Friday, 13 October 2017

Short Letters 11

Short paragraphs are an ideal way to ease yourself into a faster dictation, as there is no stress build up.  An effective way to prepare is to break down the practising into single sentences. Pick out and drill any new outlines before starting, so that there are no hesitations. Read and remember one sentence, then say it out loud over and again, as you write it in shorthand, filling half a notepad page. Repeat this for the next sentence, filling the next half. It is important to hear the words as you are writing, so that the sound always triggers recall of the outline. I have kept the sentences quite short for this purpose, although one would use longer and more flowing sentences if these were real letters.

Finally, having mastered each sentence individually, read the whole passage out loud from the printed shorthand, recording yourself at the same time*. This ensures your reading speed matches your shorthand writing* capability. Now is a good time to introduce* a rest break, then take down the whole passage from your recording. Swiftly* move on to the next passage, to keep things rolling along and to prevent the mind from getting fatigued with the repetition. Delay reading back your take* of the whole passage until you have forgotten the text, as this is the real test of whether your shorthand is up to scratch or not.

* "at the same time" Halving to represent the T of "time"

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writing"

* "introduce" Note that "introduction" is a contraction written on the line

* "swiftly" Downward L to continue the motion of the F curve

* "take" Shorthand jargon, your "take" is what you have taken down, either one piece during a lesson dictation, or all the writing done during a single session e.g. minutes or courtroom.

It is important to take lots* of short breaks between practising spurts, walking away from the desk to give fingers, eyes, mind and limbs a rest, even if only for a minute or two. You don’t have to calculate* what the dictation speed is, all that is necessary is that you are  under some pressure to keep up, but can still maintain flowing and readable outlines. Going from stressed scrawl to confident outlines at the same speed is a major achievement in itself. To provide extra stretching, you can increase the speed of the sound file in Audacity, using the Change Tempo setting, or in Express Scribe, which has a speed percentage slider*.

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

* "calculate" Vowels shown for learning purposes, it is clear enough without them

* "slider" The L can be doubled for -der here because it has an initial circle, compare "ladder"

Dear Mr White, We would like to thank you for your recent order with this company. This will be delivered to you on Friday morning of next week*. We are working to improve our services to our customers. We have appointed several* new area managers. We wish* to get to know our clients better. This will* enable us to provide an improved service. Your area manager Mr John Black will be contacting you within a few days. He will explain our new Customer Care policy that aims to expand our service. Please let us know if there is* any way in which we can help you. Thank you for your valued custom over the years.

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t w)eek"

* "several" Ensure the V finishes straight, as it could begin look like "seven" if the end curls slightly

* "We wish" Write the W more shallowly, so that the Ish goes through the line for "wish" compare with "we shall" in para 10

* "This will" Downward L to continue the motion of the circle and so enable the join

* "if there is" Note that "if" can be doubled for "there" but "for" is never doubled

Dear Resident, I am writing to let you know about our new community club. We will be opening at the Green Road Centre on the first of November. We will have lots* of activities for everyone in the area. There will be a playgroup twice a week for preschool children. We will be offering after school activities throughout the year. Summer school holiday clubs are planned for next year as well. There are three groups during the week for older people to meet each other. I enclose our flyer giving full details of what is on offer. In the future we plan to increase our schedule* to cover the needs of other local groups. I do hope* you will be able to come to our opening day. I look forward* to welcoming you and showing you our wonderful new facilities.

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

* "schedule" Use Circle S and K instead of Ish for the pronunciation "sk-"

* Omission phrases "I (h)ope"  "look fo(r)ward

Dear Friends, I am delighted to report on the success of our latest Society meeting. This took place* on Monday the first of October at the Grand Hotel. The morning opened with a review by the Secretary of the year’s activities. Our Treasurer presented a copy of the audited accounts to all present. Mr Brown gave a progress report on the new building work that is now underway. Mrs Gray gave a presentation showing photos and videos* of the summer conference. Our new President Mr Greening spoke to us about the society’s future plans. The meeting finished just after midday and was followed by a buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant.

