Is smoother really better?

I put this forward. I’ve spent the first six months writing shorthand exclusively with liquid inks, the more they glided over the paper the better. But now if you see on the videos thread I have a space pen (ballpoint pen), I find the extra friction and effort required to make a marking on the surface actually allows my hand to form outlines quicker. Why? Well I have theories that my hand doesn’t go out of control as easily, and more accurate outlines means more confidence means faster speed. What did court reporters like to use? Of course there weren’t ballpoints but there were pencils?

(by michael_lisitsa
for everyone)

 

18 comments Add yours
  1. Michael, I am not a court reporter but I am a person who studied shorthand during the time when most court testimony was taken down by pen writers.  I studied shorthand using the Simplified method but later studied and adopted the Anniversary method of writing shorthand.  During all of my training, shorthand writers, especially court reporters, recommended fountain pens, good ones, as the device for fluent writing.  I agree with them if you can find the right pen.   However, I still write actively write shorthand today to take personal notes, minutes to meetings, and for whatever reading.  Because I have lost so many great and expensive pens, I have given up purchasing them.  I use the regular office ballpoint pens every day.  Over the years, I learned that though pens can help, writing fluency and speed is more related to your ability to execute a shorthand outline with as little concentrated effort as possible.  That is to say that if you have to think about how to write an outline, you haven't learned it fully yet — this is the ultimate key to taking dictation swiftly.  Once use learn to execute outlines, the size and accuracy of the construction will some times vary, but you will yet learn to read it.   Looking forward to communicating with you and others who "dare" write shorthand today.

  2. I have found that there are some pens that create a bit of drag when writing that causes my muscles to tire more quickly than pens that seem to move more freely over the page.  The difference in the pens fluidity differs even within the same product line.    I have one of the Whal-Eversharp pens from the '20s that were advertised in the Gregg Writer.  The pen is 80 years old and it writes very well.  I write with it a lot, but I will use one of my swifter ballpoints to take anything job-related.  The fountain pen does promote a very light touch.  I'm sure it's me and a faulty technique, but I find that the fountain pen will skip formation of part of the outline because the angle of the nib in the course of writing does not stay at the optimal position for free ink flow.   Michael, the improvement in your notes may have very little to do with the pen you are writing with and more to do with your ever increasing skill in shorthand.  I don't think you are giving yourself enough credit for innate talent and hard won ability.

  3. I use different pens on different days. Each has pros and cons.

    On days my hand is slow or careless, free-flowing pens are a disaster, but they're great on days I can really push the speed. Using them points out places I hesitate, but I can't use them when concentrating on form rather than speed.

    I have a 0.3mm pencil that breaks a lot — it really shows when I'm pressing too hard, but some days I spend more time clicking out more lead than writing.

    A good ballpoint lives in my purse. It always works, regardless of the shape my hand is in that day, and doesn't run. It's also a candidate for practice.

    I think using a small variety of instruments is good. Different ones highlight different bad habits, and allow different types of practice. It also allows you to adapt quickly if your pen is stolen.

  4. Thanks, Michael, for the information on the Millenium Space Pen and the
    Bullet Space Pen. Inks that last longer are a plus. Since my birthday
    is in two weeks, my husband generously offered to buy me a Millenium pen
    if I really wanted one. I decided to take him up on the offer. On the
    Fisher web site there was no mention about the point size on the pen and
    the price is $130.00. I did find a Fisher dealer on eBay who has the
    Millenium pen for $84.00 or $110.00 if you want engraving. In that
    listing it states the point is bold. I just can't write very well with
    a bold pen. My writing gets too large. I prefer a fine point but
    because of the scratchiness and drag on the paper, I use a medium point
    pen. So I decided to look at the Bullet pen. Now the Bullet pen uses a
    refill that comes with an adapter for Parker pens. Since I have a
    couple of nice Parker pens, I decided to start with the refills and see
    how it goes.

