The ideal is a lightweight fountain pen, filled from an ink bottle
rather than sealed cartridges, so that it can be kept full at all
times. Some pens have a refillable cartridge which would seem to
serve the purpose the idea being to start your day with a full
supply of ink. A transparent ink chamber or a window showing the ink
level of the cartridge is highly recommended, otherwise you do not
know that the ink is about to run out. You cannot change cartridges
in mid-dictation, so keep a second pen handy to enable you to
"change horses" at a moment's notice. In an exam this is not
really an option, except as an emergency backup against pen failure
before the exam actually starts.
The nib should be reasonably fine and flexible. A very fine nib
may catch the paper until you become accustomed to writing more delicately with it, and a thick a nib will not make clear outlines.
The nib needs to be flexible to produce the thick and thin strokes
of Pitman's Shorthand.
I used beautiful black ink until I read up about the care of
fountain pens and learned that black ink has a lot more pigment in
it which can clog the pen more quickly. I changed a 35-year habit in
an instant and started to use only Royal blue ink. When I came
across the Noodler's flex pens that can be taken apart for cleaning,
I was once again able to use black ink without any worries about pen
clogging, and can also enjoy a variety of ink colours. Black ink is
normally more permanent and may be required in your particular
employment, if the verbatim notes have to be kept as part of the
records. The benefit of blue ink is that it is easier to
clean off hands. The thick cleansing gels used by car mechanics are
useful for dealing with ink on hands.
the cap on the pen is an unnecessary burden unless you are taking dictation
on the rolling deck of a ship! The cap acts as counterweight to the nib, working like a stabiliser
against the fine movements you are doing your best to make,
and its length gives it added leverage. These things
matter in the speed stakes. Anything that slows you down will increase the errors
as you struggle to keep up, and so accuracy is also compromised. During real employment dictation,
I found it useful to keep the cap tucked between myself and the pad, and slip the pen into it during a lull, so that
the nib ink does not dry out; you can do this discreetly without it looking as if you are packing up for the day.
Of course, your first and best option is to spend those moments going back over your take and making notes in the margins.
Some writers use ballpoints or gel pens, and as you
gain experience reading your own shorthand, you may find these
adequate, but I believe the fountain pen writes the best Pitman's Shorthand.
Apart from the shorthand it produces, it is like wearing your best
clothes it makes you behave more professionally, knowing
everything about you is at its best. So get the highest quality
writing instrument that you can, look after it and treasure it. It
is helpful to have two or more pens, as a day's writing can easily
empty one of them and inky hands belong only in primary school.
Tried refilling a
cartridge using an inkjet printer syringe the air escaping from the
cartridge brought the ink back out with it. So this
is where the Ancient Britons got their idea of woad from! A syringe with a long
needle is what is needed, available from pen/ink sellers.
This Rotring adaptor, originally bought
for an Artpen, fitted a Sheaffer* pen perfectly
converter for cartridge pens, so
they can be bottle filled
which means you can start the day with a full ink supply, as well as
having endless choice of ink colour at a moment's notice.
It is essentially a cartridge with a twist
plunger mechanism to suck the ink in. The plunger also enables you to force
water through for cleaning, or force ink through to a dry nib
if necessary, much better than shaking the pen and possibly hitting
the nib against something and/or spraying ink about when it does
come through. (Dipping the nib in water can often bring the ink
through again.) You can fill a converter on its own before fitting it
to the pen. You need to get the correct converter for your
Never, never, never use drawing ink in your
fountain pen, it is not designed to wash out when dried!
The Rotring Artpen is designed for sketching, with a long tapered
barrel to enable the artist to hold it nearer the top end, light
weight and a choice of Bold, Fine and Extra Fine nibs. The steel nib
is too hard for Pitman's Shorthand, but is as good as any other
fountain pen for writing. Available from art shops and see also
I remember taking
notes of a meeting from dictation at a large table surrounded by all the heads
of department. After a whole day of talking, silence now reigned. Apart from the
chairman's mouth, my nib was the only moving object
in the room and all eyes were resting upon its progress down each page, because there was
really nothing else to look at. Gritted teeth, clean hands and a professional pen did wonders
against stage fright. I was relieved that I was not called upon to read back to them, and escaped to the comfort
of my trusty typewriter and the thunderous noise of the typing pool.
