Wednesday, 20 May 2020


Many years ago, when the weekend newspapers were full of jokey cartoons, I would cut out and keep my favourites. One that sticks in my mind was a depiction of an office room. An older clerk was looking up apprehensively from his rather low-down desk at the sight of his large, looming and smugly smiling boss filling the doorway, with his arm round the shoulder of a happy and bright looking young lad. The clerk is looking very glum, as the boss says, “Perkins, I want you to teach my son your job.” My sympathies were with the clerk, of course, on whose face was written his every thought. This would not be the last blunt announcement* he would be receiving. The son was happily ignorant of how his progress was going to be at the expense of someone else. The boss was clearly impervious to everything that got in the way of his and his son’s careers. One can almost see the lad very soon sliding directly into a well-paid management role, without too much* delay.

* "announcement" Using the -nt suffix, as "-ment" would not join clearly

* "too much" Includes the M stroke in order to join the phrase

The point of this story is that you will have to do this with the plodding old longhand. You are the boss with the task of introducing something more efficient to do its job, more energetically, more enthusiastically and faster. Then later on you can break the unwelcome but not unexpected news that its services are to be terminated, and enforced retirement is imminent, where it will never again have to worry about not being able to keep up with the workload. Much as it protests at first*, it will soon settle down to the sedate writing of greetings cards, letters and notes to friends, filling in official* forms, or, just to rub in the insult, writing your signature on the acceptance letter for that reporting or office job. On the other hand*, it will be relieved not to have to tie itself in knots trying to keep up with a torrent of words and will finally* accept its demotion and reduced pace of life.

* Omission phrases "at (fir)st" "on the oth(er h)and"

* "official" "finally" Always put in the first vowel, as these are similar if not neatly written

I am going to suggest banishing longhand from the shorthand study times, as that is exactly how my college lessons were conducted. Although we could not help having normal text before our eyes in the instruction book, all writing had to be in shorthand for the entire lesson, and that from the spoken word, either saying out loud to oneself* as the outlines, phrases and sentences were drilled, or from dictation. Only shorthand was written or seen, and the same for homework. The takes were read back (or very occasionally typed out in the typewriting class) but certainly no longhand transcription* happening at all, and no writing lists of outlines with the longhand alongside. The same applies to the temptation* to transliterate* printed text into shorthand. This will practise leisurely and heavy-handed drawing, hesitation, rumination, considering and pondering, which is the shorthand equivalent of sitting on a couch eating potato chips or ice cream, the opposite of the desired result of quick recall in response to the spoken word.

* "oneself" Omits the N

* "transcription" Omits the N and R, to differentiate from "describe" and derivatives

* "temptation" Omits the P, therefore M stroke not Imp

* "transliterate" Omits the N

Right from the beginning of the shorthand quest until now, longhand has been trying to claim back its territory, after a lifetime of being “top dog” and it is pointless to let it back in the room, eyes, mind, arm and hand, when all it wants to do is reassert its former* prime position. Send the longhand for a long, slow walk round the block for the duration of the study period, with instructions not to return too soon, while you get on with honing its replacement. It needs evicting and locking outside, until it is required for its new more humble duties of writing notes for others to read. The shorthand is then free to speed up and take flight, and this will not take long when the competition has been removed and its interference firmly and decisively terminated. (652 words)

* "former" Special outline, to differentiate from "firmer, farmer" and "former" one who forms

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Learning Quotes

I hope you are getting on well with your shorthand learning. If you are having to spend more time* at home* than usual in the present circumstances, it is likely you have a little more time* than usual to achieve your goal of shorthand skill. It is a test of whether you are enjoying it that you have to remember to stop for a while, rather than looking for reasons to “come up for air” after only a few minutes. Starting with some reading will get your mind into shorthand mode, and once you have safely arrived on Planet Shorthand for your hour or two of study, you will have left behind all the other distractions. You may even achieve that rare and precious commodity, the ability to forget to check your email inbox, and Facebook and Twitter pages. That would be the true mark of the dedicated* shorthand learner, not to let those fripperies steal your time and energies for self-improvement. In fact*, learning not to be distracted is a vital part of the shorthand writer’s armoury, so this “resistance training” is highly beneficial.