    Over the years I have had this job, my pen collection has grown looking
    for the "perfect" pen to write with. I have fountain pens (both
    expensive and not so expensive), Cross pens, a Mont Blanc roller ball
    (their refills skip and drag or maybe not now since it's been a long
    time since I used them), Parker pens, Pentel pens, felt tipped pens,
    etc. My favorite for a long time was the Pilot Better ballpoint pen
    with the cushioned finger grips. After the office supply store where I
    live quit carrying them, it took me a while to finally find them again.
    So the main two pens I use right now are the Pilot Better black medium
    ballpoint and the Uniball Signo RT with black medium point.

    Thanks again
    V-Lindsay

  5. Thanks, Michael, for the information on the Millenium Space Pen and the
    Bullet Space Pen. Inks that last longer are a plus. Since my birthday
    is in two weeks, my husband generously offered to buy me a Millenium pen
    if I really wanted one. I decided to take him up on the offer. On the
    Fisher web site there was no mention about the point size on the pen and
    the price is $130.00. I did find a Fisher dealer on eBay who has the
    Millenium pen for $84.00 or $110.00 if you want engraving. In that
    listing it states the point is bold. I just can't write very well with
    a bold pen. My writing gets too large. I prefer a fine point but
    because of the scratchiness and drag on the paper, I use a medium point
    pen. So I decided to look at the Bullet pen. Now the Bullet pen uses a
    refill that comes with an adapter for Parker pens. Since I have a
    couple of nice Parker pens, I decided to start with the refills and see
    how it goes.

    Over the years I have had this job, my pen collection has grown looking
    for the "perfect" pen to write with. I have fountain pens (both
    expensive and not so expensive), Cross pens, a Mont Blanc roller ball
    (their refills skip and drag or maybe not now since it's been a long
    time since I used them), Parker pens, Pentel pens, felt tipped pens,
    etc. My favorite for a long time was the Pilot Better ballpoint pen
    with the cushioned finger grips. After the office supply store where I
    live quit carrying them, it took me a while to finally find them again.
    So the main two pens I use right now are the Pilot Better black medium
    ballpoint and the Uniball Signo RT with black medium point.

    Thanks again
    V-Lindsay

  6. Hey no probs.

    With the bullet you can get a fine or medium point. I have the medium.
    Also I recommend getting the one without the stylus tip? Why well today I was at work and dropped it from around 2m on tile and it hit the tip and the tip sheered off. I called the shop and they said fisher is good with repairs so I should bring it in.

    But I'm gonna ask for a plane bullet pen, cause plastic is always gonna have weakness compared to metal.

  7.    Two points about pen points–
     
     
       When I was writing shorthand taking down
    detailed lecture notes for a campus service
    over a two and a half hour lecture, smoothness
    of glide was ~the~ critical for the purpose of
    preventing writers cramp. So what is the
    ideal pen depends on the specific circumstances.
    Probably this has been mentioned before,
    but I just want to emphasize it. When people
    are writing about pens they like that provide
    minimal friction for dictation for long periods
    of time, say over an hour, — I would appreciate
    if they include that information. 
     
     
      Second- Uniball seemed back then to have
    a really smooth glide, but… it's kind of like
    there is a constant churning of brand names
    among the inexpensive pens. This could
    easily get into a complicated discussion of
    marketing tactics by pen companies, but with
    uniball they had lots of excellent inexpensive
    pens for awhile but then phased out those
    versions and had more expensive versions that
    were also not as consistently excellent as the
    former cheap versions. (I'm thinking of ten to about
    five years ago.) As I do a fair amount of
    travelling, it wasn't just one location 
    where this seemed to happen. I think that once
    they had established a brand name loyalty
    they attempted to get you to upgrade, and in
    their case sadly they made the upgrade to a
    lower quality pen. –Very annoying to say the
    least. I probably spent 40 dollars on the upgraded
    pens before I decided they were about 25 percent
    outright defective, and not much good
    even when they weren't. Perhaps they
    have gone back to making better pens again,
    and from the comments on
    this list that sounds very probably the case.
    So the point here is that, well, as an ancient
    Hellenistic philosopher once said, you can never
    step into the same river twice (everything changes).
    (The uniball pens ten years ago were ~really~
    good!) (Currently I mostly use G2 gels. But also
    I'm mostly only take rough notes for less than
    an hour.)
     
