Friday, 15 August 2014


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

Papyrus plants in greenhouseI have just returned from a pleasant morning walking through the gardens at Hall Place. The large greenhouse* contains a variety of tropical plants, all densely planted around a long fishpond. As with the rest of the open gardens, everything is educational, with all the plants clearly labelled - cotton, tea, coffee, sugar cane, sweet potato and various tropical fruits such as banana, lemon and orange trees, none of which will grow outside in Britain.

In several places beside the fish pond are some papyrus plants, growing tall and thick, with a spray of little stems and flowers at the top, in an umbrella shape. I instantly recognised these as larger versions of one that is growing at the shallow end of my pond at home, called Cyperus Papyrus or Egyptian Paper Reed. It is shapely and decorative but unfortunately it seeds profusely, just like any other* grass, and so I do my best to remove it whenever it appears, or at least snap off the flowering head to prevent it spreading. I love* paper but I don't love papyrus seedlings everywhere!

* Dot Hay and stroke S for "house" enable a join to be made

* Omission phrase "any oth(er)"

* "I love" not phrased, as this would look the same as "I will have". In normal writing, you would probably not need to vocalise "love". If you had already phrased it, then you would need to go back and insert the vowel for clarity e.g. "I love to do the housework/I will have to do the housework."

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

Papyrus plant beside pondIn another part of the* park, there were some bamboo clumps and on the grass a few wing feathers from crows and geese. It occurred to me that here was almost everything necessary to get writing, and all that was missing was some charcoal and maybe some grease to mix it with to make ink.

When I got home, I toyed with the idea of rescuing my papyrus plant and letting it grow in isolation in a pot somewhere, so that I could* see if it was possible to make a papyrus sheet of my own. Having read up on all the time needed in cutting, soaking, splicing, gluing, hammering and polishing it, I quickly abandoned that idea.

* Omission phrase "part (of) the". Writing "of" as a hook is avoided, as it would look too much like "number of".

* "I could" is not phrased, to prevent misreading as "I can". "Could not" can be phrased safely, as "cannot" is written differently.

Papyrus - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I did once buy a piece of "papyrus" with Egyptian hieroglyphs* on it - human* figures, birds, beetles, obelisks and other shapes, in vertical rows, and a drawing or two of colourful seated personages. It was a very cheap seaside souvenir, and I think it was made of bits of flattened English straw woven into something that looked like a small place mat, with the picture printed on and a thin coating of glue to hold it all together*. It was not long before it fell apart, and this made it look even more like a fragment of antiquity, as the shreds came away. I think it may have had a small label stuck on the back - souvenir of Margate. King Rameses would have loved it and would most certainly have immediately put it on his bedside table to remind him of his day out to the seaside.

* "hieroglyph" is the noun, "hieroglyphic" is the adjective.

* Special outline, above the line to accord with 2nd vowel, to differentiate it from "humane"which is on the line.

* This is not the same as the word "altogether" which has its own short form.

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

Bamboo sticks
Home grown bamboo pens
As a shorthand writer*, it is easy to feel an instant affinity with the Egyptian scribes, who used a cursive form of hieroglyphic writing known as hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) for their ink writings. As well as papyrus, they wrote notes on plaster tablets*, which were like wax tablets, but instead with a thin coating of plaster on the wood that could be washed clean for reuse. They must have occasionally had stenographic ordeals like our own, as they attempted to get all of a speech or message down with no gaps.

