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article excerpts are from the following books, available online at
Despite the Victorian-style
language of the articles, the advice is still relevant for today's
shorthand students, more so as nowadays we do less handwriting than
in the past and we need to reclaim those skills. The three dots ...
show where text has been shortened. American spellings retained.
"Pitman Speed Practice"
(1915) by Alfred Sugarman. It contains 11 articles
discussing shorthand speed and learning techniques, and 112 other passages on
a wide variety of subjects current at the time, and now of more
historical interest. The articles are counted in tens for use as
dictations and are ideal for extending vocabulary.
Suggestions to Shorthand Students (1890) by Selby A Moran,
University of Michigan, Principal of the Stenographic Institute,
There is no shorthand in these books,
only letterpress text, and they are therefore useful to
writers of other shorthand systems.
The text of these books may
not be used commercially, please see
generally personal study purposes only.
Do not become discouraged
Get a thorough
mastery of the principles Nathan Behrin (2 parts)
Getting up speed - Frederick Rose
What causes hesitation Paul
Overcoming weaknesses Walter
Word and phrase signs Selby
The stenographic expert
Willard Bottome and William Smart (3 parts)
The shorthand writer should
make careful and accurate outlines William Whitford
Excelsior the motto for shorthand writers
Phrasing Selby Moran
Repetition Henry Candlin
versus new matter Charles Phillips
Picturing outlines Selby Moran
Keep cool Selby Moran
Preface - by Arthur M Sugarman
BA, Chairman, Department of Stenography and Typewriting, Bay Ridge High School,
Preface by Arthur Sugarman. The essentials for the
attainment of high speed in shorthand writing may be summed up
briefly under the following heads. First: A thorough mastery of
whatever system of shorthand is learned. Second: An unhesitating use
of all the word signs and contractional devices employed in that
system. Third: A wide and ever-increasing vocabulary.
Fourth: A familiarity with the best modes and
styles of expression current in our literature. Fifth: The ability
to assimilate the thought as the sounds are being recorded. Sixth:
Plenty of practice in recording utterances, varied in subject matter
And, lastly, the element that makes for success in all fields of
endeavor, Perseverance. ... (112 words)
Word signs = short forms
Do Not Become
Discouraged Selby A Moran, Item 19
Do not become discouraged. ... There is no study that does not
have its difficult parts, and the one who succeeds in these is the one who will
not allow every little thing to give him the " blues," while his equally
talented brother falls behind and is lost sight of, simply because he would not
do what he might. A steady application of will is a very important factor in
considering one's chances of success in the line of shorthand work. (81 words)
Insert vowel after the short form
"equally" as "equal" would also make sense.
vowels in "steady" to prevent confusion with "study" already
written, and "staid" which has a similar meaning.
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Get A Thorough
Mastery Of The Principles by Nathan Behrin,
Supreme Court, New York, Champion shorthand writer of the world (350
Get a thorough mastery of the principals by Nathan
Behrin. The seeker after high speed should devote himself to
obtaining a thorough mastery of the principles of his system of
shorthand. Not until the ability to write shorthand without mental
hesitation has been acquired, should speed practice begin.
A student observing the note-taking of an
experienced stenographer will be struck with admiration at the
smoothness of the writing and the perfect regularity of the
outlines. An excellent method of practice for the like facility is
in the copying of a selection sentence by sentence until the whole
is memorized, and then writing it over and over again.
All notes taken at any speed should strictly be
compared with the printed matter. It will then be found that many
words are taken for others because of the forms they assume when
written under pressure. Most of these can be avoided by careful
attention to the writing. Experience alone will authorize any
deviation from the textbook forms.
Phrasing should be indulged in sparingly on
unfamiliar matter. But on familiar matter the student should always
be alert for opportunities of saving both time and effort by
employing the principles of intersection, elimination of consonants,
and the joining of words of frequent occurrence. Nothing less than
absolute accuracy should satisfy the student. (218 words)
"Nothing less" Insert the vowel in
"less"; when writing the phrase "nothing else" join a downward Ell-S
and omit the vowel. The same applies to "anything less" and
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Conflicting outlines should be carefully distinguished. Where words
may be distinguished either by the insertion of vowels or the
changing of one of the outlines, the latter should always be the
method employed; vowels should freely be inserted whenever possible.