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

* Omission phrases "at (h)ome" " in (f)act"

* "dedicated" "deducted" "educated" Always insert a vowel, to differentiate

Learning something new is a fabulous way to be refreshed. When work can grind you down, something about learning a new activity thrills the soul. It reminds you that the world is bigger than your desk and your to-do list. John Ortberg
Learning is not compulsory, neither is survival. W. Edwards Deming
Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future. Denis Waitley
Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. Denis Waitley
If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin

There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any art. Anthony Trollope
Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. Earl Nightingale
It is by attempting to reach the top at a single leap, that so much misery is caused* in the world. Cobbett
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. Newt Gingrich
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

* "caused" Special outline, to differentiate from "cost"

The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn. Henry S. Haskins
An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field. Niels Bohr
Never mistake a single mistake with a final mistake. F. Scott Fitzgerald
You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. Samuel Levenson
If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all. Arsene Wenger

Some people are so busy learning the tricks of the trade that they never learn the trade. Vernon Law
The only thing you should ever quit is giving up! Steve Pfiester
You aren't learning anything when you're talking. Lyndon B. Johnson
Never say, 'Oops'. Always say, 'Ah*, interesting'. Anonymous (544 words)

* "Ah" Using the placeholder stroke, against which to write any vowel accurately

Monday, 4 May 2020

Fraser's Numbers

This article practises writing numbers in shorthand outlines. Most of the number outlines are quite short and as long as the number is isolated in the sentence, it is often quicker to write the outline. Where numbers are occurring all the time, both short and long, it might* be clearer to write the Arabic numerals. It all depends on context* as to which will be more suitable, and that applies also to the transcription, where again the isolated number is best spelled out, and larger numbers typed in numerals. A few must always be vocalised, such as ten and eighteen, also eight and eighty so that they do not look like the numeral one. Seven must have a clear hook as it is similar to several. The outline for six is preferable when alone, as the numeral is too much like another outline. An Arabic numeral poorly written can be identified by a wavy line underneath, so you don’t puzzle over whether it is an outline or longhand. Numbers are all but unguessable if they are not written clearly, and there is no such thing as the transcription of a number being “nearly right”.

* "it might be" Not phrased, to differentiate from "it may be"

* "context" Always write in the Con Dot, and not using proximity, so it cannot be misread as "text"

As the purpose is to get the outlines thoroughly learned, you will have to resist the urge to write numerals at this time. As soon as I told our fictional friend Fraser about this subject, he offered to rewrite some of his diary for us, inserting the numbers and quantities of everything he did on one particular day. I am giving him ten out of ten for his helpful attitude to the hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow shorthand writers*, who will be practising hundreds of thousands of outlines and thus writing faster than the millions, if not billions, of people in the world. He clearly has zero tolerance for his own hesitations, aims for nil mistakes, and wants everyone else to gain the benefits of targeted practice, even on fairly simple stuff like numbers.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writers"

Dear Diary, I rose very early and for breakfast I had one apple and one banana, each cut into four pieces and mixed into two spoonfuls of yogurt. I put on my two new trainers and ran two miles around the streets. Sometimes I can get in the two miles by running three times round the park playing field, but this morning I decided to make four laps of the nearby pond, and then four lengths of my road. All this took about three quarters* of an hour, but today my timing was four to five minutes longer than usual. When I got back home, I had a meal of three tablespoons of oatmeal mixed with three tablespoons of milk, and on top I put five blueberries and five raspberries.