Did they prefer to keep a large supply of papyrus rolls and spare tablets to hand, or did some of the less conscientious ones get down to the end of the roll, only to be requested to take more notes with space rapidly running out? Did they keep on hand a supply of good quality ink cakes and reeds, or did some of them think they could get by with lumpy ink blocks and a blunt reed pen? And did the novice scribes ever have one of those days when the words required did not seem to match the symbols that they had learned, and they were wishing that they had paid more attention in their classes. I think that, just like us, it only took one of these glitches to jolt them into being better prepared for future tasks.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

* Insert one of the vowel signs, so that it cannot be misread as "tables"

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

With shorthand being less well known nowadays, people like to muse on its secrecy value for those who can write it, hoping that it will be as obscure as a monument or scroll full of hieroglyphs. The Egyptian scribe could definitely count on this, as literacy and schooling was only for officers in the upper ranks of society, with the general population* being illiterate and needing only to know their own trade or craft. However, maybe present-day diarists should not think they can rely on any traditional shorthand system to hide their writings, as it is very easy to present any discovered scribbles (with or without the owner's permission) on the internet and request a translation. So please do not write your computer passwords or credit card pin number in Pitman's, Gregg or Teeline!

* Ensure the shun hook is well formed and open, so that this does not begin to look like "populace" which has the same meaning.

Bamboo stick and shorthand pen

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

Painting of Roman girl with wax tablet
Roman girl with
booklet of wax tablets
The Egyptian scribes of past millennia were no doubt perfectly happy with their papyrus and wooden writing palettes, just as we are with our writing materials, but I would not want anyone to think that laptops and tablets were merely a modern invention. Have a look at the Wikipedia page for Wax Tablet and in the third photo from the top, you can see a scribe with his laptop tablet on his knees, about to use a stylus and looking remarkably modern. He has obviously had quite enough of typing with two fingers, and cannot be bothered to learn to touch type. Maybe we should ask him what app he is using to write directly* on the screen, although it does actually look like the "Bamboo" graphics tablet with stylus that I have in front of me.

* You can also write this above the line, if you pronounce it "dye-rectly"

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

The Seated Scribe, Louvre, Paris
I think Pitman's is faster,
but The Seated Scribe has
had 4,500 years to practise
(see link below)
The ancient Egyptian scribes occupied a high position in their society, as they were administrators as well as writers, in control of government and historical records, and indeed all written information. They were exempt from heavy manual labour, military service and paying taxes, because of their valuable skills. Their sons went through long apprenticeships and inherited their fathers' jobs, so maintaining a high level of skill throughout the generations. They were part of the upper classes or even the royal court, although there were many more lesser scribes lower down the scale, for the more mundane tasks of keeping accounts and business transactions. Their five-year apprenticeships would have covered the formal symbols and the faster day-to-day* cursive writing, as well as training in all the other administrative* duties of the profession.

* Inserting the dash marks is textbook correct for this, the rule being "A dash in the longhand is always shown in the shorthand where the outlines cannot be joined" but in actual use it is perfectly readable without them.

* Omits the R "administ(r)ative", similarly derivatives and similar words - administration, ministry, demonstrate etc.

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

Sphinxes on bench ends, Embankment, London
Sphinx seats, London Embankment
Papyrus Lansing, kept in the British Museum, is a school book containing an exhortation to become a scribe, with dire warnings to avoid the toil, pain and misery of other manual trades, and encouragement to attain the position, wealth and "good life" that could be enjoyed by the successful scribe. It was a practice text to be copied out by the students, who were obviously being given no opportunity to forget what might befall them if they neglected* their studies:

"By day write with your fingers; recite by night. Befriend the scroll, the palette. It pleases more than wine. Writing for him who knows it is better than all other professions. It pleases more than bread and beer, more than clothing and ointment."

And later on: "You are dressed in fine clothes; you own horses. Your boat is on the river; you are supplied with attendants. You stride about inspecting. A mansion is built in your town. You have a powerful office, given you by the king . . . Put the writings in your heart, and you will be protected from all kinds of toil. You will become a worthy official."

* Short line struck through the last stroke of a contraction is an advanced method to show past tense, where the context could mean either.

