Shorthand is any system for writing quickly, and it is especially useful for writing down speech. The concept of shorthand has been around as long as writing itself. Ancient cultures in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China all had simplified forms of their standard script. Today, shorthand remains a valuable tool for those working in journalism, business, and government. Learning an efficient form of shorthand takes time and practice, but is definitely doable!
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a shorthand system
Step 1. Consider several factors before choosing a method
There are several shorthand systems. Consider the following:
- How much time do you have to learn the system?
- How fast do you want to be able to write?
- Is there a standard system that you can use within your profession?
Step 2. Choose Gregg Pre-Anniversary, Gregg Anniversary or New Era Pitman for maximum speed
Gregg and Pitman have been the most widely used systems since the 1800s, and both have been ported from English to multiple languages.
- Gregg was developed by John Robert Gregg in 1888 and has undergone several changes since then. Gregg Pre-Anniversary and Anniversary refer to the system as described in 1916 and 1929 respectively. There are many symbols to memorize, but the advantage is that you can write 200 words per minute after that.
- Pitman was developed by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837. New Era Pitman, a streamlined version of the original theory, dating back to 1922, is quite complex, but it can also reach speeds of 200 words per minute. Because thick and thin lines indicate different sounds, you need a pen with a wider tip to write. You also need lined paper, because those lines are also part of the system.
Step 3. Choose Gregg Simplified if you want to write fast and master it faster
With Gregg Simplified you can still reach a speed of 200 words per minute. Introduced by McGraw-Hill in 1949, this version was the first form of shorthand intended for business, not court. There is much less to be learned by heart, compared to Gregg Anniversary.
Step 4. Learn Gregg Diamond Jubilee or Pitman 2000 if you have less time
With these methods, you can still achieve up to 160 words per minute, but it takes a lot less time.
Step 5. Use an alphabetical system if you want to learn something quickly
Unlike symbol systems, where lines, arcs and circles represent sounds, alphabetic systems are based on the alphabet. This makes it easier to learn, although you can't achieve the same speeds with the previous systems. But a good stenographer can still get up to 120 words per minute with it.
Three examples are: Speedwriting, AlphaHand and Keyscript
Step 6. Choose Teeline Shorthand if you are a journalist
Teeline is a hybrid system, based largely on the alphabet. It is the preferred shorthand of the National Council for the Training of Journalists in the UK, where it is taught to journalism students.
Part 2 of 3: Gathering shorthand material
Step 1. Go to the library or bookstore and look for books on learning shorthand
You can of course also order books on shorthand.
- Many books on shorthand are probably no longer available. That is why the library or online bookstores can probably offer you the largest selection.
- Some books on shorthand are now freely available (public domain) and can be downloaded straight away.
Step 2. Search for old "lesson packages
"If you want to teach yourself shorthand, these packages are designed for that. You will find sound recordings with dictations, texts, exercises and additional teaching materials.
Keep in mind that you will probably need a cassette player or record player for this
Step 3. Search for a shorthand dictionary for your system
Then you can look up how to write certain words within a shorthand system.
Step 4. Take advantage of the various online shorthand resources
These are tutorials, lecture notes and shorthand examples.
Step 5. Sign up for shorthand lessons
Such classes may be offered online or in person.
Make sure you are aware of the course requirements and that you have enough time in your schedule to study
Part 3 of 3: Practicing shorthand
Step 1. Start with realistic expectations
Claims that you can learn shorthand in a few hours should be taken with a grain of salt. How long it takes depends on how often you practice, the difficulty of the system, and your target speed. It can take a year of hard work to master really useful shorthand.
Step 2. Go for mastering the system and only then for speed
You will have to learn the principles of building words first. Speed is then the result.
Step 3. Practice every day
In any case, try studying for 45 minutes to an hour, if you can. Remember that daily short sessions are better than one or two long sessions per week.
Step 4. Train yourself in parts
Start with the alphabet, and fill each line of a sheet of paper with one-letter lines. Then continue with the words, doing the same. When you're done, move on to the commonly used phrases.
By saying the words out loud while writing, you link the phonemic sounds with the symbol in your brain
Step 5. Increase your speed by making listening exercises
Shorthand dictations come in different speeds (words per minute), so you can gradually get faster.
- Practice each speed (30, 40, 50, 60, etc.) until you can handle it easily, then move on.
- If you want to practice as much as possible, put your dictations on an MP3 player and practice whenever you have a few extra minutes to spare.
- It is best to convert minutes written in shorthand to plain writing as soon as possible, while the full meaning of your shorthand is still fresh in your mind.
- Make sure you have plenty of cheap paper – you will need it. Make sure that it is smooth and firm, so that there are no creases, which will slow you down.
- Other writing systems for writing faster have also been developed, sacrificing less of legibility than shorthand. These systems differ from shorthand in that you don't have to learn new symbols, but abbreviations for words.