Center Ruled Pads

Why is the verticle line on steno pads in the center of the page?  Should I write in two columns?

(Originally posted by johnsapp) 

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  1. The reason for the center line is that it's quicker to lift your pen from the center line to the start of the line then from one edge to the other… at least that's what I've read.  And that's who I do it.  I write down one column and then the other when taking notes, all the books show it that way at least…

  2. Dear John,  You already know the answer to this!  The purpose for the line down the middle of a steno page.  It's easier to write faster this way.  Especially with shorthand.   It was established in early research of shorthand writers, that under much pressure, stenographers wrote in a narrow column even though the paper they used was a large tablet.  The same research was also completed on a group of people writing longhand as fast as they could.  Whether they were writing shorthand or longhand, when rapid writing was encountered, they all wrote in a narrow column format.  Thus, the steno pad's purpose!  You will have to time yourself sometime writing shorthand across a full 8-1/2 x 11 tablet and writing shorthand with the steno pad narrow columns.  I think you'll get the picture.   Bye.  Ms. Letha  

  3. Well, sure it is quicker to lift the pen from the center instead of across the whole page, but wouldn't you have to lift twice as often, if your lines are half as long?  Anyway, thanks for telling me the correct way; I'll use the half lines from now on.

  4. When I write in a steno pad, I write upside down on the backsides (military style?), so that when transcribing, I can see two full pages without flipping my book over.  The A-frame method seems to be the established standard for transcription.  Is there any reason my way isn't as good?  

  5. Well if you like your paper to stand up, then you would want to take the covers and make a upside down "V" and it will stand up.   Also flipping the pages takes longer.  With just using one side, you can, as you write, move the page up, quickly flip it down (not even necessarily on the back) and then start on the next page.   Of course when you're done using one side of the steno book you can flip it over and use the other side.  

  6. Hey!  I like the idea of writing straight through on one side, then turning around and coming back.  Is that the normal way, or is writing on just fronts the normal way, or is writing on front, then back of each page, the normal way?

  7. That's the way I learned in an old secretarial manual (maybe it was even the Gregg Reference Manual it did have tips on taking and transribing shorthand).  

  8. Oh also I learned if you can (I never could) bend the corner of the left side up (the side you've all ready written on) so that its easer to lift and flip to the next page.  I think You're suppose to do it as you're taking notes.  I could if there was a pause.  And moving the page up was a bit hard for me, I couldn't get the hang of it either… so I just flip (sometimes more then one page) to go to the next page… Debbi

  9. Like Debbi said, the standard way is to write on one side of the page, then flip the notebook. In terms of flipping pages, the "standard" way is to use the free hand to either move the page or the notebook up. The writing hand and arm are supposed to stay more or less still, pivoting with the writing forearm.

  10. Not shifting the hand very far is one of the major reasons for having the center line. Some writers don't even need to lift the hand other than to move it down and that does save time.

    But as someone who was a "real" secretary and went in each morning for dictation for a few hours, I can tell you that the second column was great for the [seemingly] millions of additions and changes my boss made. By writing only down the left side, I had the entire right side for special instructions, insertions, and the like. It really made transcription much faster for me once I started writing that way.

    Yes, I'll admit that LONG insertions did require the usual "encircled A" in the notes with a continuation somewhere else. It wasn't a perfect method, but it did prove practical.


  11. I was enthusiastic to try your way, John, but the reason I don't like it is because I am right-handed and I don't like having the spiral under my hand while I write–and it gets worse as I near the bottom of the page. If I were left-handed I don't think it would bother me.   P

  12. Being a reformed southpaw, I guess I am accusomed to feeling the spiral under my wrist–it's a righty's world!–but now I'm excited about the switchback style.  It is much less confusing than the front-back-front-back method (I always forget if its time to flip or turn), even if it does lack the two page viewing convenience of military style.   _______________ Shorthand: isn't it about time?

