Friday, 24 April 2015

Upminster Windmill

Upminster windmill and its field

Upminster Windmill - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Various workings inside windmillAt the beginning of April I went to an open day at Upminster windmill in East London. It is one of the few surviving smock windmills, so named because its tapered shape resembles a white shepherd’s smock garment, wide and full at the base, and gathered in at the top. The mill was built in 1803 by John Noakes and was used for grinding flour* until 1910, and then it produced animal feed until 1934. The mill became derelict until about 1960 when it was repaired and then opened to the public in 1967, staffed by volunteers. We had visited in January and having walked around it several times to get good photos, we were left wondering what was inside, which had to wait until we returned home to look it up on their website. As might be expected, the name Upminster means church on the hill, just the right place for a windmill, and we certainly felt the chilly breezes on that January day.

* The outline for "flower" has a triphthong, as it is considered to be two syllables. It is a useful distinction to make for the shorthand writer, although not always discernible in ordinary speech.

Upminster Windmill - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Steep ladderIt was much warmer and more pleasant on our recent visit. The weather was overcast but mild, and on arrival we saw cars pulling up onto the large grassy area at the front. Tours were being conducted in groups of about 8 people. The tour started outside with a description of the former cottages, bakery and steam mill, which are now just foundations and excavated areas. We then entered the mill and were taken straight to the top. We climbed several sets of steep narrow wooden steps, although ladders* would be a more accurate term. Our guide described the operation of all the items of equipment on each floor. Just seeing all the gear was interesting in itself, but it came alive with our guide’s knowledgeable* and comprehensive explanations of how everything worked. The view from a small open window at the top seemed much higher than the windmill had appeared from the ground and the chinks of light coming through odd places in the timber walls made it obvious that the mill interior must have been* a draughty place to work.

* L stroke is not doubled for "-der" unless it is part of a longer outline such as "stepladder".

* knowledgeable" is same outline as an unvocalised "enjoyable", this latter should have the diphthong written in, to distinguish.

* Omission phrase "must (have) been"

Upminster Windmill - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Loose cog tooth lying on top
We made our way down to the floor below, gingerly* descending the steep ladder backwards. Once our group was down, the next one was allowed to enter the building and climb to the top, and in this way the groups were kept moving but also separate* from each other, ensuring a safe experience for all, necessitated by the tightness of the space on each level. As I listened to the descriptions* of the machinery, I was continually amazed* at how a single turning shaft could be made to do so many tasks, and include so many mechanisms for power control and adjustments. Obviously this has all been perfected over the centuries and what we were looking at was the result of all the accumulated inventions and improvements that men have created in that time, each one building on the expertise of the previous generation*. We saw the huge cogwheel* that transfers the power to the subsidiary wheels. Our guide took out one of the cogs and showed us that it had a very long root,  just like a tooth, held in place with a wooden pin, so that they could be replaced as necessary.

* "gingerly" An alternative outline that omits the N stroke

* Keep the T full length, as "separated" would also make sense here

* Always insert the vowel in amaze/amuse and derivatives

* "descriptions" The singular is a contraction (see para 2) but the plural is given in dictionaries as full outline. One possible explanation is to differentiate it from "discourse" which has a similar meaning.

* "wheel" is written with two strokes here, in order to be able to join.

* "generation" optional contraction

Upminster Windmill - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Millstone vat with grain hoppers
Grain chute and hoppers above the
vat containing the millstones
On the Stone Floor* are the millstones, each pair enclosed in an octagonal wooden box called a vat or tun, and the chutes that feedthe grain into the central hole called the eye. The bedstone remains stationary* and the top runner stone is the one that rotates. The millstones do not actually touch but are separated by a space the thickness of a piece of paper, and this space is finely adjustable by the tentering* gear. Incorrect operation, such as insufficient grain flowing through the stones, could result in the stones touching thus producing sparks, which our guide rather understatedly described as “not a good idea in a building like this!”