The sense of the matter should be carefully preserved by the
punctuation of the notes, indicating the full stop and leaving
spaces in the notes between phrases.
The best matter for the student beginning practice for speed is to
be found in the dictation books compiled by the publishers of the
system. At first, the dictation should be slow to permit the making
of careful outlines.
Gradually the speed should be increased until the student is obliged
to exert himself to keep pace with the reader; and occasionally
short bursts of speed should be attempted as tests of the writer's
The student ambitious to succeed will endeavor to familiarize
himself with all matters pertaining to stenography. By reading the
shorthand magazines, he will keep himself in touch with the latest
developments in the art.
Facility in reading shorthand will also be acquired by reading the
shorthand plates in these magazines. For comparison and suggestion,
he will study the facsimile notes of practical stenographers.
He will neglect no opportunity to improve himself in the use of his
art. And, finally, he will join a shorthand society, where he will
come in contact with other stenographers who are striving toward the
same goal as himself. (244 words)
Insert the second vowel in "permit"
to distinguish it from "promote".
Insert the final vowel in
"occasionally" because "occasional" would also make sense.
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Getting up speed - by
Frederick J Rose, Law Court Reporter, Chicago, Illinois
Getting up speed by Frederick Rose. How does a child learn to
read? Isn't it by first laboriously learning the ABC? ... Don't overlook that
word "laboriously." No learning can be acquired by grafting on processes; it all
comes by labor. Shorthand is no exception.
One of the mysteries of acquiring speed in shorthand writing is that speed comes
in just about exact ratio to the labor put upon the study of the ABC of whatever
system of shorthand writing is learned. That is the experience which twenty-five
years of shorthand writing for daily bread has taught. ...
It is in the first few months ... that the
pupil lays the foundation, surely and irrevocably, for later high speed in
execution and speed in mental processes.
Therefore, paradoxical as it may appear, the
sagest advice, and the most practical to be given to the shorthand
student, is to TAKE TIME to lay the foundation well and truly, and
speed, up to a given degree, will be added naturally, without
further effort, as a consequence of it.
Don't for one moment let there be any excuse that
speed practice requires a specially set stage, a specially engaged
reader, special paper, pens, ink, and all the paraphernalia of
artificial stimulus. They are all very well in their way. But
accustom the mind to meet the inconveniences of practical work, for
there will be no favors granted in practical work.
Read over what you have been able to get, if
possible; if not able to read all of it, still keep trying. Speed in
shorthand writing is the prize for courage.
Training for high speed begins with Lesson One,
when the pupil is geared in low speed. It is just as disastrous to
start in "high" in shorthand writing as it is in driving an
automobile. It begins in low speed, and you get into the high speed
because you started in low speed. (318 words)
Insert a final vowel in the
short form specially (twice) because special would also make sense.
Insert the diphthong in unsuitable to distinguish it from
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What Causes Hesitation
Paul S Vosburg,
Official Stenographer, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia,
What causes hesitation by Paul Vosburg. To hesitate, in shorthand
writing, is to be lost, that is, to hesitate to any great extent.
What causes hesitation? First, inability to accurately hear the
words uttered; second, lack of familiarity with the words spoken;
third, not knowing the outlines for the words or not being able to
quickly form them in the mind; fourth, lack of manual skill; and
fifth, unsuitable materials.
To avoid the first cause of hesitation, one must have
a good ear, and see that the conditions are favorable for distinct
hearing. To eliminate the second cause, one must be a constant
student of words the meanings as well as the sounds. He will be
continually on the alert to enlarge his vocabulary by general
reading and conversation.
Third: Not only will he study words and their
meanings, but will get thoroughly in mind the best outlines for the
words, and he should continually form outlines for new words, first
before consulting a shorthand dictionary, in order to cultivate a
good judgment in selection.
Fourth: Manual skill. There is only
one way to gain this by writing the outlines over and over again,
until the hand is accustomed to form them instantly.
This is especially true of the forms that are
peculiarly difficult for the individual. Certain consonants or
combinations give one writer trouble, while to another they are
easy. The student should pick out his weak points.
materials. The instrument the pen or pencil should be adapted to the
individual. Whether a pen or pencil is better for the individual
must be learned by experience.
