Saturday, 16 February 2019


This is a shorthand version of the story of the seven days of Creation, when the Creator did not shun six days of work to produce His vision. It is proof that you can get a lot done in only six days, if you plan all the necessary work and have the appropriate disposition and determination to carry out your chosen mission. You will make your preparations, then follow with precision your plan of operation, remembering to proceed in the correct order, to achieve your ambition. With the completion of your shorthand education, there will be emotions of elation, jubilation and congratulations, and a progression on to your vocation.

Day 1: In the beginning* the Creator created the heavens and the earth, from his own imagination and of his own volition. The earth was in a condition of devastation and disorganisation*, a dark chaotic conglomeration with no cohesion. The Creator had a passionate intention for the reduction and termination of this confusion, and the expansion of ordered precision. On the first day He spoke His pronunciation for the initiation of this revitalisation. His realisation of this intention started with the creation of light. He saw that this clarification was good and so He made a separation* of it from the obscuration of darkness.

* Omission phrase "in the (be)ginn(ing)"

* "disorganisation" On the line, as the contraction "organisation" is on the line

* "separation" Insert the first vowel, to distinguish it from "suppression"

Day 2: On the second day the Creator put into operation His next action, consisting of the separation of the waters. The construction proceeded with the formation of a partition between the waters above and below. This partition was an innovation that He called “sky”.

Day 3: On the third day, the Creator made a collection of the water under the sky into one place, and this division brought about the manifestation of dry land. The collection of water he called “seas”. He saw that these were good. His next intention was the production of a  variation of plants and trees that would come to a yearly fruition. Their seed would produce a further expansion and distribution of vegetation. This situation was to be the foundation of our future civilisation.

Day 4: On the fourth day the Creator set in motion the operation of the sun, moon and stars. The sun would emit radiation onto the earth, and the moon was for the reflection* of light for the night-time. Their operation to separate light and darkness was given direction by the rotation of the earth and the attraction of gravitation. The Creator saw that this was good. He also made the congregation of stars in their various locations in the heavens, with all their distinctions* in strength of illumination.

* "reflection" The less common word "refraction" should always have the vowel after the FL stroke, as these two are similar
* "distinctions" Omits the K sound

Day 5: On the fifth day the Creator provided animation to creatures great and small teeming in the sea, and also the invention of aviation with winged* birds flying in the skies. He gave them the additional command of increasing until the duplication and expansion* of all their variations filled the seas and covered the earth.

* "winged" Stroke Ing cannot be halved

* "expansion" Keep the P stroke shallow, and insert the vowel if necessary, so the outline does not look like "extension" which has a similar meaning

Day 6: On the sixth day the Creator made a proclamation that the land should begin production of living creatures of numerous kinds, livestock and wild animals that move on the ground. He saw that all this was good. Then the Creator made man, a representation, reproduction and imitation of his own image and likeness. He gave him life by the exhalation of his breath and inhalation into the man's nostrils. He made them male and female and gave them an instruction for procreation and multiplication of generations, to fill the earth and rule over it.

In His conversation with them, He gave them domination* of the fish, birds, livestock and wild animals, and every creature that was in locomotion on the earth. He gave them the vegetation for cultivation, for the production of nutrition. He gave instructions to the beasts of the earth to also eat the green plants for their nutrition. This completed the creation and organisation of the heavens and the earth, vast in composition, exceptional in formation and sophistication, and without limitation. The Creator’s final evaluation was that it was all very good.

* "domination" Insert the vowel after the N, and the diphone in "dominion" as they are similar in outline and meaning

Day 7: On the seventh day the Creator achieved the completion of His work and so He rested from His exertions. The Creator made a consecration of the seventh day and sanctioned* it to be set apart as holy, and as an expression and recognition of His own cessation of work. This is the explanation of our weekly vacation for recuperation and restoration from toil, and for contemplation, appreciation and celebration of the Creator’s wonderful work of creation. (755 words)

* "sanctioned" Omits the K sound. The Ing stroke cannot be halved.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Bread Making

