Friday, 15 June 2018

Writing Quotes

You may or may not be a writer or author, but you are probably already a shorthand writer* as you are reading this, and a perennial learner as well, as there is always room for improvement regardless of the number of* years of experience. Here is your homework for today. After reading the quotes and practising the shorthand, your assignment* is to rewrite them to be about shorthand writing* rather than authoring. Stories become transcriptions* book becomes shorthand passage, etc. Write your own version of the sentences so that you end up with a list of positive statements of intent. You will then not only have a new passage to practise but also a reminder list of advice to propel you towards your goal, just as helpful as a revision list of strokes and short forms. The very last quote refers to what you as a shorthand writer* have now left behind for good, the unhappy state of not being able to write fast enough to capture* everything on paper, and you can certainly rewrite that one from a cheerfully* optimistic* and successful viewpoint.

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writer" "short(hand) writing"

* "number of" Always insert the vowel in "brief" as it looks the same and the meaning is similar

* "assignment" Contraction that omits the N sound

* "transcriptions" Omits the second R, to distinguish it from "description"

* "capture" Note that doubling is used for the word "captor"

* "cheerfully" Insert the final vowel as "cheerful optimistic" would also make sense

* "optimistic" Omits the second T sound

If you are not* willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. Zig Ziglar

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. Anthony Trollope

I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work. Pearl* S Buck

I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp. W Somerset Maugham

* "you are not" does not use halving, as that would be too similar to "you will not"

* "Pearl" No vowel, but if necessary you could write in an intervening circle vowel after the P, to distinguish the outline from the name "April", or write full strokes in order to be able to insert the vowel as normal. Theory does not include writing any intervening second place dot vowels, they are always omitted e.g. person, term, but legibility is the overriding concern.

First forget* inspiration. Habit* is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice. Octavia E Butler

Always carry a notebook*. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever*. Will Self

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up. Jane Yolen

It's not my brain that's writing the book, it's these hands of mine. Madeleine L'Engle

* "forget" Full strokes, not halved, so it does not look like "forgive" or "forgo"

* "Habit" Always insert the first vowel in this and "hobby" as they are similar in outline and meaning

* "forever" Not using the short form, therefore the F has an R Hook

If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer. R A  Salvatore

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't* quit. Richard Bach

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them. Julius Irving

When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process, he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules. Umberto Eco

* "didn't" The outline must have the vowel written in. This outline without the vowel sign is "did not"

Writing is like sausage making in my view; you'll all be happier in the end if you just eat the final product without knowing what's gone into it. George R R Martin

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. Gloria Steinem

My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That's heaven. That's gold and anything else is just a waste of time*. Cormac McCarthy

If you want to be a writer - stop talking about it and sit down and write! Jackie Collins

* Omission phrase "waste (of) time"

Never put off writing until you are better at it. Gary Henderson

Writers write while dreamers procrastinate*. Besa Kosova

Don't get it right - get it WRITTEN! Lee Child*

That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones. Raymond Carver

The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory. Some things have been lost forever*, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again. There is no way to be sure of any of this. Paul Auster (679 words)

* "procrastinate" Omits the first T

* "Child" Short forms are not used for names

* "forever" Not using the short form, therefore the F has an R Hook

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Obedient Servant

Most of the work for the websites and blogs is done sitting in front of the computer screen. This is all very well in dull, wet or cold weather but during May and into June we have had the very hot and sunny* weather that normally comes in late July and August. We have had extremely hot days, close and humid days that sap the energy, followed by thunderstorms. The sun has shone for days at a time, encouraging us to get out of the house and go roaming, or at least sit outside. Unfortunately it is not possible* to do computer work in the garden, so I make an effort to do some of the background work sitting in the greenhouse which now has a soft sofa in it.

* "sunny" "snowy" Always insert the vowels/diphone

* Omission phrase "it is not poss(ible)"

One day I was sitting in there reading an old book on business letters*. It is an American book from 1937 so the examples under discussion were entirely different and much less formal than what would have been* written in the UK at the time. Parts of it were more amusing than informative, as it had pairs of paragraphs side by side*, what to write and what not to write. The “not” side was truly* awful and I could not believe that such ghastly* letters could ever have been considered, written or sent*  but apparently they were, although the author of the book would have chosen the worst of their kind for the examples. Many of them were sales letters and the arrogant tone of their exhortations to buy the products today, right now, without delay, was further embellished with the insistence that the customer’s best interests were being considered above all else. All this did nothing to hide a frantic* desperation to get the sale and hopefully the repeat business.

