How to Learn to Write in Shorthand

Writing in shorthand has been a custom since writing systems have been invented. In ancient Egypt, for instance, there were two simplifed ways to write hieroglyphics: Demotic and Hieratic. In the U.S. the Pittman system was once popular but was later supplanted by the Gregg system which became the most popular and well-known shorthand system in America, according to Columbia Encyclopedia. This system employs phonetic spelling and like Semitic languages, consonants are the prominent parts of the word. The vowels are attached as circles or hooks on the consonants.

Write the consonants that are used in Gregg shorthand that are in a shorthand book or website. Underneath the letters you may want to write the consonant that each letter stands for. Study these consonants as they are more numerous than the number of vowels and will help with learning the basics of writing in shorthand.

Write short words in shorthand. Examples of short words which you may use include lion or say. To write lion, use the [l] symbol, followed by the [i +vowel] symbol, and then the [n] symbol. These symbols should all be connected together when written. Some other words are not going to include all the letters used in the corresponding word they represent. For instance, piano is written by joining the [p], [ea][n] and [o] symbols. By only including those symbols needed to represent the word you are writing, you are able to write more quickly. Practice writing short words until you are comfortable in doing so.

Practice writing the punctuation symbols as well. There is basic punctuation used in Gregg shorthand, including the period, parenthesis, question mark, dash and hyphen. There's a paragraph symbol which looks like a sideways caret.

Practice writing entire sentences in shorthand. Carefully write out the sentences which have already been composed in a Gregg shorthand book or a website dedicated to this form of shorthand. Read through this sentence noting the individual symbols of each word. Get comfortable writing in this form by copying the example sentences found in the instruction book or website.

Finally, write sentences on your own. Give them to a reader familiar with Gregg shorthand to see if they can understand what you wrote. Note that there is more than one form of Gregg shorthand, including the Anniversary, Pre-Anniversary, Simplified Gregg, Diamond Jubilee and Series 90. The difference between these is that they tend to be more efficient versions of Gregg. For instance, the Simplified Gregg shorthand is easier to learn and allows students to write faster than when using Anniversary Gregg. Anniversary and Pre-Anniversary Gregg were meant to be used for court reporting.

Build your speed in writing in shorthand by timing your writing. Set a stopwatch and write out a sentence in short hand as you read it. Graduate to a speech broadcast on television, the radio or over the computer via a video. After a minute stop the watch see how much you have written. Count the words. As you practice writing, your time should get shorter. Check for errors and try to avoid them the next time you practice. A good target to aim for is 120 words per minutes. This was the speed that experienced secretaries were said to have written in during the past.

  • With the use of dictation machines and other forms of technology, there has been a greatly reduced need to learn shorthand. It may still be helpful to learn for certain people like journalists, police officers, court reporters, law and medical students and others who need to take notes quickly and may not always have access to technology.
About the Author

A published writer since 2004, Somer Taylor has authored two fiction books through PublishAmerica and has written for various websites. Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in biology from Prairie View A&M University.

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