Shorthand is essential for anybody who works in or is planning to work in the news media. Shorthand is important for journalists, reporters, editors and broadcasters. Authors could also benefit from using shorthand when they interview people for research. Writing in shorthand can also be extremely useful for secretaries and people who regularly take notes in meetings.
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.
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. 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.
Tips for learning shorthand
- Use a ring bound reporter’s 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.