* "took place" Note also the omission phrase "taken p(la)ce" which omits the L Hook

* "photos and videos" Insert the vowels as these are similar in outline and meaning

I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies for a shorthand writer in your company. I understand that you undertake a large amount of court and government work. I am very interested in pursuing this type of career. I have achieved a shorthand speed of 150 words a minute*. I have experience of taking notes of meetings, interviews and public speaking events. I also spent seven* years working as a freelance* reporter. This did include some court work on several* high profile national cases. I enclose details of my qualifications* and employment history. I would be grateful if you could* keep my details on record for the future. I look forward* to hearing from you.

* Omission phrase "words (a) minute"

*  "seven" "several" Keep the N Hook clear, and the plain V with no curl at the end, so that these two are not misread for each other

* "qualifications" Vowel shown for learning purposes, it is clear enough without

* "if you could" Generally write "could" separately, not phrased, to help differentiate it from "can"

* Omission phrase "I look fo(r)ward"

Dear Customer, I hope* you will enjoy reading the enclosed catalogue. I am sure you will find many ideas for gifts to give at Christmas. Don’t forget that there is a discount on your purchases when you place your order within the next six weeks*. Our prices are much cheaper than many of the larger high street stores but at the same quality. You can order with confidence knowing that your items will arrive long before the Christmas rush begins. You can then continue to finish your gift shopping in a more leisurely way. I am confident that our vast range of gift products will give you many ideas for the Christmas season.

* Omission phrases "I (h)ope"  "six (w)eeks"

Dear Friends, I hope* this letter* finds you all well and in good health. I just wanted to thank everyone for their* kind wishes and lovely presents on my recent retirement. I shall be thinking of you all each time I see them. My years at the firm have been long and happy, but now is the time for something different. As a family we shall be taking a sailing holiday around the coast of this country. I intend to take up some new hobbies* that I have been wanting to start for some time. We will have more time* for taking long walks in the countryside. We are considering moving to a village where life will be less busy than here. I will let you know how we get on with all these new activities. The family send their best wishes for the future to you all.

* Omission phrase "I (h)ope"

* "this letter" Downward L in order to join the phrase

* "for their" Note that "for" is never doubled for "there", but "if" can be doubled

* "hobbies" "habits" Insert the first vowel in these two, as they are similar in outline and meaning

* "more time" Halving to represent the T of time

Dear Students, Here we are at the end of the college term. I hope you have all had a good time learning how to write in shorthand. I am pleased to say that* no-one dropped out of the class this year. I am so glad that you have all kept on to the end of the course book. We shall* soon be breaking up for Christmas. I would like to encourage you to continue practising over the holidays. If you can read through* all the exercises again, that will be of great value. We now have February’s exam dates confirmed, which are listed below. I am sure you will all do well if you keep up daily practise. We will spend January on revision and working towards your speed goals. With best wishes for a good holiday break, ready to start again next term with renewed energy to get those shorthand certificates that are now within your reach. (1248 words)

* Omission phrase "I am plea(sed to) s(ay) that", the one circle does duty for both S sounds

*  "we shall" Compare with "we wish" in para 4 where the Ish goes through the line

* "through" Needs the vowel written in, as it could be misread as "read three of the exercises"

Monday, 25 September 2017

Intersections 2

Please return your application form to this office. I received their forms yesterday and I sent out more forms this afternoon. Do you have the necessary forms for me to fill in? I think there is* a special form for accidents of this nature. Take the form to the office and get them to stamp the front and back of the form for you. I made a birthday cake* in the form of a train. He was compensated in the form of* a discount on future purchases at the shop. // If you cannot come in to the office, it may be more convenient for you to contact us online. It will be much more* convenient for me* to come in the day after tomorrow. It is only convenient for them to visit you on Monday. This delay is most inconvenient for us. I have attached a copy of the minutes of the meeting for your convenience. There is a convenience store close by.

