Ten tips for writing shorthand

Practicing writing shorthand outside is a great way to get used to noise and interruptions

Practicing writing shorthand outside is a great way to get used to noise and interruptions

While you’re learning shorthand you will pick up your own handy little tricks and techniques to help speed up the note-taking.

Friends and tutors will also point out small things that will increase the speed of writing in Teeline shorthand.

For now, here are a few very simple pointers that will help learning shorthand.

  • Use ring bound reporters notepads. The short space from one side to the other is just right to make note taking as quick as possible. Jotters with the rings on the left, or large A4 notepads make it harder to write in shorthand.
  • Draw a left-hand a margin on the page. Use your own system of symbols – stars, quote marks, questions marks and other reminders, numbers, bullet points – and write them in the margin in order to provide quick reference points later.
  • Write on both sides of the paper in the notepad. Once you reach the last page of the notebook. Just flip it horizontally and begin writing on the back of the pages. This saves money and paper! The boss will be happy.
  • Translate newspaper articles into shorthand. Read the notes back to yourself to make sure you understand them. Newspaper articles are useful because the language is simple and straight forward, and this will also help people studying journalism get used to writing in a journalistic style
  • Relax! Take deep, steady breaths to stay calm and relaxed while writing in shorthand – especially during the NCTJ shorthand exams. Sit up straight, let the tension leave the body, and keep your feet straight and planted on the ground. Trust us – we’ve been there, passed 100 words a minute and these little steps all help.
  • Before the shorthand exam, lesson, or even before taking down long passages in court or council meetings, gently stretch the fingers to make them more flexible and responsive. If it’s freezing cold use a pocket heat warmer to warm up the hands, or a hot flask of tea or coffee.
  • While writing in shorthand, press lightly with the pen so that it glides across the page. Pressing too hard and trying to write too quickly creates tension which slows writing. Pressing hard will also make your arm ache!
  • If a word is missed leave a space in the notes and remember the word, and put a note mark in the margin to show where to go back to. Quickly fill in the gap when there’s a break in speech.
  • Get your eyes and ears checked! Writing in shorthand is all about hearing clearly, and it’s surprising how many people’s ears are clogged with wax that prevents words being heard properly. A few drops of olive oil from the chemist will sharpen up hearing. While an optician will check you don’t need glasses.
  • Keep a glass or bottle of drinking water on the table. Taking a sip of cool water will really help concentration and relaxation.
  • Practice shorthand outside. While teeline lessons and exams are done in clear English, in a silent classroom,  when your out on the road as a journalist, people will mumble, shout, speak in local vernacular and accents – and that’s before the noise of traffic, wind, rain, phones ringing or other reporters, gets in the way of what the person is saying. If you’re still in the training phase, after practicing outside a few times, the comfortable classroom will seem like a breeze!
  • Always have a pen with lots of ink, in good condition (none of the ends all chewed off) and a brand and style that you are comfortable with. Plus, during lessons, exams, practice dictations and when making notes in shorthand during interviews or in meetings, always have a second spare pen close at hand on the table or in a coat pocket or within easy reach in a messenger style bag.

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