Shorthand marker’s blog: tackling unfamiliar outlines

blurry shorthand pagesIt often seems that one word can stop a student in their tracks when taking a shorthand note.  It does not have to be a word with a particularly difficult outline, sometimes it is just a word that has not been written very often.

At the speeds below 80 words per minute there is time to recover from the mild panic which inevitably sets in when an unfamiliar outline fails to spring to mind.  At the higher speeds there is probably not enough time to ponder the issue (which reminds me, ISSUE is one of the outlines that caught a few students out in a recent exam).

So what can be done to save the day? My advice to students who are reading this, is as follows.  Accept when attempting any shorthand exercise or exam that there is the possibility that an outline will not spring instantly to mind. The secret to success depends on how you react to such an occurrence. First of all, do not be distracted from what is being said. Keep listening. Secondly, DO NOT spend time trying to recall the exact piece of theory that is required to create the perfect outline.  DO make sure you create an outline which includes at least the first syllable.  Remember that the context of the sentence may well help you when it comes to transcribing.

My advice to shorthand tutors is, firstly, to go over with students what I have just written. This does not detract from the need to expose students to as wide a vocabulary as possible. You can help achieve this, for example, by dictating passages from newspapers, rather than just relying on shorthand scripts.

I also suggest that it is helpful to regularly include revision of a specific piece of theory when you are trying to build speed. We all know how easy it is to forget such word endings as ‘INGLY’ or ‘TIVITY’ and that is because they do not come up in dictation very often.  Of course, when they do, they could be the outline that causes a student to press the panic button.

For the record, the following words made some students falter in a recent exam – ‘increasingly’, ‘sufficient’ and ‘arrangements’.

With regard to the last of these words I decided to refer to the Teeline Gold Word List which was compiled back in the 1980s by Mavis Smith and Anne Tilly. Although the intersecting R principle is suggested, the use of the ANG ending for ANGE is not. Theory has moved on since this publication and students now have the benefit of a neat outline of two A indicators and the small M outline in the T position for the MENT ending. The only problem is, the student has to bring this to mind in a flash. That is why repetition is so important.

To all shorthand tutors, don’t forget the shorthand seminar is coming up on Tuesday, 9 June in London. This year it is being held at De Morgan House in Russell Square. You will be pleased to hear that last year’s popular ‘speed networking’ is back on the programme along with a ’recording pod’ for all to contribute to and a walk-through of the shorthand resources which are available on the NCTJ website.