* "I think there is" Doubling to represent "there"

* "cookie" and "cake" Always insert the vowel, as they could both make sense in most contexts

* Omission phrases "in the f(orm of)" "much m(ore)"

* "for me" Helpful to insert the vowel in "me" and "him" in phrases where it may not be clear which is meant, as they are out of their normal position

My local authority has written to everyone in the street. My boss has given me the authority to sign* letters in his absence*. The military authorities are asking for an urgent meeting with the councillors. Mr Jones is a well-known authority on farming in this area. I have written authority from the directors to handle the affairs of this case. I am going away on holiday in five months. This means I have several* months to write the reports. The students have to sit their mock tests this month and they will sit the main exams next month*. It is now seven* months since we wrote to you. We have heard nothing from them in many months. I received a letter from the accounts office last month*. I have joined my local dramatic society as a new hobby*. My friends are members of the agricultural society which advises the farmers* in this area. The medical society have advised people to boil their water until further notice. The Society of Poets* has invited us to a special reading of their work next week*.

* "to sign" Insert the diphthong, so it does not look like "to send"

* "absence" Insert the first vowel, as this looks like "business"

* "councillors" If necessary, put the dot in third place before the Ler stroke, and for "counsellors" a dot in second place. Councillors are government officials, counsellors are people who help and give advice.

* Omission phrases "ne(k)s(t mon)th"  "ne(k)s(t w)eek"

* "several" "seven" Keep the N hook clear on "seven" so these two are not misread for each other

* Omission phrase "las(t) month" This is quicker than an intersection as there is no pen lift and the join is good

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

* "farmers" See entries "farmer framer" and "former, firmer"

* Omission phrase "S(ociety of) Poets"

All of the goods carry some sort of trade mark. The high water mark was clearly visible on the harbour wall. This writing paper has a special watermark showing the maker’s initials and logo. They bowed their heads as a mark of respect to the king. We had to mark time until the establishment opened. He had a rubber stamp to make the official mark on the correspondence papers. I will be going to the village supermarket tomorrow afternoon. Wednesday is farmers’* market day in this town. I am going to the office this morning. I completed my reports yesterday morning and I shall hand them in tomorrow morning. I will be travelling to the coast very early in the morning*. The office manager will see you at ten o’clock sharp. I have applied for the job of operations manager at the factory. Mr Brown is the football team manager and he is employed as engineering manager at the nearby steel works.

* "farmers" See entries "farmer framer" and "former, firmer"

* "in the morning" This is quicker than an intersection as there is no pen lift and the join is good

We watched the national news on the television and then discussed national affairs all evening. Our national defence has been greatly improved over the past few years. The writer of the column thinks that the economic situation is a national disaster. We had a great time seeing the National Ballet dancers at the theatre. I have a current account with the First National Bank* and a savings account with the National Benevolent* Society. We do have fire insurance for the house but we have no accident insurance for our car. You must take out some house insurance immediately. Our insurance arrangements* are all now in order. Insurance premiums are quite high but we think it is very important to have sufficient insurance for our cars, possessions and properties. Please check on the current costs of our vehicle insurance and also our building insurance.

* "National Bank" Could also be written with "national" as full outline and B intersected

* "Benevolent" Optional contraction

* "insurance arrangements" Could also be written as Ns intersected and full outline for "arrangements" although this would be longer to write

I shall arrange for you to meet Mrs Green next week*. Will they be arranging to have the refreshments delivered for the meeting? We have arranged to meet with Mrs Gray in two weeks*. Please make arrangements to attend this office on Monday morning. They made no arrangements for their* travel but fortunately we had arranged for a taxi to pick them up. Do you require a copy of the report on the new road* works? Mr Long will require their help in the accounts office for the next three days. You must make a note of these requirements immediately. What are your requirements for the shareholders’ meeting next Friday? My requirements are that they put their questions* in writing as soon as possible*. Formal evening wear will be required at the concert. I will meet him at the railway station this evening. There was some damage to the railway carriage after the storm. I now have a copy of the railway timetable*. All of the railway staff were there to meet him as he arrived. The new railway engine is now in full service on this line. We visited the Queen’s royal palaces on several* occasions. The royal carriage* will be leaving the palace at precisely midday. The King’s royal sailing yacht will be in the marina on Monday. (869 words)

