If you wanted to put on lots* of weight for some reason, you could sit and eat a pile of cream cakes, and be perfectly confident that by the time you had eaten them all, you were well on your way to achieving your goal. Your measurements would probably not have changed noticeably hour by hour, but you know that today’s efforts will add to yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, and the desired result will follow without fail. You won’t have the same confidence if it is piles of lettuce leaves or celery sticks on your plate, it has to be fat, sugar, pastry and cream. So it is with your shorthand dictations (as well as other practising), they have to be the right kind, the sort that will pile the outlines into memory, where they will stick fast. Like fat, they will keep you warm when other learners are suffering chills and shivers at the thought of the exam piece. Unlike fat, they will keep you cool and comfortable when the speaker’s rate of delivery is hotting up and getting faster.
* "lots" and "masses" Insert the vowel, as these are similar in outline and meaning
You cannot think your way into learning outlines, by some attempt at memorising, such as intensive and silent reading and re-reading of lists, mnemonics (disaster for shorthand writing*) or even reciting various lists or rules. All these involve thinking to get the result back, and real-life* shorthand writing* involves very little thinking. Hearing each word must instantly trigger a mental image of the outline, which you then write on the page, to be repeated over and over again* until the speaker finishes. This is exactly identical* to writing longhand: hear it, write it, no thinking required.
* Omission phrases "short(hand) writing" "rea(l)-life" "over (and) over again". The second "over" is reversed in order to gain a good join
* "identical" Contraction, therefore on the line
The type of dictation that is going to improve your skill is one where you already know the outlines, through having practised the vocabulary beforehand*. Such a prepared dictation is then doing its job of practising getting outlines out of memory, unlike the main lessons where outlines are being put into memory. This is the most profitable use of a dictation and any idea of it somehow being “cheating” needs to be squashed. A completely unseen dictation does have its place (a lesser one) as it will test all your skills together i.e. outline recall, your composure and confidence (or not) in dealing with unknown matter, and an indication of your best speed (one that produces legible shorthand) but it will not increase your knowledge of the system or increase your outline vocabulary.
* "beforehand" Optional shorter outline that omits the H sound
Taking unseens en masse will just beat you down, as you can’t intimidate your memory into producing what it doesn’t know, by threatening it with more of the same, and scolding and criticism if it fails. This would be like a certain 20th century tyrant leader (the other meaning of “dictator”) who threatened his country’s football team with violence and imprisonment if they didn’t win games, a strong but ghastly incentive to try harder, but with no input of extra ability, skill, strength or energy.
Writing shorthand from another speaker is the opposite of your normal intelligent and prudent self that considers, thinks about, ponders, compares, weighs up and comes to a well-informed, logical and shrewd conclusion or decision. All those could possibly be done in a few seconds in normal life*, but in shorthand you don’t have spare seconds. Your shorthand persona* is a humble servant who has emptied their mind of all distractions and is just waiting on the next word to be spoken, ready to write it instantly. There is no place for creating outlines from theory for an unknown word, and the most you can do is write something based on a similar word or syllable for which you already know the outline and with experience that will come quickly to mind without much effort.
* Omission phrase "normal (l)ife"
* "persona" Essential to insert the vowels, otherwise it is identical to "person"
The shorthand writer’s* listening attitude is like someone who is straining to hear a faint voice on the phone with some very important life-changing information. All distractions are completely and easily ignored, because there is a very strong incentive to cut them out and concentrate on the distant voice. As you are now learning shorthand, you already have your own incentive to press on, but some additional motivational material might be helpful, maybe an edited picture of yourself sitting at a desk or location similar to that in the desired job, shorthand pad and pen to hand, with a big smile, waving a speed certificate in one hand and a reporter’s pay slip in the other, and underneath: “The first words I learned in shorthand were Take Pay Cheque!" (757 words)
* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer's"