Constructive Critiquing

Hi Everyone,

I am uploading a practice sheet I did today. I purposefully erased the longhand word for each column that I was practicing in order to see if anyone can make out any of the words I’ve written. Mind you my handwriting is not that good. But, with that aside, I think it will be helpful to know which box(es) do you think are my best and whether anyone is able to tell what the word is I was trying to write. I labeled the columns with letters and the rows with numbers for reference (ie. A1 is good or F12 is bad). If anyone has time to look at it, please let me know if any box particularly stands out as good or bad and what you think I can do to be a better shorthand writer. This is Simplified, Second Edition.

30 comments Add yours
  1. My guess: these, thin, path, theme, thick, teeth. It's hard because there is no context.

    Path looks like pack, unless you intended pack. Keep the final th up and do not curve the ending.

    For teeth, do not follow the slant of the t when doing the th. Instead, move the pen vertically and finish the th that way, as it will be more distinct.

    Proportions are good!

  2. Nice work.

    If I didn't know what you were trying to write, I would say: these, thin, pack (or "pick" on some), theme (some of the M's should be a little longer, though), thick, and teeth (or on some, tick)–your first teeth is the best.

    Path is a toughie. I have done a lot of practicing with recorded sermons, so the word "faith" comes up a lot, which is almost the same problem as "path" since "f" is a backwards "p". I don't know if I am yet satisfied with how I write that word, but since I'm the one reading, I know what it's supposed to be. haha — My suggestion would be to write the words pan, pat, pack, and path, and then to notice what the differences are (or should be). I do it with fan, fat, fake, and faith.

  3. Thank you guys for your input. It helped me a lot. I guess I need to learn how to write my b's better. The third word was "bath". So I am figuring that my b's are more like p's? I appreciate the feedback on that. Otherwise I am happy that my words were able to be read.

    And to Carlos: I'm not exactly sure what you mean by, "For teeth, do not follow the slant of the t when doing the th. Instead, move the pen vertically and finish the th that way, as it will be more distinct."

    Also for some reason the word "thick" just wasn't looking quite right to me as I've been practicing it. I guess because the "k" is more of a horizontal stroke.

    Anyway, I really appreciate all the feedback. If it is OK with everyone on this blog I would like to get your personal feedback on future practice.

    I'm going to practice tomorrow and Friday with the over and under "th" words and then I'll probably start on the first lesson in abbreviating.

    Have a great nite!


    1. If you notice the word "teeth", you could write an imaginary line between the t and the curvature of the th. My suggestion was to break the alignment of the th with the t by writing the th more vertically. Click here for an example.

    2. The "t" and the "th" should form an angle where they join. (That picture speaks a thousand words, doesn't it? I was trying to think if I could figure out how to do something like that in less than an hour.) 🙂

    3. As for "path" or "bath"–I was recently puzzling over Reading Exercise 13 on page 95 of my 1916 manual. I had a hard time with the last line which contains the words, "impossible", "president", and "pass". However, the "p" in "pass", is significantly longer than the other two "p"s, so I thought the word was "base", but that made no sense in the sentence.

      In the Simplified series, the outlines are much more uniform than in the older books. However, in real writing, particularly when it gets faster, nobody has perfectly uniform outlines like that. An important skill in shorthand, is learning to infer from context clues. "P" and "B" are similar in sound, the only difference being" that "b" is voiced. Same with "f" and "v", "t" and "d," "c" and "g" etc. Pittman shorthand used light and heavy lines to distinguish between these voiced and unvoiced consonants, but Gregg uses difference in length.

      Of course, I think it's time well-spent in careful practice to learn to make distinguishable outlines, especially if you want anyone else to read what you've written. I'm just trying to add some perspective.

  4. Thank you for the image. I understand now what you mean. Thanks for the tip. That's one of the funny things I've discovered about shorthand, it can be hard to explain how to write something using words instead of just writing the shorthand strokes.

    Well on another note, the last couple of pages I've been working on in my manual have been reading exercises. I've been able to read it all (although a few words were really tricky and took a long time to figure it out (ie. desks)). I'm also being shown joining of words like "I can", etc. This is really starting to add a whole other dimension to using shorthand. My one question is: Are there any "rules" as to when/where/how to use these joinings? In my "Phrases" book there are a bunch of examples given so it looks like there are endless possibilities. Like for example, do you always join the word "I" to the next word you write?