     
       Richard Harper
     
     

  8. Hi Richard,

    When I talking about finding the "perfect" pen for writing, I mean a pen
    that can be used all day – from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or longer if
    we're trying to finish an out-of-town witness. I write every day in
    hearings, pleas, etc., or practice or journal, but during court terms, I
    write a lot all day.

    I like the way a G2 pen writes, but it's not as comfortable for me to
    use – something about its barrel. I like the Zebra pen and several
    others. Unfortunately at the supply store where my court administrator
    buys our supplies, sometimes refills on different pens are not
    available. So I have to have several kinds that I'm able to use. If I
    want to try a special pen, such as the Space Pen Bullet, I have to buy
    that myself, because it has to be ordered and not available locally.

    V-Lindsay

  9. I've been using a cheap ballpoint and a cheap mechanical pencil.  I may try a fineline- type felt-tip.  I'm taking notes during conference calls a lot at work and my hand gets pretty tired and crampy by the end of the call when I use a ballpoint.  It may be because I'm a little nervous, too.  Maybe if I switch writing instruments in the middle of the conference call it would help????  Different "drag" and pressure might help.  Another strategy might be to think "relax, relax, relax" as I take notes.  Hmmm.   That being said, I'm still enjoying Gregg DJS after all these years.  I'm a "geek", too, as someone mentioned in another thread.

  10. Um, ahem, I'm the "shorthand geek" comment author.  🙂  I meant it in the most affectionate way.    I've also been experimenting with pens lately.  Love the fountain pen but it takes a little bit of work and control to keep the nib at the optimal flow position.  The ballpoints I'm using currently are a bit thin and cause me to get a death grip during dictation.  I can only tell myself to relax so much.  Found one yesterday that I like a lot.  Zebra Z-Grip.  Used it a bit yesterday and found I liked it.  However, the ink tends to need a little priming before you write.    The search goes on . . .

  11. You can get a wide variety of grips to put on small pens. Try a business supply store and an education supply store. Some are better than others. The one my son preferred was very spongy, and actually made his grip worse, but he's a stubborn kid who insisted on using the one he chose.

  12. I went to OfficeMax.com and browsed through the pens.  I know that there are types I don't like, so I focused on the general genre that works for me.  For instance, I don't like rollerball kinds of pens or felt tips.  I work a block away from a Staples so when the mood strikes, I'll wander over there and peruse the pens.    For years while I was in school and working in court, I would use the Bic Biro, roundstick pen – medium point.  It's interesting how the pen we use is such a personal thing. 

  13. Pen preferences are indeed quirky.  I have always liked medium-point ballpoint pens.  I've always hated fine points, even before I ever learned shorthand.  I sometimes switch to a mechanical pencil because it's different enough to help me relax my "dath grip".

  14. I find my death grip is directly proportional to how far I am behind the speaker. A slow dictation, no problems I'm lightly swirly my hand to get nicely shaped curves. When it gets fast or I get behind, well it feels like it felt when I had 20 minutes to finish writing my essay in the year 12 final English Exam. Not the smoothest fountain pen could've relaxed me at that moment.

  15. I find that when I'm pushed I get the death-grip.  The tension is so counterproductive and the thrashing of my notes at that point makes me even more tense.  If I focus on relaxing my grip it helps a little.  The relaxing helps restore some readability to my shorthand.  Depending on the take, I have to concentrate on different things.  With a lower syllable density I breeze through the take, other times with a higher syllable density it's a bit more work.   I'm also trying to do 5 minute takes.  I find that by the end I'm squeezing the neck of the pen in the death grip sorta way.    

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