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

We already know how to read and write, so our shorthand is much quicker to learn, needing less than* a year, maybe six months, to get to a good speed, and we have better and more abundant paper, and instant ink in fountain pens that do not need dipping or sharpening. I think we can also be grateful for soft adjustable seats and ergonomically designed desks, and that we do not have to sit for hours cross-legged on the floor using the standard Egyptian linen kilt stretched across our knees as a table, on which to balance a writing board and paper. I hope that your shorthand studies are proceeding as swiftly as the scribe's pen, and that the only hard manual labour involved is that of practising until you can produce your streamlined hieroglyphs at a hundred words a minute and beyond. (1419 words)

* Downward L is used, to enable this phrase to be made, "less" on its own has upward L Item Y3 shows the hieroglyphic sign for "scribe" showing 2-hole palette for black and red ink cakes, water bottle and reed pen holder.  One of the illustrations shows a scribe with his laptop tablet on his knees, looking remarkably modern. Interesting closeups of inks and pigments on the surface of the papyrus. Photos, text and narration describing in detail the 4,500-year-old statue of The Seated Scribe in The Louvre, Paris. His intense expression is the same as countless shorthand writers over the centuries, as they fasten their attention on the speaker, ready to start writing immediately. Full text of Papyrus Lansing "Beginning of the instruction in letter writing", with many details of life at that time.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Business Letters

Business Letters - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Business* letters have changed a lot over the years. Looking back at some quite old shorthand books, the sample commercial letters contained many obsolete phrases, but they were nevertheless very short and to the point. Being quick to write, type and read, they kept everyone happy by not wasting anyone's time. They were in stark contrast to the elaborate* writing style of Victorian book prose, which presented the material as authoritative and worthy of attention, carefully* considered and composed, rather than dashed off in a hurry. In fact, close attention was essential, as nothing really made complete sense until one reached the end of the long-winded sentence, which was often also the end of the paragraph. This dense and meandering style lingered on in government documents and correspondence, and sometimes commercial ones, and it seemed almost designed to intimidate the reader into instantly obeying the contents of the letter.

* Omission phrase "biz(ness) letters"

* See elaborate/laboured on

* Optional contraction

Business Letters - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I am very glad that business letters nowadays have become even simpler and friendlier in their approach. The language style must match what the recipient is expecting for that type of business and subject, and any departure from it has to be carefully thought about, so that the right impression is given and professionalism is maintained. A chatty and over-friendly letter from a solicitor telling you some sober news is obviously not acceptable. A stiff and formal letter inviting you to the opening of a new café, club or boutique is also out of place. I like a plain and clear letter without frills, but if the helpful tone descends into what I call "hand holding", I feel I am back in the first class of primary school. I have often been involved in drafting letters, reports and publicity materials. A specific idea, suggestion or instruction must be presented clearly and briefly, not so long that the reader gives up reading or ignores it, and not so short that it appears like a barked order from a sergeant major. When forms, slips and replies come back, it is quite chastening to find out how many ways people can misinterpret what seemed perfectly clear on the leaflet.

Business Letters - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The following paragraphs provide some basic vocabulary for correspondence. The salutation used depends on how well the addressee is known: Dear Sir, Dear Madam, Dear Sir or Madam*, Dear Mr Smith, Dear Mr and Mrs* Brown, Dear Dr Jones, Dear Sir Michael, Dear John, Dear Mary. If the letter is part of admail, which is generally unaddressed, it may start with Dear Reader, Customer, Friends, or it might match the subject, such as Dear Driver, Parent, Home-owner, or Gardener. A letter that is to be forwarded to another third party whose name is unknown may be addressed "To whom it may concern".*

* Omission phrases "Dear Sir (or) Madam"  "Mr (and) Mrs"

* You could make this into an omission phrase "it-may-(con)cern"

Business Letters - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The beginning of a letter should introduce what it is about and why it is being sent. Common phrases are: with reference* to your letter; regarding our previous correspondence; in reply* to your enquiry; further to our recent telephone conversation*; I am writing in relation to* our meeting last week*. If something is being sent with the letter, you would say: please find enclosed the form you requested; I am attaching the application form that you asked for; I am sending with this letter* our latest catalogue; we hope you will enjoy reading the enclosed brochure. Letters have enclosures and emails* have attachments.