  13. Here's a rather long quote from "Methods of Teaching Shorthand and Transcription" (Crank, Anderson, and Peterson; McGraw-Hill, 1982) on "Use of the Shorthand Notebook and Pen":   "The shorthand notebook should be opened flat on the desk if space permits.  The choice of pen may be left to the student as long as the ink flows evenly and freely.  Some will prefer a fine point and others a broader one.  Students should be cautioned to always have at least two pens or a pen and a pencil in case their pens should go dry during dictation.   "Students should be taught to write to the vertical line in the middle of the page of the shorthand notebook, completing the first column before continuing to the second.  Left-handed writers may find it more satisfactory to write in the right column first so the hand will not smear the ink.   "Notes should be recorded on one side of the page only.  When the last page is filled, the notebook is turned over and the backs of the pages used.  Students should not flip the pages from front to back while taking dictation.  They should keep a rubber band around the used portion of the notebook to enable them to turn to a clean page immediately.   "One skill many students do not learn properly is that of turning pages in the shorthand notebook.  To save time, the student should hold down the notebook with the left hand, moving the pages up with the thumb while recording the dictation.  (Left-handed students would hold down the notebook with the right hand and move the pages up with the right thumb).  Upon completing the last line of the second column, the thumb of the left hand flips the page quickly and quietly.   "The desk top should have adequate space for the notebook to be opened flat, front and back covers on the desk.  The completely open notebook, rather than with the front cover tucked under, has less edge at the bottom for the student to move over, and the cover provides a place to hold down and stabilize the book while writing.  Teachers will need to encourage the students to sit close to the desk, supporting both arms on it, and to keep pushing the book upward on the desk as they write so the large arm muscle is supporting the writing arm–the elbow is not off the desk."  (p. 160) __________   You've got to wonder how many times those authors used the word "should" in the whole book . . .   Alex

  14. Ah, when did we go from a society of "shoulds" to one of "do-the-mess-arounds"?  That passage gives just the kind of redundant and overly detailed explanation I like.  Why, I believe I will do some dictation practice right now!  Where's that website with the recordings… _________________ Shorthand: isn't it about time?

  15. Shorthandmarc said: But as someone who was a "real" secretary and went in each morning for dictation for a few hours, I can tell you that the second column was great for the [seemingly] millions of additions and changes my boss made. By writing only down the left side, I had the entire right side for special instructions, insertions, and the like. It really made transcription much faster for me once I started writing that way. Thanks for that tip, Marc. I started writing only on the left hand side of the page, and it's made the whole taking notes thing much easier — I can put notes of what I did about a particular thing right there on the page and transfer it to a memo or note in the file later. But I'm not allowed to call myself a secretary. Even my fellow Investigation Assistant, a 26 yo man, says "secretary" is demeaning. I don't think so. But I'm outvoted.

  16.  Thanks Debbi et al. for explaining the switchback method.  At work, I take notes on all meetings and phone conversations in a steno pad (even before I was into shorthand).  It is amazing how long one book lasts when I write all the way through, then turn it over and come back on the backsides.  My first book lasted from January 1 to May 1!  Now I'm in my second.  It is invaluable to carry the last four months of notes around with me…why just this week I laid the smack down on someone by using my steno book to prove that we had met a month later than she claimed…and it was a pretty major thing.   See in the picture that I have also started putting a rubberband around the cover to mark my page–duh, why didn't I think of that?!  I taped a stack of red flags to the back cover, so whenever I am noting an action item, I mark it with a red flag and transfer it to my To Do list later.  As you can see, I'm not writing only in Gregg, but I mix it in when I can.    ________________________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  17. Thanks for sharing John! The last assistant my boss had used a steno pad and no rhym or reason when or where she put her notes and so she was flipping thorugh pages up and down, back and forth to look for information and so he said he wanted me to write on one side only.  So I do that. At first I was going through steno pads quickly (not sure how long I kep them that that rate, I threw a bunch out instead of saving them since I haven't had to use them, but I've saved the last 3 just in case).  Now they last about 4 months.  But I do use the other side to practice my shorthand on… Debbi

  18. Back in 1978–yes, I'm that old–the job title "secretary" wasn't demeaning at all!  However, it wasn't something REAL MEN went into.   Marc  

  19. You start on the left side of the ceter rule until you get to the bottom of that column. Then, you start the top of the right column. Shorter writing lines mean that you lose less time when moving your hand from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. This same idea lies behind newpaper columns.   Brian

  20. "Back in 1978–yes, I'm that old–the job title "secretary" wasn't demeaning at all! However, it wasn't something REAL MEN went into."

    lol! Marc, we're from the same generation. It was not easy for a male who wanted to take Shorthand, or even a second year of typing. Reverse sexism to an extreme!
    Being an aspiring journalist, I wanted to take Gregg in 1977; my teacher, however, was a Nazi Puritan who didn't think boys had any business taking such a course. Her attitude, I'm afraid, dissuaded me from taking Shorthand.