Perspex model showing millstone grinding patternA small transparent perspex model of the millstones, two circles showing the pattern of the grinding lines, illustrated how the rotation produces a scissoring effect that cuts the grain, as centrifugal force propels it towards the edges of the stones. Below is the Meal Floor containing devices for sifting the flour and removing bran, and bagging* up the various grades of products.

* "Stone Floor" Using initial capitals, to retain the sense of the floor name, rather than a "floor made of stone". These two versions would be pronounced with the emphasis on different syllables, and shorthand needs to reflect that.

* "feed" Vowel added, as "fed" would also make sense.

* "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, as a means of keeping the stroke straight.

* "tentering" This outline also reads "tendering". If necessary, you could abandon the dictionary outline and write T + N + Tr + Dot Ing, to ensure a more accurate reading of an unusual term.

* "bagging" Keep clearly thick, as "packing" has a similar meaning.

Upminster Windmill - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Central shaft with cogwheelAll the while I was walking around, I tried to imagine what it would have been like when the mill was working. It would have been a health and safety officer’s nightmare, with giant pieces of unprotected spinning machinery* groaning and rumbling, and all the bins and hoppers rattling as the grain descended. The trap doors would be heard banging as the sacks of grain were hoisted up and the whole building would be vibrating and creaking. Flour dust would be everywhere, causing severe irritation to the lungs and often death from fibroid phthysis*, commonly called miller’s lung. The stone dressers also suffered this complaint from inhaling stone dust as they renewed the grinding surface pattern of the millstones. The miller would be shouting to his assistant, as no doubt normal speech would be inaudible above the din of the machinery.

* "mach(in)ery" Alternative faster outline that omits the N sound

* "phthysis" The PH is silent, so outline is similar to "thesis"

Upminster Windmill - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Old flour packaging paper bags

One might imagine that flour production came to a halt when there was no wind, but with the increasing prosperity of his business, in 1812 Noakes added a steam mill to the rear which operated a further two sets of millstones. The foundations of this are undergoing excavation at present. Finally we reached the ground floor, with displays of archaeological finds, model windmills in a glass case, a larger working model of the windmill, an old millstone, photographs, newspaper cuttings, flour containers and packaging bags throughout the years, as well as the necessary souvenirs and information table. I am sure my Upminster windmill pen and pencil are identical to those sold in other historic buildings but they are a reminder of a very informative and interesting day out, to see a treasured remnant of our industrial heritage and the remarkable skills and inventiveness of the craftsmen of the past. (1006 words)

Souvenir Upminster windmill pencil
Now I can sail through my shorthand

CGI animations: Windmill workings and Steam mill workings Aerial view from drone,0.245166,67m/data=!3m1!1e3

Chute in floor under trapdoor
Every shorthand writer's nightmare - the big gap

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Omitted Sounds

Omitted Sounds - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

These paragraphs practise outlines that omit a sound that is very lightly spoken and often not spoken at all in normal speech.  Although some books describe them as contracted outlines, they do not belong to the official list of contractions, and behave as normal outlines, written in position and able to be vocalised when necessary. Practice for the contraction list will follow in future articles.

Omitted Sounds - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Omission of light P. We pumped up the tyres and jumped into the car. We had not* skimped with the supply of sandwiches. We plumped up the cushions in the back seat. The superior suspension damped the movement every time the car was bumped by a hump in the road. We dumped our coats in the car, tramped to the beach and encamped amongst the sand dunes. We clamped the parasols in position but unfortunately we were not exempt from the midges. There was a presumption that we would also visit the nearby town and so later on there was a resumption of our journey. We claimed exemption at the toll gate on the bridge and the man in the booth stamped our pass card. He appeared to be swamped with work undertaken in very cramped conditions. I think he might hold the job in contempt and be prompted to look for another, if he is tempted by a better position. We went into the shops on the assumption that we could make a redemption of our discount vouchers. We faced the temptation to buy some sweets and my friend was the main tempter.

* "we had not" can be phrased , using a N Hook and halving, plus Dot Hay, but as the dots are needed to distinguish it from "do not", writing separately is much quicker and clearer.

