Saturday, 27 July 2013

Free Shorthand Dictionary

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 1 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Part of Update page
Update - part of page
Every shorthand learner needs to have their own shorthand dictionary, but this is not always possible, either through unavailability or cost. The only downloadable dictionary available on the internet is the 1913 Centenary version from the Internet Archive. You cannot use this if you are learning New Era, as many of the outlines are different between the two versions. I have now produced a Dictionary Update illustrating all the outlines that are different (just over 3,000 out of 60,000 total), which will enable you to make use of the Centenary dictionary for your New Era studies. You need to download both the Centenary dictionary PDF* (or acquire a copy of the original book) and my Update PDF, and use them in combination. Further details and the download links are on my main website:

* A suggested contraction for "PDF"

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 2 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Printing out the Centenary PDF is quite cumbersome, and I managed to fill three large A4 folders with all the full-page printouts so that I could make copious notes while compiling the Update. I was very glad when I was at last able to shred all these and get some space back on my desk. But if it had been the only dictionary I had, I would have willingly kept it permanently* on the desk, so that I would not have to struggle with guesswork on my outlines. Better than a bulky printout would be to obtain an original published book*. To avoid having to consult both lists every time, you can mark up the relevant changed outlines in the book or printout, either just highlighting them to alert you to which ones are different, or actually writing the New Era outlines in the paper margin. You can also mark up the PDF with sticky notes in Adobe Reader for the same purpose, although they will not show up in any printout. You can make other marks in Adobe Acrobat which will print.

* "permanent" See for "prominent, permanent, pre-eminent"

See Introduction in the Update regarding apparent print-on-demand copies of this

Centenary and Update PDFs arranged side by side on the same screen
Both PDFs side by side on same screen

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 3 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Old Centenary Dictionary
Speaking with Sir Isaac via my
Time Machine, he is delighted with
the PDFs = Pitman's Definition
Finders, as he puts it ...
Although a shorthand dictionary is indispensable to the shorthand writer, it is not the best way of expanding vocabulary. Reading and practising passages and exercises will add to vocabulary without you having to constantly turn up the dictionary pages every few seconds. I have often checked some outline, then forgotten it a short time later, and had the annoyance of having to look it up again.

If you keep a shorthand pad especially for this purpose, you can write the new outline in the margin and leave a line or two blank, then come back later on to practise it. This will ensure you only have to dive into the dictionary once for each new word, and you can go back over previous pad pages for revision from time to time. I would not recommend writing the longhand alongside it, as that defeats the object and wastes your time. You can grab the pad when you know you will have some spare or waiting time during the day, and so improve your shorthand in otherwise wasted minutes.

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 4 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Another way to save a huge amount of your study time is to also learn all the derivatives while you are on the dictionary page, because knowing one outline and not its related ones can cause serious hesitation, especially when a derivative has a slightly different form. Getting them all "under your belt" in one go will, over time, save you the frustration of constantly spending precious seconds and minutes just flipping paper and finding the right page over and over again – turning the leaves over will exercise your fingers but not your shorthand.

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 5 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Even roaming down the column and squinting at the small print is time-consuming. When my eyes are getting tired of locating and focussing* on the right outline, I sometimes muse fancifully on how convenient (and lazy) it would be to be able to give orders to some willing helper "Please look up disestablishmentarianism" and then I would only have to glance down at their finger-tip! It has taken about 18 months to produce the Update with a large amount of dictionary work. In that time I have come to realise that the eyes will automatically and rapidly scatter their attention over the entire dictionary page, unless there is something drawing them to one particular spot. I adopted the habit of finding the outline in a strictly methodical manner, with my finger choosing the correct column and then sliding down. This is much more efficient and comfortable than using eyes alone.

* “focussing” Insert the vowel, as “fixing” has a similar outline and meaning

If you managed to read the shorthand for "disestablishmentarianism" before looking at the text key, award yourself ten gold stars, two pieces of cake and the rest of the week off!

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 6 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

It can be very educational at times to make an effort to form the unknown outline before looking it up, as this forces you to think hard about it, and possibly realise that there is a need to revise a particular piece of theory. In a dictation, you would have to come up with something immediately, and so strengthening this skill is essential. Regular vocabulary extension will greatly reduce the need for such guesswork or struggling with outlines. Guessed or doubtful outlines should be circled in red, so that they can be checked later on, preferably away from distractions and where you have time to roam onto other related words or ones with a similar sound or construction.

Outline and definition of free from a shorthand dictionary

Free Shorthand Dictionary - Part 7 of 7 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I would like to reiterate that no shorthand writer just “memorises” sixty thousand arbitrary outlines from a dictionary. They are all based on a logical system of construction, just like longhand is based on a few letters and language is based on endless combinations of a relatively small number of familiar syllables. The ten commonest words account for 25% of usage, and a hundred for 50%, but hesitating over one uncommon word can cause the loss of the next few words which may all have been easy and well-known ones. As Pitman’s Shorthand has been designed for high-speed writing, basic theory does not always produce the ideal outline, and so there are often variations to accommodate this, in order to maintain a high level of readability and reliability, even long after the note was written. When someone searches my web pages for the shorthand for “a” or “the”, I know that they are very likely to be in great need of some of the other 59,998 outlines as well! I hope that the Update list enables you to speed up the learning and accuracy of your shorthand, so that you can use it in real situations with confidence and enjoyment. (1055 words)

Dinner plate full of shorthand dictionaries
Starving for outlines? Dinner is served - eat up and grow strong