I can remember very well the first time I made bread. I did not intend to make bread but my cookery effort did turn out something like that. I was about nine years old and one day I had the urge to make something in the kitchen. With my mum's permission*, I mixed up a bowlful of food using a bit of everything that was in the food cupboard. There was no plan, no list, no idea of what my mixing efforts would produce. I ended up with a sloppy mix that was duly cooked until it looked done, which means somewhat solidified and taking on a brownish colour. Clearly I must have* used rather more flour than any other ingredient as the result was surprisingly bread-like and edible, although maybe you should not really put too much effort into imagining a heavy sort of* bread with the texture of porridge, that tasted of egg, sugar and salt with hints of jam, lemon curd, cheese and tomato ketchup. It was a good job we did not have any tinned sardines in the cupboard!

* "permission" Always put one of the vowels in "promotion" which is identical in shape

* Omission phrase "I mus(t) have"

* "sort of" Reverses the normal reading order of halving and hooks, this is only done in phrases e.g. part of, instead of, later than

Another year, not too long after that, I did make some bread, this time on purpose. The urge was not to make just something, but to make bread, just like the real stuff, with its mysterious ingredients and the mystic mixing and baking plan, the type of bread that simply appears in the shops and then appears in our home. I wanted to find out if the miracle would work at home and whether we could create it ourselves. What an achievement that would be, to turn brown powder and water into scrumptious bread.

There was no quick action yeast at that time, so the live yeast mixture was very slow acting. It was given a start in floury sugary water. It was allowed to start bubbling and was then mixed in. There was just one problem. I had to leave the mixture for several hours to rise. I was not in the habit* of doing two things at once, so I tried everything to occupy myself and make the time go more quickly. I played in the garden, I swung on the swing and tried to forget the bread dough for a while. It was hard work and the time passed very slowly. Finally I had in my hands my own bread, rather heavy and hard, but recognisably bread as it had air pockets throughout the inside, the sine qua non of the master baker's skill.

* "habit" "hobby" Always put the first vowel in these, as they are similar in outline and meaning

I have over the years had bouts of bread making, sometimes getting back into the habit for a while, and sometimes just abandoning it as messy and time-consuming when there are lots* of other things to be done. But as I write, the dough is in the kitchen, rising at a reasonable rate due to the fast action yeast and the warmth of the room. The oven is on for the evening meal, after which the bread will go in. When cool it will be roughly sliced and most of it frozen*. One small batch will go in the food cupboard and by tomorrow it will be more evenly textured, after spending the night in food bags, when the moisture from the centre will work its way to the crust and soften it.

* "lots" "masses" Always put the first vowel in these, as they are similar in outline and meaning

* "frozen" "freezing" Always put the first vowel in these, as they are similar in outline and meaning

There are no more mysteries about how bread comes into existence. Dough not too dry, and not too wet and soft. Enough evenly-spaced bubbles to stop it being a brick. A good serrated knife to cut it cleanly. It was time-consuming, compared with snatching a slice of shop bread from the freezer. It was messy and dusty, and a job to clean up the sticky mixing bowls. However, until next summer's heatwave, I would say that* standing next to a glowing* oven, with a fresh buttered slice in hand is the most welcoming place in the house on a chilly winter's evening. (655 words)

* Omission phrase "I would s(ay) that"

* "glowing" Always put in the diphone, to ensure it is not misread as "golden"

Monday, 21 January 2019

Silent Letters 2

Mr Speller has joined us once again*, expounding on his experiences in his own inimitable style. He knows all about silent letters, but he is never silent on subjects that are dear to his heart. Mr Speller reports: It had been a bombshell to my family when I said I intended to do shorthand and commercial subjects at college, despite the subtle hints that I had been dropping. I informed everyone I was going to climb to the top of my profession. On the first day of the term, I finished up the crumbs of my breakfast, combed my hair, climbed into the car and drove to the college. I sauntered into the foyer with confidence and aplomb. I did not succumb to thoughts of being too dumb to learn, in fact* I was more than ready to go out on a limb for success, rather than plumb the depths of failure. I preferred the job title shorthand writerto plumber. I was as happy and frisky as a lamb, unlike some of the other students who appeared to be numb with terror and felt they were going from the safe womb of home life straight into a tomb of despondency and despair. They should have taken heart from the motto over the door jamb of the commercial department, “Our Rule of Thumb, we will be training ALL of your fingers”.