* Omission Phrases "biz(ness) letters"  "side (by) side"

* Omission Phrase "would (have) been" This is quicker and clearer than writing "have" with N Hook for "been" because of the sharper angle

* "truly" "utterly" Always insert the first vowel

* "sent" Above the line, to provide extra distinction from "send"

* "ghastly" "ghostly" Always insert the first vowel

* "frantic" Note that "phrenetic" is written with a halved N

The other type of quite ludicrous letter was one written in an attempt to appear knowledgeable* and well-educated, replacing normal short words with the longest* and most obscure that could be found in the dictionary. It is true that English does have a large range of terms for roughly the same thing*, and one can replace most words and phrases with more formal, stilted or even archaic versions, depending on how one wishes it to be received. You can write a letter or a missive, you can get a well-paid job or procure a position with a generous remunerative package. You can write fast shorthand or engage in flights of stenographic rapidity. The letters in the book were not as mild as that but pretentious, haughty, grandiose and just plain pompous, and seemingly written with a desire to show that the writer had taken the trouble to raid the thesaurus on a massive scale. This would be a sign of deference to a higher and more intellectual authority, the office boss who has the power to accept or reject the application. Whether the applicants intended to keep up this level of effort once in employment is another question*.

* "knowledgeable" Always insert the triphone in "enjoyable" to differentiate. If necessary, insert the first vowel in "knowledgeable", even though contractions do not take vowels

* "longest" Alternative outline that omits the hard G sound

* "same thing" Do not phrase these, as that would look like "something"

* "question" Optional contraction

It was a relief to see that the good versions offered were a little more like what we write today, although our present-day letters are even briefer and sparer. We no longer give in to, as the book puts it, “the temptation to wax facetious” and we “omit from the subject-matter any suggestion whatever of exaggeration, presumption*, aggressiveness and overzealousness”. Anything other than the basics just takes up everyone’s time unnecessarily, and extra words and repetitions only serve to confuse rather than clarify. Promotional urgency is still with us, though, in those eye-catching advertisements with huge thick fonts, giant red letters against a bright yellow zigzag splash background and three exclamation marks. At least those are generally* impersonal leaflets and not someone’s idea of what to send us in reply* to our own calm enquiry about a product or service. Thankfully we no longer end our business letters with “your obedient servant”, a term you should now reserve for your mind and hand when requiring them to recall and write the shorthand outlines.

* "presumption" Uses the M stroke, omitting the lightly sounded second P

* "generally" The basic outline includes the "-ly" version, but here a distinction needs to be made, so add the L stroke

* Omission phrase "in (re)ply"

My session of amusement mixed with repulsion at the letters was swiftly brought to an end by a loud bang on the glass. I looked up and saw the culprit rapidly flying back out of the greenhouse. A blackbird had blundered through the open double doors, over the top of the parasol in the doorway, hitting the glass at the rear with a thwack. Something must have spooked him whilst feeding on the lawn, causing a sudden high-speed escape. I am glad to say that he was not hurt and he landed on the fence opposite. I closed the book and found it much more* pleasant to sit and watch the birds for a while, than to wonder how miserable and tiresome it would have been* for the office worker to spend each day receiving, filing, typing and endlessly* reproducing those embarrassingly overconfident sales letters. (817 words)

* Omission phrase "much m(ore)"

* Omission Phrase "it would (have) been" This is quicker and clearer than writing "have" with N Hook for "been" because of the sharper angle

* "endlessly" Note that "needless" and "needlessly" have full strokes N and D, in order to differentiate

If you are working from the New Era Instructor book, you will come across several archaic terms and phrases once used in business letters a century ago, such as "esteemed favour" "beg to remain" "we are obliged for your letter" "in reply to yours of 11th ult/inst/prox" and more are listed in the "Business Phrases" chapter. This has all been carried forward from earlier versions of the Instructor, which was first written in the 19th century. It is a waste of your time and effort to learn this obsolete terminology or the shorthand phrases for them and you should cherry pick the few that are still useful. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018


