Since I took up pre-anniversary Gregg shorthand a couple months ago, I have been using it in my daily life instead of longhand. At the moment, I have not done much dictation, since I have not put much emphasis on speed yet, only correctness of theory, but have tested my ability to take dictation, and upon finding that it is approximately 50 words per minute, I would like to begin to emphasise on speed.
However, there are a few words that I find difficult to write, not because they are difficult to construct, but rather they are just awkward to write fast.
One of these words is “Japan”, written j-a-p-n. I generally find that when I write faster, my J’s and other straight strokes tend to curve, and my curved strokes tend to straighten out. In addition, I find the P in this word tends to straighten out and there is a pause between writing the P and the N. If I try to write any faster p-n looks more like p-r (and the P sometimes can shorten). Are there any exercises that you can recommend to remedy this situation, or should I just accept that my writing will get harder to read as it gets faster?
In addition, what should one focus on when practising dictation? Should one insist that all the forms that are written have good penmanship and are theoretically correct, or is the only thing that matters is that it can be transcribed correctly?
Check the first edition of Gregg Speed Studies, in particular Speed Studies II (downward strokes) and XII (rounding angles) to practice your penmanship of those combinations.
When practicing dictation, the most important thing is to write as much of the speech as possible without hesitation so that you can transcribe it. If you have a doubt about a word, write something down regardless. Corrections with respect to transcription, theory, and penmanship are done after you have finished the dictation exercise.
I don't recommend starting a full blown dictation practice for beginning speed building if a student cannot write at 60 wpm comfortably (one word a second, more or less). Being below 60 wpm tells me that theory needs to be reviewed again. Some things to check for review are brief forms (can they be written automatically, without hesitation?), common phrases, word endings and beginnings, and abbreviating principle. Attempting to start speed building dictation without a solid foundation will frustrate you, because you will be stuck at a low speed and that will make it harder to advance. Spend time reviewing theory, learning new words, and reading shorthand, and if you want to test yourself with speed, take short (one minute) dictation drills from the manual and Gregg Speed Studies until you can write them at 60 wpm. That's what the Gregg Speed Studies book is all about! In the long run, it pays, and you will zoom through higher speeds.
Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate the long post. It confirms that the approach that I am taking, which is not really to focus on speed at the moment is probably the right way to go. Especially because during dictation practice, if one should aim to get everything down no matter what, it would reinforce the weaknesses that one has in shorthand theory.
You're welcome! The Teacher's Key to Gregg Speed Studies is on Google books, and it contains the transcript of the first edition of Gregg Speed Studies already divided in groups of 20 words for dictation practice. You can also use Word and Sentence Drills for Gregg Shorthand by Mark I. Markett for additional practice.