Omitted Sounds - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Omission of light T. I have instructed the postal assistant not to be wasteful with the postage stampsand to substitute a lower value one for non-urgent items, before the mail is given to the postman. We are optimistic that the increase in postage will be postponed and that postal charges will mostly remain the same. I have asked him to add a postscript to this month’s* newsletter saying that we may have to substituteother colours of waistcoat and that this substitution will not affect any returns of the goods. Ask the builder to repair the faulty wastepipe and let us know when it has been substitutedwith a new plastic one. If I am not mistaken this particular employee has rarely made a mistake in his work. His referees gave good testimonials of his performance and his work is also a testimony to his optimistic and hardworking nature, always dealing honestly with customers, unlike the previous employee who was found to be acting dishonestly.

* Both T's are omitted in this phrase

* subs(t)itute/d

* Omission phrase "to this (mon)th's"  Stroke Ith is generally intersected for "month" but joined if more convenient, as in "next month, six months".

Omitted Sounds - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

He regularly carries a shorthand textbook and practice material on some postcards and after he has completed his training at the main post office in a trustworthy manner, he is optimistic that there will be no postponement of attaining a better position. He is smart, tastefully dressed and manifestly enjoys his job but I think eventually he will become restless or even listless if he does not receive some well-earned  adjustments to his salary. He has in fact* been offered  a job at the Institute* of Engineering. Consequently we have now institutedan improved process for promoting from within as it is most importantthat we do not lose our best personnel to other companies and institutions*. Some of the students were boastful when they passed their exams and some were wistful when they did not. They wistfully said that the subject matter was beastly and they had been marked unjustly. Others were modestly surprised and were glad that they had persevered steadfastly. Although the food in the restaurant was tasteless, the view from the window was restful and had been vastly improved by the new planting. Note that the following use the T stroke. When she found out how costly this ghastly gift was, she went ghostly pale.

* Omission phrases "in (f)act"  "mos(t) important"

* ins(t)itute/d, ins(t)itution

Omitted Sounds - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Omission of light K or G. My new assistant is very punctual and he knows how to punctuateletters correctly, using all the appropriatepunctuation marks. However he has no compunction about taking long lunch breaks and I have warned him about this in the strongestpossible terms. The longesttime he was absent is two hours. His handwriting is very distinct and I distinctly remember seeing his neatly written application form. He gained a distinction in his Arts Degree and is therefore quite good at reading indistinct handwriting and extinct and defunct forms of script. We are anxious to ensure he does not languish on low pay, with all the anguish that entails, and in order that he can continue to function properly*, we are going to sanction a pay rise. We were driving to the sanctuary when the car suffered a puncture at the crossroads junction and instinct told us to immediately park up in the nearby precinct. To put it quite succinctly, our car had become a non-functioning vehicle. (806 words)

* "punctuate" Note the use of two T strokes, and not halving, similarly effectuate, fluctuate.

* "strongest, longest" These are optional alternatives to the full outline using the G stroke. There is no reason not to use the shorter versions, as they do not clash with anything.

* appropriate(ly), proper(ly) These should always have the vowel, to ensure they are not misread for each other, as they have similar meanings.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Wrong Pencil

The Wrong Pencil - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I have spent a lot of time writing about the advantages to the shorthand writer* of using a beautiful flexible fountain pen full of fresh juicy ink, flowing smoothly like oil from a well, in an endless river of precious black gold. I have conceded the merits of using a pencil, and how it need not be the poor relation of the pens. In fact I passed all my shorthand exams, up to 150 words a minute*, using a pencil, or at least a succession of them over the months, swapping one for another that seemed to perform better. Not being able to get hold of a shorthand pen is therefore no barrier to shorthand success. I have tried to see the benefits and drawbacks from every angle, and have done my best to recall the performance of every writing implement that I have ever used for shorthand, starting with the cheapest of cheap pencils from the corner shop, on to a clutch pencil, and then finally acquiring a Senator shorthand pen in the mid 1970’s. At that time I also tried several other pens but the Senator was the best, with the gold nib being the most flexible and comfortable. I now use the Noodler’s pens for most of the website outlines but stick to the Senator for my occasional real-life* shorthand writing.

