Today’s post, unfortunately, will only benefit around 10% of the Teeline-writing community, but it might provide some interesting insight into the affliction that is left-handedness for all you lucky right-handers.
At risk of sounding like I’m making excuses, I do think it’s trickier to write shorthand when you’re left-handed. I spoke to my shorthand tutor about this, and she said that her previous group contained three lefties, all of whom struggled a bit to varying extents as a result of their hand preference. I’ve had a look online for tips myself, as there are a couple of issues related to being left-handed to do with shorthand, but there is nothing whatsoever online. Therefore, I thought I’d bring to you, my left-handed friends, my own makeshift tips.
The major problem is, as shown above, the spiral-bound top of the reporter’s notepad. I, like a lot of lefties, write in a sort of ‘hook’ position from above the writing. This is usually something picked up from childhood, in an attempt not to smudge ink as we write across the page. The spiral binding, therefore, provides something of an obstacle – where do you comfortably put your hand when it needs to rest above the writing? I’ve worked out that usually the top five or six lines of my notepad are out of bounds.
The above picture is an example of how I was writing for the first eight weeks of the course. As you might be able to tell, the top few lines are written with pretty inconsistent outlines, reflecting how it’s quite tricky to control the pen properly when you’re balancing your hand precariously on the irritating spirals. It might not be obvious if you don’t know Teeline, but I can really notice how wobbly and erratic the top lines are compared to the rest. That’s why I decided last week to start writing like this…:
Above, you can see how much space a hand takes up when you have to account for the obstacle of the spiral. For some reason, I decided to stick with this dodgy, paper-wasting technique for a bit, before I realised, hang on, why not eliminate the problem of the spiral? Hence…:
A fat brick of a non-spiral bound notepad! Hooray! I wedge my shorthand textbook up against the top of the notepad to provide extra support for my hand when writing on the top lines, which also helps a lot. I’ve had no trouble at all using the entire page since using this type of notebook. It’s not the exact same dimensions as a standard reporter’s notepad, but obviously it’s much more important that I have a notepad I can use efficiently.
Now, we end up with writing from the top of the page, which is obviously a lot more sensible, as it gives me more time before having to manically flip the page to continue with what I’m writing. A plus, in my book.
Another issue is the type of pen you use. Gel pens are out of the question, as the ink just doesn’t dry fast enough, and obviously having smudges all over the page isn’t ideal. I tried a very thin felt tip for a little bit, but that just seemed to slip across the page, and didn’t give me enough control. The best pen seems to be a decent quality biro, as anything cheap tends to blotch ink onto the paper, which again, will be picked up as the left hand travels over what you’ve already written, hence the smudge risk.
A problem I’ve not yet found a solution to is the friction and positioning of the hand on the page. The friction is a problem because as a left-handed writer, I tend to find my hand makes a lot of contact with the page, which obviously slows me down quite a lot. The positioning is problematic because you have to ‘push’, rather than ‘pull’ the pen across the page, as a right-handed person would do. Having to ‘push’ the strokes sometimes means it feels quite unnatural to write some of the outlines, and I frequently find myself writing into dead-ends where I’ve written something backwards, meaning I’ll have to abandon the outline or perform a quick correction. Also, as most right-handed people write from below the writing line, it is fairly easy to judge where the writing will go, and to place the hand in an appropriate position and write ‘into the wrist’, so to speak. Writing from above and behind the word as a left-hander, though, means the hand is always dragging behind the writing, which I believe slows me down quite a lot. If anyone has any suggestions here, please throw them my way!
I did find out that Gregg shorthand has a form of mirror-writing, whereby left-handers may learn this type of shorthand backwards, i.e. from right-to-left across the page. I’m not convinced that this is the most elegant solution, as obviously I’m used to writing left-to-right, so it’d be a bit of a nightmare learning a). shorthand and b). backward shorthand.
Having said all this, though, I’m determined not to let this get in the way of attaining my 100wpm. I have an 80wpm exam on Friday, which I’m dreading as I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet after only ten weeks of learning shorthand, but I’ll give it my best shot. If any lefties can offer me any advice before then, I’d be incredibly grateful! But until Friday, it’s the standard evenings of listening to Marie Cartwright’s dulcet tones, and drilling the practice passages we’ve been given. Frustrating, but it has to be done!