    Anyway, thank you all so much for allowing me to ask so many questions in this group. I've learned so much from all of you and I really appreciate it.

    1. Phrasing is encouraged when it is not an impediment in speed. Unfortunately, starting with Simplified, the importance of phrasing was diminished, because in business dictation, there were not that many phrases used. However, in regular speech, phrases are abundant and should be practiced. My recommendation is to follow the examples of the Simplified book first — later on you can learn many more phrases.

      There are basically four general rules for phrasing. The first one is that only short and common words should be phrased. The second one is that the words in the phrase should make sense (for example, in the sentence "However, I can go tomorrow", it doesn't make sense to phrase "However-I", or "go-tomorrow", but "I-can-go" makes perfect sense). The third is that the joining of the words forming the phrase should be easy to make (for example, in the sentence "He will go and will go forever", it will be odd to join "he-will-go" or "go-and", but "he-will" and "and-will" make easy joinings. The last rule is that phrases that break the line of writing, or very long phrases should be avoided.

      The following are some classes of phrases:
      1. Pronouns are joined to the verb (I go, I am, etc.)
      2. Pronouns are joined to the negative form of the verb (I cannot go, etc.)
      3. Pronouns are joined to the verb and its auxiliary (I have gone, I have seen, he will see, etc.)
      4. Prepositions are joined to objects (for me, for you, on which, in it, at the, etc.)
      5. To + the following verb or pronoun (to go, to do, to him, to me, to them, etc.)
      6. Verb + object (give me, give him, tell me, etc.)
      7. Adjective + noun (great man, large number, good time, etc.)
      8. Combinations of the above (you should not be, I have been, I have not been, etc.)

      You will learn these through examples in your book.

      Answering your question about the pronoun "I", it is usually joined with the next word, for example: I am, I will, I can, I can go, I go, I see.

      Here are some phrases that you should be able to read and write quickly:

      I am going, I cannot, he can, he cannot, he can go, in our, in it, in the, at the, it will, it will not, I will not, he will not, I am, I would, there are, there will, of the, of it, of our, of their, of his, of that, of them, of this, of your, in his, in that, in this, in your, can be, would be, I would be, you would be, he would be, may be, I may be, he may be, will be, I will be, he will not be, he is, he is not, it is, is it, there is, that is, that is not, this is, this is not, is this, they are, they will

      This is just a small sample, :-). The possibilities are endless.

    2. "Phrasing is encouraged when it is not an impediment in speed."

      I suppose that means that if it takes you longer than a split second to decide, "Wait – wasn't there a phrase for that?", then it's better to write the words out. Since phrases are supposed to speed up, not slow down, your writing.

    3. At your level (and mine), it's best to stick to the phrases in the chapters we've read. That's easy enough to do, since we aren't taking cold dictation.

      My dictation program doesn't do phrases. In some ways that's annoying — the voice is unnatural. In other ways, it's good. It forces me to know "that word usually begins a phrase". It also tests my carrying ability. I have to drop at least a few words behind, until the phrase is finished.

  5. Thanks for all the replies. They're very helpful. I'll do what Cricket said and just stick to the phrases that are taught in the simplified manual for now. I also spend a good bit of time when I'm bored at work just taking my finger and tracing the phrases that are in the "Most Common Shorthand Words & Phrases" book which has helped expose me to just how many phrases there can be. I guess it'll just be one of those things that will eventually "just come natural" as I progress through my lessons.

    Where can I download this dictation program? How much does it cost? Does it like speak text files or something? I haven't even attempted to take any dictation as of yet. I'd probably be at 1 W.P.M. right now – hahahaha!

    Hope everyone has a good night!

    1. Oh, and one last thing that I wanted to ask. In the reading practice in Lesson 4 (I think it is as I don't have my book handy) looks like proper names are not capitalized with the double-underlines. I was stumped for a bit at one sentence that I believe starts out as "Dear Tom" but Tom was not marked with the double lines. Is this normal? I really wish the Simplified manual had an answer key section in the back of the book.