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writer"  "words (a) minute"  "rea(l) life"

The Wrong Pencil - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Farm boot fairLast weekend* I found that all of my warnings about carelessness with writing instruments came back home to roost, and I relived the frustrations of using the wrong pencil. I went to a boot fair with my family at a local farm. In the UK a boot fair is where people turn up at the venue in their cars, full of items they wish to sell, either from clear-outs at home or maybe things they collect for the purpose*, in order to* make a small profit, and a few regular traders as well. They set up tables in front of the boot (or trunk) of their car, and people like me wander round looking over the offerings for bargains and rummaging in the boxes. I was really only looking for garden plants and maybe casting an eye over the old books, and so I knew I would be back at the car before the others. I always take something to do or read, and so I took my Ipod*, a notepad and some pencils, to take down some of my own dictations. I can’t let everyone else work through them without having a go myself.

* Omission phrases "Laas(t w)eekend"  "for the p(ur)pose"  "in ord(er to)". "Purpose" can also be written as an intersection "Ps"

* Insert the vowels in Ipod and Ipad to differentiate, and also "notepad" which could look similar if not neatly written.

The Wrong Pencil - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I started on an easy speed, and was soon covering the page at a comfortable rate. The pencil was a bit too hard, and the outlines were very faint. I stopped the recording and changed to the softer pencil. That made a darker more legible mark but it was rather blunt and very soon the wood at the tip was touching the paper. I stopped the recording again and grabbed the nylon-tipped pen which is one that can take a fountain pen ink cartridge, which I refill from a syringe with my favourite ink. It barely gives thicks and thins but I was not concerned about that on this occasion*. After a page and a half it became drier and drier*, and faded to nothing as it gave up its last drop of ink. These three were the only implements I had in the bag. I delved into the depths of the handbag pocket, for the half size mechanical pencil that I keep there. Although the lead was extremely thin, all went well and the outlines were pleasinglylegible. I felt that with care I could avoid a break although I knew that shorthand should be about robust writing and not fussing over the pen or pencil. Then with a sudden faint cracking noise the tiny piece of visible lead went flying away into the air and I had to advance the lead and miss out a chunk of words.

* The shun hook of "occasion" changes direction in the phrase, to balance the outline, to help keep the stroke straight.

* Omission phrase "dri(er and) drier" See more examples at

Care needed that "pleasing/ly" is not misread as "pleasant/ly" (see last para)

The Wrong Pencil - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Even better when the whole pen
is transparent (Noodler's Ahab)
With my fourth implement proving less than* perfect, certain uncomfortable words began to form slowly* in my mind, “This is what you tell everyone else not to do.” I began to wonder why I did not just bring my usual shorthand fountain pen, with its dark ink that I can see clearly on the page, an ink supply that will not run out unexpectedly as there is a window where I can check its level, and a nib that can stand up to writing the thinnest and thickest of strokes without any problem. I spent the remaining ten minutes of waiting time persevering with the mechanical pencil, but if it had been a fast dictation then I would certainly have had to use the first pencil, as faint lines are merely annoying but it would at least have continued writing for many more pages than the other three.

* Downward L is used in "less than" in order to join to the next stroke

* Advisable to insert the vowel, as "slightly" could also make sense

The Wrong Pencil - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Annoyed shorthand pensObviously I was not treating the dictation as I would advise others to do. I should have continued with the first pencil until it wore down and then done the same with all the others even though it was only practice. I had brought bread but wanted cake. The shorthand pens were sitting at home crowded together in their mug, asking themselves why I had left them behind in a stuffy room and had not* taken them on an outing into the fresh air and given them a taste of working outside in the pleasant* countryside. When I arrived home, they were all standing in a row, frowning and looking at me reproachfully, saying, “We told you so, serves you right!” I accepted their reprimand and promised I would never do it again, and that if a hard pencil was all I had, I would keep going all the way to the bell sound at the end of the dictation. They accepted my apology, and I hurriedly sneaked out into the garden to get the new plants in and recover my composure, and leave any further shorthand adventures until the evening. (998 words)

* Same outline for "had not " and "do not". If necessary, add in Dot Hay and the dot vowel to "had not".

