Speed Ruts

Certain PEOPLE have written (not on this board, but in texts) about students “digging themselves into speed ruts,” because, for example, they are writing 60 wpm and continue to write at 60 wpm rather than PUSH themselves to 70 wpm.  By staying at 60, they supposedly drive themselves into a speed rut from which it becomes more and more difficult to escape the longer they remain writing perfectly good outlines at 60.
Somehow that thinking seems completely wrong to me.  I somehow think they’d get faster over time even if they don’t force speed.
Does anyone have any comments?  Any EVIDENCE either for or against?

(by shorthandmarc
for everyone)

5 comments Add yours
  1. I think it depends on how much writing you are doing on a regular basis.   When I was typing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I quickly got up to 95 wpm.   Now that I only type approximately 1.5 hours a day, and have to cope with interrruptions as well, my best test speed hasn't broken 80 wpm.   I'm pretty sure, though, if I put my mind to it, I could get back up to 95 on two hours a day of typing. But I'd have to plan, do assessments of the areas that slow me down, do corrective exercises and set goals.   sidhe

  2. I don't think that the "rut" or plateau issue comes until later.  In the early speeds, the progress is usually pretty rapid if you're consistent in your practice and get the right kind of dictation.  You should always be writing at speeds that push you slightly.  In the practice, it's okay to drop a few words if you're pushing for speed.  The diminishing return principle doesn't kick in until you are working for the higher speeds over 120. 

  3. Oh, I didn't mean a speed plateau. That's a whole different animal!

    And I used 60 just as an example. I could just as well have used 150.

    The thought is that the longer one continues to write to a given speed without pushing, the deeper the rut becomes and the harder it will be to advance to the next higher speed.

    Personally, I do not think that is the case at all.


  4. I don't think that's the case at all, either.  I suppose I'm coming from the perspective of why wouldn't you be pushing yourself to write faster and faster.  If you do get into a rut, there are ways of breaking out.  The practice is to take a piece and have it dictated to you faster than you can write clean notes and in fact at speeds that shatter your notes.  Then, when you pull back to your next target speed, it should be easier to take.    The writing at speeds well within your grasp is not detrimental.  It's recommended to do it for precision practice after speed building.  If you don't push, you won't make progress as quickly as you could, but I don't think it is a real problem until you do actually get to the point where you are in a true speed rut.

  5. I also heartily disagree. My experience with machine shorthand echoes a lot of what's been said here.

    I've found that a good combination of practice in a comfortable speed to work on accuracy helps improve accuracy for the speed you're working on, too. The idea is to try to boost both your comfort speed and your "oh crap oh crap oh crap" speed at the same time. Of course you won't make progress if you don't constantly stretch, but you won't make progress either if all you practice is those "oh crap" runs instead of doing a speed where you can make sure you write clean notes and apply whatever new phrases or briefs you've learned. Doing new and maybe challenging material at your comfort speed is also an absolute must.

    I think what hinders speed is not getting "too comfortable" with one speed (unless that's the only speed you ever practice) but rather hesitation, agonizing over theory or briefs, and bad habits. Those things are eliminated by practicing at your comfort speed, when you have enough confidence and time to think to consciously eliminate problems and change your writing.

    As for diminishing returns, it's certainly true for machine shorthand also. I was blazing along until about 140, where I got stuck for two months. Now I'm stuck in 180 Q&A and lit (though getting close to move up), and it's precisely because my fingers aren't accurate enough. Believe me, being pushed enough is the last of my issues! I can move my fingers as fast as anyone, but if they don't go to exactly the right spot, it doesn't do me much good. That's probably why some of the students in 140/160 at school (the biggest class) have been there for eight-plus months… they don't think to sit in a 120 class sometime and work on getting 99 or 100% accuracy. I made it a point to have 98% or better on exit tests before moving up, and I sit in some 140/160 classes a few times a week, as well as practice comfortable speeds at home.

    In Gregg, I suppose all this translates into beautiful, clean notes that are easily legible and unambiguous. When going for accuracy at your comfort speed (however long that takes), your notes should be pleasant to read.

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