* Writing W-Fs is much quicker than using the full outlines

* Omission phrases
"in (re)ply"  "telephone (conversa)tion"  "in (re)lation (to)"  
"last (w)eek"

* Downward L to enable a join to be made

* Always put the first vowel in "email" and "mail" to prevent misreading

Business Letters - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Letters may end with a reminder of the action required: I look forward to receiving your reply*; I look forward to hearing from you in due course; I look forward to the return of your completed application form within the next two weeks*; I trust that the* above comments are useful; I do hope this information will help you in your decision. More closing phrases are: please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information*; I will be happy to answer any questions* that you may have; I will be contacting you next week* with the results of the report; I will be looking into the matter further and will let you know the conclusions as soon as they are available; we hope this settles the matter to your complete satisfaction.

* Omission phrases "your (re)ply"  "two wee(k)s"  "I trus(t) that the"

"further (informa)tion"  "next (w)eek"

* Optional contraction for "questions"

Business Letters - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

A polite note of thanks or appreciation softens the ending: thank you for taking the time to write to us; we appreciate your interest in our company and products; thank you for considering* this request; we appreciate your comments on this matter; your generosity with this donation is greatly appreciated. Endings vary according to the level of formality. Dear Sir ends with Yours faithfully*. Dear Mr Smith ends with Yours sincerely*. Yours truly is an older form current in the USA but not so much in the UK. Best wishes, kind or kindest regards and warmest greetings are much more informal and unlikely to be suitable for a plain business letter. There is also one special ending reserved exclusively for shorthand enthusiasts reading a shorthand blog - thank you for taking the time to read this article and I wish you every success in the future. Yours most sincerely*, Blog Writer. (846 words)

* Omission phrases "for (con)sidering"  "Yours f(aithfully)"  "Yours (sin)cerely"  "Yours mos(t sin)cerely"

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Pen And Ink

Pen And Ink - Part 1 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In my shorthand articles, I often extol the advantages of using a fountain pen. At the time I learned shorthand, in the 1970's, writing with a fountain pen was not unusual but I think that nowadays it takes a little more effort to persuade people to try using one. I could just say buy a cheap one and see how you get on, but I am sure this would result in a complete rejection of pen writing after a very short while. An inferior pen with a hard, unbending and possibly scratchy nib is a horror to write with, and if you have never used a fountain pen before then you might assume that all pens were like that and wonder why anyone would want to bother. If that is all that is available, then its disadvantages might be slightly lessened by using paper that is very smooth and non-absorbent, and fresh ink, not old, thick and clogging. I did once try an extremely cheap plastic pen and it failed to deliver its ink reliably, but when I ditched the cartridge and replaced it with a converter* and bottled ink, it wrote very well indeed (but not shorthand).

* A cartridge-shaped device generally with a screw plunger mechanism, that allows the pen to be filled from an ink bottle.

Pen And Ink - Part 2 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Mostly I use the Noodler's* flex pens and as I keep several inked in various colours, I use them as often as possible for ordinary notes, so that they don't dry out. I never get bored with the pleasure of changing to another colour, although I find that black is the best for scanning, as it makes a consistently dark line rather than one that starts too pale. Some may wish to print out the shorthand and I would not want the result to be patchy and less readable. Even if I take my bounciest shorthand pen and best-performing ink, the cheap pads produce results that are fuzzy and unclear, as the ink feathers into the surrounding fibres at an alarming rate, and bleeds through to the back of the paper. I end up having to write much larger in order not to lose detail and overly large outlines take longer to write. The sucking effect of the absorbent paper also slows down the writing. I can get away with this for jottings, but if I use them for shorthand, the results are very disappointing.