    Off the subject, remember those old IBM Selectrics we were trained on? 🙂 They were state-of-the-art for the era.

    Back to Shorthand Pads–my understanding is that you were to start at the top of the left, go all the way down, then start again on the right. Some, however, wrote on just the left side—using the right side for additions or changes, just like Marc has said…

  21. The replacement for my counterpart in the office started today, and what do you guess she brought to take notes on?  A greentint Ampad steno pad.  Ah!  A match made in heaven.   _________________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  22. Dear old Wallace Bowman is proving to be a veritable treasure trove of information 🙂   Here's what he has to say about notepads, centre-rulings, narrow columns and switchback. He also has some very strong views about what should and shouldn't be in your pad (not mentioning any names, John).   🙂 Kevin        

  23. LOL "It should not be made a repository for bits of calculations or scribbled nonsense."  that's about all I write on mine at work

  24. Cool, I love getting very detailed instruction like that.  I thought about making all my calculations and note passing during meetings on scrap paper instead of in my steno book, but I decided that in my line of work, I sometimes need to look back at those rough calculations.  To technically conform to Mr. Bowman's guidelines, I'll have to say that I categorize my calculations as pertinent information and therefore I may be write them in my steno book.   By the way, what is the proper term for this notebook-to-be-used-only-for-pertnent-information?  I've been calling it my steno book.  Is it a business journal or something like that?   ______________________ Go, Speedracer, go!

  25. John, you're correct there about needing the info later.  I may need it later and so it's nice in my notebook. I usually meet with my supervisor one-on-one everymorning and it's easier grabbing my steno pad then a bunch of different pieces of paper with notes on them (I converted a lady to a day planner because I was getting dizy seeing her go through tons of little bits of paper for information).    I think I just call mine a Steno Book… that's what my generic brand says (it's gregg lined… they don't splurge for the good kind). Debbi

  26. I think my Walmart sells the good kind, with sturdy front cover for less.  The ones with thin colorful colors and white paper (as opp osed to green) are more expensive, if I remember right.  Either way, the good one's are still dirt cheap.   Good:   Ew:  

  27. Marc:

    The Shorthand Notebook I bought is spiral-bound. Pages could easily be torn out for dictation, or you could download it and print only as many pages as you needed.

    As a Pitman writer, (who greatly respects Gregg), I can say the thickness of the book isn't much of an issue, as Pitman is written up and down as opposed to a slant. Rather, the large coil is proving to be a pain in the butt.

    However, I'll forward your comments to the author to see what he has to say (he's a friend of a friend).

  28. If I'm using a thick pad, I just flip most of the pages round the other side, so I've got just 20 pages or so under my hand. The pad in the pic is 150 pages, which would definitely be too steep a drop when I got to the end 🙂    

  29. I'll add my $0.02 to this.    Before the local Staples moved in, I was having a horrible time finding steno pads.  I found some in CVS which had more than the usual 80 pages.  I think it was something like 300.  Great, right?  WRONG!   If there are more than 80 pages in the book, it becomes impossible to write on the bottom of the page.  Your hand falls off the book and causes your fingers to contort.  Not good, people!   So beware of "bargains"!   Marc  

  30. Good point, Marc–wouldn't have thought of that.  I was surprised to see that our office supplier has a variety of Ampad steno pads including 60 page version and Pitman ruled.  In the picture I added to the photo section, it looks like the girl is holding a very thin pad–maybe it's not actually a steno pad, though.  I wish you could still find the ones with Gregg outlines printed on the cover.   _________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  31. My favorite steno notebook is the Ampad "Gold Fibre" one, with 144 sheets, white. It has a 60 pt stiff backing in case a note must be made while holding it.

