning to close all by themselves. You only know about it when they suddenly spring open again some moments later. I was recently searching to find the plans for the rebuilding of my local shopping centre, when my tired eyes were arrested by the unexpected arrival on the screen of a page of cryptic writing. The unfamiliar squiggles seemed to rearrange themselves in my brain and I quickly typed a transcription before it disappeared. So, with a few grammatical corrections, here it is, an amazing archived report from our friendly neighbourhood Martian newspaper. Fortunately for us, they have unwittingly provided some good shorthand practice in the art of dealing with dictation "bombshells", that is, those difficult words buried amongst the simple ones, for which no outline of any sort comes to mind, resulting in shorthand paralysis and confidence-denting gaps, or worse. Practising all the awkward outlines before taking it from dictation should prevent you from falling by the shorthand wayside.

Time to take a break


Earthlings Time Machine - Readers of The Martian Chronicle will be interested to know that our National Organisation for Space Survey Advancement (NOSSA) has been sending us reports of an Earth Time Machine that is being tested in an undisclosed terrestrial location that Earthlings call Kent England. Our roving cloud-covered Earth cams picked up the extraordinary visual, acoustic and vibrational activity a few weeks ago* and our scientists immediately relocated some of the geostationary observation vessels to the area to make additional recordings of the disturbances.

* Omission phrase "few wee(k)s ago"

The Earthlings seem to have reversed time in a small rectangular area in an unassuming shopping centre, apparently taking it back to a prehistoric era, possibly Jurassic or even Cretaceous, resulting in the demolition of certain of the central buildings. A huge rock strewn sink hole has appeared and fierce steel dinosaurs have emerged from its murky depths, eating up the buildings and chopping the fragments into a pile of amorphous rubble. The noise of these monsters has been picked up by several of our satellite audio and vibration sensors, enabling us to pinpoint the cataclysmic event and so focus the Earth cams with greater accuracy.

Feeding frenzy


We are not sure whether the dinosaurs have been enticed into consuming the buildings, or whether the Earthlings have accidentally created an earthquake which demolished them, with the giant theropods emerging from the past via a Time Hole and merely taking advantage of their new surroundings. One theory is that the creatures are pulling the buildings apart looking for prehistoric insects, worms or maybe bees nests where they can find energy-rich honey in large quantities. A powerful waterspout, released by the Time Machine, is dousing the rubble at regular intervals, and although the dinosaurs do not appear to drink very often, at least the water spray is keeping the demolition dust levels down, which enables our long-range camera lenses to record the action quite clearly.


Megadontosaurus Lithoraptor



This scene of controlled destruction is contained within a perimeter fence of white-painted hardboard, with plastic notice sheets pinned at several places stating that workers inside the experimental area must wear hard hats for their own protection. Little perspex windows have been made in the boards, so that the shoppers can observe the behaviour of the dinosaurs and report any creature nibbling the retaining fences, or run for cover in the event of an attempted breakout. The indigenous Earthlings are all walking up and down past the fences very calmly and continuing with their food gathering, which has led our sociological scientists to theorise that the resourceful Earthlings are either very resilient and adaptable, or extremely obedient to their leaders, or possibly it is just that getting the bread, milk and eggs from their local supermarket is much more* important to them at this cold time of year, when their priority is stocking the larder before the icy winds start to blow again.

* Omission phrase "much mo(re)"



Once the dinosaurs have exhausted* their food supply in this small area, we suspect* that they will be immediately despatched back to the past, and we would not be in the least surprised if the residents started to rebuild their environment. They already have pictures displayed in prominent* locations of how they would like it to look in the future, including new shops and a cinema, and this has led to some of our more imaginative reporters guessing that it is all a gigantic stunt by a film company to advertise their new entertainment facilities, with their first feature movie obviously being of the "Dinosaurs invade the world" variety. We are at a loss as to why the inhabitants want to watch scary films, when their entire planet is a beautiful green and well-watered paradise, unlike our dry rocky world where all the greenery has to be grown in tiny quantities under crystal domes and our scarce water reserves* have to be augmented by supplies extracted from passing comets.

* "exhausted" The short E vowel dot is the only sign not written inside the Ses Circle

* "suspect" The contraction is only used for the verb

* “prominent” See www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/distinguishing-outlines-list3.htm for prominent, permanent, pre-eminent

* “reserves” Keep the final hook and circle small, so that it does not look like "resources" which has a similar meaning


Our Crystal Dome souvenir with model of feathered dinosaur


One of our reporters offered the outlandish theory that the Earthlings’ local council has found that using dinosaurs from the past is a brilliant way of saving money on demolition contractors’ charges, and as a result they are now able to afford to replace it all with a smart new pedestrian area containing seats and trees, where the hunter-gatherer shoppers can rest before they resume their search for essential supplies and bargains. We have not yet located the Time Machine, but we do suspect that they are actually storing it somewhere in the past, along with its operatives, and that it is scheduled for return when the demolition is complete, and they will then send the dinosaurs back to their normal Mesozoic jungle habitats.



Our Earth cams are recording all that takes place in meticulous detail, in order to* produce a complete historical record of this highly interesting venture. The pictures of progress are being streamed live to our technical colleges*, so that our students can produce their own reports and summaries, which will help them with their final theses at the end of their courses. We are very grateful to the industrious Earthlings for providing such a wonderful educational spectacle for our inquisitive youngsters and, once it is all finished, we will be showing our appreciation by visiting the area in disguise and spending some Earth money tokens, to help their economy and keep the shops in business.

* Omission phrase "in ord(er to)"

* Omission phrase "tech(nical) colleges"


Astronomy student about to start homework


If you are wondering how we will get Earth money tokens legally, that will be solved by bringing with us some of our industrial waste gold nuggets* for sale in the local market. We will form them into keyrings, phone cases and bottle openers, so that they are more attractive to the buyers. We will then spend the metallic and paper money tokens on that most precious commodity, bottled water, which amazingly* is available in large quantities at very low cost in the supermarkets. This will delight everyone back home on our dry dusty planet. One thousand bottles will be presented to the Monarch, one hundred to the Heads of Area Government, and fifty as prizes to our best pupils on the Astronomy, Science and Interplanetary Relations course at the Higher Martian Technical College*. Watch this space for further updates and a chance to win one of the bottles of water in our upcoming competition. Follow the link below to see a picture of what we believe is a diagram of the control panel of the Time Machine. (1244 words)

* “nuggets” Note that "ingots" uses full stroke T instead of halving, to differentiate it

* “amaze” and “amuse” Always insert the vowel

* Omission phrase "Tech(nical) College"



Mars before: with water / Mars after: without
Note our recent discovery that the fabric of space is actually knitted


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