How Can I Learn Shorthand At Home

How Can I Learn Shorthand At Home?

Picture this: you’re in a college lecture or, maybe, an office presentation – and you must take notes. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to write incredibly quickly?

That’s shorthand and even more helpful than it first appears. Not only that, but thanks to the internet, you can now learn shorthand at home.

But how can we do that – isn’t shorthand a course you’d need to learn at a college? Not necessarily.

This post will show you how to learn shorthand from the comfort of your home, with only a few books and some dedication.

Resources To Learn Shorthand At Home

Before we can look at the steps you’ll take to learn shorthand, we need to discuss resources. Like any project, it’s best to prepare before starting. 

In the case of shorthand, that means you’ll need to acquire the correct manuals and stationery for your chosen system.

Gregg is the best style for beginners since it’s the most common and easiest to understand. However, if you’d prefer to learn another system, switch out the Gregg resources instead. Keep in mind that others, like Pitman, might need extra materials.

Last, we don’t advise getting a PDF copy of a shorthand manual. Although PDFs can be helpful, they won’t show the correct sizes or shapes of symbols because they’re bound to your screen resolution.

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What Do I Need To Learn Shorthand At Home?

  1. Shorthand manual – you’ll need a manual to teach yourself shorthand. We recommend Gregg Shorthand – A Manual for Shorthand. It’s a self-taught course that people have used since 1916. Remember to check your local library for a copy, too. Fundamental Drills is an excellent supplemental manual that coordinates with the primary textbook.
  2. Shorthand dictionary – shorthand dictionaries help you identify difficult words or phrases. They also teach you new abbreviations, helping you write even faster. Gregg Shorthand Dictionary (Diamond Jubilee Series) is our favorite one.
  3. YouTube courses are a free – sometimes interactive – learning aid. We’ve found Shorthandy’s Learn Gregg Shorthand to be especially helpful.
  4. Text kits are structured shorthand lessons that include practice times and tests. Although most need a cassette or CD player, they’re worth buying if you already have those gadgets.
  5. Good pens – while you don’t need any specific pen to write Gregg Shorthand, we recommend you buy a couple you enjoy using to avoid cramps.
  6. At least one hour of free time per day – you’ll need time to practice shorthand. Like any skill, it’ll take time to learn. It’ll be best to devote at least an hour’s practice time to your daily schedule.
Set Yourself Realistic Expectations

Set Yourself Realistic Expectations

First, it’ll be best to set realistic expectations for teaching yourself shorthand. Don’t believe anyone who says you can master Gregg – or another style – in only a couple of days.

Shorthand, like any other skill, requires dedication. So, the time it’ll take you to learn will depend on how much time you can commit to it. Similarly, your learning speed and the difficulty of your chosen style will also impact the time it takes.

But don’t be discouraged. Instead, realize that you’re developing a skill, and your rewards will match your level of commitment.

We recommend that you practice shorthand for at least one hour each day. While this regimen is a lot of work, this consistency will pay off. It’s far better to do two hours per day than to do a longer session only once weekly.

Not only that, but this schedule lets you match the pace of a college course. Stenographers take one hour of shorthand class per day, plus homework.

At that rate, you should have a good handle on shorthand in about ten months.

Learn The Symbols

Next, to truly begin learning shorthand at home, you must know the symbols we use instead of letters. Each shorthand style uses a different alphabet, which you’ll need to memorize.

That’s where your chosen manual comes into play. 

Work through the exercises in your textbook, practicing each symbol until you can consistently draw it from memory.

Although that might sound like a lot of work, it is worth it. Remember when you were in elementary school and had to fill pages with a single letter? You’re doing the same and teaching your hand how to quickly write the symbol. 

By repeatedly coping symbols, you’re committing them to muscle memory.

A handy trick here is to do two lessons at once. That way, you won’t get bored with the repetition. So, when you’re about halfway through the first exercise, switch to the second and alternate between them.

With this technique, you should finish the first exercise halfway through the second. Then, begin the third, and so on.

Likewise, you ought to prioritize neatness over writing speed. Although you are learning shorthand, your writing must also be legible.

So, even though it feels unintuitive, focus on writing your symbols correctly, even if that means you write slightly slower.

