Learn shorthand writing online
A brief introduction to shorthand
Shorthand is essential for anybody who works in or is planning to work as a journalist in the news media. This included reporters, editors and broadcasters on newspapers, magazines and TV or radio stations.
Authors and researchers will also benefit from using shorthand when they interview people for research. Writing in shorthand is also commonly used by secretaries and people who regularly take notes in meetings.
Students benefit greatly from knowing shorthand as they're able to take down lecture notes quickly and easily. Lawyers and solicitors who often have to make notes from legal speeches in courts can also use shorthand to make sure that they can write quickly.
Shorthand is a way to record speech very quickly and accurately. If you've ever tried writing down somebody's words while they are speaking you will know how incredibly difficult this can be. In fact, it's impossible to actually write down everything that somebody says.
People speak on average 180 words a minute - that's three words a second. Can you write three words a second? No, thought not! That's why professionals and academics need an accurate note-taking system that is guaranteed to be correct 100 per cent of the time. Each word is important, and learning shorthand is the perfect way to ensure that nothing is missed.
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What is shorthand
Shorthand is a speed writing system that allows people to take notes very quickly and accurately. It was first developed by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837 in a style known as Pitman shorthand. Pitman is phonetic and uses symbols to represent the sound that words make. Pressing harder with a pen on certain symbols to create a darker mark also creates different meaning for a word.
Pitman shorthand is considered the most difficult form of shorthand and it can take two to three years to learn. In the US Pitman has been overtaken by Gregg shorthand and in the UK Teeline Shorthand is now widely taught.
Teeline Shorthand is the quickest form of teeline to learn. Within a couple of months people can be writing accurately at a speed of 50 words per minute.
The technique uses parts of letters to represent the whole letter or groups of letters. For example, a vertical line represents the letter h. This is formed by taking away the curved part of the h and just leaving the stick part of the original letter which looks like this I.
The letter r is represented by a forward leaning line that looks like this /. This is because when Rs were written by hand the upright part of the R often leant forward.
Now it's possible to put the I of the h and the / of the R together. This represents a word that uses h and r as it's main letters. The symbol looks like this I/ and it could represent the word hour, hair or here among others. The context of the rest of the sentence will determine what word it is.
Tips for learning shorthand
- Use a ring bound reporters notepad. The size of paper is just right to make note taking as quick as possible.
- Draw a line down the left-hand side to create a margin where key words of the notes can be jotted down in order to provide quick reference points later
- Try translating newspaper articles in shorthand as quickly as possible then read the notes back to yourself to make sure you understand them.
- Take deep breaths to keep calm and relaxed when writing in shorthand. Try a few stretches to limber up the finger muscles and make them responsive.
- Press down very lightly with the pen so that it glides effortlessly across the page. Pressing hard and trying to go too fast creates tension and will slow writing down.
- If you've missed a word because it was too long or complicated quickly go back over the passage during a gap in speech and fill in the word.
- Try transcribing somebody else's shorthand. This will help you to recognises outlines and words easier.
Why do we need shorthand?
If you are planning to become a journalist in print, TV, radio or magazine then you'll definitely need to be able to write in shorthand. Regardless of what some people say about using dictaphones or other recording devices, shorthand is an essential skill for any journalist. If you can write in shorthand, you will be more likely to get a job. In general, your abilities as a journalist will be rated more highly than somebody who doesn't know shorthand.
Even if you're a freelance writer or author trying to have your work published then you will need to interview people for quotes and research. Shorthand will prove very useful for note-taking.
Working as a journalist or writer will involve interviewing people. You will need to write down snippets of what they say. They will be talking far too quickly - 180 words a minute is the average speed of normal speech - to write in longhand. This is where shorthand comes in. You can make accurate copies of what is being said. Recording equipment is legally not allowed in courts, inquests, tribunals, disciplinary hearings. This is why you will have to accurately report what has been said. And believe me, it's almost impossible to remember long sentences and jot them down accurately in longhand.
Recording equipment Vs shorthand
The media is fast paced. There is often not time to record interviews on Dictaphones. It is far quicker to write the quotes in shorthand and quickly read them back rather than skip through hours of a recording to find one line that yo want to use. What's more, if the the recording equipment runs out of power then there's no way back. Plus, people are very impressed by shorthand and it looks cool.
Quite simply, being on top of your game with shorthand makes the difference between being an excellent journalist and writer or an average one who's always walking the tightrope of missing quotes.
How can I learn Shorthand?
Anybody who is enrolled on a journalism course at a college or university should have shorthand lessons included in the package. But perhaps you want to learn shorthand to boost your CV, for work as a secretariat, or maybe in the past you could write in shorthand and want to improve the skills you once had. Whatever the case, having face-to-face lessons with a tutor is always the best method. This allows the teacher to give feedback on your own work and help you out quickly with problems you may have had. Tutors will also include with their lessons all the necessary equipment such as work books and recordings.
It's essential that shorthand students listen to recordings of speech to practise. One fun way to practice is to write in shorthand what is being said on the news, in a TV program or in a song on the radio. The more varied and fun you make it the easier it will become.
People who do not see a private or class tutor can take lessons online or through a study book available online in shops like Amazon. This can be effective but for anybody who is starting for the first time, it helps to have somebody explaining shorthand face-to-face and answer any questions.
Many journalism courses at colleges and universities will teach shorthand with daily two hour lessons for a whole academic year. In addition to the two hours of lessons it's recommended that students practice for at least an hour each night - three hours a day or 15 hours a week. And that's not including weekends!