* Care needed that "pleasant/ly" is not misread as "pleasing/ly" (see para 3)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Proverbs Reclaimed

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 1 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Common proverbs are a very easy and brief way of passing on wisdom or advice that one has not had to come up with all on one’s own. They are on permanent* standby, ready to help the speaker summarise their opinion in just a few words. They are a type of verbal shorthand, but probably more used in casual speech than in writing, because of their tendency to be overused. They are not the answer, just an opportunity for the listener to decide which one matches most closely what they actually feel about the situation. Should I look before I leap, or is he who hesitates really lost? Is nothing ventured nothing gained the best way or maybe it is better to be safe than sorry. I ought not to cross my bridges until I get to them, but maybe if I fail to plan, I am planning to fail.

* For prominent, permanent and pre-eminent see

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 2 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

For the shorthand writer*, the most relevant point about proverbs, clich├ęs and common phrases of all kinds is the fact that* you know them so well, that it is easy to write down what you think was said. They come in many slightly different versions, or the speaker may even choose to mangle it for their own purposes. Lazy listening is an insidious trap for the shorthand writer, quite separate from the task of recalling and forming outlines, and if you need a proverb for that, maybe it is “Many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip” or, translated* for the stenographer, “Many a slip between sound heard and written word”. Although proverbs are often criticised as being trite, they would never have survived if they were blatantly false or wrong. So, instead of cringing next time* you are confronted with one, it might be preferable to apply it to shorthand and get some fresh use out of it. After all, waste not, want not!

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writer"  "is the (f)act that" "ne(k)s(t) time"

* Omits the N "tra(n)slated"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. - An outline in the mind is worth two in the dictionary.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss. - A well-used shorthand pen gathers no dust and the ink does not dry out.
  • A thousand mile journey begins with a single step. - The steps get easier as shorthand skill increases.
  • A word to the wise is sufficient. - If you are really interested in the subject, you don't need to be reminded to practise.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. - Learn the short forms thoroughly and save yourself a lot of trouble later on.
  • Any port in a storm. - Write something for everything and correct it later.
  • April showers bring May flowers. - April learning brings May earning.
  • Better safe than sorry. - Miss no opportunity to practise – exams are coming!

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 4 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • Beware the fury of a patient* man. - Pounce on your workplace errors before your boss does.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. - And of shorthand.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. - Always carry spare pens or pencils and extra notepads.
  • Everything comes to him who waits. - Practise shorthand every time you have to wait, even if only mentally.
  • Finders keepers. - Refers to that job opportunity.
  • First come, first served. - Don’t miss that bargain Ebay shorthand book.
  • From small beginnings come great things. - Only if you put the work into it.
  • Great oaks from little acorns grow. - Start now and you could be writing 60 words a minute* in three months.

For passionate/patient, and also impassioned/impatient, see

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 5 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • He who hesitates is lost. - Don't expect to rely on memory to fill gaps.
  • Here today, gone tomorrow. -  Unless it has been captured in shorthand.
  • History repeats itself. - Uncorrected* wrong outlines repeat themselves.
  • Hit the nail on the head. - Nail down the correct outlines in your memory to prevent future hesitation. 
  • Hitch your wagon to a star. - Aim high to prevent complacency.
  • If at first* you don't succeed, try, try again. - Vocabulary extension and facility drills are needed.
  • If you sow the wind expect to reap the whirlwind. - Sow practice in order to reap fast shorthand.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. - Use the textbook* outlines as the ideal.
  • In one ear and out the other. - In one ear and out of the pen nib.