    2. Also, in those times that you're bored, just pick up the shorthand book and read. Read those phrases from the phrase book. Read the past lessons. Go over the brief forms and read them forwards and backwards. Reading shorthand is more important at the beginning than writing, because it will make those outlines stick in memory, so that when it's time to write, you don't think twice about the correct outlines for the words.

    3. Now I see that that transcript on ebay is for the first edition of the Simplified Manual, so if you have the 2nd edition it probably won't be suitable.

      Another thought–there seems to be a lot more transcripts available for Gregg Shorthand Simplified for colleges vol. 1, which follows the same plan as the simplified manual–just with different readings. has several copies.

    4. One more idea: "Student's transcript of Gregg shorthand manual simplified, second edition" is listed in as being owned by many libraries. You can ask your local library get it for you through interlibrary loan.

    5. I use two programs: One to add breaks to the file, and one to convert to sound. There might be an easier way now. Somewhere on this site is a summary of my research, listing several programs.

      There are other ways. This is the first I found that lets me save sound files.

      The Text-to-Speech program is Cepstral. When you download a voice, you also get the Swift program. The free voices frequently say "Buy me." It's calibration is way off, and at the speeds we need sounds terrible — the words are drawn out beyond comprehension. However, they were the only company to reply when I asked about speaking slowly.

      The other program is written my my husband and me. It adds codes to the text file to put breaks between the words and does accurate wpm (well, except for the bug I introduced before chapter 25). It then calls the Cepstral program to convert it to speech. It's is written for programmers. The interface works, but isn't pretty. It's in Python 2.7. You're welcome to have a copy.

      An early version, with a nicer interface, is here:
      You give it the length of the break between words rather than wpm.

      You take the text that gives you and put it in the Cepstral window, then tell Cepstral to read. (The newer program calls Cepstral directly.)

      If you send me a text file, I can convert it to a wav (but the files below 40wpm are huge!), or I can convert it to the marked-up text file which you can feed into Cepstral.

    6. Sounds a tad complicated. I suppose right now at the VERY beginning of my studies I mainly just want a recording of someone reading some easy sentences just so I can get practice listening/hearing and then attempting to dictate it in shorthand. Not worried right now about hitting a specific WPM for right now. I suppose I could just use my iPhone and slowly read some sentences into the Voice Memo app and just play it back and see how I do with dictation.

      I'm reaching the end of the bulk of the initial shorthand lessons from the beginning of the Simplified Manual. So, I think I have learned a ton of stuff. I know there's a huge amount more I need to learn but it looks like I've got a good grasp at writing my strokes. Sometimes I like to think of a word that I haven't formally come across in any of my lessons and attempt to apply the theory I've learned and write out the word.

      Good nite… 🙂

    7. I reached 50wpm just by copying the plates. That had unexpected benefits. I got much faster at reading, and I never used a wrong outline.

      Another option is write from the transcript. I liked to type it into a column that I could hold close to my notepad. Others double-space it and write between the lines.

      Record the time it takes, and aim to improve.

      I reached 50wpm that way. When I started dictation, I settled in at 60wpm. Looking from one page to the other was eating that much time.

      If you send me text, I can convert it for you. My grand dream is to put up recordings of all the books.

      The Passage Index here
      describes each passage. The grand dream includes cross-referencing each passage between editions of Simplified.

  6. I graduated myself to Chapter 2 of my manual (lesson 7). Some of these words are like combining 3 words into one stroke. I was like WOW… but after a few minutes I was able to figure it out. You certainly feel a sense of "holy cow I just figured it out" when you read something right. 🙂

    1. I cannot think of the longest, but among the longest ones (measured by the length of the outline) are those used in old business correspondence. For example, the following phrases are written in one outline:

      1. Your kind attention to this matter
      2. Your order will receive prompt attention
      3. We would like to hear from you
      4. I will be glad to send you
      5. and expect to hear from you
      6. and in reply would say
      7. for any length of time
      8. in reply to your letter of recent date
      9. will you kindly let me know
      10. it is only a question of time

      Although some of those are no longer used, you could use the principles from those phrases to construct your own.

      The other kinds of long phrases are those used in reporting, like "I didn't pay much attention", "we have come to the conclusion", and others. There are very good examples in the Gregg reporting books.

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