Senator Professional shorthand pen
from 1974 working well, but cap is showing its age. Transparent ink
chamber is a must-have. Some modern pens have a window to view the
cartridge ink level.
In about 1974 I bought a Senator Professional shorthand pen with
flexible gold nib, iridium tipped, and a transparent ink chamber. I
think I responded to an advert in the Pitman Memo magazine. It is
filled by a twist piston, operated at the top end, so there is no
rubber ink sac to deteriorate. The price was almost a week's wages,
and, because they were so good, I eventually obtained a few more.
They are still working well after 35 years, but sadly no longer
available, to my knowledge. From a recent search, I believe they may
have been made by German manufacturer Merz & Krell.
still occasionally available on Ebay and a good clean pen is well
worth the money you pay; but do look minutely at any close-ups of
the nib, to ensure the two halves of the tip are straight and true.
(Do not be misled by the modern "Senator Pen" offers, which seem to be
cheaper promotional pens/biros and nothing to do with the above
At the same time I also bought a steel-nibbed Geha
sold for shorthand but the nib had insufficient flexibility
obviously designed for shorthand other than Pitman's. Nevertheless
they are extremely well made and long lasting German made again,
always a good sign. Geha got its name from Gebrόder Hartmann
(Hartmann Brothers) who founded the company in 1918, which is now
part of Pelikan (see Links
Gold Senator (1970's), gold Geha
(1960's) and steel Geha (1970's) nibs. The narrowness of the Senator
tip area increases the flexibility. The tip area is wider in
the Gehas the gold one does very fine shorthand but is nowhere
near as flexible as the Senator, but nevertheless it is a dream to
write with; the steel one is only suitable for longhand.
One does not want to buy a raft of expensive pens,
whether new or vintage, in
the hope that one of them is the perfect shorthand pen. A pen sold
for shorthand may be designed for another system that does not
require a flexible nib, so caution is needed. Gold will be flexible;
a gold plated or steel nib may not suit Pitman's Shorthand unless
specifically designed to be flexible.*
The salesperson may be convinced it is a suitable nib but it's
their (probably limited) knowledge of what the shorthand writer
needs versus your hard-earned cash. Recommendation from an existing
user seems to be the best route, provided their requirements and
preferences are similar to yours.
review of the
Noodler's Flex Pens, inexpensive, and with a nib that can be
adjusted for flexibility and ink flow.
The present trend for biros, gel and other hard-tipped pens,
including cheap steel fountain pens, can encourage high pressure
writing, so be kind to your new pen until you reaccustom your
writing habits. The exertion of pressure will slow down your
writing. If the ink does not flow readily, change to a smoother
paper rather than press on the nib.
It is possible to obtain thick
and thin lines with an ordinary biro, provided it is of reasonable
quality and is not producing blobs. The technique is to use the
ordinary line for the thicks, and a very lightly stroked line for
the thins. If you find yourself pressing hard for the thicks, then
that would be a disadvantage, as a heavy-handed approach is not
conducive to speed, and the dents in the paper will make the reverse
of each page unusable. You need to see when the ink is running out
so a transparent barrel would help.
Using a broad nib to obtain
wide and narrow lines should be reserved for calligraphy/artwork and
has no place in the shorthand writer's kit.
Such a pen is entirely unsuitable. The same applies to calligraphy nibs, mapping pens and
dip pens, which can produce the fine outlines found in the older
text books. I briefly considered using a flexible dip pen nib for clarity when producing the JPGs for the theory pages, but decided that a real shorthand pen
would provide examples that were attainable by anyone in real-life
writing situations. In its beginning years (mid 1800s) Pitman's Shorthand
was encouraged for daily personal use, not just for speed writing by
reporters and office workers. Many
people would have been using dip pens, hence the delicate and very
small outlines in the shorthand manuals of that century, easy to
emulate using the fine nibs when writing diaries and personal
letters at normal handwriting speed.
Near the nib for maximum flexibility and control
in making the small distinctions of the outlines. This is the
opposite of what you might do for an artistic drawing. Unlike
handwriting, shorthand outlines cannot be distorted very far
into a personal writing style.