* Omission phrases "wu(n)s again" "in (f)act" "short(hand) writer"

Our teacher Mr Castle would bustle in every day at 9 o’clock sharp, his folders bristling with papers. He turned out to be an apostle of joy and we felt every lesson was like Christmas come early. We enjoyed the lessons so much* we would jostle and hustle to enter the room and take our seats. It was a big room so the small class nestled around his desk on long trestle tables. We would wrestle with the reading back and at the end of the allotted time he would blow a whistle for us to stop. We started off as rough thistles but ended up as fine blooms.

* "so much" Writing "much" in full allows it to be joined, which is faster

After each successful day of learning, I would fasten my seatbelt and hasten homewards, listening to my favourite* music. The winter snowglistened on the road, moistening the windscreen and softening the sounds of the traffic. Autumn had given way to chilly winter and often*the traffic was held up in a column of slow-moving vehicles. In the early days I would recite the simple shorthand mnemonics, but by now I no longer needed that. My shortest route* took me past some condemned houses, a solemn reminder not to neglect repairs, and a church where I sometimes heard hymns being sung as I passed.

* "favourite" Note that "favoured" uses a left VR stroke

* "snow" Always insert the vowels in "sun/snow, sunny/snowy"

* "often" Mostly silent, some people do pronounce the T sound

* "route" Helpful to insert the vowel, so it is not misread as "road"

I had an excellent rapport with my fellow students and we celebrated our exam successes with a rendezvous in the city. We all enjoyed fine gourmet meals so choosing an expensive restaurant was no faux pas. However, some children who were rather more bourgeois were flinging peas with their forks, which ricocheted around the room, leaving green marks and debris on the faux silk tablecloths*. Apropos of our next evening out, we decided to go to a ballet instead. I scribbled a proposed date on my paper handkerchief for Wednesday the tenth.

* "tablecloths" The dictionary version is one outline, but that descends too far into the lines below

That Wednesday soon came round, although I was doubtful about the weather forecast, and we planned to meet up for a meal before the ballet. I walked from the station, past a pub where the sports results were chalked on a board outside, and finally arrived at half past six at The* Spotted Cow and Calf Inn. I talked with my friends until everyone had arrived. There was a lovely calm atmosphere and we enjoyed the salmon and vol-au-vents* made from egg yolks. The orchestra played softly under the potted  palms, and the whole experience was a balm to our souls.

* "at The Spotted Cow" Not using Tick The, as that word is part of the name

* "vol-au-vents" This is an anglicised pronunciation, the dictionary outline shows the French pronunciation

It was there that I saw my friend Colonel Wright walking down the aisle and past our table. He had been a member of the Army Engineer Corps and had just returned from the Isle of Man. We invited him to join us and heard how he had given up his ambition to be a playwright using a pseudonym, and had applied for a job with a debt management firm, and he was in no doubt that he would be successful. By the time I got the receipt for our meal, he had talked with us at length about his business prospects. The ballet performance was delightful, but as we went home in the pouring rain, it is a wonder we did not all go down with pneumonia. I arrived safely at my little half-timbered house on the knoll at the end of Wren Road, a warm and welcoming island of green in the crowded suburbs. We would undoubtedly be doing all this again quite soon. (803 words)

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Silent Letters 1

As you have been learning shorthand, I am sure you have become used to writing the words as they sound, ignoring the longhand spelling and just matching sounds and strokes. A classroom situation is the ideal because the instruction there is mostly* verbal, with no necessity for longhand writing and little need for longhand reading. After a short while it seems perfectly obvious that there is no other sensible way to write. Reading your shorthand notes aloud is the quickest way to zip through the pages but a neat transcript* is necessary at times as well, as that is a separate skill that needs perfecting. If you are a good speller and well trained on the keyboard, your fingers will just peck* out the words without much thought, silent letters and all. Writing it all out in longhand is just too slow and frustrating, and a waste of your precious study time, although it may be necessary if no other* method is available.

