Clickable dictation at various speeds is available at the bottom of this page. The transcript of the dictation appears here as well.
When I first started to write shorthand, I liked using a pencil. It dragged on the paper and that felt right. But the faster I got, the more than drag annoyed me. Worse yet, as the pencil point gets duller and duller, my notes got larger and larger (what the article calls scrawling). I've heard of high-speed writers who still prefer the pencil (they're Pitman writers) and some now use a mechanical pencil so the pencil point stays the same width. But Gregg books always insisted the pen was better--first, the fountain pen; then, the ballpoint. And, while we're on the topic, do not put the cap of the pen back on the barrel if you're using a fountain pen since it throws off the balance. (Hey, don't blame me; I'm just paraphrasing the Gregg books here.)
Gregg Speed Building, Gregg Publishing Company, 1932, p 54-56
Pen or Pencil?
The question whether the pen or the pencil should be preferred for stenographic writing must, naturally, be of great interest to every shorthand student.
Eight reasons may be stated which should induce very young writer to educate himself from the very beginning of his practice to do his stenographic writing with the pen, whenever circumstances will allow him to do so:
1. Less muscular exertion is required in using the pen. Hence, the pen writer works for long periods with less fatigue than the pencil writer.
2. The pen permits and promotes a lightness of touch that is out of the question with the pencil. This lightness of touch contributes largely to speed.
3. Pen notes are better adapted for preservation than pencil notes, which tend to blur with even ordinary handling. Notes that are to be filed away as a record should not be written with a pencil.
4. Pen notes are more legible than pencil notes, especially when they must be read at night. The young stenographer, looking forward to coming years, should preserve his sight carefully as a part of his business equipment, and should realize that he cannot afford to abuse the only pair of eyes he will ever have.
5. Neater notes can be made with the pen than with the pencil, as the latter tends to encourage a habit of scrawling. The scrawling writer is nearly always a pencil writer. Some of the neatest writers in our profession use the pen constantly.
6. Pencil notes can seldom be transcribed (as pen notes constantly are) by other persons than the writer. Such transcription by assistants is an immense advantage of many a hard-working reporter and executive.
7. The general opinion of almost every reporter whose early habits have not prevented him from giving the pen a fair trial is decidedly in favor of the pen. All the official reporting of the United States Senate for forty years has been done with the pen.
8. The pencil point is liable to break at a most critical moment.
Charles Swem has this to say about the selection of a pen:
“It is impossible for the pen maker to make a pen possessing both an extreme fineness of line and smoothness of point. In the very nature of things, a fine point is bound to dig into the paper and scratch, especially under pressure; and, by the same token, a blunter point, making a heavier line, will glide smoothly over the paper without digging into it. The ideal shorthand point is somewhere between these extremes.
“The shorthand reporter, who requires the most of a pen, chooses a point that the average stenographer would consider blunt. From experience he knows that, while he is sacrificing the finer line, the blunter point gives him greater speed and ease of operation. In purchasing a pen he spends most of his care upon seeing that he gets one with a free flow. He knows that, whatever point he chooses, the very process of ‘breaking it in,’ to which he will subject it, will eventually broaden it till it makes a smooth, frictionless line.
“Most pen dissatisfaction is caused by the insistence upon both a very fine line and a smooth point. Both are impossible in the same pen. There is a happy compromise between the two, with the emphasis always to be placed upon the smooth, easy contact rather than the fine, scratchy line.”—David Wolfe Brown
For more information on shorthand speed building, click here.
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"!
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.
PLEASE ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME FOR THE DICTATION TO LOAD depending upon your internet connection and the size of the dictation file. Slower dictation files are bigger.
The dictation material above is copyrighted, all rights reserved.