* Omission phrase "ne(k)s(t w)eek"  "two wee(k)s" "as soon as poss(ible)"

* "for their" Full outlines, but "if there" is the phrase that is doubled, so that these two can never clash

* "road" "route" Always insert the vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "questions" Optional contraction

* "timetable" Halving to represent the T of "table"

* "several" "seven" Keep the N hook clear on "seven" so these two are not misread for each other

* "royal carriage" The context must be clear to use the Ray for this, especially as "railway carriage" is the more likely reading

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Intersections 1

An intersection is a single stroke, either plain or with a hook or circle, written through an outline, to represent a whole word. This article practises the most common ones which all learners would benefit from. The theory website gives a more complete list and many of those are only useful if you are in a particular line of work, so it is not necessary to learn them all. The outlines should be written in the order spoken. If the intersected word comes first, it should go through the first stroke, and if last, then through the last stroke, for example government official, official government, party rules, garden party, major operations, operations manager. If the main outline has only one stroke, you can distinguish the order by the positioning of the intersection, e.g. company building, building company, major general, general manager, or alongside as in major general, general manager, the latter being more reliable and legible at high speed.

Extra care needs to be taken with the intersections for council, company and government, as they are similar and they could all make sense in any* one context. A good method is to write, for example, the word “council” in full on its first occurrence, then further mentions of it can safely use the intersection. If the same passage then mentions “company”, it would be prudent to write that in full. Intersections really come into their own once you are in a specific field of employment, and then all the technical terms*, phrases and jargon will rapidly become familiar and you can make decisions on consistent and unambiguous abbreviations, based on the material you are encountering. You may find it preferable to use the common ones for something else that occurs more often.

"in any" Insert the final vowel in "any" whenever it would be helpful

* Omission phrase "tech(nical) terms"

Last Monday John went to his friend’s birthday party. He likes children’s parties but he was not so keen on our grownups garden party last weekend*. After the opening ceremony party, we went indoors to listen to the political party broadcast. Professor Jackson is a professor of economics at Newtown University. He is a good friend of Professor Black who is a professor of music* at the academy. Your application for a grant to cover this new scheme has been received. They must make application to the appropriate* member of staff. I am pleased to say that this application has been passed* by the panel. I have made many applications to the building firm for this work to be completed.

* Omission phrases "las(t w)eekend" "professor (of) music"

* "appropriate" Always insert the diphone, and the first vowel in "proper", as these are similar in outline and meaning

* "passed" and "opposed" Always insert the first vowel in these, as they are identical when unvocalised, and have opposite meanings in some contexts e.g. plans, proposals, laws

The minister talked about the Finance* Bill and the Education Bill which are under discussion at the moment*. Parliament has now passed* this important bill without any problem. I went to the City Bank in the high street, to find out about the current bank rates. I have paid in the cheque to the North Street branch of my local bank. My bank manager* advised me to transfer these funds to a different account. It is very difficult in this business to make a big profit very quickly. I will make it my business to find out what is happening. I think it is your business to see to these problems as a matter of urgency. Mr Johnson is a successful businessman in the city. I have been writing business letters all day. He has a degree in business studies, commerce and book keeping and will do well in the business world.

