A question on standardization and consistency to official outlines

It has been a bit but I’ve been working on my shorthand again. For reference, I completed the original anniversary manual a few years ago and enough has stuck with me that I can roughly keep up with many of the 60 wpm dictations on youtube although I find that I do sometimes have hesitation that causes me to drop probably half a sentence every 5 minutes or so which is something I am working on and expect will improve with time as my vocabulary expands and I work on reviewing my theory. For the more experienced writers out there, to what extent to you try to adhere to the “official” forms provided in the dictionaries for words vs find your own forms. There is a lot of flexibility in the abbreviating principle.

For example, I recently saw “a-p-l-sh” for application, which is wonderful and the official form, but also not one that I would have come to myself without having seen the form. If I had been writing it myself during dictation, I would probably have written it “a-p-l-e-k-sh”. Of course this is worse, but in the course of learning there will be many examples like this. To what extent do you try to go back and look up the official outline and to what extent do you keep on with the form you generated spontaneously?

Another similar example is ideally. The official outline is “a-d-e-l-e”, where my first instinct would have been “a-d-[ally/illy loop]”.  Is there a reason that I should be wary of incorporating my shorter version? And would you be wary in this specific case, or as a general rule?

Finally, the elimination of “r” sounds in “ver-” and “fer-” sounds seems very inconsistent to me and would likewise generate many of the same concerns. Is there a more general rule for this that I have forgotten?

Sorry of this has been asked before and thanks everyone for your insight!


Bonus question: for anniversary, what would be the recommended progression of books after the manual?

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  1. In general, a student finishing the manual should be writing at 60 wpm with no hesitation. If there is hesitation, it means that theory needs to be reviewed. Can you read fluently the selections from Fundamental Drills, or from Gregg Speed Studies, or from the Graded Readings, or the ones posted on the blog? Can you write the brief forms, most frequent phrases, and other abbreviated words automatically? That should give you an indication of what to study. Finishing the manual is just the beginning of shorthand study. Usually, it would take another semester of shorthand (using a book like Shorthand Dictation Studies by Wallace Bowman or Functional Method Dictation by Louis Leslie) to really consolidate the theory and begin to write any word without hesitation.

    During dictation, the important thing is to write down what the speaker said and if you can't remember the outline, write down the first thing that comes to your brain and continue on. After the dictation, then circle all the outlines that you had problems with, and review the theory associated with those outlines.

    The outlines in the dictionary were chosen after review of the authors, and in some cases, of alternate valid forms. However, that does not mean that you have to stick to the dictionary outline: sometimes you want to use a longer outline, and sometimes a shorter outline, all depending on how frequent you would find that word. Once you know theory well, then you can start adding outlines that will make your writing faster, either because the outline itself is shorter and easier to write, or because you just write a longer outline for a word that don't remember the official shorter outline. Abbreviated forms allow you to write quicker, but you have to memorize and practice them so that they stay fresh.

    As to fer- and ver- sounds, can you give an example?

    Lastly, regarding your bonus question, read this post and my answers.

    I hope this helps.

  2. Thanks for the answer Carlos!

    I definitely agree that I need to review theory again and there are a number of finer points that I do not fully remember, as well as a number of analogical word beginnings/endings and some of the lesser-used brief forms that I have definitely forgotten as well. I have not gone through any materials other than the manual and at one point I was reading Alice in Wonderland in shorthand, so I cannot comment on Fundamental Drills or Speed Studies. I really primarily went through the manual to learn theory and practiced with writing the forms and going through the exercises contained within, and started dictation practice after more or less finishing the manual. It has now been over 3 years since the last time I really used Gregg but it is a useful tool for me even now as a tool to speed up when writing the words that do come without hesitation and often for using the disjoined beginings/endings to write half shorthand/half english words. I will often use the over-the-line t in normal writing for "trans", the "o/aw" -ology, the "u" -ulate for example when dashing down notes to myself.

    Thank you for your suggestions of where things should be post-manual and I can definitely see a number of things for me to drill/work on based on that. I took a look at one of the more recent posts "Patriotism needs intelligence" and the words that I know and many that I have never seen before both generally come quickly and fluently, without hesitation, but there are definite words that trip me up. Some are words that I just would never have though of, like "demagogue", but others are ones like "ignorance" which should be a fairly common word and just one that I would not have though of as having such a short abbreviation as "ig" and to my recollection is not one of the brief forms. In fact, I was quite confused about why he was suddenly talking about an "egg" or perhaps a "week". Similarly, I went to read the yellowstone article originally by swem and found it quite readable in general although I had trouble with the proper nouns. There were some common words that did slow me down a bit like "p-o-p" as "popular" as I haven't read that word in a while (although it was nice to be correct!) and read "bear" initially as "bar" before immediately re-interpreting it as "bear" when I saw the stuff about bison and elk etc. The quoted "swap" also threw me for a bit since the underlined o-hook looked dotted at first. It is slower than reading text in English, but on the whole I felt that I quickly and naturally read around 95% of it, but the last 5% perhaps accounted for 50% of the time as I went over the word, broke it down, considered the context and then consulted the dictionary to check if I was right.


