Each practice period should begin with a review of position, careful study of the arm, fingers, and penholding, and practice of the preceding movements without touching the pen to the paper. While going through these preliminary drills, the eyes should travel up and down the arm from finger-tips to elbow, and the pupils should be sure that the writing machine has been carefully adjusted, and is in perfect working order before the pen touches the paper. See that the arm is perfectly relaxed and that the wrist does not touch the desk.
Read the following carefully until thoroughly understood. It is of especial value to beginners. Before making the oval drill or attempting any part of it, move the pen in the air rapidly over the path of the first oval several times. While doing this, watch closely the movement of the muscles of the arm. While the pen is moving rapidly, and without checking its motion, let it strike the paper. The force thus gathered will compel light, quick action, break up finger motion, give smooth lines, and aid form building.
The compact oval is the repeated form of a large capital O. Keep this constantly in mind, and learn at once to criticise it with special reference to the slant, width, and general formation of a capital O a little more than twice the size used in writing.
Mind and muscle must work in perfect harmony to secure the best results.
Before beginning the practice of any drill or letter, study its form closely, part by part, and as a complete whole. In what direction does the pen move to make the first line? See that the pen moves in that direction before coming in contact with the paper. Be sure that the speed is neither too fast nor too slow, but such as will make two hundred complete ovals to a minute. Do not guess about the speed, but use a watch.
If the oval is too wide, it is because of too nearly circular motion, and you should use more of the forward and backward motion of the straight line exercise. If too narrow, it is because too much of the straight line motion was used, and the movement should be more nearly circular. Remember the connection between mind, muscle, and motion.
When the oval is too narrow, repeat to yourself, “Wider, wider, rounder, rounder, rounder, rounder,” until it is wide enough. If the oval presents a back slant appearance when finished, it is because the downward strokes were made toward the right elbow instead of the center of the body.
On the other hand, if the oval slants too much, it is because the downward strokes were made toward the left shoulder instead of the center of the body — always providing that instructions relating to position have been strictly followed.
When pupils make the ovals fairly well, they are ready to begin to apply muscular movement to words and sentences. The ovals given above are twelve-sixteenths of an inch high, and the letters in the word “mine” (called minimum letters) are about one-twelfth as high, or one-sixteenth of an inch. Thus, these ovals are twelve times as high as the minimum letters; therefore little force is required to make a minimum letter, compared with the muscular effort used in making ovals. To make the m and n round at the top, the over-motion must be used, while to make the connective lines of the i and e the use of the under-motion is necessary. In the words “uses” and “sell” the under-motion is used in forming the first lines in all letters as well as in connective lines. The speed should be such as will permit good formation, and produce sharp, clear-cut lines.
Good practice speed for these words is “mine,” eighteen; “uses,” twenty: and “sell,” twenty-two, to the minute. These words should be practiced now until they can be written well, and should be reviewed frequently. Practicing them at this stage with muscular movement will give students confidence and should encourage them to use, constantly, muscular movement in all written work. Other easy words may be selected from the Manual and practiced occasionally. It is a distinct advantage to study frequently at this stage lessons 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, and 32, and to practice drills 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 33.