* See "About The Blog" page for links

Pen And Ink - Part 3 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

At primary school we were only allowed to use pencils. One day, when I was about 8* or 9, the teacher said that we would soon be allowed to use a fountain pen and we should ask our families if they could find or provide one. A search was duly made of the cupboards and drawers, and a likely candidate emerged in the form of* a rather small reddish-brown tortoise-shell pattern fountain pen. It had quite a small nib and a lever filler on the side, and a smart shiny pocket clip on the cap although I did not yet have a suitable top pocket to clip it to. It was cleaned out and filled with blue-black ink, and I began practising assiduously at home. The nib was not as smooth as it could have been, and being so fine it tended to catch on the paper. But none of this put me off, and I was soon writing my name in careful* joined-up letters on every available paper surface. I took it into school on the designated day and from that day on used it whenever I could.

* Always write numeral 8 when it is alone, and not its outline, the T stroke would be confused with the numeral one, as well as various other words. Similarly, always write numerals for 18 and 80.

* Omission phrase "in (the) f(orm of)"

* Optional contraction

Pen And Ink - Part 4 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I had started my journey into ink blots and inky fingers, but I never tired of seeing the stark ink line emerging from the pen. The results were easy to read, being dark blue-black instead of the unappealing lines produced by the pencil, insipid greasy grey if the lead was hard, and woolly and imprecise if it was soft and easily blunted. Unlike the indifferent pencil lead, no great pressure was needed to produce the line, although it took some time to get out of the habit of dragging the nib sideways and expecting it to write properly. At last, after a few days practising and improving, the shapes and words seemed to almost write themselves.

Pen And Ink - Part 5 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Pens came and went over the years, most of them given by family members. During school years, the craze for italic writing came and went, as did the craze for writing deviant forms of certain letters of the alphabet, with extra flourishes on the loops. The colour craze came and went, with homework presented written in swimming-pool turquoise* bright red or grass green. All these school handwriting fads encouraged an interest in careful letter formation, and I learned early on that fancy writing was of no use if it was not readable. Flourishes and strange colours or shapes had to be kept to a minimum, and had to be entirely abandoned when writing out exam answers, but they could be given full rein on Christmas cards and other artistic endeavours.

* Using Kway to reflect the modern pronunciation, the shorthand dictionary version has just K

Pen And Ink - Part 6 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Calligraphy became a later interest, but anyone with that hobby will know that practising is just not satisfying enough. There needs to be a real project to use it for, an ultimate useful purpose for all that practising of perfect hand and pen control and perfection of form. The good thing about shorthand is that the outlines look just like the attractive swirls and loops so beloved of calligraphers. They can be practised ad infinitum and it is not wasted time, instead it brings the writer ever nearer to their goal of writing at the speed of speech. It provides a practical reason to acquire pens, inks and papers, and to spend hours improving the formation of the shapes in flowing succession along the lines of the pad.

Pen And Ink - Part 7 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The obvious difference is that calligraphy can proceed as slowly as necessary, with no thought of time taken, but shorthand has to go at the speed of the speaker, with beauty and perfection being sacrificed to mere readability. Calligraphy is the slow drawing of words and shorthand is the fast writing of words. However, once you have gained some skill in it, then a combination of speed and elegance is entirely possible. I hope that with a good fountain pen, favourite colour of ink, and the best paper available, you will soon be looking for any and every opportunity to pick them up and produce beautiful inky* outlines that will be superior to those that used to be* obtained with a hard blunt pencil stub on hairy paper that catches, tears and dents. With your new skill, you can use both with equal ease to record what you need to, but I would suggest that one is likely to be more satisfying, readable and enduring than the other. Long live pen and ink! (1119 words)

* Include the final vowel, as "ink outlines" would also make sense

* Omission phrase "use(d to) be"

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Spring Clean

Spring Clean - Part 1 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I have just spent a couple of days turning out some wardrobes and drawers. The weekend weather was hot and humid, too uncomfortable to travel about unnecessarily*, or even to sit in the garden. Discomfort with the sticky and clammy conditions turned into impatience with the untidy areas of the house, the scattered items and little piles of things waiting to be either used or put away somewhere. Questions* began to crowd in, demanding an answer. "Why is that there when I don't want it any more? What is in that box, and if I don't already know, then it is unlikely to be anything that I want or need. And that item, I thought I threw that out ages ago, why is it still here? I will never wear that sun hat again, so I don't need to find a storage place for it at all." Time to put a rocket under all this stuff! I find the best way* to deal with it is exactly the same as I do in the garden, "Would I buy this plant or this item, if it were not already here?" The fact that* I am asking myself the question should give a clue to the answer.