Between the thumb and index finger, level with
each other, and the underside of the barrel resting on the
middle finger. This allows maximum range of movement by the
fingers. Movements made with the fingers are more accurate and
efficient than using your wrist or arm. Wrist movement provides
extra scope beyond what the fingers can do, but is a poor
replacement for finger control. Horizontal movement
along the line is achieved by the arm, as the whole hand is
moved from left to right.
Only the tip of the little finger or the outside
base of the hand should rest on the paper, lightly so that it
can glide easily down the page.
The non-writing hand is ready to grip the bottom
corner and flip it over quickly and firmly, so that the paper
goes right over and does not fall back onto the pen.
Write a line towards your own writing hand, drawing the
fingers inwards (not using the arm), parallel with the nib and
barrel, i.e. not dragging the nib sideways at all. Then adjust
the angle of the pad so that the line you have just drawn is
vertical on the paper. This produces the ideal central
comfortable position from which other shorthand lines will go to
the left and right, maximising the smooth exit of the ink and
avoiding the shorthand gaining any unwanted slant.
Never change the angle of the hand to form the
curves or produce thicks, this may be a temptation during the
first attempts at shorthand but such a habit will produce
drawing rather than writing, which is not the road to shorthand
Many other finger combinations result in a tight locked-in grip,
with the arm having to make all the movements. The arm and the hand
as a whole cannot perform the fine control needed to write lightly, neatly
and rapidly, whether longhand or shorthand. A tight grip produces
fatigue more quickly.
thicker the pen barrel, the less room for movement there is for the
fingers, and additional movement has to be gained from
wrist or arm, not so efficient or accurate. Try holding 1
pencil in writing position, then 2 pencils together, then 3 and 4,
and see how the facility for fine movements diminishes.
This brief Youtube shows Japanese writing with a very
light touch, only possible with a good ink flow. The writer is barely
gripping the pen, and is using only wrist/arm movements, but for shorthand
a slightly firmer grip
with the thumb, and lower down, would be necessary, due to the speed
being attempted and for greater accuracy in forming the shapes. But
the lightness is worthy of emulation:
Whether pen or pencil, digging into the paper
is a hindrance.
I am sure most teachers have a version of what my shorthand teacher told
us, "We are not
gardeners, don't dig!" It ruins the nib and slows you down. How
alarming to suddenly find your shorthand is suddenly embellished by
a few hairy strands of the paper stuck in the nib, or the pencil
lead snaps and flies off into space. If the pencil is not forming
the thicks easily, the lead is too hard. Worse, bending
the nib a nightmare, and one that can happen gradually, as the nib
gives way under excess pressure.
A tight grip reduces finger movement and hastens fatigue. It can be
caused as much by mental tension as anything else, and needs to be
dealt with firmly whenever it is noticed. I like what high-speed writer Emily D
Smith said in one of her books, that some pupils hold their pens
tightly as if in fear of the imminent approach of the pen-snatcher. However, if you have an expensive pen, you will surely want to
keep it in a safe place.
A non-shorthand writer is likely to treat a pen like a steel girder
and paper like sailcloth, digging in with gusto and underlining
their signature with a forceful executive flourish. If they need to
borrow, let them have your biro or gel pen. Reserve the privilege of
trying out your treasured pen for your closest and most trusted
shorthand buddies. "Yes, of course you may try out my £xxx/$xxx
This calligraphy dip-pen nib is meant
to be like this, but not your shorthand pen
Try this test: rest the pen
between the thumb and forefinger, without actually gripping the pen.
Drag the nib over the paper. The pen should write under its own
weight. If it does not, improve the ink flow by cleaning the pen,
using a paler ink that has less pigment solids, and using smoother paper
or maybe not leaving the pen baking on a sunny corner of your desk!
If your pen passes this test, it becomes clear that the only
pressure you need to exert on the nib is the slight one to achieve
the thick strokes. Any more than that is wasted effort, shortening
the life of the nib, cramping your writing style and slowing your
Pens can be cleaned by filling with water and leaving overnight to
soften any dried ink within. I leave mine also standing upright in
enough water to cover the nib, then next day a good flushing until
the pen expels only clear water best done over a container, rather
than over the gaping pen-sized holes in the bathroom sink! If a pen
runs out of ink during the day and you cannot refill, then fill with
water to prevent drying out. Filling the pen with a small amount of
water will give you some extra writing time, by diluting the residue
of ink in the pen, meaning that you can carry on writing a bit
longer without recourse to a messy ink bottle whilst at work. Even
dipping the pen in water will gain you a few extra lines of pale
writing if you are in a meeting and cannot refill. But I do hope
that you will have some backup pencils handy for such times, rather
than giving up your drinking water!