* "quarters" Optional contraction

At about six o’clock I started work on the computer. I had six folders each containing several items. The first of the six contained seven letters that were waiting for a reply. I like to do the easy things first, so I answered the seven letters quite quickly, and this meant sending seven emails to them, which is much quicker than taking five minutes to print pages and another five minutes to go out and post them. Four of the folders held reports on four different premises that need decisions made. I knew that this was going to take at least four hours to do properly*, so I allocated four time slots on four different days to do those. In the last folder were eight job applications from eight people in the company.  One had to be discarded as quite unsuitable and the other seven will have a preliminary interview, from which I will draw up a shortlist of three for further attention. Only one of the eight applicants will be successful, leaving seven a little disappointed with the outcome.

* "properly" Always insert the first vowel, and the diphone in "appropriately" as they are similar in outline and meaning

By now it was nine o’clock and I had done a lot of work in those three hours. I planned to spend from nine to ten making phone calls. Just after nine I received a call from my friend who had just returned from seven days at a conference. At half past nine I had another call from a colleague who needed to spend ten minutes with me to discuss some reports and so I told him to come over at about eleven this morning. I think it will take longer than ten minutes to sort it all out. I managed to make eight of my ten calls, and the other two will have to wait until this afternoon. At ten I stopped for a break and walked round the garden. I fed my ten or eleven goldfish, but after a quick count I think I may have more like twelve or thirteen, which is good as I started off with at least* fourteen to sixteen some time ago*. At ten fourteen I resumed my work and did in fact* make those last two phone calls within the first five minutes. Unfortunately my inbox now showed fifteen work emails and thirteen other emails, of which nine were from friends and four were junk. The fifteen work items took one to twelve minutes each to complete.

* "some time ago" Halving to represent the T of "time"

* "at least" "at last" Always insert the vowel
* Omission phrase "in (f)act"

At eleven fifteen my colleague arrived with five folders under his arm. I joked that we only had two minutes per folder. We went through all five folders, plus two more of mine. It took us two hours and fifteen minutes and then it was time for lunch. I made two pizzas, two coffees and two fruit salads. We agreed that finishing the last three reports would have to wait until another day. He left at sixteen minutes past two, and then I went out for a while. I caught a number seventeen bus, and rode for eighteen minutes to the shops. I spent an hour and nineteen minutes shopping. I caught another number seventeen bus and the return journey took sixteen minutes. I spent eighteen minutes putting things away and a further nineteen minutes talking on the phone.

I still had six reports to read and comment on, so I allocated twenty minutes to each one. Halfway through I took a twenty minute break. By five I was finished with the work, I had dinner at six, watched the television and news at seven, and visited my neighbour from eight to nine o’clock. I enjoyed twenty minutes soaking in the bath, and by ten I was in bed. I read a book about a man who in his twenties decided to walk thirty miles each week. He did this for forty weeks, and was able to visit fifty different villages in his county. He described his journeys in detail, passing sixty farms, and an amusing* tale of crossing a field with seventy sheep on a very hot day with temperatures in the eighties. It was so interesting that I read several chapters in about ninety minutes. As my schedule for tomorrow seemed to list hundreds of things to do, I went straight to sleep before I could* count from one to twenty. (1177 words)

* "amusing" "amazing" Always insert the vowel

* "I could" Not phrased, to differentiate from "I can"

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Memory Quotes

I was recently reading about languages and memory, and how we handle the stored information that we need in order to* speak and understand language, whether written or spoken. Clearly we hear first, start to make sense of it and much later add the written form to our mental database. The common thread running through the articles and books was that items become associated with each other to the same degree that they are encountered together. Eventually one brings the other to mind without any conscious effort. What could be* more like shorthand than this and all those theories can be wrapped up in one word which you have certainly heard very many times: practice. This is why memorising material is not helpful and should be avoided as much as possible*.

* Omission phrases "in ord(er to)" "as much as poss(ible)"

* "could be" Generally "could" is only phrased when it starts the phrase, so it remains in position and is not misread as "can"

You can't really see printed matter without instantly thinking of its spoken counterpart and its meaning. The ideal is that hearing a word immediately triggers recall of its outline, and the converse, when the outline brings to mind the spoken word just as forcefully as the longhand text does. It is no longer a puzzle to be solved but a well-known shape that cannot be seen as anything else. Constant and regular practice of writing shorthand to the spoken sounds brings about that happy state of affairs, without us being aware of the gradual change from obscure to obvious. I came across two quotes that seem to be particularly relevant to shorthand learning and writing.