* "mostly" Omits the lightly sounded T

* "transcript" Omits the R, so that it does not look like "describe" which has a similar meaning

* "peck" Insert the vowel, as "pick" could also make sense here

* Omission phrase "no oth(er)"

Producing a transcript* throws the shorthand writer* back into the world of our wayward English spelling. I have covered common misspellings in other articles and this article covers those naughty, mischievous and rebellious little words that have a silent letter, one that is not sounded and would make no difference to the pronunciation* if it were left out, which you cannot do, because you are not in charge of English spellings and you have to conform to normal traditional usage. Most of them occur at the beginning or end, and so, while the eye accepts their presence, it is easy to suspend any thoughts of their contributing their sound to the word. It is true that some other* letters are not always pronounced in their own normal way, but their purpose in the spelling is to modify another letter to produce different sounds and so would certainly be missed if they were left out. For my purposes they do not count as silent letters, as they have a definite* job to do, even though they got that job through accident of history and gradual change of pronunciation*.

* "transcript" Omits the R, so that it does not look like "describe" which has a similar meaning

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

* "some other" Doubling to represent "other"

* "pronunciation" The diphone is placed against the small shun hook, not against the N stroke

* "definite" Insert the vowel after the N stroke, and the diphthong in "defined", as these are similar in outline and meaning

I hope you have now* acquired the knack of thinking in terms of sound rather than an alphabet. You always knew that shorthand would be a useful skill to have and you now know how to write it. You may even wish you had known it much sooner. You go to your lessons with your pen and pad in your knitted knapsack. You knuckle down to the lessons in order to* gain the knowledge you need. Although your intellect is as sharp as a knife, excessively fast dictations will have your knees knocking or find you kneeling exhausted on the floor. Some difficult outline may be gnawing at your mind but your shorthand dictionary comes to your rescue like a knight in shining armour. Occasionally you gnash your teeth over a missed opportunity for speed success, which makes you feel like a gnome rather than a giant, a gnat rather than a beautiful butterfly, a gnu rather than a sleek racehorse*. If your brow has become lined and gnarled, it is clearly time to turn the knob on the bedroom door and let a night’s rest undo* all those shorthand knots in your mind.

* Omission phrases "I (h)ope you have now" "in ord(er to)"

* "racehorse" The large circle is used here to represent two circles i.e. one circle S and one Stroke Hay circle

* "undo" Not using the short form "do"

Next day you write to the best of your ability*. The black line from the pen writhes and wriggles over the page. You wrinkle your nose as you decipher your scribbled outline but finally, after some wrestling and wrangling, you wrest the meaning from it. If the transcript is in longhand, your wrist may get tired after a while. You avoid wrecking your transcript with wrong words, and incurring the wrath of your teacher Mr Wright or your employers Messrs Wray and Wragg based in Wrexham. You accurately wrote down all the examples from the blackboard and you have wrung all the useful information out of the lesson. Although it is a wrench to leave the class, you go out to The Ptarmigan Inn and remove the wrapper on your well-deserved snack. You are not* a poor ignorant wretch but a victorious winner worthy of a golden wreath wrapped round your head. Today’s shorthand successes bring a wry smile to your face, as you contemplate the stenographic wreckage that you have avoided.

* Omission phrase "bes(t of) your ability" and also using the "-bility" suffix to represent the whole word "ability"

* "you are not" Full outlines in this phrase, compare "you will not" which uses N Hook and halving, this keeps these two phrases different to prevent misreading

You used all your psychological ruses to keep your enthusiasm going, you did not need a psychiatrist or psychotherapy to pick up the pieces of any failure that occurred, and you did not get psychotic over the exams. You put in lots of honest work, hour after hour, got yourself into the rhythm of flowing writing, and did not give up the ghost when the going got tough. You now have two certificates, shorthand and keyboard skills. You no longer wonder whose name will be at the top of the shortlist, who will be offered that plum job and to whom the letter of offer will be addressed. The answer soon comes in the post. Now you are an honourable* heir to all the advantages of the winged* art, not a lumbering dinosaur but a soaring pterodactyl, king of the skies. (857 words)