There is only one way to reach the desired end: by
In general, the best results are obtained from
short daily practice, rather than a number of hours one day and
skipping a day or more.
Everything written should be read, and the
weak points noted and special attention given to them.
Always insert the second vowel in
both "adapted" and "adopted" to distinguish between them.
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- by Walter H Lee, Principal, The Milton School, Washington DC
Overcoming weaknesses by Walter Lee. Merely taking dictation
does not necessarily mean a gain either in speed or accuracy; practice should be
carried on according to a well arranged plan in which home work plays just as
important a part as class work.
The following method will bring good results if rigidly adhered to during the
entire period of speed practice. The student should use two note books, one for
taking dictation in class, the other for home work. In the latter he should
write every outline discussed by the teacher, as well as principles explained
and other things new to the student.
In addition to this and it may mean the difference
between success and failure he should write every outline which,
during the reading back in class, he finds has been improperly or
poorly written. He should be a merciless taskmaster over himself,
putting down every word about which he is doubtful, even common word
signs such as "it" or "was" if they have been poorly executed.
Shorthand is worthless unless it is readable; it
is better to read correctly and quickly what has been written than
to make poor outlines and be uncertain about the whole of the matter
which has been dictated. (206 words)
Word and phrase
signs Selby A Moran Item 39
Word and phrase signs. ... Although there are but a few
hundred of these contractions, yet it is almost impossible to write a sentence
of a half-dozen words without using one or more for which there is a sign. This
being the case, it becomes very important that you have these signs "upon your
You need not expect to gain any considerable
degree of speed without knowing them as well as you know your ABCs.
Not only be able to write them correctly at slow dictation, but also
know them so well that the sound of the word will cause a picture of
the outline to be instantly formed in the mind. ... (113 words)
Word signs = short forms, of which there are 184 in New Era. A
phrase sign is a short form signifying two words e.g. "as is" "to
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The Stenographic Expert by
Willard B Bottome and William F Smart,
Joint Authors of The Stenographic Expert*
*This book can
also be read at
www.archive.org Although the Pitman's Shorthand within is pre-New Era, the general advice
on shorthand still holds true.
The stenographic expert by Willard Bottome and William Smart.
Limitations of space require terseness in this article, and call for
brief facts rather than details. Many years' experience proves that
the quickest way to achieve shorthand power and ability is to adhere
strictly to the following points:
First: Thoroughly understand the system.
Second: Copy the exercises in the textbooks and the
shorthand magazines until print can be transcribed into shorthand
perfectly at a fair rate of speed.
Third: Practice writing the majority of the words in
the English language until they can be written with ease.
Fourth: Systematic speed practice.
Fifth: The acquisition of an extensive general
When a speed of fifty or sixty words a minute is
achieved by copying in shorthand from such matter as newspaper
articles, commence dictation practice. Pick out slow orators, and
practice on their speeches, or sermons, thus becoming acquainted
with the practical part of shorthand, early in your career. ...
Always read over your notes. Take regular dictation
practice at a school or from a friend or a phonograph. Try repetition practice if your shorthand powers seem
to have arrived at a stand-still; that is, write one passage over
again, slightly increasing the speed because you have to acquire a
quickly moving brain, and a "responsive hand.
All this time, read plenty of printed shorthand,
especially straight matter, because the vocabulary is somewhat
limited in court work.
Carry a memorandum book, in which to jot down words
that conflict, good phrases, and, later on, short cuts. (239 words)
Insert the vowel in "brief" so that
it does not suggest "number of"
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Get the best textbooks in the system, and endeavor to carry out the
advice not of theorists, but of those who have proved themselves to
be high speed writers, as well as practical shorthand reporters.
Besides acquiring a thorough knowledge of the system and the ability
to write it, you have to gear up your brains to clearly grasp, and
instantly, the speaker's thoughts, and to transmit them
intelligently to paper by a thoroughly trained hand, and fingers.
Without these essentials, high speed is impossible.