* Insert the first vowel, so it is not misread as "incorrect"

Omission phrase "at (fir)st"

* Omits the T "teks(t)book"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 6 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • It's all in a day's work. - A good speed in hand means a stress-free day of shorthand writing*.
  • It’s no use crying over spilt* milk. – Drill troublesome outlines so that the error does not happen again.
  • Knowledge is power - It looks good on your CV as well.
  • Lay up something for a rainy day. - Prepare some drill pages for times when other things cannot be done.
  • Let bygones be bygones. – Review, revise and then retake the fast passage.
  • Little strokes fell great oaks. - A compact writing style is faster than a large sprawling one.
  • Look and you shall find. - Time slots for extra practice.
  • Make hay while the sun shines. - Practise all the Hay words over lunch in the park.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"

* "spilled" has a downward thick Ld stroke

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 7 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. - Unfamiliar shorthand can soon be overcome and tamed.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention. - Write something for everything, then look up in the dictionary afterwards.
  • Never cross a bridge until you come to it. - Never write an outline before it has been spoken, as what sounds like a common phrase or term may turn out to be something else.
  • Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today. - Practise today and tomorrow as well.
  • Never say die! - Giving up on one thing* is just the start of giving up on others.
  • Never swap horses crossing a stream. - Never dither over your choice of outline in mid-dictation.
  • New brooms sweep clean. - Clean the pen regularly to keep the ink flowing.

* Omission phrase "wu(n) thing"

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 8 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • No sooner said than done. - The ultimate goal of all shorthand.
  • Nothing succeeds like success. - Remember past successes in order to strengthen the resolve to continue.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained. - Try a super fast or an extra long take.
  • Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. - One hand writing and the other hand ready to turn the page instantly. This leaves no hands at all to prop up your head!
  • Slow and steady wins the race. - Go as slowly as necessary through* the lesson and then write the exercises quickly.
  • The best is yet to come. - Every minute of practice increases your speed.
  • The early bird catches the worm. - Get up early for extra practising time.
  • The more the merrier. - Outlines in memory and notepads to put them in.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating. - The proof of the shorthand is in the transcription.*
  • The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. - Fast and careless loses the job or exam pass, check all your transcripts carefully.

* Keep the Ith well curved, as it could begin to look like "during"

* Omits the N and the second R "tra(n)sc(r)iption". Compare this with "descriptions" which uses a reversed circle to suggest the R hook.

Proverbs Reclaimed - Part 9 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

  • There is no time like the present. - Keep practice material with you at all times.
  • Time and tide wait for no man. - Pursue maximum speed achievements, not the minimum to get by.
  • Time is money. - Shorthand notes are quicker to read than wading through hours of audio recording.
  • Well begun is half done. – How you write at the beginning of a dictation sets the tone for the rest of it.
  • What's worth doing is worth doing well. - Half learned shorthand is not much use.
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover. - Better a used shorthand book now than a smart new one later.
  • You never know what you can do till you try. - Once you know what you can do, you are encouraged to carry on.
  • You're never too old to learn. - Shorthand is the ideal exercise to keep the mind and memory in good shape. (1326 words)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse - Part 1 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Here in the South of England I have just about made it safely through this morning's eclipse. The news feeds have told me when it will "hit" and when we will be "plunged" into near darkness, although other feeds are more optimistic about the "spectacular celestial* treat" that we can expect to experience. Today started off grey and overcast. At peak eclipse time, around 9.30, it was a little more overcast, no different from when a middle-sized rain cloud comes over and makes everything a little gloomier for a while. Now that the event has passed, the sky is much brighter. If I had not* read or heard about the eclipse, I would never have known it was happening and would have just assumed that the clouds had decided not to rain and had passed over uneventfully. My experience of the real event occurred entirely online, from the comfort of my cosy computer corner, and I have the satisfaction of a succession of screen grabs of the images supplied, including the diamond ring effect, to help me remember this momentous day of planetary, lunar and solar magnificence.