Monday, 14 January 2019

No Focus

My secondary school was a large Victorian building and the classrooms were spacious and bright with high ceilings and tall windows. In some of the rooms the windows were high up, so there was no view, and this was a common feature in many school buildings of that era. Distractions outside could not be seen and so it kept the children’s focus where it should be. I was fascinated by the long poles with two curly brass hooks at the end, one to push and one to pull on the ring on each top window, in order to open and close it. I don’t remember the teacher ever delegating that task to any of us, considering how easy it would be to put it through the glass. There was good discipline, and whether the windows were high up or not, our classes were generally well focussed* on the lesson, and our eyes and minds were fixed* on the teacher and the blackboard. The exception to this was one particular lesson in the chemistry room when a sparrow was trapped in the domed skylight. One just could not listen to the chemistry teacher expounding when there was the intermittent sound of wings fluttering against the glass. We just had to hope that the assistant would open the top light later on to let the sparrow out.

* "focussed" "fixed" Advisable to insert the vowel in these, in all their forms, as they are similar in outline and meaning, but in this particular article only "fixed" needs a vowel

When I was at college, one morning I was sitting in the foyer using the spare time* to read the shorthand book, completely focussed on the contents. A student I did not know sat down beside me and wanted to talk about a family issue and a choice she felt she needed to make. She thought an impartial answer or useful comment might be forthcoming from a complete stranger. I was not going to be drawn into giving an opinion* on such a sensitive subject, so I offered polite and vaguely sympathetic remarks. After a while she realised that I was not going to participate with my entire attention and so she drifted off. I knew she would not be paying attention to any lessons for a while, or at all, because her mind was consumed with other things of greater importance to her.

* "spare time" Halving for the T of "time"

* "opinion" Ensure clearly on the line with a small hook, so it does not look like the short form "information" which is above the line

At the same college some years later, I was in an evening class for shorthand speed improvement. It was the beginning of the term and one young lady stood out to me as having a different attitude from the rest of us. I got the impression that she felt completely out of place and self-conscious. Her attention was on the room, the class and the whole situation, and thoughts of shorthand writing* were clearly having to take second place*. I wondered whether she might have been persuaded to acquire shorthand skills as a backup to a non-commercial career, and that she was here on someone else’s advice or out of necessity. I don’t think she benefitted greatly from the sessions that she attended, as her focus was on things other than the immediate task in hand.

* Omission phrases "short(hand) writing" "sec(ond) place"

At work I was once given the job of teaching the brand new subject of word processing to one of my typist colleagues who had just joined us. These were the first office computers, with a rudimentary program designed to handle text laid out very simply, with a black screen and green characters, keyboard controlled and no mouse in those days. To our right was a wall, of no interest, ahead was a window, with nothing of interest outside, but to our left was the whole office room, full of interesting activity. Many times her gaze was drawn that way and I knew she was not listening to instructions. I only had half her attention so there was limited focus on our task. Where there is no interest, there will be no focus and therefore no learning or progress.

Every shorthand student finds out very quickly that it is not possible* to have one’s attention in two places at once*. You are either worrying about the shorthand, your lack of speed, bad outlines and gaps, or alternatively you are excluding all that and just concentrating on recalling outlines to match the speaker and writing it all down without hesitation. There is the constant temptation* for the mind to wander, as it has always been allowed to do up until now. That doesn’t* work with shorthand. You are certainly doing several things at once*, writing what you have just heard whilst listening to the next few words*, but your attention is still specifically on the one job as a whole and there is no spare capacity for other things to intrude. In shorthand writing*, you have to constantly make the effort to maintain focus and not let it be interrupted by other unwanted thoughts and ideas barging in out of turn. No shorthand book has a chapter called “Training your mind to focus." You have to find out for yourself and make your own efforts to achieve the necessary control on demand.

