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    Clickable dictation at various speeds is available at the bottom of this page. The transcript of the dictation appears here as well.

    We are still hearing about the life of a court stenographer of 100 years ago. Advice for a "light hand" still rings true today. Pressing down too hard on the pen wastes energy and time. I'm not sure about the cramps; I never took dictation that long to find out. As for the ruling of the paper or notebook used in taking dictation, Pitman writers still use a rule that is different from that of Gregg writers. Here in the United States, I haven't even been able to find Pitman Ruled notebooks any more. I'm not sure what to make of the phrasing advice. Too many phrases will slow someone down but newer versions of every system aren't as heavily invested in phrases as systems were in the past. In other words, it depends upon the system you write.

 Shorthand Instructor, Pitman’s Shorthand, Isaac Pitman, 1905, p. 210

Chapter XXXVI.  Legal Forms (Continued)
          Most stenographer use pen and ink for law reporting.  At least two reasons for this usage exist:  first, shorthand notes of judicial proceedings are required, by law, to be preserved for a specified period; these constitute an official record and this should be durably made; ink, better than pencil, notes meet this requirement; second, the gliding of a gold pen over properly finished paper is supposed to create the minimum degree of friction; and, third, greater manual dexterity is believed to be possible with a flexible gold pen than with any other writing implement.  A “light hand”—that is, the application of the least possible pressure—in the making of the mystic strokes, circles, dots, and dashes, is generally conceded to be favorable to increase of speed and a deterrent to so-called pen-paralysis or writer’s cramp.
          The majority of law reporters use specially prepared reporting paper with marginal and horizontal ruling.  A few refuse to use any but unruled paper.  Some practitioners use loose sheets of reporting paper while a large number prefer the elastic-bound reporting notebooks.  One advantage of unbound sheets is that the notes comprising each case may, at its conclusion, be fastened together in book form, properly endorsed and filed away for preservation.  In case the reporter desires to dictate to more than one amanuensis from different parts of his notes, loose sheets are perhaps more convenient.
          Experienced law stenographers use few phrases.  These seldom exceed three words.  The phrasing principle is usually limited to what is known as “natural” phrases which, broadly speaking, means combinations of such words as are frequently grouped in ordinary speech.
          Special phrases are sometimes adopted.  These grow out of the peculiar nature of the subject matter reported.  For instance, in legal form No. 25, the phrase “liquor-tax-law” was coined for that particular case.  It would, undoubtedly, be legible in that case while in general use it might not be decipherable.

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Instructions for Self-Dictation Practice:
    Copy and paste the above article into a word-processing document, using double or triple spacing and 12- or 14-pitch type.
    As always, be sure to check your shorthand dictionary for correct outlines before "drilling"!

Dictation Practice:
    Note that the material was counted and recorded for dictation at 100; all other speeds were copied from the 100 take and electronically adjusted and may therefore sound unusual.

60 wpm 80 wpm 100 wpm 120 wpm 140 wpm

The dictation material above is copyrighted, all rights reserved.

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Gregg Shorthand Pitman Shorthand Speedwriting Shorthand