It is not a good idea to combine inks of different colours or makes,
as their constituents may form a hardened sludge or precipitate
which will clog the pen. If you wish to make your own colours, you
should buy Mix-Free sets of fountain pen inks, which are designed
with this in mind.
Never use drawing ink of any
colour, it will dry permanently hard inside the pen and ruin it.
Some inks described as permanent only become permanent when the ink
combines with the cellulose in the paper (or your clothing!), hence
the claims that they are both washable and permanent, and therefore safe to use in a fountain pen. Reading up
on the behaviour of modern inks is advisable, to
protect your precious fountain pen(s) from an avoidable disaster. If
in doubt, test with a cheapie pen or allow some ink to dry on
various surfaces, to see what it does. See
Links page for some useful ink info
Very old ink in the bottle may have become thick, so a fresh supply
can make an indifferent pen something that is a pleasure to write
with. The best use for an ancient
questionable bottle of ink is to play with dip-pens, or for artwork,
getting different shades by combining with water (bearing in mind
that the ink colours may fade over time). Doodles, drawings and
paintings done solely to use up old ink bring freedom from the pressure
to always produce finished artwork with expensive artist's materials.
Not everyone likes writing with
ink and pencils can write perfectly good shorthand. The
pencil should be just soft enough to form the thicks and thins, but
not so soft it wears down very quickly.
The principal attributes are:
that does not break easily
of hard/softness of the lead
lead with no gritty bits
body better than hexagonal if writing for long periods
(Hard) range goes up to 9H, the hardest. The B (Black) range are soft
with 9B the softest. The extremes of the range are intended for
artwork and technical drawing. There is F for Fine in the centre of
the range. I believe HB is the ideal if using a traditional wooden
pencil, anything softer will blunt too soon. "Shorthand pencils" had leads
that were less likely to break, but if you choose your lead hardness
to suit your writing style, that will achieve the same end and you
need not search for the special pencil.
shop will always have the full range of traditional pencil types and
hardnesses, and in better
quality than the average stationery shop. You may
get through a lot of pencils, but do not hobble your future success
with cheap pencils that cause grief in sharpening and have leads
that are already broken. Even your carefully-chosen good quality pencils
will harbour broken leads if they get dropped, and you do not want
to find the tip of your pencil lead wobbling like a loose tooth or
dropping out altogether in the midst of your shorthand writing.
A very hard pencil is ideal for going over your facility drills
use it lightly and virtually no mark will be made. You can keep
going over the same outlines until the paper falls apart or curls
into a ball. This is an ideal activity when you are time-filling in
public places, where you do not want to be flinging ink around. You
also save on paper usage and therefore have absolutely no excuse
whatsoever for not doing the drills!
If you choose to use traditional pencils for all your shorthand, keep a good
supply so that you can swap over instantly.
Sharpen the whole batch when you get home another pocket-money
opportunity for entrepreneurial children. You may find it beneficial to
sharpen both ends, and if you are pencil chewer, this will stop you. Discard the pencil for shorthand purposes when it
Never use a rubber. Circle and rewrite the outline, and move on.
Correct and practise the tricky outline later.
Car park asphalt
Left unchecked, this hole would get worse. Someone has circled it
and will deal with the fault later, so that it does not happen
again. Ditto any badly written shorthand outline.
I started with
the humble wooden pencil, constantly in need of sharpening. I moved on to a
clutch pencil with a thick lead, which still needed sharpening, and
I used it for the whole of my shorthand course year, including the
exams. The lead was very thick so it lasted through the longer
dictations, it produced grey shiny notes and lacked clarity,
but at the time I knew no better. There was the occasional hard
scratchy bit within the lead.