This weekend is the late May bank holiday, a long weekend with almost guaranteed good weather for doing those things that have been put off during the working week. Sunday becomes more useful for activities as there is no requirement to get up early for work on Monday. In the UK, garden centres are busier than usual, the do-it-yourself and decorating centres are more crowded than usual and in the suburbs there is the happy sound of mowing, snipping, hedge-cutting, and the rattling of ladders being put up for window cleaning, house painting and gutter clearing. Pressure washers come out, and cars are vacuumed. Roads are more congested than usual at either end of the long weekend, and the shops are fuller than usual. There are fewer shoes to be seen and more flip flops, and absolutely no coats whatever.

Those whose homes and lives are not in immediate need of replenishment, refurbishment*, general tidying and maintenance, can do exactly the opposite, they can laze around and enjoy their time off and the warm weather. To recover from the exertions of the working week, here is a list of all the things that are essential for rest and restoration. You can idle, lounge, sprawl or recline under the sunshade. You may wish to loaf, loll, relax, bask, dawdle or chill out on a soft sofa. You may prefer to take it easy or pass time in the garden or park. You may wish to indulge in a long period of ease and indolence, doing nothing in particular, and this may even descend into lethargy, torpor or sluggish immobility*. A hot or humid lazy afternoon may make you slow-moving, languid, and averse or disinclined to activity or exertion.

* "refurbishment" Using "-nt" for the suffix, as "-ment" cannot join

* "immobility" The M stroke is repeated, as it is not safe to rely only on a vowel sign to distinguish between opposites

As you are a shorthand student*, how is all this going to help you gain speed in your shorthand, lazing around doing nothing, not reading the lessons, not practising the passages and not taking dictation? After all, everyone has to rest if they are to maintain good health. The good news is that you can use all of the above lazing time to very good effect, without having to lift a finger or read a single line of textbook* lesson or shorthand. All you need with you is a radio or a broadcast or recording to listen to. Your assignment, requiring not even the slightest physical movement, is to think of the shorthand outlines as the person is speaking. Nothing else is needed. The easiest way to do this is to imagine the pad and the writing appearing on it as the words are spoken.

* Omission phrases "shorthand s(t)udent"  "teks(t)book"

I have done this many times whilst listening to an interesting talk on my Ipod*, and it is utterly* amazing* how well you can keep up with the speaker, which you know would be a lot more difficult, if not impossible, if you were actually writing it for real. There is the slight disadvantage that by concentrating on recalling outlines, the subject matter is not being absorbed quite so distinctly*, but that to me* seems a small price to pay for such a useful, efficient and easy way to increase shorthand skill.

* "Ipod" and "Ipad" Always insert the second vowel, to distinguish

* "utterly" "truly" Always insert the first vowel, to help distinguish

* "amazing" "amusing" Always insert the second vowel, to distinguish

* "distinctly" Omits the lightly sounded K

* "to me" Helpful to insert the vowel when "me" and "him" are phrased

Half of all shorthand writing* is the process of hearing the words and recalling the outlines. The other half is writing (which is easy and simple once the outline is in mind) and dealing with distractions. One distraction that is not often mentioned in shorthand books is that of looking at and thinking about the outline you have just written. In school work it was a natural desire, and necessity, to look at what you had just done, consider its suitability or correctness, and decide whether it is acceptable or should be changed for something else, before continuing with the next word, phrase or sentence. There is no time at all for any of this in shorthand writing*, and the outline just written must be* ignored immediately it is on the paper, and the next one dealt with. Next time you are writing shorthand from dictation, I encourage you to look out for this unhelpful behaviour pattern. Hesitations over unknown outlines are a natural target for further study, but hesitations from other causes, as above, are more insidious and need to be rooted out and eliminated.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"  "mus(t) be"  "ne(k)s(t) time"