* Omits the T "celes(t)ial"

* Insert the Hay and vowel dots, so that it does not read as "I do not"

Solar Eclipse - Part 2 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I am sure there* are many very happy and satisfied scientists, astronomers and stargazers who have really enjoyed witnessing this rare spectacle with their own eyes, and they will be happily talking about it for some time to come, and marvelling at all the pictures of every stage of the event, not only the heavenly bodies themselves but also the weather, sky and visual atmospheric effects. I am sure you know exactly what an eclipse is but having the shorthand outlines for the astronomy terms is the real reason for the rest of the article. However, taking down their discussions in shorthand is possibly going to be quite a challenge, as they will not only be using all these and many more technical terms*, but also chattering at ten to the dozen in their enthusiasm and excitement. Maybe after the event they will calm down and slow down their talking speed a little. To their credit, the scientists I was listening to did in fact cease their commentary for a while, in order to let viewers just experience the sight of the totality, with the sun's* corona shining out on all sides of the black circle of the moon.

* Doubling for "there"

* Omission phrase "tech(nical) terms"

* Normally it is advisable to insert vowels to distinguish between sun/sunny/snow/snowy but the context here makes that unnecessary, but if this article did mention snow, then you would put the vowel in that outline.

Solar Eclipse - Part 3 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Scanned paper hole
An eclipse is what you get
when you scan paper
with a punched hole
The word eclipse comes from the Greek meaning to leave out, abandon, darken, fail to appear or cease to exist. A solar eclipse is when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, thus causing the moon's shadow to cross the earth, blocking or obscuring the sun's light, the noun being obscuration. In other words, the sun, moon and earth are aligned*, or in alignment*. A lunar eclipse is when the earth casts a shadow on the moon. An eclipse can also mean the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another, or any dimming or obstruction of light. The word also refers to the period of time during which the phenomenon occurs - I spent the eclipse reading my shorthand books, whilst waiting for the daylight to return. The word generally refers to the reduction in light and the casting of a shadow and is a type of occultation, which means the passage of one celestial body in front of another, and so hiding some or all of it from view, for example, the moon passing between an observer and another planet or star. If the further body is not totally obscured, then the occultation is called a transit.

* "align, alignment" Downward L in order to indicate a preceding vowel, therefore cannot take an N hook.

Solar Eclipse - Part 4 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In Europe, this eclipse was total in the Faroe Islands and the Svalbard Islands off Norway, 97 percent on the Isle of Skye, and reducing to 85% in London. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, and 400 times closer to earth than the sun, and so at certain places in their orbits, the disks of the moon and sun appear exactly the same size to an observer on earth. The moon's shadow or umbra travels over the earth, and those areas experience totality, meaning that the sun is entirely covered. At this point, the sun's corona becomes visible, which are tendrils of charged gases that surround the sun but which cannot be seen by the unaided eye in normal daylight. On the edges of the shadow or penumbra, viewers will see a partial eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farthest in its orbit from the earth, therefore nearer to the sun, and so does not cover it entirely, and the sun's photosphere is seen as a ring or annula around the moon. Variations in the orbits of the sun, moon and earth cause differences in the types and lengths of eclipses, but the maximum duration of a solar eclipse is seven and a half* minutes.

* For more ways to write fractions see 

Solar Eclipse - Part 5 of 5 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The word eclipse is also used figuratively to mean a reduction or loss of splendour, status or reputation and, as a verb, to make less outstanding or less important by comparison. I can truthfully say that shorthand, when written correctly and legibly, totally eclipses and surpasses the lesser glories of longhand, and maybe as a shorthand writer*, your presence in the interview waiting room, or your application on the top of the pile, will entirely eclipse the other applicants who have not studied and achieved your level of expertise. The most recent eclipse in the UK was in August 1999, and we will have to wait until 2026 for the next one, which will be a partial eclipse. The next total eclipse will be in 2090, so please practise and perfect your shorthand and pass it on to your children so that they can create a blog to write about that one, as it is possible that I may not be writing shorthand articles at the age of 137 years! (970 words)

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Short Letters3

Each paragraph is 150 words, so writing one in 90 seconds will be 100wpm.