Whilst an effort should be made to write every word
as rapidly as it is uttered, the brain should be educated so in the
memory. This will enable the shorthand writer to catch up, at
Avoid everything that clouds the mind or disturbs the
hand. At first do not adopt a cramped style of writing. Always write
to read. If in doubt about writing a half length character, it is
better to write the double character. Give more attention to
grammalogs and words in position than to lengthy outlines. It is
advisable to get too much ink on the paper than too little, in the
Become absorbed in the speaker's ideas, cultivate
imagination in reading shorthand, and transcription will be easy.
Study the best American and English writers, and utilize their works
for your dictation practice. This will enable you to acquire a good
vocabulary, as well as a fair literary style, thus enabling you,
when necessary, to make good speeches for poor speakers.
ingenious phrases and short cuts, until you have developed the
manual dexterity to write close to one-hundred and sixty words a
minute on straight matter. Then increase your speed by learning the
best short cuts, suitable for the particular work in which you are
engaged. (298 words) (Continued)
speeches for poor speakers" Reporters may do this, but the shorthand
learner should always aim for verbatim.
"... it is
better to write the double character." This refers to writing both
strokes in full when in doubt about halving, and does not refer to
doubling of strokes.
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Endeavor to write independently of the context and to make yourself
an intellectual machine, not a mere phonographic automaton,
recording words of which you fail to grasp meaning. Endeavor also to
write figures rapidly in the ordinary Arabic numerals.
Develop concentration and initiative, and grasp every
situation you are reporting, because every public shorthand
assignment is different from all others. Expert shorthand writing is
the result of gradual growth.
Do not be deceived by alluring statements about short
cuts outside the textbooks, which are not based on the principles of
the system. They are useless until you have a well laid foundation,
and have acquired a good speed on solid matter. The beginner has a
long road to travel. The acquisition of the theory, and much reading
practice in shorthand can be done at odd moments, even in the
street, and in traveling back and forth to the office.
The interest on a wise expenditure of time and money
will be enormous. A knowledge of shorthand is one of the most
valuable assets of today in the administration of the world's
Steady persistency, and application will place in
your hands a never failing money-making capability, which will
always be in demand; and success in the art will result at first in
a fascinating and useful hobby, then in a steady salary, and,
lastly, with the exercise of constant perseverance and application,
in independence and a lucrative income. (239 words)
contraction "independent/independently" does not have a stroke Ell,
it could take a disjoined Ell if necessary to distinguish between
difference between "a never failing" and "an ever failing"
identical when said quickly, with the meaning only clear through the
above the line, as it uses the short form "in"
(corrected 4 April 2011)
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writer should make careful and accurate outlines - by William Whitford,
Medical Reporter, Chicago, Illinois
The shorthand writer should make careful and accurate outlines
by William Whitford. Constant practice, practice, practice, is absolutely
essential to the development of great manual dexterity. In shorthand, haste
makes waste; it is the persistent plodder who achieves success.
Furthermore, to acquire as large a command of the
language as possible, the aspirant for speed should select a variety
of matter on which to practice, such as extracts from political
speeches, biographies, lectures on miscellaneous and scientific
subjects, proceedings of conventions, histories, sermons, addresses,
essays, editorials, legislative proceedings, arguments of counsel,
charges to juries, etc.
In developing speed, the shorthand writer should
refrain from using too many short cuts indiscriminately. These
should only be used for frequently recurring words or expressions,
and then not necessarily standardized. I am and always have been
opposed to short cuts that violate the fundamental principles of our
Pitmanic systems, on the ground that they seriously interfere with
legibility, are deterrents to the achievement of manual deftness,
are veritable pitfalls, and calculated to create endless troubles
for the young reporter. (175 words)
systems" There were several variations in the USA at that time.
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Excelsior the motto for shorthand writers - by Charles F. Larkin, Official
Stenographer, Superior Court, Montreal, Canada
Excelsior the motto for shorthand writers by
Charles Larkin. The surest and quickest way to become a one hundred per cent stenographer is to
be accurate and painstaking from the start. Remember that illegible writing,
whether shorthand or longhand, is of little use to anyone.