* The L stroke goes downward, so that it continues the direction of the Ses Circle, anticlockwise.

* Optional contraction "qu(estio)ns"

* Omission phrases "bes(t) way"  "fac(t) that"

Spring Clean - Part 2 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The idea of a spring clean is a tradition in many countries, undertaken as soon as the weather is warm and dry enough to throw open all the windows and doors, cleanse* the entire house contents and banish all the dust and grime. My recent effort was not so much a spring clean but more of a hunt for accumulated possessions that are no longer used or wanted. Unintentional clutter needed clearing and space made in the wardrobes. I used to watch the television programmes where someone is helped to clear out their possessions which had begun to overwhelm* their lives. They are chosen for the severity of their problem and their inability to deal with it on their own, but the methods of attack seem to work whatever the size of the task. One particular programme included stationing a large portable crusher in the front garden, so that the person could say goodbye to the junk forever, with no chance to retrieve it or wonder where it was in the future. This was always the point where the owner was either crying with relief, or smiling widely as they enjoyed regaining control, not only of their home but also of their habits that were dragging them down and ruining their lives.

* Ensure to close the NS circle, so that it does not look like N hook which would be “clean”, inserting the vowel helps.

This is the dictionary outline, with a Dot Hay against the semicircle W, for the pronunciation "over-HWelm". It is unlikely these would need to be written in, as the outline alone is quite distinctive.

Spring Clean - Part 3 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

My own plan of action is generally to sort out one small area that has become disorganised, maybe just one drawer or one shelf of a cupboard or closet. I prefer to end the day with a particular task completed, and ready for another one tomorrow, if time and energy permit. There is no need to turn the whole house upside-down, which only results in running out of energy, and ending up with things being lightly dusted and rearranged rather than sorted properly. Piecemeal cleanups can be small and pleasantly interesting, especially when lost or forgotten items are discovered. This not only removes the excuse for putting it off, but also the pleasure of the tidy result provides the incentive to continue next day.

Spring Clean - Part 4 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

On the television programmes they make sorting easier by providing four big cardboard boxes, one for keep, one for donate to charity, one for recycle* and one for trash. This allows the job to proceed much faster, because no decision is final until the last day, which frees the person to get on with the sorting. Having seen the gloriously clear and clean result and the difference it makes to their lives, they are then less likely to want to spoil it by reintroducing stuff. I like to follow this method in principle, but without the boxes, and it definitely gets results quickly and without hassle - as long as the unwanted stuff is sent on its way and is not allowed to hang around as a growing pile of bulging carrier bags.

* Not in dictionary. The combination of Ray+SKL does have a precedent in the outline "arteriosclerosis".

Spring Clean - Part 5 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

When I was young, we sometimes made an effort to tidy the living room. We would tell Mum that she could not come in, because we were making a surprise for her. We shut the door firmly and then scooted around the room, straightening* mats and curtains, wiping up dust and stuffing things into cupboards. I am sure she could hear all this going on, but we were convinced that we were doing a good secret job. Our idea of tidy was to not have very much on show, and in the end we had merely relocated the disarray to the inside of the cupboards. Mum was finally invited back in to see her surprise, and found that the room was indeed a lot tidier than before. After our triumphant revelation of the miracle we had worked, and the statement that now no further work would be necessary for a long time, we would go out to play. She was duly grateful for our efforts and as soon as we were outside I am sure she must have done some rearranging of the contents of the cupboards.