The dedicated, enthusiastic, passionate, keen and eager shorthand student* will not be happy unless there is a notepad and pencil handy, so that after the visualization effort, any puzzling outline can be noted for later looking up. Obviously, complete idleness is impossible for the true speed aspirant, but I hope the* above suggestion for exercise in outline recall comes reasonably close. The answer to being* asked what you did over the holiday weekend is something like, “I have been working very hard for hours at a time*, lying under the parasol on my sun lounger with my eyes closed, completely silent and immobile*, other than taking the occasional sip of chilled orange juice.” (823 words)

* Omission phrases "shorthand s(t)udent"  "at (a) time"  "I (h)ope the"

* "to being" Based on the short form phrase "to be"

* "immobile" The M stroke is repeated, as it is not safe to rely only on a vowel sign to distinguish between opposites

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Steam Day

A few weeks ago* we went to a Steam Rally held in the park at Dartford in Kent. The event is held in honour of Richard* Trevithick, an inventor and mining engineer from Cornwall, who in his later years worked in Dartford, and who died and is buried there. He was a brilliant engineer, with a fertile* mind for the development* of steam powered engines. He built the first practical and working high-pressure* steam engine*, and his improvements enabled him to create an engine that was smaller and lighter, and so could carry its own weight and also pull wagons or carriages. In 1801 his first demonstration* of a full size steam road locomotive took place in Camborne in Cornwall, carrying six passengers along Fore Street, up Camborne Hill and on to the village of Beacon. In 1802 he mounted one of his engines on an iron track and it pulled 10 tons of iron, 5 carriages and 70 men along a distance of 9.75 miles.

* Omission phrases "few wee(k)s ago"  "high-(pre)ssure" Similarly "blood (pre)ssure" and "low (pre)ssure"

* "Richard" Written thus to help distinguish it from "Roger" which has J with R Hook

* "fertile" Note that "virile" is written with V+R+L strokes, to distinguish

* "development" Optional contraction

* "steam engine" In a compound outline, the whole is placed in position, therefore it is the J stroke that is through the line

* "demonstration" Omits the R

On the day of the Steam Rally, the weather forecast had threatened increasing rain towards the end of the morning, so we made an early start to get there in good time. The park is very spacious with two large fields beyond the ornamental gardens and bandstand* area. The river Darent flows to one side, from which the town of Dartford and the village of Darenth are named, joining the Thames a short distance away. As we passed through the fairground we were reminded that even those amusements* were originally steam powered. We made straight for the vehicles, the largest around 4 metres high and humming and clicking as it idled. Around the perimeter were smaller engines, miniature versions made by enthusiasts and some giving rides in small trailers.

* "bandstand" Alternative outline that omits the first N. In full it would be a disjoined outline.

* "amusements" Always insert the second vowel in "amaze" and "amuse" and all their derivatives

Further along were stationary* engines, some just running and others doing various tasks such as pumping water, filling and emptying containers and running a flour* grinding mill. This part of the display was rather smoky with occasional oily* smells as well, as* there were* so many of them in the long row under the trees and behind a rope fence for safety. The last engine in the row was endlessly pumping water, sucking it up from the big bucket and sending it cascading over a chute and back down again.

In the centre of the field were more steam engines and some old vehicles and buses. We climbed to the upper deck of the open-topped omnibus* , which was more like just standing on the roof, with sides enclosing and seats bolted on top, rather than a purpose built upper level like our modern buses. Omnibus is the Latin word for “to all” i.e. to all places, from which we get the abbreviation “bus”.

* "stationary" The Shun hook written on this side in order to join the R. "Station" on its own has the hook on the other side, as per normal rules. "StationERy" refers to paper goods.

* "flour" This outline has a diphthong, compare with "flower" which has a triphone to signify the two syllables

* "oily" Insert the last vowel, as "oil smells" would also make sense

* "as well, as" Not using the full phrase, as there is a pause after the comma

* Omission phrase "there (w)ere"

* "omnibus" Helpful to insert the first vowel, as this is similar in outline and meaning to "minibus"

The second field was full of classic cars, row after row of gleaming and perfectly spotless vehicles, many with their bonnets (hoods) open revealing an equally spotless engine.  Each particular make of vehicle seemed to have its own enthusiasts club, and no doubt they have many more outings throughout the year where they can share their enthusiasm with others around the country. I am not into classic cars but I do like to see things that have been restored and are well looked after and appreciated.

