How to Learn Stenography

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Stenograph or stenotype machine
Stenograph or stenotype machine

Stenography covers both the shorthand notes taken by secretaries during dictation, and it is one of the tools of a court reporter, who has to take notes on everything anyone says in a court proceeding. There are many systems of shorthand. The most popular and perhaps easiest to learn is Gregg shorthand. It was developed in 1888, but it has gone through periodic revisions to keep up with trends in language. You will need progressively more education if you want to become a personal note-taker, a secretary or a court reporter.

Things You'll Need

  • Steno book or pad
  • Pen
  • Internet connection
  • Voice recording system
  • Stopwatch or clock showing seconds

Decide how you want to use stenography. If you just want to use it to take personal notes, you can probably get by with an online course. If you need to achieve greater speed and accuracy to work as a secretary, you will probably need to take a class in person. The feedback from an instructor needs to be more frequent and detailed than you can get from an online course.

Start with something simple. Try writing your name in shorthand. In the process, you will be learning the system of phonetics that underlies shorthand.

Learn all of the phonetic forms. Some will be simple consonant sounds (e.g., M, N, P), some will be consonant combinations (e.g., TH, ND, LD), and some will be vowels. It is important to become familiar with these before moving on to what are called abbreviations or short forms.

Learn the short forms. Common words such as YOU, THE, AVAILABLE, and WILL might have a single stroke to represent the whole word. Find or make a list of them all so you can review periodically. The first form in the sample image is a combination of the short forms for THIS, IS and NOT.

"This is not easy to learn" in Gregg shorthand
"This is not easy to learn" in Gregg shorthand

Find dictation texts; usually, business letters or speeches work best. Anything spoken that someone might want written down or transcribed is a good candidate. You can have a friend read them while you transcribe, or you can record them yourself and play them back to copy. If you want to improve your speed, you can read at different speeds. Dictation speeds are categorized by words per minute, so you will need to pace your reading using a stopwatch or clock showing seconds.

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