* "straight" is halved, "straightened" is disjoined

Spring Clean - Part 6 of 6 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

It seems that tidying is easiest to do when someone is planning to visit and the fact that* it has to be* done by a certain time ensures an early and earnest start on the job. At other times it is tempting to tell oneself* that a task does not have to be done just yet, but it is often countered by the alarming thought, "Supposing a surprise visitor rings the doorbell in the next five minutes?" This scary reminder usually has the desired effect, and the offending crumbs, teacups, bits of laundry, tools, and unfiled paperwork are rapidly cleared away. The disadvantage of a big cleanup is the expectation that it need not be done again for a very long time. This attitude virtually ensures that mess will be allowed to build up again, and I prefer to endeavour to keep things on the move, so that the work always remains manageable. I have not arrived at this place of glorious housekeeping perfection just yet, but I can still enjoy the immediate benefits of working towards the goal. (1041 words)

* Omission phrase "and the (f)act that"

* "it has to be" is better not written as one phrase, which would look the same as "it is to be". By writing two phrases, you can show the "as" in its correct position.

* Omits the N "o(n)eself"

Ring binder and shorthand pen
Some things escape the attack of tidy-itis -
the treasured folders of shorthand lists and jottings

Friday, 18 July 2014

Fish Newsletter

The Pond Fishes are delighted to offer their Newsletter to enable practising of a chatty style.

Fish Newsletter - Part 1 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Goldfish and water lily flowerGreetings one and all. Now that we are in the middle of summer, we thought it was high time that we wrote a newsletter to all our friends. First of all*, we do not have any bad news to report, as the winter was very mild and we really wondered whether we had got our calendars wrong. There was loads of rain, which we were very happy with, but no cold or ice or snow* to freeze the ceiling of our pond world. This did make the supposed winter seem rather longer, as we were active and awake most of the time. You might know that when it is cold we tend to doze off and mooch around the bottom of the pond, away from the ice, and not really take much account of time passing. However, that is all past, and we are now enjoying the sunny* weather, warm water and the abundance of flies and other goodies that land in our water.

* Omission phrase "first (of) all

* Always insert the first vowel in snow/snowy/sun/sunny, to differentiate*

Fish Newsletter - Part 2 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Goldfish feeding on pelletsWe are pleased to report that our pond is looking much neater than of late. The pond owner has removed all the old bent and rusty wire fencing, that was leaning this way and that, and has replaced it with some much tidier and slimmer fencing that is actually standing upright and in a continuous straight row along each of the four sides. This is much better for us as we can now see what is going on above much more clearly. The netting all around is also more neatly organised, and the part over the top does not now sag as it is held up with crossing wires. We feel much safer with the netting, as we don't really like visits from herons, ducks, foxes or cats. Fortunately the dinner pellets fall right through the holes. We are very glad to say that* there are plenty of gaps and holes between adjoining pieces of net for any sparrows to escape, if they find their way in, and a reasonable gap along the bottom edges for the frogs to come and go easily. This new arrangement suits everyone here very well and we are very pleased with the improved appearance and tidiness.

* Omission phrase "very glad (to) s(ay) that"

Fish Newsletter - Part 3 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Goldfish resting in blanket weedWith the recent very humid weather, we have had a few problems with oxygen levels in our water. Although it was lovely to have some nice sunny days, and plenty of blanket weed to lounge around in, we did find that one morning, about a week ago, the water was getting rather depleted and we were all feeling a little dazed and weak. Most of us lined up at the filter outlet to get fresh water from there*, but the flow is not as strong as it used to be, and things were getting a little risky. Fortunately the pond owner saw our plight first thing in the morning and immediately put a water spray from the hose into our pond, to help with the aeration*. We just love our blanket weed but it had to go, as it was using up the oxygen at night, or so we have been told by some friends who know about these things. We felt so much better when the pond was cleared a bit more, including removing a lot of the lily leaves to expose more of the surface to the air, and the situation began to look more hopeful.

