Seeking Pitmanic Advice

Last year I purchased the Teach Yourself Pitman book and didn’t do much with it. I had a look at it the other day and (to my surprise) found it very clear with the examples and illustration (Yes, George Amberson, I even practiced the phrases in the first chapter.) While it’s not Gregg, I think it might be fun to familiarize myself with the entire system. Is the Teach Yourself book “New Era”? Is it another version of Pitman? If I go through the book would GA be kind enough to recommend other supplementary texts for me to use for drill and practice after a certain point? (I consider GA the Pitmanmeister as (grin) he’s so outspoken. In the meantime I’m amusing myself by writing tape, boat, etc.

(by jrganniversary
for everyone)


8 comments Add yours
  1. Hi, there, Anniversary.

    I wish I could claim the throne as Pitman King, but I am going to have to defer. My Pitman studies came to an abrupt end with the advent of a life crisis; for various reasons, I've not yet resumed them.

    JG, the theory expounded in Teach Yourself Pitman is, indeed, New Era, the apogee of the method; it doesn't get any better on the Pitman side.

    After you have finished the book, you're expected to have about 80wpm under your belt. You could then go to Pitman Shorthand Progressive Skill Development (there're copies at eBay), and after that—if you want to reach for the stars–How To Write Pitman at 250 wpm.

    I feel it's only fair to warn you about a couple of pitfalls of Pitman, to wit:

    1. The memory load is impressive, especially if the writer wants to reach the highest speeds.

    2. Some of the concepts are ✦very✦ difficult to absorb; one contemporary article described "otherwise intelligent women breaking down into tears".

    JG, don't listen to warnings about the readability of Pitman; even at the highest speeds, it's quite readable unless the writer's inexperienced (just like in longhand!)

    JG, I know a man who, after a year of Pitman studies, achieved 140wpm, and can get you in touch with him if you give me time.

  2. Thanks for your prompt reply, GA. Should I be reduced to tears I feel I may always find some comfort in your advice.

    No, I'm not abandoning my "fun" with pre-Anniversary … and it may well be that I find the Pitman memory load too cumbersome to add at this point in my diminishing lifespan but I'm really more curious about Pitman than I have been in the past.

    If I can read several languages, I should be able not to confuse Pitman with Gregg.

    Inasmuch as speed goes, I've been quite satisfied with Gregg (when I used it professionally I could take 200+ wpm and read what I had written!), but if I could attain 80 wpm in Pitman upon completing the Teach Yourself text I would be very happy. (Remember, when I took Gregg in school to receive that second-year "A", students had to take dictation at 120+ wpm and be able to transcribe it accurately.

    The actual writing of Pitman seems forced to one who's used tto the normal slope of handwriting. To begin my practice, which grade pencil would you recommend? I'm assuming I should also purchase some Pitman-ruled notebooks as well to better match the size of the shorthand in the book. (The authors say to use their size as a model.)

    This will be expensive. I'll have to purchase a pencil sharpener! LOL.

  3. JG, I quite liked those mechanical pencils that needed no sharpening, although they did have a tendency to break if I bore down too hard (I used to take this as a reminder–Pitman is supposed to be written lightly, and if the pencil lead broke, I knew I was writing too hard).

    However, any pencil will do–an ordinary house pencil will work just fine. Some have advocated pencils with a lead one degree harder but I have not found this necessary at all.

    I feel that if learning Pitman is viewed the same way as doing a particularly challenging puzzle, the student will enjoy it; if he looks at it as a necessary task, he'll hate every blessed minute of it. 😉

    JG, your concerns about writing at a slope vis-a-vis writing vertically in Pitman are valid. Pitman is easier to write for ME because my natural cursive is vertical; for a slope-writer, the mechanics of writing Pitman might be quite a challenge. More practice will be necessary for such writers.

  4. JG, one point I forgot to address:

    Pitman-ruled pads can still be bought, but Pitman writers I know don't recommend using them. Pitman pads will only encourage the writer to write with larger outlines, which slow the writer down quite a bit.

    Gregg-ruled pads will work just fine.

  5. I found regular 7mm college ruled worked for Pitman, at least the early chapters. A normal letter was half the height. A "low" letter would just brush the top of a "high" letter on the next line.

    (The same lines with Gregg are a bit tight. "B" is a tad larger than the line. I tried a bit smaller, but things didn't flow, and I had to double-space.)

    Not all mechanical leads are equal, even if they have the same size and hardness. Some brands break easily. I found Dixon and Papermate pens, medium point, worked nicely. A tiny extra bit of pressure was enough to get a thick line, and light pressure still gave enough to see. It was good practice — I normally press too hard. For some fun, I went to a good art store and got calligraphy nibs. I have to dip them, and I don't think I got the right ones — the flexible one catches on an upstroke, but, again, it was fun to try them.


  6. Thanks for the advice. I write Gregg with a ball point pen and a light stroke. My outline sizes are approximately the same as you find in the Simplified Manual, perhaps a tad smaller as I use a Gregg ruled steno pad. For Pitman I believe I would be more comfortable with a pencil because of the variation between light and dark strokes … don't want to mix up my "T" and "D" nor my "P" and "B" nor my "Shay" and "Jay". I'm only doing it for fun. (Surely I have too much time on my hands!) But I would like to be able to read Pitman and have heard so many good things about it (even my grandmother used it before she married my grandfather) that I didn't think it would hurt to expand my shorthand horizons. I do like and am very comfortable with Gregg however, especially moreso since with Chuck's assistance and recommendations, I've been using pre-Anniversary and "Expert" shortcuts as well as increased phrasing … so if Pitman eventually messes with my Gregg memory load, I'll abandon it – but particularly at the beginning without EXTENSIVE shortcuts (which might bring me to tears) I look forward to learning a "new" skill.

  7. JG, I don't think you'll have a problem with phrasing; that's pretty much the same thing as in Gregg, albeit in expanded form in Pitman.

    Rather, some of the execution concepts might give you trouble. In my case, I found intervocalization very hard to grasp–it involves in completely re-thinking how we put together words. Another writer confessed difficulty with di- and tri-phones; these stumped me at first, but I got over it. Your particular bugbear might be different.

    Please keep us in touch with your progress.

  8. GA,

    Truthfully, I'm looking forward to the endeavor … especially since you feel that New Era is the apogee of Pitman, much as I feel that Anniversary holds the same title for all the versions of Gregg. I'll be sure to post any problems I encounter.

    The discussion of "readability" prompted my new interest in Pitman. Also I was very impressed that George Bernard Shaw wrote his plays in Pitman and sent them out for transcription. Now, that is really cool!


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