Short Letters3 - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mr Green, I am writing to thank you for responding to the survey form in our recent mailout to local businesses. As you know, we are acting on behalf of the local authority, who wish to gauge the effectiveness of their recent improvements to community facilities and grants available, as well as future plans to solve some of the transport problems in the area. We are grateful for you taking the time to provide this information which will be a great help in formulating further improvements and so creating a better environment for future growth of trade in the area, as well as protection for community resources for residents and visitors. A summary of the results of this survey will be made available on our website under the project reference given above and we think you will find the information of interest and benefit to your business. Yours sincerely* (150 words)

* Omission phrase "yours s(in)cerely

Short Letters3 - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Miss Jackson, Thank you so much for coming to visit the Riverside Wetlands Ecology Centre last week* and for giving such an inspiring talk to the school children on the importance of looking after our environment. The children thoroughly enjoyed their day here, and thanks to your very informative explanation on the identification and lives of the various creatures to be found here, they were all very eager to look for and talk about the animals as they explored the site. Everyone was so enthusiastic at the craft activities afterwards, and hopefully many of them will want to return in the summer for one of your bird watching mornings. Some of the older children have already expressed an interest in the afternoon session of identifying and sketching the birds from the hide by the lake. Once again*, thank you so much for helping us in this way. Best wishes* (150 words)

* Omission phrases "las(t w)eek"  "wu(n)s again"

* "wish" is a downward Ish, but upward in this phrase in order to join

Short Letters3 - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Friends, It is that time of year again when we are finalising our plans for our Club's schedule of events on the river and I enclose a list of outings which I hope you and your family will find of interest. As usual there are quite a few trips to places of interest along the river, plus our annual Gala Day held in June in the grounds of the Harbour Inn, all of which are open to anyone interested. We are delighted this year to be able to offer for the first time* two trips to Rocky Island to watch the seals and other marine wildlife. Captain Morrison will again be holding seminars on seamanship and river craft at Riverside Hotel, which were very well* received last year and which resulted in many new members to our Club. We look forward to another exciting year of activities. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* Omission phrases "for (the) first time"   "very (w)ell"

Short Letters3 - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Sir, Thank you for the quotation to rebuild the garages at the rear of our office premises. We would like to make a few changes and additions. Could you please change the colour of the bricks to the darker version that we looked at, as this would blend in with the surroundings much better. We require the roof to be of glass fibre laminate rather than the rubberised coating that we originally requested, and the guttering and downpipes should now be in grey rather than black. We have also changed our electrical wiring and lighting requirements, including two extra outside sensor controlled security lights, and I enclose a revised plan that reflects this, if you could include this in the building plans. Could you also please clarify the rising door colour, as your quotation only gives a reference number. I look forward to receiving a revised quotation. Yours faithfully (150 words)

Short Letters3 - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mrs Bolton, I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies for student placements or internships at your college. We have a number of business studies students and graduates on our books who are very keen to gain experience and use their skills in a commercial college environment. We specialise in finding placements for high achieving students who have made a firm career decision and wish to benefit both themselves and their hosts. We vet all our applicants very carefully, with extensive* testing, interviewing and taking up multiple references on ability and character. They are used to working hard and are keen to learn. If you are interested in helping these students in their careers, as well as gaining some useful extra temporary staff for your busy periods, then please contact me with the types of subjects that you would like our students to help with. Yours sincerely (150 words)

* Keep the T clearly vertical and insert dot, as it could look like "expansive" which has a similar meaning.

Short Letters3 - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Dear Mr Black, Last week we held a special meeting of the Consultative Committee to discuss the issues that were raised at last month's Planning and Strategy meeting of local managers and senior staff. It is our job to give advice on the feasibility and legality of the decisions made, and the possible consequences not only for the business but also the staff and indeed our many valued customers. I attach a report of our meeting and invite you to send us your candid comments on the proposals and tentative decisions made. We want to ensure complete cooperation with everyone who will be affected, so that the proposed new measures benefit everyone involved in our business. You can send us your comments by post or email, or fill in the comments questionnaire online. I look forward to your views on the matter* and thank you for your cooperation. Yours sincerely (150 words) (Total 900 words)

* Omission phrase "on (the) matter"