* Omission phrases "shorthand s(t)udent" "it is not poss(ible)" "at (w)uns" "ne(k)s(t) few wo(r)ds" "short(hand) writing"

* "temptation" Omits the lightly sounded P, so has M stroke rather than Imp

* "doesn't" Apostrophied phrases should always be vocalised

Focus is the Latin word for hearth, a place of welcoming warmth and light that is the centre of attention. Cold draughts that try to invade* your focus must be shut out and prevented from coming near or extinguishing* it, so that you can enjoy its benefits without interruption. The successful completion of a shorthand assignment always brings its own cosy glow of satisfaction which icy* draughts cannot overcome. (905 words)

* "invade" "invite" Always insert the vowel after the V, to differentiate, as the outlines for the present tense are the same but the meanings are opposite

* "extinguishing" The contraction omits the "-guish" part

* "icy" Insert the final vowel as "ice draughts" could possibly make sense as well

Saturday, 12 January 2019


Onwards is a word that does a good job of describing the New Year and all that it entails. We leave behind the old year, with just a brief* backward glance to summarise to ourselves what happened during that time. Then it is onwards and upwards, working towards an exciting twelve months of looking forward to aiming for all the things that we want to happen or desire to have, and avoiding *all the unhelpful things as far as possible*. You might* also have noticed that this first blog of the year is a chance to practise this suffix, using  a halved Way stroke and omitting the R sound, to produce an extremely brief* method of writing it.

* "brief" Always insert the vowel, as this could be misread for "number of" in many contexts

* "avoiding" Always insert the diphthong, to help differentiate from "evading" which is similar in outline and meaning

* Omission phrase "as far as poss(ible)"

* "you might" Not phrased, and with vowel, to distinguish it clearly from "you may"

It is possible* that writing shorthand was at first quite awkward, and you spent many hours learning which strokes went upwards and downwards. You found that some strokes slope slightly backwards, and a circle has to be written in all four directions, upwards, downwards, backwards and forwards, in order to complete its shape. Mostly your studies went forwards, but maybe on some days you felt they were going backwards. With practice, writing from dictation became a little more straightforward, and afterwards you had the satisfaction of being able to read it all. Henceforward* you would be able to tame your wayward writing style and never have to look backwards again. You head off outwards from home towards your classes where you work towards achieving your goal of accurate inward shorthand knowledge by constantly correcting any untoward* outlines.

* Omission phrase "it is poss(ible)"

* "mostly" Omits the lightly-sounded T

* "henceforward" Note the optional contraction for "henceforth" is the similar, but minus the "-wd" stroke = H + N + Circle S + F

* "untoward" Full outline

The suffix comes ultimately from a word that means “to turn or bend towards” and is related to the Latin root from which we get words such as revert, convert, versus, vertigo, all of which contain the idea of turning. The dictionary definition is that it “denotes spatial* or temporal* direction, as specified by the initial* element.” I have generally found that the version without the S is more likely to be used as an adjective, such as an outward-bound train, a forward-facing seat, but with an S for an adverb, such as I travelled homewards on the train, or he ran forwards along the road. You may find other variations of usage, though, but the important thing is to write the version that the speaker actually said.

* "spatial" Helpful to insert the vowel, in case it is misread for a full version of "special"

* "temporal" Note that the outline for "temporary" does not use doubling

* "initial" Ensure clearly through the line, and insert the diphthong in "final" so these two are clearly differentiated

Words that sound the same, like ward, wired, weird, are not suffixes and so they have normal outlines. In some outlines the suffix uses a full phonetic outline, as that joins much better, such as homeward, sideward, landward, eastward*, seaward*, so these need practising* as well. Knowing the suffixes is one small element in helping your speed upwards, and, if I might extend its use, propel you exam-wards to shorthand success. Finally may I express the hope that this year results in your speed rising skywards and heavenwards, sending you northwards, southwards, westwards and eastwards to your reporting assignments. (484 words)

* "eastward, seaward" Insert the vowels, as these could be misread for each other in many contexts

* "practising" Ensure the dot is clear, as the noun "practice" could also make sense here