“Actions, sensations and states of feeling, occurring together or in close connection, tend to grow together, or cohere, in such a way that, when any one of them is afterwards presented to the mind, the others are apt to be brought up in idea.” A Bain* (Senses and Intellect) “Some ideas are by frequency and strength of association so closely combined that they cannot be separated; if one exists, the other exists along with it in spite of whatever effort we make to disjoin them.” James Mill (Analysis of the Human Mind)

* "A Bain" Initials in names are best written as lower case longhand

* "Analysis" The plural "analyses" would have thick dot in the circle

* "Human" special outline above the line, following the second vowel, to differentiate from "humane"

Just a few more quotes on the subject* for your deliberation and amusement*. The first one contains that dreaded word “holes” which is the shorthand gap that you are working so hard to avoid. I am very glad to confirm, from long experience, that holes reduce as skill increases. The last quote is what you do if recall fails at a difficult shorthand moment.

*  Omission phrase "on (the) subject"

* "amuse" "amaze" and derivatives, always insert the vowel

Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven't left any holes, that you've captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late. Henri Cartier-Bresson

The true art of memory is the art of attention. Samuel Johnson

I have a memory like an elephant. In fact*, elephants often consult me. Noel Coward

If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were
* worrying about one year ago today. E Joseph* Cossman

I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. Abraham Lincoln (523 words)

* Omission phrases "in (f)act" "you (w)ere"

* "E Joseph" Initials in names are best written as lower case longhand

Saturday, 18 April 2020


Conference pears - but do we need our shorthand pad at this meeting?

Once you have a reasonable skill in shorthand, it is irresistible to write the shopping list in shorthand. You get to read the outlines several times and there is an incentive to read it correctly and not come home without an item. I can’t list everything you might buy but I thought it would be interesting to find names of fruits beginning with every stroke. This did involve several online trips round the world to hunt down the less familiar ones. You may not need to know all the outlines for them, but it is always useful to practise calmly writing “something for everything” when unusual words occur.

The straight strokes were easy to find fruits for, and so I have assembled a bowl of peach, pear, papaya, pomegranate and passion fruit. Another bowl is full of apple, plum, apricot and pineapple. I have made a delicious fruit basket containing bananas and jars of jams and preserves made from blackberry, blackcurrant, bilberry and blueberry. In your shorthand breaks, you could* refresh yourself with some tangerine and satsuma pieces, some strawberries or tayberries, or damson jam and a few pieces of the very sweet and soft date. After consuming all these you might* have to leave the cherries and Chinese and Japanese plums until later on. I had no idea what a jackfruit was until now, although to someone somewhere it is probably quite ordinary.

* "you could" "you might" Not phrased, so they are not misread as "you can" "you may"

Our next two strokes give us the wonderful coconut, delicious both as a flavouring in cakes* and its milk as a substitute* for dairy. Currants, cloudberries and cranberries might all be found mixed into a small cake or scone*, to give some extra interest. Kiwi fruit can be rather tart if not entirely ripe, and unpleasantly slimy if it gets overripe, a fine balance to get the best out of it. Maybe we should just eat a cantaloupe or clementine if we have let the kiwi go over. When I first discovered the goji berry in the health shop, it was tempting to eat large handfuls from the packet, so that gradually disappeared from my shopping list, although I think it is time to revisit it. Grapes are always on the list in summer, but tend to be missed off in winter. Gooseberries and grapefruit are not sweet enough to make it onto my fruit shopping list. And then we have the poor old ugli fruit, which we should all eat once in a while to help it regain its place amongst all those with more noble names.

