More Important than Dictation

This essay from the book “New Shorthand Dictation Exercises” by Edward H. Eldridge gives excellent advice regarding the appropriate time to take new matter dictation (the author calls it “general dictation”), how to study shorthand, and how to perform “autodictation” when a dictator is not available.

The book instructs the students to follow the advice from this article after the student has written the outlines of the words that appear next to the article. The passages in this book are marked every 20 actual words (not standard words), and groups of 100 words are indicated by a vertical line.

12 comments Add yours
  1. Not my imagination, then. In the videos of people taking dictation at around 120 to 150 wpm, I've noticed the writing itself seems fairly leisurely, no matter how much mental stress was reflected in their comments afterwards.

    Come to think of it, this is the same advice I give to people who ask me how they can knit faster: "Forget speed. Just set a steady pace and keep going!"

  2. This is a great article. So is what the author is discouraging "new matter dictation" over doing the exercise he mentions at the end of the article? This reminds of the advice from the article posted some time ago called "acquiring shorthand speed at home." My question, then, is should i follow this type of exercise as well as doing regular dictation from familiar material via an auto recorder? How you recommend blending the two?

  3. If I'm reading this right, part of the purpose of this exercise is vocabulary-building, allowing you to become familiar with a wider range of material, and also practice applying the principles of the system, preparing you to be able to write any word without hesitation.

  4. Useful. Also timely, from my perspective, since I'm finishing up the last chapter of the manual right about now. Applying the principles to a wider range of words sounds like a good way to reinforce what I've learned, and relearned. : D

  5. That also matches what I had read that the actual *writing* speed (in terms of inches per second, or whatever) in faster writers isn't any different; their increased speed comes nearly completely from less hesitation rather than from quicker strokes of the pen.

  6. Basically, you can mix and match approaches. It's just another tool in the toolbox. This would be a good strategy to follow when studying from a dictation book if you don't have recorded the material. But practice from recorded material shouldn't be eliminated! And definitely, the author discourages new matter dictation (cold, with no vocabulary previews) until one is able to write any word without hesitation. To get to that level, passages should be studied with a word preview.

  7. I have been told repeatedly that faster writers don't write faster but the pauses of the pen (between words) get shorter.

    As for writing faster, in general, I still say that one MUST go over and over and over theory in order to write faster–and that doesn't mean taking dictation, but actually studying the manual. I've said it lots of times but it is worth repeating: MASTERY BEFORE SPEED.

  8. Back in High School I can remember reading from one of my shorthand books the following (these words were my greatest ally in shorthand class):

    “Reading is the be-all and end-all in shorthand. For what shall it profit the stenographer to get the whole dictation down and lose out on the reading? Or what won't a writer give sometimes in exchange for the ability to read some single illegible outline?

    Would you learn the secret of easy and accurate reading? Read. Would you be a rapid writer? Read. Would you master the secret of legibility? Read.

    How can reading increase speed in writing? I will tell you.

    Write a given task twenty times in succession. At the end of the twentieth time, you will write it faster, but you will not write is so well. On the other hand, write the task once and note your speed; then read the notes twenty times and write it once more, again noting your speed.

    Although you have not touched pen to paper, yet you will find your speed increased. Why is this? Your critical faculties have improved by the reading; you learn and correct your faults, and in the course of time you will acquire a style, which is "self-reading" shorthand.”

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