Learn The Punctuation And Connections

Learn The Punctuation And Connections

Once you’re confident with the symbols, you can move on to learning the punctuation. Gregg shorthand uses a combination of straight lines, curves, and loops to transcribe speech. This rule includes punctuation.

Similarly, it’s best to start learning how the symbols connect to each other before you start trying to record phrases.

Although there are specific trends for how letters connect, there are some unique circumstances to look for – that’s where your manual and dictionary can help you.

Keep practicing your symbols as before; only now start drawing them in pairs and trios. Learn how characters of different heights and lengths join together.

As well as that, begin the exercises in your manual that cover punctuation. That way, while you teach yourself to connect symbols, you’ll also learn how to punctuate them and make clear sentences.

However, remember that people don’t always speak in grammatically correct sentences. Human speech can start or stop abruptly, containing random repetition and filler words like ‘uh’ or ‘well.’ 

Because shorthand punctuation is essential, don’t expect it to match what you learned in school. Instead, consult your manual for tips on how to punctuate human speech.

Learn How To Construct Phrases

Now that you understand how to draw and link symbols, it’s time to begin constructing phrases. We can use our skills to join characters into words.

Keep working through the exercises in your textbook, but also keep your dictionary close at hand. 

All shorthand systems rely on abbreviations to help people write faster. For example, instead of writing ‘you,’ a person could write ‘u’ since these phrases sound identical if you read them aloud.

Shorthand styles also use special symbols for specific phrases since they appear so commonly.

Because of that, it is best not to assume you’ll be learning complete words. Pay close attention to how your manual and dictionary construct phrases instead of going ahead of the course and inventing your own abbreviations. 

If you stick to the dictionary, you’ll learn the standardized writing style for your chosen shorthand style. 

That’s incredibly helpful because it lets you read another person’s shorthand and vice versa.

Furthermore, look out for the phrases people use most often when talking. Words like ‘the,’ ‘like,’ or ‘and’ frequently appear, so put extra effort into memorizing these simple words. 

Last, note down any other shorthand words you see. So, note it down if you’re also watching a YouTube course and they show an unfamiliar phrase. That way, you can check it in your dictionary and memorize an extra word.

Practice Reading Shorthand

Practice Reading Shorthand

Once you’ve learned several common phrases, you can put your shorthand skills to the test and start reading shorthand.

We recommend that you devote time to learning how to decipher other peoples’ shorthand because it can differ significantly from your own. 

Although it can still be correct, everyone has a slightly different look to their handwriting. There’s nothing wrong with that, so it’ll be beneficial if you can decipher theirs and transcribe that writing.

That way, you’ll be even more skilled. Not only can you write shorthand, but you can read your style fluently and transcribe another person’s writing, too. 

Start by going through your textbook and seeing what exercises it recommends. Not only that, though, but you can also flip to random pages in your shorthand books and practice reading those symbols and phrases.

While this practice can be difficult at first, it’s still helpful. People can often be overconfident when reading their handwriting because they remember what they wrote and how their letters look. That’s not true for another’s shorthand.

So, by reading shorthand in textbooks and other official sources, you memorize the correct symbols and repair your mistakes.

You can also read another person’s shorthand to be aware of the variations.

Start Transcribing Shorthand To Longhand

You now should be fluent in shorthand, knowing all the common phrases and how to write them. That means we can begin transcribing shorthand back to longhand – longhand is regular, full-length writing.

Transcribing is a crucial skill since it makes your notes readable to others. Most people can’t read shorthand, so the skill of turning your shorthand into regular English is valuable.

While you could concentrate on transcribing by hand or using your phone or computer, we think both options are valuable.

The tactile sensation of handwriting your transcription also improves your muscle memory. You can do the transcription side-by-side with shorthand.

Similarly, as you prefer working with physical copies, you might not want to digitize some writing – like a journal or lecture notes.

On the other hand, it is fastest to transcribe directly from your shorthand notes to a keyboard. This option is best for large amounts of work or texts you’ll need to share with many people.

You can also work on transcribing other people’s shorthand.

Begin Dictation Exercises

Begin Dictation Exercises

After you know how to transcribe shorthand to longhand, we can begin using that skill. Dictation exercises are an excellent way to practice your shorthand.

While experienced stenographers can transcribe an excellent 280 words per minute, amateurs won’t be as impressive. Again, this comes back to keeping realistic expectations. But nevertheless, beginning stenographers can still take dictation at about 120 words per minute.