Above is the dear old Ofrex
clutch pencil with 1.8 mm leads that saw me through my shorthand
learning and exams in 1973-4. Between the lead and the smooth sleeve
can be seen the jaws of the clutch, in the same 3-part configuration as
a wood-working hand-drill, veritable monster teeth. This is
different from mechanical pencils in that pressing the top (against
a very strong spring) opens the jaws, allowing the lead to fall out
under gravity, to the length
required. Holding it upside-down lets the lead fall back inside and
the jaws retract back into the sleeve. It does hold the lead right down to the last bit.
thickness of the lead means that it needs advancing less frequently
than the modern thin ones, and it never breaks. The lead blunts
quite quickly (a source of great frustration) and the removable top
end incorporates a lead sharpener - a hollow tube with an
angled metal ridge inside that can grind down the lead to produce a
point. I eventually realised that it was better to keep 2 or 3 shorter lengths of lead inside and then
drop out the blunt one, to save having to sharpen during a lesson. It was a gift from a well-wisher and I was delighted with it
(although I was rather sorry to say goodbye to the pretty candy
striped pencils). A few years later, its delights were totally
overshadowed by my first shorthand fountain pen and it found a new
job as a drawing pencil. I tried it again for shorthand before
taking the picture and I found the thick grey greasy lead very unpleasant
after so many years of using ink.
I have found
that HB leads in mechanical pencils produce the thicks and thins
perfectly well, rather better than traditional HB pencils do,
because the writing force is going into a very small tip and
therefore more graphite gets deposited.
the fact that mechanical pencils can write very small outlines,
which favours speed, and switching to this
type of pencil for a while may counteract the sprawl that can
develop when pushing your speed. Practising tiny outlines might get
you back on track for faster smaller shorthand in ink, although I consider pen and ink to be far superior in
all respects. Pencil is also preferable when taking intermittent
notes, such as during a telephone conversation, or composing or
editing pages of notes, when there are long time-gaps between
outlines, resulting in a drying nib. However, I would certainly not
want to use a mechanical pencil in an exam or for writing a lot of
fast shorthand, because at those times you do not have the slightest
opportunity to advance the lead and fond thoughts of having a spare
half a second to do so are more wishful thinking than a real
One other advantage of pencil is that you can
practise unobtrusively you can write extremely small with a fine
lead, the pale grey cannot be seen by a bystander and you will be
left to continue in peace.
If you have
to bend towards the pad to see the grey shorthand when typing up,
then that will cause you posture and eye-strain. If you are using a
wide screen, you could scan your notes and then have them on screen
for typing from, more time-consuming but may be worthwhile if
back/neck/eye strain is an issue.
YouTube demonstrations on posture at the
computer abound, and are much easier to follow than any written description.
Brief notes on pad angle/posture
are on the Notes for Beginners page.
Let exams try
you, not your pen
You do not
want to go into a shorthand
exam with a writing implement that has not had a long and
trustworthy trial in your own fair hands. If your pen or pencil with
a memorable price-tag is not producing good shorthand, use it for
longhand or give it to someone who may find they actually get on
better with it. Start with full ink or full new lead. You might consider
having a spare pen or pencil lying on the desk ready to be grabbed,
more for peace of mind than anything else, as there is unlikely to
be any time to change pens in mid-flow, unless you are sitting an
exam a lot slower than your best practise speed.
Brain and fingers need to remain flexible
Pen/pencil problems are not minor side issues, they are serious
hindrances to progress, speed, accuracy, reliability and confidence.
They must not be allowed to niggle or hold you back.
Can't bear to
throw out the pencil stubs, the blobby biros, the leaking gel pens
or the cheap fountain pen with the scratchy nib? As long as they are
not your only source of writing marks, I am going to encourage you
to draw up as much as possible of that new-found determination,
resolve, tenacity, authority, perseverance, willpower, drive,
discipline, self-control, doggedness and grit that you now have at
your disposal since you started learning shorthand. Get a bin, tip
them in recycle if poss, otherwise toss!
