Shorthand Transcription Service

Pitman’s New Era Shorthand - Lessons


If you are interested in learning shorthand for work or just for fun, have a go at the following lessons.  I will start with the basics - all written in Plain English.  Stick with it, you should easily be able to find a use for it.

If you want to know the "science" (and I really couldn't be bothered with all that!) you can buy old text books off Ebay for about 99p,  In fact I bought three for 99p plus postage just so that I could do a bit of research in preparation for writing this website. 

You can also have a look at some youtube videos - check out my Facebook Friend, Surendra Ben's, video classes.

Shorthand is common-sense really - but don't think for one moment that it is easy, I can assure you it gets a lot harder as you progress but my lessons will be on a step-by-step basis and you can always do a bit of revision if you think you are getting behind.

The first thing to remember is that shorthand is a phonetics-based language, that is, it is based on sound.  Forget how words are formed and spelled and think about how they sound.  As you know, many English words sound alike (homophones) - for example:-

  • heard, herd

  • here, hear

  • for, fore, four

  • air, heir

  • whether, weather, wether (that's a castrated male goat or sheep to you!)

  • blue, blew

  • too, to, two

The list is endless.

Right, let's get started ... 

Firstly, forget all that nonsense about pens/pencils.  I'm sure you are capable of making light and dark strokes with whatever writing implement you may have to hand.  I think I started with an ordinary HB pencil - I certainly don't remember buying anything special.  Anyway in time you won't even use light/dark strokes/dots/dashes etc.  In fact I had to do quite a bit of revision myself because all my outlines are created using the same pressure and I hardly ever use vowels.

You will need lined paper though and I suggest you get a cheap shorthand notepad.



This first lesson deals with six consonants (pee, tee, chay, bee, dee, and jay) and two vowels (ae as in pay and ape, and oe as in toe and oat).

This chart shows these six consonants as light and dark strokes (all written downwards).  Note that pee, tee and chay are all light and sound light if you say them aloud.  Likewise bee, dee and jay are dark and sound dark.  Each downward stroke ends on the horizontal line.

These six consonants form three pairs - pee/bee, tee/dee and chay/jay.  In each case one of each pair is light and and the other dark.


The dark dot (ae) and dark dash (oe) are both long vowels.  Again they both sound heavy and follow the same rule as above.  In this lesson both vowels are placed in the centre of the consonant.  There are actually three positions where a vowel can be placed, but we will cover this aspect in later lessons.

Note:  If an outline starts with a vowel, the vowel sign is placed before the consonant stroke, i.e. age, ape etc.

 Joining Consonants

Now you can start to form proper outlines.  Think about the word "boat".  This is formed from the consonants bee and tee.

It would be a good idea now to practise these examples by writing each of them say ten times (If you ever had to write lines as punishment, you will remember and know it does stick!!) Even now when I come across an outline that is new to me, I look it up in my shorthand dictionary to see if I was correct then I will writing it down a few times to consign it to memory.




The following special punctuation marks are used:-






Two light dashes underneath an outline indicate a proper noun, i.e.


Short Forms

Here are some short forms for you to learn. These are frequently used words and will make your shorthand even quicker. Keep practising these short forms until theyare common knowledge. I cannot emphasise enough how useful you will find these.



Joining outlines (phrasing) can also aid quicker writing. Phrase outlines when they join easily and naturally (they flow and appear correct). The first outline is written in its normal position, i.e.

You can also add a small tick at the end of an outline to represent the word “the”. Write the tick either upwards or downwards, whichever forms the sharper angle.

Here endeth the first lesson! Let's move on to the next ...


Now we carry on with the next lesson – six more consonants and another two vowels. This time we will work with curved consonants, all written downwards as before.

This second lesson follows the same basic format as Lesson One – let's keep it simple. (I'm told the KISS approach is best - “Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

At the end of this lesson, you will find some practice pieces, essential in gaining speed and confidence. Get someone to read them aloud to you whilst you transcribe/translate them. I didn't bother to include these at the end of Lesson One because you will now have 12 consonants and four vowels to play with – much more interesting and challenging!



As before we will work with three sets of pairs, one light, one dark. This time we use eff, ith and ish (light consonants) and vee, thee and zhee (dark consonants). If you have done Lesson One you will find this quite obvious. For the purpose of this lesson, again we will write the consonant to finish on the line.


The two vowels in this lesson are the long O (as in no, go and toe) and the short U (as in judge, budge and but). The long O is represented as a dark dash and the short U as a light dash. Again both of these vowel signs are placed in the centre position close to the stroke.