I thought the first steam engine we saw was a giant until we came to the agricultural* tractors* . First in line was an enormous modern tractor with wheels taller than me. I did wonder what sort of work it was designed to do, as that did seem rather over the top for pulling hay carts. Maybe I should have asked the driver who was sitting in the cab, but even if I had thought to do so, he was too far up in the air to hold a conversation with. Later on all the tractors were started up and went on a circuit of the area. In the long marquee were displays of old photographs of all the machinery* and farm horses in action, showing everything from ploughing to harvesting and every type of farm work and village life in the Dartford and north Kent area. Behind the tent classic motorbikes were gathered, more rows of shiny paintwork, polished chrome and multiple headlamps and mirrors. Although the owners were all happily surveying the scene, a stationary motorbike is not the ideal, as after the admiration comes the real business of the day, which is motion, noise and speed.

* "agricultural" Optional contraction

* "tractors" Ensure the K is clearly doubled, so it does not look like "trucks"

* "machinery" Alternative outline that omits the N

Over in one corner, away from the main crowds, was a large truck* with two heavy horses standing to the rear. These were Alfie and Arthur. They were well groomed with smooth black coats and enjoying being the centre of attention from groups of admiring and excited children. They are used to public life and give demonstrations* of ploughing around the country, but no doubt their life is a little more relaxed and comfortable than that of their forebears. Back at the main display area was a mobile forge making items for sale*. Most of these seemed to be decorative iron items for the garden, as being the easiest and quickest for a public demonstration and for the visitors to be able to carry them home.

* "truck" Ensure the K is clearly normal length, and it is helpful to insert the vowel, so it does not look like "tractor"

* "demonstrations" Omits the R

* "for sale" Downward L in order to join the phrase

Terrific Trevithick - leaflet at the event
Richard Trevithick’s memorial plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Dartford, reads: “To the glory of God and in memory of Richard Trevithick. One of the pioneers of the great mechanical developments* of the XIX century and amongst the first inventors of the locomotive engine, of screw and paddle wheel propulsion for steamships, of the agricultural* engine and of many other appliances whereby the forces of nature have been utilised in the service of mankind. He died in poverty and was carried to his grave in the churchyard of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, by the mechanics of Hall’s Engineering Works where he was then employed. This tablet* was erected to perpetuate the memory of one whose splendid gifts shed lustre on this town, although he was not permitted to enjoy the fruits of his labour here. Born 1771 Died 1833.” Next time* you are sitting in a railway carriage, even though the engine may be electric or diesel powered, please spare a minute to be grateful for the genius of Richard Trevithick and his brilliant idea of adding wheels to his high-pressure* steam engine. (1056 words)

* "developments" "agricultural" Optional contractions

*  "tablet" Always insert the second vowel, as "table" could also make sense. Also always insert the vowel in "tableau" which is similar to these two in outline and meaning.

* Omission phrases "high-(pre)ssure"  "ne(k)s(t) time"

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Geometry Terms

Plane geometry is the science of lines and the shapes that they enclose on a flat surface or plane. A point has position but no dimensions. A line has position and length. A figure or shape has position, dimensions and an area that it encloses. In geometry a figure is a shape and does not refer to a number, as it does in mathematics and also in everyday speech. The word figure is also used to refer to a diagram in a book, for example, “Please see figure 3 on page 5 for an illustration of these forms."

The line around any shape is its perimeter. I have a perimeter fence all around my house and garden. A circle’s perimeter is called its circumference. The radius is a line from the centre point to the circumference, and the plural is radii. The diameter is a line crossing the entire circle through its centre. Half a circle is a semicircle. A line touchingthe outside of the circumference at a single point is a tangent. A line not crossing through the centre is a chord or, if the line extends beyond the circle, a secant. The shape enclosed by the chord and the smaller arcof the circle (a piece of the circumference) is a segment. The adjective is circular, although in common usage this also describes a route that ends up back at the start point. If you divide a circle like a pie, each piece is called a circle sector or circular sector. When divided into 360 such pieces, the angle of each piece is one degree. A circle divided into four makes four quadrants, into six makes sextants, and into eight pieces makes octants.