Get out your
best pen and your smoothest pad, and write some beautiful shorthand,
to remind yourself of what you are not going to allow to be stolen
from you by junk. Using inferior materials by choice is a
reflection of how you value yourself, your time and your efforts,
and that is a waste far greater than bits of wood, graphite and
extender holders are sold for art students and their expensive pencils
and chalks, enabling them to get maximum use of the stubs. If you
buy one of these, test it for durability before trusting any
shorthand to it. Contemplating how to squeeze the last bit of
graphite from pencil stubs for your shorthand is probably not the best use of
your time and energies, unless pencils are hard to come by where you
are, and using an extender on the stubs may help you feel better about
demoting them to other uses. See my
Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil review that includes a simple extender.
pens and pencils can put on a sad face when rejected for high-flying
jobs, so the kindest thing to do is to retire them to gentler
duties, such as telephone table, kitchen shopping list or plant-pot
dibbers the best resting place for pencils that are sentimental
gifts, pretties, novelties, souvenirs, have a cherished history or
feel like part of the furniture through long service. They will soon
get used to the quiet life and will cheer you on from the sidelines.
Well begun is half done!
Anything can write shorthand of some sort
Use a shorthand pad that is spiral bound at the top. The paper
should be good smooth quality, so that the pen nib glides along on
the ink trail. Rough absorbent hairy paper is of no use, it will
suck in and spread the ink, and shed fibres. Check your chosen pad
with the ink/pen you intend using, to ensure ink does not bleed dots
onto the reverse. Coloured paper will give you rectangles before the
eyes when you look up from the pad. Do not use an extra thick
variety, e.g. 300 pages, as the height of the pad above the table
means the writing hand is teetering on the edge all the time, unless
you open out the pad into halves on the desk. Save yourself the
trouble of wrestling with a brick-sized pad full of the last 600
When you find a good pad, keep a goodly supply, so you are always
prepared. You will need separate pads for dictation and for fluency
drills. You will be making up your own fluency drill books, to be
used at any spare moment for practice. Your dictation book must be
blank, to prevent nasty surprises when you turn the page.
Draw all the margins on your
supply of pads, at least 2 cm wide. You will use the margin for
marking doubtful or corrected outlines, and making extra notes to
yourself, enabling you to go instantly to a particular section. The
margin is your essential key to hassle-free transcription and
ongoing improvement of your shorthand, and is not a luxury or a
waste of paper. If you have to use an unprepared pad, then quickly
dash down a margin as each page comes into use, as it is better to
have a wavy wild margin than none at all.
While doing the margins, look for blemishes on the paper and remove
those sheets a mark can look like a shorthand dot or dash. If
during dictation you notice a blemish or greasy spot, avoid that
line by dropping down past it. If you have time, just circle it to
draw attention to it. If it keeps happening, change your make of pad
and use up the faulty ones on facility drills. If the expense of
good paper is putting you off doing lots facility drills, then use
cheap ones for that no excuses allowed. However, low quality paper may get you
into the unhelpful habit of pressing hard to get it to take your
Quickest and easiest
way: do both sheets as you go through, and use a set square or a
similar shaped piece of thick card the same length as the page it
is less hassle than a long ruler and easier to grip and position
than even a short ruler. Holding the pencil at a very shallow angle
ensures the line is done rapidly, without indentation. For kids
ideal pocket-money earning opportunity.
I do not recommend the method of dividing the page
with a vertical line, in order to shorten the writing line this
deprives you of the essential margin, doubles the number of
interruptions to the smooth flow of outlines and hinders phrasing
opportunities. However, this could be of use if you were taking down
from two speakers, so you can alternate between the sides keep
your margin and then divide the remainder in two. If you are forced
to use a lined A4 pad, then dividing the page into halves (both with
margins) makes sense.
If you are not drawing margins, e.g. if they are already printed on,
always turn all the sheets. You could just fan the pad on all 3
sides but my experience is that the sticking occurs where the top
row of holes is punched you turn the sheet and it springs back, or
takes the sheet underneath with it.
Ascertain what your make of pad needs by way of preparation.
Whoops-a-daisy! Two sheets
stuck together. An easy way to miss out a big chunk of the dictation
as the pages spring back and flap around, depriving you of your
shorthand exam pass.
Work through the pad using one side of the sheets, then turn over
and work back through the pad. it is not a good idea to start a dictation on last page
or two, because you will not have time to turn the book round; use
them for fluency drills.
Put the date at the beginning of each piece, plus speed (for learners) or dictator
(at work). Draw a diagonal line through
Keep a rubber band round the used pages, so that you always open the
book at the next fresh page. If you are likely to need to turn the
book over, then the band should be removed beforehand.