* "Finance" Often pronounced "fye-" but best written through the line, so as not to look like "findings"

* Omission phrase "at (the) moment"

* "passed" and "opposed" Always insert the first vowel in these, as they are identical when unvocalised, and have opposite meanings in some contexts e.g. plans, proposals, laws

* "bank manager" This could also be written with "bank" in full plus intersected M stroke

You need to pay very careful* attention to what I am saying. My attention has been called to some urgent matters in the office. We must give this our immediate attention in order to put things right. Please give all this your special attention as soon as possible. I note that your attention was called to the problem last week*. The staff in the customer services department will be having a meeting this afternoon. Everyone in the department has worked very well under the difficult circumstances. We have written to the government department responsible for these buildings. The department heads will be meeting tomorrow. The departmental* heads will be at a meeting all morning.

* "careful" Optional contraction

* Omission phrase "las(t w)eek"

* "departmental" In full, as the intersection does not cover this

All these charges on the customer’s invoice are correct and have been paid in full. You will have to cover the charges for the use of the vehicle over the weekend. I regret to say that* it was not supplied to us free of charge*. The customer is disputing our charge for the goods delivered yesterday. The electrical charge on this device could cause a serious accident in the factory. I have subscribed to the Office Workers’ Journal to get more information on my career prospects. The Bankers’ Journal described how the banks have changed over the years. I have cancelled my subscription to the Golfing Journal and started a new one for the Tennis Players’ Journal.

* Omission phrases "I regret (to) s(ay) that" "free (of) charge"

I have worked for this company for many years. The company directors have decided to tender the work out to three other companies in this area. The company offices are located in the city centre. The owner of the company has contacted us regarding the building plans. The report covers all the questions relating to council property in this town. I have received a letter from the council regarding my complaint about the traffic. The members of this council have agreed to sell off some of the council buildings. The borough council has agreed to this course of action. Government officials say that there is nothing that they can do at present. I have written to the local government offices several times. The actions of this government have not been thought through properly*. I suggest that the government take the advice of the committee immediately. I wrote to them at the beginning of February. We are now at the beginning of the holidays without a reply and we are beginning to get impatient. In the beginning we were enthusiastic but now we are not so keen. (981 words)

* "proper" Always insert the first vowel, and the diphone in "appropriate", as these are similar in outline and meaning

Friday, 15 September 2017


On Friday 15th September the spacecraft Cassini ended its mission by being sent* into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn, when it was burned up and destroyed. It was launched in October 1997, and in 2010 it set out* on a 7-year mission extension* to explore Saturn and its moons. It has run out of rocket fuel and one writer said it is just about running on fumes. Its deliberate destruction has the purpose of disposing of it rather than risk the possibility* of it colliding with one of the moons and thus contaminating it for future exploration. Cassini’s impact course has taken five months, in a series of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and the rings. As it made its final descent, it continued sending information until it could no longer function. It then burned up like a meteor.

* "sent" Special outline, above the line so that it is not misread as "send"

* "set out" Halving for the T of "out"

* "extension" Keep the T clearly vertical, so it does not look like "expansion" which has a similar meaning

* "possibility" Optional contraction

Everyone knows that scientists like to approach everything with a dispassionate*, level-headed and rational attitude. It needs a cool, detached and thoroughly objective turn of mind to plan and carry out these space missions that will add to our fund* of knowledge of the workings of the universe. Nothing but logical and analytical* plans, methods, investigations and discussions will do, with everyone’s theories, models, notions, and conjectures* given equal consideration. This way of dealing with scientific missions has brought us to the place where we can gain a huge amount of information on distant planets and heavenly bodies in the unending blackness of outer space. They don’t get upset by the cessation of mere mechanical devices and expendable* hardware - surely not?