    I think my plan at this point will likely be:

    1. relearn all the brief forms

    2. at least skim through the manual again to refresh the principles and then to review common phrases

    3. either take dictation or read more broadly and review specific words as they come up and the theory that inform them. I do think that most frequently the principle that I come up most against is the abbreviating principle though. That or I simply would never think about a word such as the demagogue example. It is rarer now that I would come up against something where I didn't know the relevant theory but it does happen. Sometimes I forget to apply it, but that is more common in writing than in reading.

    4. Progress through "Gregg Speed Studies"

    4b. Is there another book that I should be putting here? Perhaps dictation studies?

    5. Hopefully progress to "Gregg Speed Building"



    Regarding the "r" dropping it is quite hard to give specific examples, it is just that I frequently find that I am uncertain about whether or not a given word "should" have the r dropped. I get that indistinct r will get dropped, but I find that I sometimes disagree. "Firm" as "f-e-m" could be one example. Perhaps "verse" "v-e-s" and "version" "v-e-r-sh" are also examples. Easily learned that any word ending in -verse does not have the r and that -version includes the r, but I would not have necessarily guessed these from first principles. Then "universe" written entirely differently again just cutting off the whole ending with the abbreviating principle. These are all things that can be learned with experience, example and repetition, but it is not always clear to me at least how the decision is made other than empirically through trial/error and finding that certain outlines were ambiguous. 

    1. The keys to mastering Anniversary are: (1) brief forms and phrases, (2) word endings and beginnings, and (3) abbreviating principle (AP). While the manual gives you the rules, it doesn't give you enough practice to solidify these theory points. For that reason, I always recommend the 5000 Most Used Shorthand Forms and the Third Edition of Gregg Speed Studies to be studied with the manual because both books are correlated lesson by lesson with the manual, so you can be reviewing theory, giving you additional examples of words that follow the principles, and at the same time giving you extra reading and writing practice. You can do this while skimming the manual as you're planning to do anyway.

      Once you start your systematic review of theory, you will see there that, for example, "ignorance" and "universe" are written following the AP, and the r in "firm" and "verse" (and anything related to "verse") is omitted (with the exception of "version", because it can be confused with "vision"). These words are all in the 5000 Most Used Shorthand Forms book. A good explanation of the AP can be found in this post and in the preface to the Anniversary dictionary (and I see you had commented on that post before). So, review the outlines presented in the manual, the 5000 Most Used, and GSS Third Edition books until you can write them automatically. You'll see that your dictation speed will increase and you'll be able to write comfortably at 60 wpm for 5 minutes because you won't hesitate as much as you do now.

      After you finish your thorough theory review with those three books, then you can go to a "second semester" book that can take you from 60 to 100 wpm, which would be the minimum required to start speed building with the Gregg Speed Building book (GSB). The "second semester" was dedicated to improve the dictation and transcription skills of the student, while always reviewing the theory concepts that were learned in the beginning shorthand class. There were books published for this second semester: two of them are "Functional Method Dictation" by Louis Leslie (FMD), and "Shorthand Dictation Studies" by Wallace Bowman (SDD). You can study both or just one of them: my preference is using the second edition of SDD since it reviews theory and builds vocabulary slowly but surely, and very systematically, and the shorthand is written beautifully and big. Even though FMD was designed to follow the basic manual, going from the basic to FMD book is a big leap, not only because of the additional phrasing and vocabulary, but the shorthand outlines look like written at a nice dictation pace, deviating sometimes from the artistic standards that Mrs. Richmond used in the basic manual. This can overwhelming for some people at this stage, especially in self-studying. SDD is still written with the same artistic style as the basic manual, so you only worry about learning new words and will not get the shock of having to decipher both the vocabulary and the writing. You can read Joel's (Gregg Student) nice reviews of SDD here and of FMD here

      Once the student can write 100 wpm comfortably for 5 minutes, then the student will be ready to improve dictation speed to approximately 150 wpm using any of the GSB books published for this purpose.

      This is in general the course of study. Other specialized books were published as well for specific dictation fields (medical, legal, reporting, etc.). Your progress will depend on how motivated you are to study and improve your skills.

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