Our guide to shorthand
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to shorthand

First published date September 08 2015 Amended date January 19 2016

There are many jobs out there that involve writing or typing information quickly. For example a court clerk typing up everything that goes on in the courtroom or a journalist conducting an interview with just a pen and paper. In these scenarios, typing or writing with speed is essential and the ability to record information accurately is paramount .If you’re considering working in this kind of environment a shorthand course could be the thing that sets your CV apart from the rest.


What will I learn?

A typical shorthand course will start by teaching you how to write the shorthand alphabet, before you progress on to learning the symbols for certain words. As well as this you will need to get your head around the grammatical rules that only apply to shorthand – for example, in Teeline Shorthand you would leave out the vowels within words.

There are a number of different types of shorthand courses out there, so before you get started you will need to decide which works best for you.



Pitman shorthand was first presented by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837. A form that has now been developed into many different languages, Pitman shorthand records the sound of a latter or word rather than its spelling, and focuses on thickness and length of strokes.



Devised by John Robert Gregg in 1888, Gregg shorthand also records the sound of a letter or word rather than its spelling. If you look at a page of shorthand, you will notice the vowels are written as hooks with circles on the consonants. Both Pitman and Gregg are considered the more traditional forms of shorthand.



One of the most popular forms of shorthand training, Teeline was developed in 1968 by James Hill and is considered to be easier, as it is based on letters rather than on phonetics and resembles the English alphabet.



The newest of the shorthand family, keyscript shorthand was invented by Janet Cheeseman in 1996. Based on its older brother Pitman, keyscript is fully alphabetical, using none of the older symbols. Similar to Pitman, it is also entirely phonetic.


What if I already know a bit?

Like learning a new language, elements of shorthand can seem overwhelming, so it’s important to get the level of your course right. If you are a beginner, start with the basics.

Once you’ve learnt all the theory, you will then be expected to build your speed. This will involve timed dictations, drilling words and sentences. Shorthand tests can be taken at a variety of different speeds – for some jobs you might only need to be writing at 60 words per minute, though others, such as journalism jobs, will ask for 100 words per minute at the least.

If you already have the basic skills, there are specific courses out there to help you get faster and build up your mental word-holding when listening to speech or taking notes. Working through various speed levels, like a lot of new skills, rehearsal really is the way to improve.


Take note

If you are looking to work in an industry that requires a lot of note taking or speed writing, a shorthand qualification will undoubtedly look great on your CV. If this is something you are looking for, it is worth looking for a course that leaves you with some sort of certificate or award. A good indicator is that a lot of these courses will ask you to complete a test at the end. If you are in any doubt, get in touch with the provider beforehand.

To learn to shorthand you need to be dedicated, willing to put in a lot of time and very hard working. It’s also worth remembering that these are all qualities employers look for, even if they’re not desperate for you to write 100 words per minute. They also show you can work quickly and efficiently.


Did you know?

- Word per minute of WPM is the standard way of describing the speed of typing or writing.

- The average typing speed is said to be between 30-50 WPM.

- Most people write at 30-40 WPM, though with shorthand training this can more than treble.

- A professional typist will usually type at the rate of 50-80 WPM.

- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for the fastest ever typing speed was set by Stella Pajunas in 1946. She typed an impressive 216 words in one minute. 

- Shorthand is said to hail from Ancient Greece and the first example of this form of writing was found on a slab of marble.


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