Long Live Pitman's Shorthand banner text

Completely devoted to New Era Shorthand



Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Free resources

Read my Blog written in shorthand


Search this website.
Results by

Or use my Search page.

Find that New Era outline on the Shorthand Dictionary page - free PDF downloads


Recent Additions & Corrections


Shorthand Everywhere

Why Learn?

Notes for Beginners

Pen and Paper

Pen & Pencil Reviews


How To Practise


Blog downloads and reading articles have moved to new website:


Guestmap & Guestbook links page

Feedback Form

You Can Help


Shorthand Books

Shorthand Dictionaries


Theory Intro

 1   Strokes

 2   Vowels

 3   Forming Outlines

 4   Circles

 5   Loops

 6   Hooks Intro

 7   Hooks R L

 8   Hooks N F V

 9   Shun Hook

10  Halving

11  Doubling

12  Hay Aspirate

13  W Forms

14  L Forms

15  R Forms

16  Imp/Imb

17  Ish

18  Prefixes

19  Suffixes General

20  Suffixes Contracted

Short Forms

SF Intro

SF List 1

SF List 2

SF List 3

SF List 4


Contractions Intro

Contractions Main

Contractions Optional


1 Phrasing Intro & Contents list

2 Theory

3 Theory

4 Omission Part words

5 Omission Whole words

6 Miscellaneous

7 Miscellaneous

8 Intersections

Distinguishing Outlines

DO Intro

DO List 1 A-C

DO List 2 D-H

DO List 3 I-P

DO List 4 Q-Y


Vocab Intro



Word Lists

Text Lists from PDFs


Yellow Teddy's page

Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! logo web










































The palest ink is better than the best memory  Chinese proverb
The palest ink is better than the best memory Chinese proverb

Dictation Downloads
Found dictations
Slower dictations
Making use of fast speaking
Flying fingers

Dictation can be one of those words that is 49% excitement and 51% trepidation for the shorthand learner. I would like to see those percentages changed to 50% excitement and 50% determination.

Trepidation or anxiety is a "hole in your pocket" through which your confidence may leak away. It can affect both the exam candidate and those beginning to use their shorthand in employment where the dictation may race ahead of what you thought you could do, or is intermittent, mumbled, with background noise, intimidating surroundings, or full of new words that you do not know the shorthand for in all probability totally unlike your classes or home study with its controlled conditions, and endlessly tolerant and amiable teachers and fellow students.

Taking lots of unseen dictation will not teach you shorthand outlines, its purpose is to test your writing skills, let you know where your shorthand is at, and get you accustomed to writing shorthand without knowing what is coming next, so it does have its place in your training.

Purposeful preparation and practising of passages before taking them from dictation enables you to write at a greater speed than taking the passages unseen, and that is what you need to be doing as often as possible. It will improve your vocabulary, phrasing and neatness, thus building your skill and greatly increasing confidence.

When preparing for a dictation, practise the vocabulary and write out the passages, either in one piece so you can write over the top of it, or leaving every other line blank When writing over the top of ink outlines, you may wish to revert to using a hard pencil, so you can use the same sheet many times without making a mark. Do not write ahead of the spoken words. If you scan your perfect shorthand, you can print it out and reuse it, but you need to keep the line-length the same as a normal notepad, i.e. produce two A5 sheets at a time, not one A4 sheet of shorthand. You can use uncut pages from the Print Your Own Shorthand Notepad PDF on the Downloads page for this, or print out the PDFs from the Reading Section these pages have been laid out so that the shorthand prints at life-size.

Your speed on the known passages will increase dramatically which is a good self-encourager, as long as you remember that unseen dictations will not be as easy to write. There is no pressure as you practise at home and you will step up your expectations of yourself.

Dictation Downloads

All the BlogSpot articles are available as MP3s on the new reading website www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand-reading.org.uk/blog-downloads.htm as ZIP files, to accompany the PDFs of the shorthand and text. There is also one blog per month provided as a Facility Drill book and a slow dictation of 40 wpm, this is generally the main dictation with pieces of silence added between the words and phrases.

www.audacityteam.org/download Audacity is a free and simple sound recording and  editing program, and I use this to tidy up the recordings. The speeds are as they naturally turned out and range from 70 to 110 words per minute. There are 2-second gaps between sentences, so although they may seem a little faster than the speed stated, you have the gaps in which to catch up. This keeps the speaking more lifelike and gives practice in holding words in memory. If you can keep up with the words and are actually waiting during the gaps, then your speed capability is greater than the stated speed of the piece.

If you are just listening and not writing, you may notice that even the 100+ ones sounds quite slow, and not like natural talking, so this will give you an idea of how necessary it is to reach and surpass that speed, if you wish to avoid struggles in keeping up with speakers.

It is not only your shorthand ability that makes any particular dictation seem slow or too fast, but also the frame of mind that you are in at that time. I suggest you take a simple but "too fast" dictation first, at the beginning of your session, and do your utmost to get as much down as possible, even if it is illegible and full of gaps. This will get the mind in fast reacting mode, and then all the following dictations will seem very much slower.  It is quite astounding how it can change one's perception of what is slow and what is fast. Once you have experienced this, I hope you will be encouraged to make use of this extremely effective shorthand learning strategy. My shorthand teacher did this for us regularly, knowing its benefits, and a warm-up passage was always given in an exam, although the purpose there was also to accustom the students to the dictator's voice beforehand.

