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Speed-Writing: How to Write Shorthand, A Skill Worth Knowing


From lecture notes to study notes, college involves a lot of writing. Not only do you need to write frequently, but you also need to write at a decent speed in order to keep up with lecturers while they are talking. This would make it worthwhile for you to learn shorthand. Let’s get an understanding of what shorthand writing is, why it’s a valuable skill to have, and how you can start learning how to write shorthand.

What is Shorthand?

A male student at the University of the People practicing shorthand.

Photo by Burst from Pexels

Shorthand is a system of writing that uses symbols to represent letters, words, or phrases. Writing with shorthand symbols allows you to write at a quicker speed than traditional handwriting. You will soon learn that shorthand is also used by many professionals, in places such as law courts.

There is more than one type of shorthand writing. The first modern system was developed by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837. In his system, Pitman used symbols to represent the sounds made by words. This system is known as Pitman shorthand, and is still popular in the UK today.

In 1888, John Robert Gregg published his own system of shorthand. While he studied Pitman shorthand, he decided to make changes that he thought would improve the shorthand system. He then took the Gregg shorthand system to the United States, where it has since become the most popular form of shorthand.

Another well-known form of shorthand writing is Teeline. It is one of the newer systems as it was developed in 1968. This system got quite a lot of popularity in the British commonwealth, where it is often taught to journalists.

How To Write Shorthand

Step 1: Choose A System

Firstly, you need to choose which system you want to learn. Consider how much time you have to learn the system, as well as how fast you want to be able to write. Some of the quicker systems of shorthand are newer versions of Pitman and Gregg shorthand. Examples of these are Gregg Pre-Anniversary, Gregg Anniversary, and New Era Pitman. If you have limited time, the quicker versions of shorthand to learn are Gregg Diamond Jubilee and Pitman 2000.

Let’s take a look at the main shorthand systems that you can choose from:

  • Pitman Shorthand

If you master this form of shorthand, you should be able to write 200 words per minute. This system uses thick and thin strokes to represent different sounds, so you will need a steel-tipped pen to write this type of shorthand. The system also uses a lot of dots and dashes.

  • Gregg Shorthand

This system indicates vowels with circles, and there is a heavy amount of symbols to memorize. While it may take a long time to learn, this system will allow you to write over 200 words per minute once you have mastered it.

  • Teeline Shorthand

This is a form of shorthand that is based on the forms of the alphabet. It involves writing smaller vowels and consonants and focusing on writing essential letters. This form of shorthand is also often taught to journalists.

Step 2: Gather The Right Learning Resources

Once you have chosen a system, you can start gathering resources to learn how to use it. One of the best places to start would be the internet. Look for text and video tutorials on how to use the system as well as practice examples. Some great YouTube channels that provide tutorials on shorthand include Shorthandly and Teeline Online.

Other places you could look include local libraries, bookstores, and online bookstores. Because many shorthand books may no longer be in print, many bookstores may not supply them. In this case, it would be great to check out libraries as often libraries keep older books as well as newer books.

It may also be a good idea to check out some old “text kits.” These kits often include recordings of how to use shorthand as well as written notes. They may also include tests so that you can check your progress.

Finally, you may want to look for a shorthand dictionary, which will show you exactly how to write different words in shorthand.

Step 3: Practicing Shorthand

Before you start practising shorthand, it is important to note that it will probably take a while before you get the hang of it. If ever you hear of claims that you can learn shorthand in a few hours, you should not take them too seriously.

When you start practising, make sure that you take the time to master the shorthand symbols before trying to build up your speed. Doing so will ensure that you do not make too many mistakes from the beginning. It is also important to remember that your speed will build up as you become more comfortable with the system.

Next, it will be important to make sure that you practice regularly. Do a few short sessions each day and make sure to practice writing letters and words repeatedly. You could also test yourself with dictation exercises. This means recording yourself and writing down the words that you spoke using shorthand.

Alternative Learning Methods

A female student at the University of the People writing in shorthand.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

To save time, you can learn an easier shorthand method. Consider learning speed writing or stenoscript, which use the ordinary alphabet. You could also create your own shorthand system. Below are some more examples of shorthand systems you could learn.

1. Handywrite

This system is similar to Greggs in the way that it uses many of the same symbols for consonants. It also uses similar strokes to Greggs, which are cursive and fast.

2. Bell’s Invisible Speech

This system was developed to record any human speech sound. This system reduces all vocal sounds into a series of symbols.

3. Blissymbolics

This system uses descriptive pictures to symbolize concepts, rather than just words. This system was created as a universal language that people who speak different languages can use to communicate with each other.

Why is Learning Shorthand Valuable?

Firstly, writing in shorthand is much quicker than standard writing. Standard handwriting reaches speeds of 20 to 30 words per minute, which is too slow to record someone speaking. The average shorthand speed of some people has been recorded at over 200 words per minute. This makes shorthand better for taking notes. Because of the difference in speed, shorthand is an important skill to learn to keep up with lecturers when taking notes.

Shorthand has also proven to be useful in many lines of work. Personal assistants and secretaries use for it for minute taking, while journalists use it when documenting a news story. Court reporters use it when typing on a stenotype machine. Stenographers, who transcribe letters and documents, are often employed in law offices.

Shorthand is helpful for taking down all important details when getting instructions from your boss or conveying a phone message. Often, voice-recognition software makes mistakes, especially if someone gets words mixed up or names wrong. A person using shorthand can identify and rectify such mistakes.

Shorthand also provides personal benefits such as improving your listening, summarizing, and memory skills. It is also good for your CV, as it shows you have commitment to learning a new skill. Overall, shorthand reduces the time you spend on writing, and the time that you save can be utilized for other tasks.

Now that you understand what shorthand is, how to learn it, and why it is a valuable skill, you can try it for yourself!