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How to learn shorthand writing

Updated on February 21, 2016

Learning shorthand is easy - it can be done online, at a college, at home with a private tutor or even with a study book. The key is to find the right system that suits you, then practice writing in shorthand until you've mastered it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each different method of learning shorthand. But with each of them, it is possible to learn this unique skill and improve jobs prospects - especially for people who want to work in journalism. There's even nothing wrong with combining different routes, such as taking a college course and having a textbook at home. Or using a private tutor and doing a brief online course.

This article will take a look at the four different ways that people can learn and master Teeline shorthand - the most modern form of shorthand, which is also the easiest and quickest to learn.

All of them will need some sort of payment - it's just not possible to learn shorthand for free, unless you have a very generous teacher with a lot of time on their hands. So be prepared to pay at least $32 for a home study text book.

If you aren't prepared to invest even that small amount in learning a skill that will improve your job prospects and give you the advantage over other students and employees, then don't carry on reading!

If you are prepared to invest a little time and money in learning shorthand, then congratulations. The rest is easy, you just have to find which way to go next. So read on.

Learning shorthand online

Learning shorthand online is a very new way of teaching this skill, which dates back to the 19th century when Sir Isaac Pitman invented Pitman shorthand. The internet has revolutionized teaching by providing distance learning courses that students can do in their own homes, working at their own speed.

Shorthand is just one of many subjects that can be taught online. Even though it's a very hands-on skill, that requires a tutor to analyze people's writing and advise on how the notes can be improved, it is still possible to learn shorthand with an online course. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the lack of face-to-face contact with a tutor, who would be able to give instant advice and feedback.

Learning shorthand online has become increasingly popular with the invention of the Internet
Learning shorthand online has become increasingly popular with the invention of the Internet | Source

For people considering an online course, it is best for them to take one in Teeline Shorthand. Teeline is the simplest and quickest form of shorthand to learn, which makes it suitable for online classes.

These classed range in price from £50 for a basic beginners course to £500 for an advanced class. Some of these courses have fairly good reviews, so for people who have enough money and want to learn from home could be best to go down this route.

Online shorthand courses are also best for students in countries such as India, where shorthand is not taught widely and there is a very limited number of classes and tutors.

For a detailed introduction to shorthand, see this hub.

Shorthand classes

So learning shorthand online while sitting at your computer is not for you. The next option is to attend a class.

Now, if you're taking a journalism training course or university degree in journalism, the chances are that if it's a reputable course a module in Teeline, Pitman, or Gregg shorthand will be included. Some courses teach shorthand in the second year, and others do it in the third year. So if you've just started your degree and want to learn shorthand, check with your teachers if it is included before you run out and spend your precious student loan on a shorthand course.

If you are keen - and boy, you're going to have to be to succeed in journalism - then buy a home study text book to give you a head start. See the section below on shorthand books.

If you're not a university student, then some other private journalism training colleges and fast-track courses also include a shorthand module. Before choosing a training course, make sure that it does. You won't be able to get a job in journalism without shorthand! (If you don't believe me, see this video of the Sun's managing editor speaking about why shorthand is 'absolutely vital' for journalists.

If you'd like to learn shorthand for its many benefits, and you have no interest in a career in journalism, then the best provider of classes in the UK is Pitman Training. They have classes available at venues around the country, and they are perhaps the leading provider of courses.

Private shorthand tutors

Shorthand tutors are available for private lessons around the UK. It's also likely that many are also available in the U.S., although for students in India and Asia it's unlikely that you will be able to find a teacher, or even class for that matter. So for people in these countries the best route is to do an online course, or come to the UK as a student (although that's going to be a whole lot more complicated and expensive!).

To find a private shorthand tutor check the NCJT list of approved teachers. They cost around £20 per lesson and students will need a minimum of one lesson a week for at least four months if they are to achieve a good writing speed of roughly 80 words a minute. That's the absolute basic amount of lessons somebody will need to learn shorthand from beginner, and will cost around £300.

Students on university degrees tend to have two hour lessons every day for around four months in order to learn 100 words a minute. Though even then, many students still don't get up to even 80 words a minute.

So for people thinking of hiring a private tutor to learn shorthand, you can see that it's going to be pretty expensive to learn at the same rate that somebody in a class will. The advantage is that you have the teacher's attention for the whole lesson, and unlike online courses the tutor will be able to give instant feedback to aid learning.

Private tutors are perhaps best if you either have an employer footing the bill for regular lessons, or you already know shorthand and need a refresher for a few weeks.

Home study text book

The market for home study shorthand text books is quite limited, and the range is not brilliant. However, by picking the right book it is possible to get a good introduction to Teeline - the most modern form of shorthand. It's also possible to use the same book as a reference manual throughout your career. (See right for the best shorthand text book to learn quickly and easily).

The shorthand text book option is best for people who don't want to spend lots of money, and want a quick and easy way to begin learning shorthand.

Professionals who learned shorthand several years ago but feel they are 'a bit rusty' and need to pick up their shorthand writing speed, benefit greatly from picking up a text book.

The best shorthand book currently available is produced by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). It's called Teeline Gold and it was recommend to me by a shorthand tutor and it is the most popular shorthand book. Being produced by the industry body, you also know that the standard will be good.

You can pick up a copy of Teeline Gold on Amazon for around £18 ($30) and they are shipped internationally.

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