* "touching" Helpful to insert the vowel, as it is similar to "attaching"

* "arc" Helpful to insert the vowel in this context, as it could look like "irregular"

Two lines that meet form an angle and the point of meeting is the vertex, plural vertices. Angles are measured in degrees, which is one 360th of a circle. An acute angle is less than90 degrees. A right angleis 90 degrees, the same as a corner of a square. An obtuse angle is greater than 90 but less than 180 degrees. A straight angle is 180 degrees, although a depiction of it would be just another straight line, and so this only makes sense as part of a description of a progressive process. For example, the hands of a clock when opposite each other are at an angle of 180 degrees but they are two separate items joined end to end. A reflex angle is greater than 180 degrees, and a full angle is the whole 360 degrees. Adjacentangles share a common side and a common vertex but do not overlap. On an analogue clock (one with pointers or hands) the minute hand goes round the entire 360 degrees in one hour, and the hour hand goes round in 12 hours. Someone turning back from theirdirection of travel, or reversing theirbehaviour or opinions*, is said to be “doing a one-eighty”.

* "less than" Downward L in order to join the phrase

* "right angle" On its own "right" is full Ray+T

* "adjacent" Avoid being misled by the D in the spelling, as there is no D sound in the word

* "from their" "reversing their" Doubling for "their"

To bisect means to cut into two equal parts, whether it is a line, an angle or a shape. Shapes bounded by straight lines are described by their number of sides. Shapes or figures that have a number of straight sides are called polygons and if they are all the same length, then it is a regular polygon. Three lines joined at their ends form a triangle. If all the sides are of equal length it is called an equilateral triangle. A scalene triangle has all sides of different lengths. An isosceles triangle has only two sides the same length. An acute triangle has all angles less than 90 degrees. A right triangle is one that has one right angle. The side opposite the right angle is called the hypotenuse which is Greek for “stretching under” and the hypotenuse is said to subtend the right angle. An obtuse triangle has one angle that is greater than 90 degrees.

A shape that has four sides is a quadrilateral or quadrangle, and this latter term is also used to describe a large area or courtyard between buildings. A square is a regular quadrilateral. A pentagon has five sides and a hexagon has six sides. A heptagon has seven sides, an octagon eight, a nonagon nine and a decagon ten. Triangles, squares and hexagons are the only regular shapes that can be tessellated on a flat plane, that is, fitted together like tiles with no spaces between and only using one shape for the tiles. Such tiles would be triangular, square or hexagonal. The cells in a honeycomb are hexagonal. Regular pentagons can be tessellated on a spherical surface, as often seen on black and white footballs.

Symmetry describes a shape that can be halved to produce two identical shapes. The halves of a circle are symmetrical*, as one can be rotated to fit over the other. Rotation is turning around on an axis. A butterfly shape and the humanform both have reflectional, bilateral, line or mirror symmetry. A line that meets another at right angles is called perpendicular to that line, but in common usage it means vertical or upright*. It comes from the Latin for “plumb line”. Congruent means having identical shapes so that all parts correspond. Congruent triangles may be at different positions and rotations, but they could all fit on top of each other exactly.

* "symmetrical" Needs care to write accurately, as in this context it could be misread as "semicircle" if untidily written

* "human" Special outline in first position following the second vowel, to differentiate from "humane", similarly "woman" and "women"

* "upright" On its own "right" is full Ray+T

A square has equal sides and is also called a regular quadrilateral. A rectangle has opposite sides equal, so a square is a type of rectangle. Paving stones and bathroom tiles can be rectangular. If a rectangle is squashed from one corner to the opposite corner, each pair of sides is still parallel but the angles are changed and the shape is a parallelogram*. When all four sides are equal, as with a similarly squashed square, it is a rhombus, and this is sometimes called a diamond or diaper shape. Leaded window panes are sometimes made entirely of diaper shaped pieces of glass. In British terminology, a trapezium or trapezoid has four sides, only two of which are parallel. In American terminology, this Describes a similar figure that has no parallel sides, but the British would call that an irregular quadrilateral.