At present, the longest passage is about half an hour. It is very worthwhile to practise long passages (with the device stop button well out of reach!), as after a while your mind gives up interrupting you with wondering when it will be over, and you can settle into continuous writing. I suggest you do this at a comfortable speed at first, so that you can keep up easily and there is no excuse to give in to the temptation to stop. When you have proved you can survive a long passage, it is time to speed it up, or go for more difficult matter. You can also practise stamina on long passages by visualisation, easily done on the bus/train/queue if you have the sound files on your device.

To change the speed, open the MP3 in Audacity, go to Effect, Change Tempo and experiment with the percentage slider. The change will apply to the section selected, or, if nothing is selected, to the whole file. I found -20 to +70 to be a reasonable range. A more time-consuming way is to go through the entire file in Audacity and use cut or copy/paste to remove or add in pieces of silence, and this would be preferable if you require lower speeds, as slowing down the Tempo does seem to degrade the sound much more than speeding it up. As all the sentences have a 2-second gap between, you can paste in longer pieces of silence at those points, and thus slow it down quite considerably - the sentence may still be too fast for you, but you will have the longer gap in which to catch up. You can then either save the Audacity project (which will be an *.AUP file plus associated data folder) to a new file name, so that you have both versions. You may also wish to retype the speed stated in the metadata (File, Edit Metadata), as the original speed is listed there, so that the correct speed shows up in onscreen lists. Working in the AUP file does not change your original MP3 in any way, as it is a copy of the information.

Number of words divided by seconds duration, multiplied by 60 = words a minute

An existing AUP file can be renamed but not the data folder - if you do, the AUP file cannot find and use it. The best way to rename is to use "Save As" for the whole project, so that the AUP file and its data folder have the same file name.

Found Dictations

Using all available spoken material for dictation practice is essential for the home learner. We are surrounded by the spoken word all the time and with a little ingenuity you can get varied shorthand practice for free without having to buy dictation CDs or tapes. You do not have to know what the speed is to get the benefit if it is fast, you can stretch your abilities, or write snatches, if it is slow you can write perfect outlines. You can do the bulk of your practising without constantly measuring your speed. If you are putting in the work, your speed cannot fail to increase.

There are many websites where you can find sound files, some are listed on the Links page. English language learning sites are a good source to investigate. They are slower than normal speaking, because the person is reading from a script, and often deliberately slowed for the benefit of non-native students of the language. It will still probably exceed 120 wpm and so this lets you know the minimum speed you should be aiming for, if you intend to use your shorthand to take a complete note.

See Links page for details of the free Express Dictate and Express Scribe software for creating your own sound files on computer, without recourse to dictaphone or tape recorder.

Express Scribe screenshot
Express Scribe screenshot all the functions of a dictaphone, including variable playback speed, via keyboard, screen or USB footpedal. Resist the urge to use the stop/start button during the dictation as this removes the sense of urgency that is such a vital part of the shorthand frame of mind, and is a slippery slope to failure. The best use for the stop/start facility is to practise holding the sentence in memory only begin writing when the sentence ends.

Speeches, narrations, poetry, quizzes, instructional and children's programmes, and sports commentary for the more sedate games such as snooker or darts, are generally spoken at much slower speeds than normal conversation and more carefully enunciated, because they are addressed directly to the audience or viewer. You could read your course book sentences out loud and thus ensure you are covering all the short forms, contractions, phrases etc, with the added advantage that the book provides all the correct outlines.

Once you have practised the same passage many times "beyond the call of duty", and it has become comfortable at a high speed, you will no longer tolerate a dragging hand, and it becomes clear that instant outline recall is what produces speed. The better you know your outlines, the neater and more reliable they will be.

Once your family and friends know you are studying shorthand, you might be able to encourage them to bring you their personal news by sending sound files, and relieve them of the dreary burden of writing in slow longhand or slow keyboarding. Or maybe gather memories from the older members of the family, writing them in shorthand, either directly or from a recording, and transcribing them into a family history scrapbook to distribute back to them. A clutch of sound files read from a book on favourite hobby subjects would be the lowest-cost highest-value birthday or Christmas present a friend could give you as a shorthand learner, and you can send them a sample of the shorthand as a thank you and to maintain interest. Sounds like yet another pocket-money earning potential for youngsters, as well!

Top of page

Slower dictations

For the slower speeds, it might be quicker to record your own sound files, by reading from the course book, than to spend precious hours trawling the internet for the occasional suitable dictation. The vocabulary will then match exactly what you have learned so far. In the early stages vocabulary is so limited that found dictations may be more frustrating than useful store them up for later.