* Doubling used for "there"

* Some of the older New Era dictionaries show the first vowel as a diphone for words beginning with "aer-", to accord with the older pronunciation "ay-er"

Fish Newsletter - Part 4 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Pond air pumpLater on the owners returned with a big grey boxy machine, which they put on a chair beside the pond, and lots of thin plastic piping. They attached the piping to some strange-looking grey stones and lowered them into the water at the corner of the pond. To our complete amazement* the stones began producing two huge columns of bubbles, which took us by surprise. We huddled at the opposite corner until we were sure everything was all right. After about half an hour, we noticed that very fresh and pleasant aerated* water was beginning to circulate over to our corner. Gradually we went to investigate, and found that it was not dangerous at all. In fact it was stirring things up, which we always like, as it can sometimes wash out some snacks from their* hiding place. In no time at all we were playing in and out of the bubbles, full of energy and alertness. All this extra activity seems to have given us a bigger appetite, so when someone goes past, we make a point of milling about to persuade them that some pellets or crumbs would be a good idea. We can find plenty of flies etc but it is so much easier when the food is just dropped in front of us. However, we do generally like to poke about, and hunting down the varied snacks keeps us happy and occupied from dawn till dusk.

* Always insert vowel in amaze/amuse and their derivatives, to differentiate

See note on "aeration" above

* Doubling used for "their"

Goldfish and aeration bubbles

Fish Newsletter - Part 5 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

FrogIt seems* a long time since the frogs were here. The jelly was quite delicious and I am sure the pond owners did not really want a few thousand new frogs hopping about the garden. We do still have some frog visitors, and several small new frogs can sometimes be seen jumping along the edges. I think most of the resident full-size frogs are scattered about the garden, but occasionally one gets tipped into the water from a flowerpot, and we think that this is probably to prevent him coming to grief while someone is weeding the damp and shady corners.

* If the M were thickened in this phrase, it would read "it is impossible". If there is any doubt about reading back correctly, the vowel of "seems" should be inserted e.g. "it seems that we will be.../it is impossible that we will be..."

Fish Newsletter - Part 6 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Goldfish with reflections of skyThe frogs don't really talk much, and so we are left wondering what the rest of the garden is like, but we can get a good idea from the tall waving plants and the trees that we can see. We can always tell what the weather is going to do, as we have such a good view of the changing sky, although when a big bird flies overhead we sometimes feel it is prudent to make a quick dash for the safety of the lily leaves. If someone is sitting nearby with their lunch on their lap, then the resulting splash onto their plate is just too bad, as we have to think of safety before manners! Sometimes this means that either we or the sparrows end up with the bread parts of their former lunch, so nothing is wasted.

Fish Newsletter - Part 7of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Goldfish hiding under water lily leavesWhen it is very hot, we like to rest under the water lily leaves. Personally I prefer it when three leaves come together, leaving a small triangular gap for me to look through. It has to be quite small, so that my bright orange colour is not too obvious. Once we have been fed, this is our favourite activity whilst we chew on the pellets or bits of crust, although there is always someone who is convinced that there are still a few pieces of food floating about behind the plants in the corner. Once it is all quiet, we dream of lakes, rivers and seas, and what it might be like to swim in miles and miles of water. But on waking we are glad that we are not face to face* with sharks, seagulls* or fishing nets, and that our meals are regular and dependable.

* Omission phrase "face (to) face"

* The stroke S for "sea" is retained in derivatives

Fish Newsletter - Part 8 of 8 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Shadowy figure of
Green Tench in the centre
You might be wondering how we know about sharks, and the answer is that we have some tench friends in our pond, who, we are told on good authority, can look quite shark-like with their long dark greeny grey body, moody-looking face and their habit of darting suddenly for their food when they come up. They generally stay on the bottom to eat things that have sunk down, but sometimes they join the crowd for the food, as they feel it is probably safe at those times. That is all the news from our pond, and we hope you have enjoyed seeing some pictures of our home and friends. With best wishes, Fish, Tish* and Swish. (1308 words)

* Ish goes down after plain T, and up after D, to provide additional differentiation, compare "moustache/tosh" and "dash/dish/trash/bitterish"