* "parallelogram" This is likely to invade the outlines on the line above, and if so just drop down to the same position on the line below and continue from there, or write the outline in two parts

Solid geometry is the description and science of three-dimensional objects. A solid with faces is a polyhedron, plural polyhedra. The regular solids are based on the regular polygons. A circle rotated about its diameter becomes a sphere and the object is ball shaped or spherical. Cut in half a sphere becomes a hemisphere. The Earth’s equator separates the northern hemisphere from the southern hemisphere. A squashed sphere is called a spheroid, and this is the shape of the Earth, due to equatorial bulge. A solid with four triangular sides is a tetrahedron, looking like a three-sided pyramid. A solid with all square sides is a cube. Salt and sugar crystals, and some children’s building blocks, are cube shaped.

Measurements of volume are cubic. A cube measuring one metre along all its sides has a volume of one cubic metre, and the area of each face is one square metre. A solid with six rectangular sides is called a cuboid*, similar to a brick shape. In normal speech a cylinder is a solid based on a circle, as can be seen at each end, but in plane geometry this word also describes a solid based on any regular polygon. Food cans*, water pipes and drinking straws are all cylindrical*. Basalt rock columns are a cylinder with a hexagonal cross-sectionand there is a certain well-known chocolate bar with a triangular cross-section.

* "cuboid" Insert the diphthong, so it is not misread as "cube"

* "food cans" The noun "can" does not use the short form

* "cylindrical" Doubling would not normally be used where there is no vowel (or a different vowel)between the D and R sounds, but it is kept where it produces a fast, easy and readable outline, similarly "central" "concentric" "natural" "picture" and others

* "cross-section" The large circle is used to signify both S's, even though they are barely pronounced separately

A solid with a circle at its base and rising to a single point or apex is called a cone. In strict geometry terms, a cone can have any regular polygon at its base. Examples of conical shapes are road traffic markers, wafers to hold ice cream and mountains of volcanic ash. You can make a cone by cutting a section out of a circle, and bending and joining one of the pieces to itself along its straight cut edges. A horizontal cut through a circular cone, i.e. parallel to the base, produces a circle. A slanting cut through the cone produces an ellipse, which can be thought of as a squashed circle. A cut whose plane is parallel to the side of the cone produces a curve called a parabola. A cut whose plane is parallel to the vertical axis produces a curve called a hyperbola. A pyramid has a polygon at its base and triangular sides rising to an apex. The pyramids of Egypt are square pyramids. If two square pyramid shapes are joined base to base, the resulting solid is an octahedron.

My first encounter with geometrical solids was not in the geometry lesson, but during Christmas time at school when we were shown how to make decorations out of these forms. We had printed patterns for them that we cut out and stuck together to form balls with various shaped faces. My favouritecreation was a star, which started as an icosahedron, the one with twenty triangular faces, and onto each face we stuck a long thin triangle pyramid shape, to form the rays. This was trulyspectacular and necessarilyof a large size in order to be able tomanipulate the pieces and sticking. A simpler version would be to use a cube and attach six rays. This magnificent creation was also very lightweight, so it could be hung anywhere.

* "favourite" Note that "favoured" used the left Vr, in order to differentiate

* "truly" Always insert the vowel, as it is similar to "utterly" which would also make sense in most contexts

* "necessarily" Downard L to keep the outline compact, similarly "sincerely"

* "in order to // be able to" The "be" is on the line (and not through the line for "to be") because the first "to" is included in the first phrase

The above vocabulary is quite intensive, and I am sure that when you return to your normal simple matter, it will seem ridiculously easy and congenial. Maybe a time of creative relaxation in making the geometric paper decorations is in order, a change of activity for both the mind and fingers. It mightat least keep family and children entertained while you practise your outlines, or you can record in shorthand the discussions during the process and exclamations of delight at its conclusion, thus keeping everyone amused and usefully occupied. (1664 words)

* "might" Avoid phrasing "might" "could" "note" to differentiate them from "may, can, know" Huge number of paper models of polyhedra, with downloadable PDFs to print and cut out. There is a stellated icosahedron and many others, which you can make without having to stick the pointed rays on separately.