So, it’s best to begin at slower speeds than that, as 120 words per minute are on the lower end of how fast a person speaks.

Begin with dictation exercises at 30 words per minute. Increase the speed whenever you can accurately record and transcribe the speech.

If you have access to text kits, those can be a great aid here. Not only do text kits have practical instructions and exercises, but they can also contain shorthand tests. 

You can do similar using YouTube. Specific videos will show how fast a person talks, which lets you practice dictation at a particular speed.

Tracking down these shorthand aids is a great idea, particularly since they’re free.

Practice Dictation Using Other People’s Speech

Once you’re comfortable with dictation exercises, you can move on to transcribing other people’s speech. And we don’t mean dictation exercises either.

Recording somebody’s everyday language is quite challenging, especially if they have an accent or use lots of slang. Others might just have odd speaking patterns or speak rapidly.

So, by practicing taking down your friends and family’s dictation, you gain real-world experience with shorthand.

Similarly, you can practice dictation whenever you have free time. Because it’s pretty easy to carry a pen and paper, you can record dictations whenever you have some minutes spare. You can also practice transcribing TV shows or radio broadcasts.

If you’re in school and must take notes or need to take minutes at work, try taking those in shorthand, too. Although, keep in mind that your shorthand isn’t perfectly reliable yet, so consider writing the critical stuff in longhand.

Start Using Shorthand In Daily Life

After ten months, you should be a shorthand master. At this point, you can reliably use your shorthand skills to record any human speech and list the talent on your CV.

Feel free to record your notes, minutes, and other ideas in shorthand. We advise that you keep a notebook on you in case you need to use this skill – although a stylus and writing app on your phone can also work.

Keeping a notebook can be especially helpful if you’re the kind of person to always have ideas or random thoughts. Now you have a way to quickly document them.

Not only that, but shorthand can make you more employable. While self-teaching won’t earn you any certificate, it’s still worth doing. A practical skill like shorthand can set you ahead of other potential employees.

Last, remember to practice shorthand regularly, even if you don’t need to use it daily. The practice remains significant even after mastering it like any other skill. After all, you wouldn’t want to get rusty.

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Learning Shorthand FAQs

Now that we know how to learn shorthand at home, we can answer a few popular questions about this topic.

Which Jobs Use Shorthand?

Stenographers use shorthand the most out of any profession. Their career focuses on quickly writing down human speech, for which shorthand is ideal.

Although most stenographers now use specialized machines to type down speech, they still learn shorthand. It’s a great skill, especially when you don’t have a transcription machine nearby.

As well as that, journalists and reporters also use shorthand. They employ this skill when documenting a story, particularly when taking interviews.

Shorthand has a place in the corporate world, too. Secretaries and personal assistants take minutes and other notes using shorthand. 

Do I Need A Shorthand Qualification

Do I Need A Shorthand Qualification?

Whether you’ll need an official shorthand qualification depends on the job you’re applying for and the specifications.

Although you can put your new shorthand skills on your CV, remember that you are self-taught. So, your skills won’t come with recognized qualification or certificate.

Specific jobs, like stenographers, use shorthand extensively. However, they study this skill at a vocational or community college. Because of that, they receive professional-level teaching and first pick at a job that needs shorthand.

However, this skill can still set you ahead of the rest for jobs that don’t demand a shorthand qualification.

Many employers appreciate the ability to write quickly and accurately, mainly if you can later transcribe those notes into standard English text.

Can I Learn Shorthand Online?

Yes, you can learn shorthand online, but you’ll still need to practice physically writing the letters. There are several online shorthand courses, some of which offer official certificates or qualifications.

Which Shorthand Style Is Best For Other Languages?

The Gregg style is best for other languages because of its straightforwardness and popularity. Specific languages, like Chinese or Spanish, have their own Gregg variants. 

Although you will need to learn a new variant for each language you want to write in shorthand, this process isn’t complicated. Instead, you’d be adapting Gregg to work with the unique quirks of each language.

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To conclude, you can learn shorthand at home pretty simply. All you’ll need are the correct textbooks and the dedication to use them.

Remember that learning shorthand requires you to be patient and consistent – it isn’t a technique you can learn in a day.

Nevertheless, learning shorthand can be a fascinating and helpful pastime. Not only that, but it makes you more employable.


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