Stenography and Shorthand

The earliest man started written communication through symbols and pictorial representations, some of which have been preserved in ancient caves. Humankind made staggering progress with the evolution of writing and the English language is often said to be a unifying business and communicative language. With progress in technology, we have invented not just faster, more evolved forms of writing but have also made progress in speech-to-text conversion applications. However, the relevance of using symbols in written communication has not diminished. In this post, we look at the basics of stenography and shorthand typing.

Stenography and Shorthand – What are they and how are they related?

A normal person typing without training may take up to 60 per cent more time than a person skilled in the art of typing. This art has two basic underlying skills – The ability to take dictation at a fast speed and the ability to convert this set of notes to a textual readable format. The former is based on a technique called shorthand. Shorthand is the style of jotting down speech to a fairly rough, yet interpretable format that uses signs and syllables to represent words. Longhand, on the other hand, is the normal style of writing with complete sentences, punctuation and grammar. Stenography, quite synonymous to shorthand is the style of taking notes for feeding into a machine. Stenography has come to be associated with courtrooms and legal briefs, with machine shorthand being the faster dictation style adopted using a specialised keyboard.

Shorthand techniques you could use

Before journalists could use audio-recorders, shorthand was a much sought-after and essential requirement. In the UK, the spelling-based (rather than phonetic) Teeline shorthand is now more commonly taught and used than Pitman, an older system. Teeline is the recommended system with an overall speed of 100 words per minute necessary for certification. Although there are vocational training institutions imparting the skill of taking shorthand notes, here are a few basics of shorthand techniques. It is important to mention here, that all the developed systems such as Gregg, Pitman or Teeline are like learning alphabets of a new language and may take months of mastery. A better idea is to develop your own symbols, here’s how:

  1. Use symbols: As a lawyer, you’d write the word section or Article very often. So it’s a great idea to use an S symbol or an A symbol with a dot or a circle, followed by the section or article number.
  2. Make abbreviations: We all know common abbreviations, some of which have crept into our normal textual conversations (such as btw, tbh, lol etc.) and it’s a great idea for students and practitioners making notes for their own purposes to have some of their own. For example, the Transfer of Property Act can be abbreviated as TPA etc.
  3. Shorten lengthy words: Look at the words – Jurisdiction, Allegation, Litigation. They all end with the common pronunciation “shun”. You could make your one or two stroke symbol for depicting this phonetic and save time while taking notes.
  4. Strokes for common words: In this piece of writing, I have used the word the, about 31 times so far, the word ‘and’ 30 times and the word ‘to’ 18 times. These connecting words are very commonly found and hence, regardless of your profession, you could try making your own strokes or numbers for these.

With the emergence of advanced digital recording and freely available voice-to-text conversion applications, the need for learning stenography has reduced. However, having your own shorthand styles can be great while taking notes in the class or jotting down instructions from a colleague or boss.

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