Thoroughness in the individual
engenders enthusiasm and a relish for his work, while in the
aggregate it is one of the essentials of a great nation. The ideal
school room is a beehive where everyone is busy, happy, and full of
Exercise often in the open air
so as to have strong steady nerves, good digestion, and a clear
From the start, use the best
fountain pen or pencil you can obtain, and, preferably, flat-lying
notebooks, clearly ruled and free from spots. Sit as comfortably and
unconstrainedly as possible so as to write with a light flowing
motion of the arm.
Even after a situation has been
secured review occasionally and keep abreast of the improvements in
the system. Be courteous, keep your nerves and temper always under
control and you should succeed. (182 words)
to the USA versions were ongoing at that time.
Phrasing Selby A Moran, Item 42
Phrasing. Do not phrase over any pause or break of
any kind in a sentence. Shorthand notes, when properly phrased, are,
as a rule, more legible than though each word were written
In speaking, words are naturally
combined into phrases, clauses, or brief sentences, and, in reading,
one is enabled to grasp the meaning much more readily, if it is
possible to have these combinations of words, which are related to
each other either grammatically or rhetorically, set off in some way
from what precedes and from what follows.
Phrasing, however, cannot be made use of, if the
words composing the parts which would naturally be united do not
form good angles in joining. (115 words)
"Than though" in the second sentence would be "than if" nowadays.
Insert the vowel in "brief" so that
it does not suggest "number of".
Insert the first vowel in "enabled" to distinguish it from
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Repetition - by Henry
Candlin, Court Reporter, Greeley, Colorado
Repetition by Henry Candlin. Practising the same
outlines many times without a knowledge of the principles under
which they are written is working in the dark, it may be conducive
to speed on those particular words, but will not tend to the ability
to write other words of the same class.
After the brain has comprehended the principles,
repetition is necessary to enable the hand to move with ease and
We would advise students to read all the printed
shorthand they can get; memorize and practise the grammalogues,
contractions and phrases so that no conscious effort is required to
bring them to the mind and record them on paper; practise writing on
many different subjects; read back everything you write; write
strictly in accordance with the rules; repeat the same matter until
it is as easy as ABC and shorthand will be a delight. (145 words)
versus new matter - by Charles W Phillips, Court Reporter, Chicago, Illinois
Repetition versus new matter by Charles
Phillips. The use of repetition, or practising the same education matter over
and over again, and the taking of dictation on new matter are not antagonistic
methods, but are complementary.
Repetition, the writing, perhaps
thousands of times, of the same matter under proper conditions is
the greatest factor in producing digital skill, smoothness of hand
movement, etc. In other words it is all important in the development
of the technic* of shorthand speed.
On the other hand, constant
practice on new matter, well selected and diversified matter,
produces the mental coordination, the instant connection of the
thing heard with its shorthand equivalent without which even
moderate speed is impossible.
Both methods should be vigorously
pursued. (121 words)
*technic = technique
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Picturing Outlines Selby A Moran, Item 53
Picturing outlines. Form the habit
of picturing in your mind the outlines of words you hear in
conversation or see in reading. Most students will find this an easy
and, at the same time, a very profitable habit to acquire.
Many students experience
considerable trouble in training the mind to act rapidly in
recalling the proper outlines for words. They know the outline well
enough and can execute it rapidly when once they are able to recall
it, but too often they have to stop and think what it is. The only
way to attain ability to do this readily is by practice.
The fingers must also be trained to
move rapidly, and in harmony with the power of recalling the
characters. Hence, that kind of drill which will bring both into
action at once, and train them to act harmoniously should not be
neglected. (145 words)
Keep Cool Selby A Moran, Item 51
Keep Cool. If there is one thing that needs emphasizing more
than another of a reporter's qualifications, it is to keep cool. Shorthand needs
too much attention to be written properly unless one is perfectly calm.
There is no better way to enable the reporter to be deliberate, under all
circumstances, than a thorough preparation for the work, such a preparation as
will inspire a confidence that you are equal to the task before you.
Always bear in mind that a slow writer with a cool head will accomplish far
more than a much more rapid reporter who cannot control himself, but gets
nervous at every little thing that occurs out of the regular course of events.
Fill 'em up: pens with ink, pencils with leads,
notepads with practice.
Isaac Pitman summarised it perfectly in his
Manual of Phonography in just four words:
READER PRACTISE AND PERSEVERE
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