The easiest way to do free dictation at the lower speeds, with no helper, no computer, no sound files or tapes and no written text, is to use something you already know, such as a song, poem, rhyme, jingle, Christmas carol, hymn etc. You already know the whole text and can recite it from memory. As long as you either say the words, or imagine them being said, you are associating the outlines with the sounds, and avoiding the intrusion of longhand text. If you prepare and learn the shorthand outlines for your favourites, they will always be available to you for odd practising moments when you are away from your desk. You can do this mentally without even pen or paper, as you sit on the bus or stand in a queue. You set the pace every time. You do not need to time them and your determination to write (legibly) as fast as you can will get you through. This is similar to when youngsters first learn to write their signature in cursive writing, they take great delight in writing it everywhere, all the time, as fast as they can, until it can be done without the slightest hesitation, and of course using the best "statement pen" they can find.

Dayglo pen with danglies
Brilliant glowing shorthand Yes. Dayglo and danglies? Perhaps not!

Making use of fast speaking

Television and radio broadcasts are exasperatingly fast but they can still be used for practice. In the very early stages of learning, you can write down the occasional word that you know, or snatches of common words or phrases. Talking speed may well be over 200 wpm so it is unrealistic to expect to keep up when beginning learning. You can always wring some use out of them, and not let them become an excuse to give up!

A very good use for fast speaking is to train your memory to hold the words that have got ahead of you. This is a very useful skill to have when stretching your speed, as you become accustomed to and relaxed about not always being on top of the words as they are spoken. Write what you can and endeavour to finish the sentence. Such an exercise must be done with that specific purpose in mind from the outset, and with a firm will, and not used as a fall-back excuse for constantly missing out chunks in other dictations, a habit which will harm more than help. To prevent such a habit forming while doing the memory-training exercise, wait until the speaker finishes the missed sentence before you start to write the next one. This breaks up the writing and keeps it in a different category from the normal note-taking scenario. You end up with lots of whole sentences, rather than just a mass of unreadable fragments.

Ipod and Pitman's Shorthand dictation practice
A talk on the Ipod, an opportunity to practise some neat shorthand to counteract the tendency to scrawl, doing whole sentences as much as possible, and jotting down phrases when it gets too fast. This is entirely different from attempting to get everything down.

I find that "My Best Speed" is an unhelpful label, because it is changing all the time, depending on how much time you are able to devote to your study. Living up to a label means you are stuck there. "My Best Speed Yesterday" enables you to enjoy past victories, but keeps it where it belongs, because you have since done some more practising, had a good night's sleep and today is another day of progress.

Pitman's New Era: It ain't over till it's over! Watch this space! Coming soon to a pad near you  words a minute in three figures!
"It ain't over till it's over!" "Watch this space!"
"Coming soon to a pad near you words a minute in three figures!"

Top of page

Flying Fingers

When I took my exams in the 1970's, we were given a short warm-up passage before the actual exam pieces, so that we could accustom ourselves to the dictator's voice. The main benefit of this is really to get brain and fingers in gear for a high-speed performance. If you are just starting out in shorthand, you may consider anything over 100 words per minute to be way, way beyond you. But I would say that can already write longhand "outlines" at that speed, because you are familiar with the shapes. Try writing your signature as many times as you can in one minute, then count how many letters of the alphabet you have written. One letter equates to about 1 outlines (or more), so multiply by that. The result is your best writing speed in "shorthand wpm" and I am confident it will be well over 100. You never hesitate over the shapes of the letters because you know them so well, and there is no fear, hassle or trepidation when writing your well-practised name. Your shorthand can be the same, and in much less time, because you are purposefully working towards that goal, unlike longhand where gaining speed is mostly incidental. When (not if) you leap over the "100 hurdle" in your shorthand, you may wish to share your success and encourage others via the Guestmap or Guestbook.

To celebrate writing so fast (albeit longhand for the moment), you might like to print a Pitman's Shorthand Flying Fingers Poster from the Downloads page as a light-hearted reminder, in order to reaffirm your achievement and focus your future efforts.

Flying Fingers Poster thumbnail image  A good way to advertise your increasing promotability

Do Well Doubt Not - Tunbridge Wells railway bridge plaque, bottom part   
Do Well whilst practising = Doubt Not during dictation

Tunbridge Wells railway bridge plaque Click for full pic (863 KB)

Tunbridge Wells railway bridge - The shield looks to me like wavy shorthand outlines, surrounded by drops of ink, and a determined lion clawing his way to the top against a background of dot vowels. Above is a helmet with visor to prevent distractions, topped by a triumphant lion holding his shorthand achievement medal. The leaves, of course, are an encouragement to form beautiful flowing lines and curves. Just right for the cover of your Print Your Own Shorthand Notepad!

Top of page


"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

Guestbook     Guestmap     Feedback Form page

All original material, images and downloads on this website, on the shorthand reading website and on the Blogger sites is copyright Beryl L Pratt and is provided for personal non-commercial study use only, and may not be republished in any form, or reposted online, either in full or part. If you wish to share the content, please do so by a link to the appropriate page of the website.

Free Web Counter from www.statcounter.com
Free GuestMap, Guestbook & Feedback Forms www.bravenet.com

Use the space on your 404 page to help find missing people by embedding info from notfound.org     See my 404 page