* "cakes" "cookies" Always insert the vowel

* "substitute" Omits the first T sound

* "scone" Can also be pronounced "sconn"

Now we have the curved strokes and there are one or two* cheats amongst them. The fig, avocado and vanilla pod I am familiar with, but the falsa* is new to me, a shrub with a sweet and sour berry. Then there is the Sharon fruit and the Shonan Gold citrus fruit, but other than that I will have to offer some cheats and can only suggest that mixing the pulp of your favourite Asian fruits may result in an unusual beige coloured mush, for your pleasure.

* Omission phrase "one (or) two"

* "falsa" Also spelled "phalsa"

Next comes the açai berry or palm berry, a purple fruit like a small grape, which is infused to make an energy drink. Then we have the zig zag vine, two zee strokes because two words, unlike the normal zigzag outline. This means I don’t have to cheat with the zucchini, which is botanically a fruit but is generally treated as a vegetable. I also don’t have to resort to using the word zest, the outer surface of a citrus fruit used for flavouring, but I am forced to mention the pith, which you definitely don’t want in your smoothie. Lemons and limes are similar but their juice needs to be mixed with milder flavours to lessen their impact. My favourite use for a lemon is to leave half of it pressed over the bathroom tap to dissolve the limescale, which makes me wonder what damage it might do to my teeth! Lychees are quite small, and when I first tried one, I found it rather fiddly to handle and somewhat too slimy for my liking.

* "açai" Also spelled assai, and you could use a diphone if you preferred the pronunciation "ass-ah-ee"

Elderberries are traditionally made into a fruit wine in this country and the berries are also used as food colourants, but uncooked berries and parts of the plant are poisonous. Loganberries are a type of blackberry and this was an accidental cross pollination by the plant breeder. Sultana is a type of white grape and the word is also used to name the raisin made from it*. Oranges are one of my ideal fruits, as long as the peel comes off easily and cleanly. They are neatly presented in segments, all very convenient until it ejects a spurt of juice through too much* pressure from impatient fingers. This fruit name has an interesting history and started off beginning with an N sound, which was later dropped.

* "from it" Normally halved to represent the "it", but here that might be confused with "fruit"

* "too much" Includes the M stroke in order to make the join

My top favourite* fruit is the mango, which unfortunately does not grow here in the UK. If I get one that is not as soft and ripe as it could be, then it goes into the blender with some apples and coconut milk, and the routine is, one to drink now and one in the fridge for later, cold in the summer or warmed up in winter. Next we have the mandarin, a type of tangerine. The melon has little flavour but plenty of liquid in the flesh. The mulberry tree can grow to be very tall and the fruits look similar to small blackberries. The nectarine is a small peach with a smooth skin, like a small red apple. I am sorry to have to offer you, for the Ing stroke, only the angular sea fig, part of the ice plant family, of which the fruit pulp is used to make jams.

* "favourite" Note that "favoured" uses the anticlockwise Vr stroke, to differentiate

Redcurrants and raspberries make excellent preserves and jams. A raisin is a dried grape so it is not really a fruit name in itself. I did grow some rhubarb once when I had a small allotment many years ago, and I planted it next to the water trough at one end so I was able to soak it regularly, but I don’t remember ever eating any of it. If you excuse the Stee Loop, our last one in this section is the star fruit which gets its name from the shape when sliced into flat pieces.

I had my first watermelon whilst visiting relatives in hot and thirsty Spain but back in cold England I was not so keen on its bland wateriness. The youngberry is a type of raspberry and named unsurprisingly after Mr Young who bred this cultivar. The huckleberry is a type of blueberry, and in the UK it is called the whortleberry. The honeyberry refers to the fruit of three different species of plant with edible berries. The wolfberry is another name for the goji berry. The yuzu is a type of mandarin but with the uneven appearance of a grapefruit and the plant can survive much lower temperatures than normal citrus trees.

For our compound strokes, we have the quince, of which the small yellowy* orange fruits make excellent quince jelly. The kumquat is a cold hardy citrus. The loquat is a soft plum-like fruit and its flavour is described as a mixture of peach, citrus and mango. The guava is a large tropical fruit, which can be eaten raw or made into a beverage. The imbe is another name for the African mangosteen. The  rambutan has a spiky outer skin and  soft white fleshy fruit inside. The wampee looks like a long oval green grape, its name being the Mandarin Chinese for “yellow skin”. Lastly* we have the jambulan which is another name for the Java or black plum, a tropical fruit.