    The reason I use it is this: Its paper takes ink very well! It has 15 lb. paper, and the ink that I write to it hits it, doesn't soak into the page, and dries quickly. 🙂

    I went to a Staples this week looking for the 3"×9" reporter's notebook. I had never seen it in an actual store, so I figured I would try to look for it. Interestingly, all I found were reporter's notebooks ruled in Pitman! That was not expected.

    —Andw. Owen

  32. Interesting, Andrew.

    According to the research I'd done on Shorthand, Pitman was preferred for Court Reporting while Gregg was preferred for amanuensis. 90% of U.S. users were Gregg users by the 1970s, while the last Pitman Court Reporter in the Senate retired in the 1980s…

    I might look into the Reporter's Notebook you described. Thanks for tip.

  33. This is off the topic just a tad– I hope literary license will be given to me for this aberration–but have you noticed anything unusual about this group?

    Have you noticed that the people who carry a real love of Shorthand– the love of Shorthand as an art–are mostly men?

  34. I noticed that too. I tried to do a poll once to see how many where actually male or female, but not many people replied… Poll–Male or Female? – link. Debbi

  35. JohnSapp sez:  I wish you could still find the [steno books] with Gregg outlines printed on the cover.   Stenomous replies: Well, I don't think its what you are looking for, but Comet School Supplies makes steno pads that have various Gregg outlines on the cover as a kind of decorative feature. I own a few of these.   The item number is 6350.   Cheers, Stenomouse Gregg Speedwriter Wannabe

  36. ShorthandMarc sez: I [found some steno pads with] something like 300 [pages].  Great, right?  WRONG! If there are more than 80 pages in the book, it becomes impossible to write on the bottom of the page.  Your hand falls off the book and causes your fingers to contort.    Stenomouse muses: Why would your hand fall off of the book? The recommended technique is to use your free hand to move the *page* up, while the *writing hand* remains fixed in its location. If you use this technique, your hand remains stationary — and (forgive the pun) only the stationery moves.   Am I mistaken?   Cheers, Stenomouse Gregg Speedwriter Wannabe

  37. You don't push the pages up when you're writing down the first column! (At least I don't. Should I be?)

    And sometimes, Stenomouse, when the dictation is just beyond your current ability or the *&#! pages stick, you can't use "proper" technique for the second!


  38. By reducing the distance traveled, diving the page into two columns decrease the lag when taking dictation under pressure. This provides an overall benefit when taking dictation but has less practical utility when shorthand is used for personal memoranda. This is the same reason that they divide newspaper text into columns. Brian

  39. I use it only for personal stuff, and like to tear out pages as I'm really done with them. (A feeling of accomplishment, when my "if in doubt, write it here and do the right thing with it later" book gets thin!). So I tend to turn it and write on the backs.

    A Teeline manual for journalists recommends that you ignore the middle line. It leads to more wrist action and slower speeds.

    Instead, draw a line one inch from the left margin, and use that for clarifications or corrections or whatever.

    One of the Gregg manuals says whether to write on both sides in one session, or save the second for edits or extra instructions or whatever, really depends on your job and the dictator. Some make lots of corrections as they go, others don't.

  40. CricketBeautiful-1 is absolutely right about the advice given to journalists in the UK using Teeline – a margin should be inserted one inch to the left of each page for corrections.

    But then we were also taught to divide the page using a centre margin if interviewing two people or at court during witness cross examination.

    I can vouch for the fact that it definitely slows you down a bit – especially if each party is speaking in short bursts, because you are constantly switching from one column to the next and you are effectively using half the amount of available notepad space (which means more frequent page turns).

    But, it does pay dividends in terms of reading back your notes because you have proper "flow" in terms of what was said.

    Of course, if I was quicker – and was able to use full page with no central margin – and write in each party's name above each section of speech then that would be better still.

    Sadly, that's not the case…

  41. Write? each person's name? Write it out once for spelling, then just use initials any outline that makes sense. Just make sure you make clear what they are and they don't conflict with another brief form.

    One sample, possible a court report, there were several lines drawn down the left of the page, about a cm apart. Each speaker's words were started at a different line, but then written to the edge of the column.

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