Copying on Paper - Best Practice?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KN4I, Aug 8, 2016.

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  1. KN4I

    KN4I Ham Member QRZ Page

    This may not be the correct location for this question, however, I know I will get an answer from this group.
    (Note: I do not have an Elmer to answer this question.)

    In learning and copying CW (Koch method), I noticed that it seems to take too long lettering out certain capital letters, especially letters like 'E', 'F', 'H', and 'I' that takes more than two pen strokes. I wonder what is the best practice is for copying to paper?

    Does, or has, the members of this forum used a combination of capital, lowercase, and cursive letters?

    What seems to work the best for fast copy?

    Also, I noticed that I make somewhat of a greek letter phi (circle with a vertical line through it) for the number 0, to differentiate it from the letter O. I wonder about the number 7 versus the number 1, and the number 5 and the letter S.

    How does the members of this forum handle this, especially when taking down code at a fast rate?

    Sorry for asking the above, but it is better to get into good habits early rather than to have to work harder to undo bad habits.

    de KN4I
  2. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've been helping with a CW class at my club, and I'm only a couple of years into learning the code myself.

    I've seen people do it various ways. Personally, I prefer copying to a keyboard, because I can type legibly at 80+ wpm, and I can't write anywhere near that fast.

    But since I like to operate portable QRP, sometimes I prefer to take a pencil and paper along instead of a computer. When I use paper, I write in block letters, because I learned to use that style of writing fast when taking notes in school.

    In the class I've been helping with, the main instructor suggests using cursive, lower case, since that's usually fastest for most people. But it's a suggestion, not an absolute mandate.

    I guess I'd say do whatever seems fastest.

    However, if you want to really improve your speed, stop writing things down. Practice copying words and sentences directly into your brain, with no intermediate writing of each letter. Sure, keep a pencil & paper around to jot down call signs, names, signal reports and that sort of thing for the log, but only write down the things you would be writing down if you were in a voice QSO. Most of the banter can be better enjoyed by letting it go straight from the ears into the head.

    Regarding number vs letter confusion, usually context makes it clear. There are situations like call signs where some ambiguity remains (was that ki1lk, or k1ilk? But call signs are generally repeated enough, and you can take your time and legibly write them in the unambiguous way that suits you best.
    WA7DU likes this.
  3. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Trying to figure why it matters if upper or lower case letters ? At slower speeds printing is OK but have always used longhand (cursive) normally my handwriting is very large but when copying code go with much smaller letters. At this point don't write it all down just make notes this will come in time. Good Luck.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't write anything down, and use CW every day -- have for 51 years now.

    When "teaching" the code to students just learning, I never encourage them to write anything down, either. Unless you're copying a telephone number, address, URL or something you won't likely remember and is mission-critical, I can't think of any reason to write anything down.

    When someone speaks to you in person or on the telephone, do you write down what they say?

    The whole idea of "getting it on paper" seems to me to only prevent really hearing the code and understanding it. I've had people "respond" to my code transmissions as much as a minute later -- and I find out that's because they wrote everything down without understanding what any of it said, so they went back to read it! What a huge waste of time and energy...

    Listen to the code, and use it a lot, and you'll find yourself not writing anything except what you really need to remember (perhaps for logging purposes, like the other station's callsign, band, date, time, name, or whatever you feel the need to retain). Code goes a lot faster and smoother when you stop killing trees.:)
    KE5OFJ, WF9Q, KC8VWM and 2 others like this.
  5. W4PG

    W4PG Super Moderator Lifetime Member 279 Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    What Steve said!!!! (WB2WIK)

    When I came along (1970), the CW test consisted of 5 minutes of code sent and you were required to write down and show 1 full minute of perfect copy. So I came up in the day where you had to write down on paper every character if you wanted to pass the test. NOT GOOD! As Steve said, do you write down what someone says to you during a conversation? Hardly.

    Learn to read code in your head WITHOUT writing it down, just as you would speak to someone else without writing down what they say. Writing will SLOW you down and prevent you from achieving speeds much above 25 to 30 WPM, which is as fast as I can write. It has to go all in my head beyond that and I've suffered my entire ham career because of learning to write rather than purely copying it in my head.

    W4KYR and KB0TT like this.
  6. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Back when I was a Novice a few decades ago, there was an article circulating that had a few tips on morse shorthand. I have just now searched the QST and 73 archives but came up blanks.

    I don't believe I made any radical changes to my copying style. The main difference I recall was for "E", the most common and fastest character..just making a dot.

    I learned early on to leave a space or underline for missed characters

    The old timers often recommended copying in lower case cursive. My hand writing has always been abominable and unreadable, so I always print. Learning to economize movements by leaving off serifs helps speed things.

    Since much of my effort was towards accuracy in naval messages, I tended to make the extra effort in characters that would be unmistakable. Slashing Zeros has been a ham and radio practice since the beginning. I learned to use the European characters such as a Slashed Seven, Slashed Z, as well. A vertical Slashed S (e.g. dollar sign) differentiates between 5 and S when time allows. One can be made with a long upward and downward slash. Two is a Z without the slash.

    There are many shortcuts that you can develop personally, such as a high - for T. Whatever suits your inclination.


    p.s. I see nothing wrong with learning to copy to paper (or to a keyboard). As your speed increases you naturally shift to head copy for casual work. Record copy will always be to paper or keyboard. You need to be able to copy to paper quickly for that, so learn to do it first. We don't force babies to run before they can crawl, do we? ;)
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016
    K3EY and KB0TT like this.
  7. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's funny that even though I can 'head copy' easily at 25 WPM I find that at SLOW speed I HAVE to write it down! If I don't, I can't get any comprehension as to what's being sent.
    KI5WW and WF9Q like this.
  8. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I find it's helpful to multi-task. I read the newspaper or a magazine or something while also copying slower code. Somehow makes it seem to work better.
  9. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'll try it... I knew those "Masked Marvel" comic books would come in handy again some day!

    Bobby, back on the subject of 'head copy': Try tuning in W1AW code practice and do something else around the shack. Do 'listen', but don't 'concentrate'. After a while doing this you should notice that you start hearing words... it takes a while but the point of this is to make it almost a subconscious comprehension. Listen 'over your head' too... some days they start slow and go faster, some days fast then slow, listen to it all. You might be surprised at what you can do!
    KB0TT likes this.
  10. K8PRG

    K8PRG Ham Member QRZ Page

    You'll always hear this "don't write anything...head copy" stuff from those that have been at it since they never used a pencil when they were first learning......don't tell me you didn't cuzz I ain't buying it.
    Write it down till you no longer need to...easy as that. Takes some longer (like myself) than others.....there's no law against copying what you hear.......
    KB0TT, N2EY and K3XR like this.

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