* "yellowy" Always insert the last vowel when using colour names in this way, as "yellow green" could also make sense

* "lastly" Omits the lightly-sounded T

Just to recap, mulberry, bilberry and strawberry all have the hooked stroke and the other berries are in full. I have just a few more words to incorporate the Ing stroke. All these fruit plants require planting, growing, raising, pruning, picking, peeling, maybe cooking, mashing and pickling and finally, and most importantly, consuming. Something that is not difficult is sometimes described as being “as easy as picking ripe fruits from a tree”, an apt description of the ease with which you will be writing shorthand in a very short while. (1382 words)

Don't forget the yogurt, to hold it all together

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Shorthand Greyhound

My grandparents on one side were keen race goers to the greyhound races at Charlton Stadium in south east London. I have only seen greyhound races in passing on the television and was fascinated by the mechanical hare, an irresistible target for the dogs who give chase, expecting to be able to overtake it and sink their teeth in. All is quiet until the start time. As soon as the hare gets level with the stalls, the doors are opened and the greyhounds take off* at lightning speed. Little do they know that the hare can never be caught, much less killed and eaten. It is an ever* receding target designed to pull the fastest effort out of them. Such was the job of my shorthand teacher at the commercial college, to keep the dictation speed always ahead of what was comfortable. She was training us to be greyhounds, with the difference that the goal was indeed achievable, if only she would let us have a comfortable speed for once. I don’t remember that ever happening though and complacency was never fed or allowed. The course was time limited and the January and May exams were fixed* events on the calendar. However, the speed we would each put ourselves down for was not fixed* until a month or so before the date of the exam and she wanted us to be able to achieve our highest capability in the shortest time.

* "take off" F Hook to represent "off"

* "an ever" This needs extra care, as it could be heard as "a never", and vice versa, depending on the precision of the speaker's pronunciation

* "fixed" "focussed" Insert the vowel in "focussed" as these are similar in meaning

The only time things went slowly was in the first lesson, with the description of the basis of the system and writing out the first few strokes and vowels. But after that we were racing greyhounds in the making, although we did not know it at the time. We had no idea of what lay ahead. We thought shorthand would be fast to write merely because it was more simply constructed than longhand letters and spelling but we found out that very much more* was required than just learning new shapes for sounds. It was a different type of skill needing a different mindset* from academic subjects, and involved entirely different methods. Book knowledge, as in normal school work, was of no account. We needed to cultivate dexterity and quick responses but primarily a cast iron concentration for the duration of the take and there was every incentive to master it quickly and decisively.

* Omission phrase "very much m(ore)" Full stroke M in order to join the phrase

* "mindset" Not in dictionary, this could equally well be written with all full strokes in order to make one outline

Over the weeks of that first term things hotted up and due to Miss Jefferson’s excellent teaching skills, clearly honed over a lifetime, we all undertook the dictation races with enthusiasm. They were generally two or three* minutes long in the early stages, a survivable length for beginners. Our pencils hovered over the pad until she said, "Ready, begin" and then we were shooting off down the racetrack with our minds sharply focussed* on getting it all down, until the finish line was reached. We could* never guess where that finish line was, but there was great relief when her voice ceased, not just because the race was now over but because we had survived the experience and actually had some readable notes down on paper. We felt that next time* we would be able to get more of it and we would definitely catch that hare eventually.

* Omission phrases "two (or) three" "ne(k)s(t) time"

* "focussed" "fixed" Insert the vowel in "focussed" as these are similar in meaning

* "we could" Not phrased, so it is not misread as "we can"

I must also mention and honour Mrs Bravery with her beaming smile and motherly care for our progress and Mrs Trimnell, our typewriting teacher, who insisted on proper* posture, alertness, attention and speedy writing, not languid drawing or lolling at the desk. “The other hand is for turning the* page, not for holding your head up.” They were superb and inspiring teachers who took our shorthand class on occasion. This was at Woolwich College for Further Education in south east London in the early nineteen seventies.