Do not tuck pages under as you go, but leave them lying where you
In employment, treat your dictation pad as a confidential item, as
it will contain correspondence and reports that would
normally be locked in a filing cabinet. Put your name on your pads
and use a separate pad for more casual items.
Print Your Own Shorthand Notepad 30-page PDF for low-cost practising,
In normal life this is of little importance but in shorthand you
need to perfect the action to minimise the interruption to your
writing. A bungled page turn can cause the loss of the next chunk of
dictation, and lose you an exam pass.
The ideal page turning scenario is this: as soon as you start a
page, the non-writing hand should get hold of the bottom corner of
the page, and gradually move the fingers up to the top of the page,
moving the paper upwards slightly.
By the time you have filled the page, your page-turning fingers will
be under a loop of paper at the top of the page, ready to flick it
over quickly. I tend to keep hold of the bottom corner and slide the paper up at suitable intervals,
thus keeping hold of the bottom corner all the time and flicking it
over at the last moment. This works for workplace dictation, with
its intermittent stops and hesitations.
The above is too fiddly for an
exam. Here the best way is to get hold of the bottom corner as soon
as possible, and hold it in readiness for the quick final flick at
the last moment.
The following is the
page-turning method of past high speed writer Nathan Behrin (350 wpm
in a timed test in 1922):
Students should be taught how
to shove up the page of a note-book skillfully while taking notes.
Mr. Nathan Behrin, an Isaac Pitman writer, holder of the world's
speed and accuracy records, and official court reporter in the New
York Supreme Court, under date of December 3, 1921, very kindly sent
the head of department the following description of his method of
shoving up the page:
"In my daily court work I use Pitman's No. 5 note-book, which is end
opening. Before using a new book, I rustle the leaves and bend the
book backward and forward so as to loosen the leaves and make sure
that they will not stick. Opening the cover, I commence writing on
the top line of the first page. The left hand lies palm downward at
the top of the page, the thumb resting against the left hand edge of
the book, the other fingers extended across the page. After I have
written on six or seven lines, with the under side of my left thumb
I begin to raise the left edge of the page until I can take hold
with my forefinger and thumb. I now start the page on its upward
slide. The thumb straightens and lies flat on the left margin of the
page, and the forefinger resumes its former straight position, but
now rests lightly against the fold created by the upward movement of
the page. Keeping pace with the writing, the thumb feeds the page
upward to the forefinger, which holds and steadies the fold of the
page and aids in the work of feeding the page to the other fingers.
As the writing reaches the last line, the bottom of the first page
is even with about the sixth or seventh line of the second page. A
quick shove of the first page sends it over, and my right hand is
writing on the top of the second page. The book lies flat all the
time. The right elbow remains in practically the same position on
the table. The writing hand travels from left to right on a fixed
plane. The page moves to accommodate the writing hand. The
transition from page to page is unnoticeable, as we have practically
a continuous page. When writing on the knee, the left thumb and
forefinger turn the pages in the same manner as when writing upon
the table, but the remaining fingers are under the book, palm facing
up, firmly holding the book from slipping."
(Note the shorthand examples
within the above book are pre-New Era)
Exams do not take up a huge
number of pad sheets, so it is worth your while to slightly curl up
or disturb the corners of enough pages, so that it is easy to get
hold of each one without fumbling.
Dry fingers cannot get a grip
on paper, so your non-writing finger-tips may benefit from a dab of
hand-cream just before the exam starts. Experiment beforehand.
Readers will always pause
slightly at the end of a sentence. You can use this to your
advantage if it occurs while you are on the 2nd or 3rd to last line,
using that opportunity to turn over. This increases the amount
of page-turning slightly but that may be better than turning at the
moment you have to, rather than when you choose to.
If the pages stick together, turn over what you can and just carry
on regardless, and remove the blank ones later. You don't stop to tie
shoelaces in a race, but you do make sure it does not happen again.
Effective page-turning skills
need deliberate effort to form, because it is tempting when
practising to stop at the end of the page for a rest or to check up
on words, before continuing on with the next page. The correct
page-turning habit once formed needs no
further thought, in fact it becomes difficult to sit in front of any
shorthand pad without gripping the bottom corner in readiness for
whatever may happen next.
Good materials help, but you
could write 100+ wpm with either of the above if necessary. Your brow may be
frazzled like the dented pencils, but inside you will feel like the
"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)