* "dispassionate" Normally the shun hook would go in the opposite direction to an initial hook or circle, to balance the outline, but that is not possible with this word

* "fund" Insert the vowel, as "fount" could also make sense here

* "analytical" Compare with the root word "analysing" in para 5

* "conjectures" Doubling is used for "-ture" for convenience here, as there is no other word that it could be, similarly "picture" "structure"

* "expendable" This is similar to "expandable" which should have its vowel inserted for clarity, well up over the circle S so it is clear it is a first place dot

The write-ups on this end of mission event are somewhat different though. Cassini did not descend, it plunged into the depths. Its travels through the rings of Saturn were in fact daring dives and at one point it leapt over the rings. The exploration is more than merely interesting, it is positively thrilling, and its 20-year journey is remarkable rather than merely informative. All regions of space ought to be equal but for some reason this one is described as unique. Its mysteries are, most unscientifically, irksome until they are solved, a tiresome state of affairs that promises to be never-ending in the study of the universe! But there are many pictures that are not only helpful but utterly* and truly* amazing*. These end of mission events are entitled the Grand Finale, which rather lets the cat out of the bag as to why we have all these emotional adjectives. Cassini, and other similar spacecraft, are going where no-one has gone before, on our behalf, and we are all invited to watch the entertainment*, the performance and the show as the drama unfolds, and, in this case, the final curtain.

* "utterly" "truly" Always insert the first vowel in these, as the are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts

* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel

* "entertainment" Omits the middle N to gain a convenient outline

If you are learning shorthand in order to be* a reporter, it will be your job to write such articles, and decide on the type of approach that is necessary, or expected by your employers, for each story. Disasters, crime and violence need no help to be more compelling. Science, as above, may need an injection of excitement, if it is written to those outside the scientific readership. Harmless and trivial space fillers of amusing* stories are about the only ones that require all the punning and descriptive skills that can be mustered.

* "in order to be" The word "to" is included in the first phrase, so the "be" does not have to go through the line for "to be"

* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel

Fortunately Nasa* and others discussing this mission are delighted to share with us their enthusiasm and emotional attachment to the faithful, fearless but fated Cassini. They are giving us every detail of its doings, comings and goings, from its beginning to its final dramatic death plunge, pulling our heartstrings with it, as it enters its fireball ending, its glorious and spectacular demise and terminal blaze of glory. It went out with a bang as it smashed into the atmosphere, got torn apart, became a streak of ash, melted and vaporised. The end has come for the intrepid probe, and we have had the final bittersweet kiss goodbye. Descriptions of its end are a requiem for a machine, there will be grieving, flowing tears and emotional tributes.

* "Nasa" This acronym is written as sounded, just like any other word, but it is helpful to insert the vowels, at least on the first occurrence of it in a dictation

Someone said that the sadness was really for themselves, not knowing what mission may replace it in their careers, although they will be poring* over and analysing* the voluminous amount of information for many years. For some it is their last mission and their sense of loss is a reality check as they are approaching retirement, albeit a more comfortable one than Cassini was granted. This affection for a tiny mechanical device, meeting its end all alone miles from home, reminds me of the last lines of a poem I learned in school, "For whatever we lose (like a you or a me*) it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea."* In fact I found a plaintive description just like this, accompanying a photo from Cassini showing a pinpoint of light that was planet Earth, small and alone in the vastness* of space.

* "poring" To pore is to study intently, to "pour" means tip out a liquid

* "analysing" The basic outline for this word, but compare "analytical" in para 2

* "me" Vowel added for clarity, as in a poem the context is often insufficient, as words are used in unusual ways

* Poem entitled "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May" by e e cummings

* "vastness" Omits the lightly sounded T. Also the V must be clearly thick, so it is not misread as "fastness" (a fortified place or stronghold)

Although the mourners knew this was coming, we ordinary folk are all truly* shocked, saddened and bereft as it went to its fiery end, which will have occurred 83 minutes before we received its final signal. How will we cope now it is gone, never to return? Then, a few minutes after seeing the programme or reading the article, all that is forgotten as we give in to the gravitational pull of the kitchen, the kettle and the biscuit tin or cookie* jar, and wonder whether tomorrow’s journey to the office will be sunny or rainy. As the cliché goes - End of Story*.  (919 words)

* "truly" Always insert the vowel in this and in "utterly" as they are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts

* "cookie" and "cake" Always insert the vowel, as they could both make sense in most contexts

* "End of Story" This is often shortened to "End of" for extra emphasis on the speaker's attitude about the matter