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

* "turning the" Dot The used, rather than Tick The, so that the parts are written in the order spoken

Miss Jefferson would have to deal with a whole range of speeds, often giving the faster dictation at the beginning, so the faster students could be reading their notes whilst others took slower dictations. Just listening to the fast speaking makes a slower passage seem much more* reasonable and easier. She had to juggle all our different abilities and provide what we needed to stretch us on to further gains. If someone said they felt such and such speed was a bit beyond them, she would gently say, "Why don’t you just give it a try, it is really short, you might surprise yourself." They would do so and be delighted that they got something down, even if only a few snatches. These small victories built up towards the greater goal, and impossible sounding speed figures began to seem a little more reachable.

* Omission phrase "much m(ore)

I gained the impression from my fellow students that they were relieved to have left school at 16 and were eager to learn practical subjects that would make them instantly employable, and in any* industry they wished, as all businesses need words put onto paper (no computers then). They had greater enthusiasm than a school class. In fact* it was almost a holiday atmosphere at times, although we were silent during dictations, with minds and pencils concentrating intently on the task. Breaks and lunch hours were spent mulling over the lesson or the shorthand magazine together. The enthusiasm increased as various shorthand goals were reached and we all left the college entirely different people from when we started. The distant dream had now turned into reality and we could* at last* write as fast as speech and type it back rapidly, neatly and accurately, and all without batting an eyelid or letting any drop of perspiration mar the brow! We were fit for our future tasks, where we would be paid to get it done without fuss and get it right, every day, all week, with absolutely no “percentage of allowable errors”.

* "in any " Helpful to insert the final vowel in "any" when these two are adjacent

* Omission phrase "in (f)act"

* "we could" Not phrased, so it is not misread as "we can"

* "at last" "at least" Always insert the vowel

After introducing a new point of theory and answering any questions*, she had us practise some of the example outlines singly, but after that it was straight into dictation. As we were using New Course, everything was within the two thousand commonest words, so no unusual or technical words were going to occur. She never assumed that we had absorbed the new point on the first run through and, after a dictation, she would ask how we had got on, always encouraging participation and questions*, explaining anything on which we were not clear. Repeating a single new outline along the line accustoms the hand to the new shapes, but this method does not constitute recalling the outlines. If it is subsequently set into a short sentence, you have to recall it over and over again*, thus practising exactly what is going to occur in a longer passage.

* "question" Optional contraction

* Omission phrase "over (and) over again" The second "over" is reversed in order to make the join

At no time* did we copy from longhand or transliterate a passage of text, or write anything at all in longhand, not even class notes or word lists. We saw, read and wrote shorthand the entire lesson and the next day’s lesson would begin with answering any questions* arising, and then swiftly on to the next section of the chapter. When our typewriting skills were up to it we occasionally typed from our notes. We never had to memorise, we just practised shorthand until outlines were familiar and came instantly to mind when heard. We never constructed outlines from theory, we just wrote the outlines presented in the book and its exercises, or looked up in the shorthand dictionary if something unusual came up.

* "at no time" If you phrased this, it would need the vowel inserted, to differentiate from "at any time"

* "question" Optional contraction

Everything was covered in the first term, with two terms for speed building. No-one dropped out and we all encouraged each other. Every take was preceded by both excitement and trepidation at the task of the next three minutes, followed by satisfaction at successfully writing most of it. This fuelled a determination to improve until all of it was captured. For home or lone learners nowadays possibly the most useful way to recreate some of the classroom urgency* is to resolve never to hit the stop button whilst taking down from your recording. I hope* you can incorporate some of these methods into your schedule of learning. I was going to say “study” but that is far too static a term for a prospective greyhound race winner like yourself. (1364 words)

* "urgency" Omits the N

* Omission phrase "I (h)ope"