Stenography is a form of speed writing, or shorthand. It uses symbols to represent words and phrases. A beginning stenographer takes dictation at an average of 120 words per minute while experienced stenographers write as fast as 280 words per minute. The main benefit of stenography is that one symbol can represent an entire phrase. Gregg Shorthand is the most popular form of stenography. Gregg Shorthand has different versions for different purposes; the Anniversary and Simplified editions are the most useful for career purposes.
Look for the textbooks in used bookstores, at yard sales and at auction sites on the Internet. The books have been out of print for more than 10 years. Download the free PDF version of all the necessary books to get started learning how to read the symbols. The actual textbooks, however, are invaluable for teaching the correct size and placement and being able to trace the symbols while learning.
Plan to devote two hours every day to learning stenography at home. This would be the same amount of time as a student taking the class at school, one hour of class time and one hour of practice at home. It will take about 10 months to learn Gregg Shorthand if two hours every day is devoted to study and practice.
Start your home study with the Gregg Shorthand textbook and the Fundamental Drills workbook. The Anniversary edition is good for general office dictation while the Simplified edition is designed for court reporting. The Fundamental Drills workbook coordinates with the Anniversary edition.
Decide which direction you will be writing if you are left-handed. The speed is faster when writing from right to left because the hand is moving away from the body. Stay with whichever form you choose so your notes always will be readable.
Refer to the 5000 Most Useful Shorthand Forms book when you have difficulty reading some of the shorthand symbols. This book is a shortened version of the Gregg Shorthand Dictionary. Both are excellent references that stenographers use throughout their careers.
Read the Gregg Shorthand Fables to increase your reading speed and understanding of stenography. You will need to complete about half of the textbook before being able to decipher most of the symbols in the Fables.
Take dictation daily to increase your writing speed. Choose a talk program on the radio. Take dictation while recording the radio program. Play the recording back and compare to your notes. If you do not want to record a radio program, you can buy dictation recordings. These recordings are not widely available so look for them when you look for the textbooks at used bookstores, yard sales and Internet auctions.