Friday, 10 February 2017

Speed Up Pad

You have tuned up your car for speed and reliability. You have cleaned and oiled the bike for extra smooth fast cycling. You may have lost weight, gained fitness or bought some cushioned trainers so that you can walk or run faster. Maybe you have defragged your hard drive so that it responds more quickly. None of those will work on shorthand, but here is something that most certainly* will. I have created a Speed Up Pad, so that you can do some intensive speed practice without having a dictator to help you. It is a type of facility drill, but it is laid out slightly differently from the normal ones that I do for the blogs. It contains 48 line length sentences, each of 15* words. Each sentence has 10* blank lines underneath with a running word count in the margin.

* Omission phrase "mos(t) certainly"

* "ten" and "eighteen" Must have the vowel written in

Two per A4 sheet
The idea is to copy each sentence up to ten times in the blank lines within one timed minute. Firstly* practise the sentence on your normal pad, saying it out loud and writing it as many times as it takes to become totally familiar with it. Do extra practice on any outlines that you find more difficult to write smoothly. By the time you have done this, you will have the sentence and its outlines in memory. Now for the speed attempt. On the Speed Up pad, cover up the text so that it does not distract, start your one minute timer, and write the sentence in the ten blank lines, saying the words out loud or in imagination, and starting a new line for each sentence. Stop when the timer ends. Using the word counts in the margin, add up how many words you have written. That is your words a minute* speed on this attempt. Completing all ten lines in one minute in legible shorthand will be 150 words per minute. Completing five lines is 75 words per minute. If the shorthand is illegible, or if you were* copying mindlessly from the line above, then the speed number does not count!

* "Firs(t)ly" Omits the T

* Omission phrases "words (a) minute"  "if you (w)ere"

Writing more than half a page of the same sentence at one time* is unlikely to be productive, as the mind and hand tire of repetition beyond a certain point, with the thoughts wandering and the hand wavering and hesitating. Move on to the next sentence, with the same preparation and speed attempt, to keep the writing varied. Later on come back to a previously done sentence and do the speed attempt again. An important part of speed improvement is the cultivation of a light touch and an even rate of writing, with no slowing down between outlines. If you have to stop to think, then more preparation is necessary.

* "at one time" Halving for the T of time

There is then only one last job to do, and that is to turn the paper over and see if there are any indentations, ridges or bumps from pressing with the pencil or pen. The surface should be as smooth as before it was written on. If it is not, then you need to identify why. A reasonably sharp traditional wood pencil does not require so much pressure as a blunt one, and hooks and circles can remain clear. I don’t recommend mechanical pencils as the very narrow lead will not stand up to any pressure and if it breaks mid-dictation, your take is well and truly scuppered, not to mention the broken piece flying into your face and eyes. If you can acquire a really light touch, you may get acceptable results with a biro, as they can be made to produce thicks and thins with careful* control. As ever, my ultimate recommendation is a flex nib fountain pen, but you can still get to 150 with just a pencil, as long as you remain selective about its quality and sharpness (and the quality of the paper). I should say “stash* of pencils”, all with good points and ready to swap to, so that study time (or indeed your assignment taking notes at a meeting) is not spent fussing about with the sharpener or hampered* by a blunt or wobbling lead.

* "careful" Optional contraction

* "stash" Not in dictionary. Ish goes down after stroke T and up after stroke D

* "hampered" This is a halved Imp stroke, hooked for R. Without the thickening it would be "hammered"

Please remember that the speed you achieve with this type of practising is much higher than you would do on continuous unseen matter dictated in the normal way. The benefit is that you get into the habit of writing quickly, neatly, lightly and evenly, and do away with the habit of slow, uneven or heavy-handed writing. An even rate of writing is the foundation of future speed, which is why it is beneficial to write sentences that you already know, and it also has the effect of calming the mind so that learning is not just one stressful dictation after another. There is a Latin proverb for this “Festina lente” which means “Hurry up slowly”, getting a move on in a controlled orderly manner, and without tripping over your own shoelaces and getting nothing done. You will have to be your own judge and jury as to the acceptability of your shorthand. It helps to imagine that someone else will have to read your shorthand, or that you will be marked on it. My plan is to produce more Speed Up pads concentrating on different aspects and some for beginners. I hope this new offering will help to bring up your skill and speed. (891 words)