How to Begin Shorthand

by Scott Wolfenden; Updated September 26, 2017
Shorthand is a phonetical system for taking notes rapidly.

The 26 letters of English form approximately 40 sounds, and there are 28 different spellings for each sound. This results in over 1,100 spelling variations. Shorthand is an alternative form of writing where there is only one mark for each sound. Shorthand, developed in 1837, is useful for note-taking with maximum speed. The writing is based on geometrical curse and lines with different lengths and angles. It is a system of abbreviation where only an outline of a word is written that you later decipher. You can easily start to learn the fundamentals of shorthand.

Items you will need

  • Flexible fountain pen
  • Pencil
  • Lined paper (for shorthand)
  • Index cards
  • Shorthand tutorial
Step 1

Obtain a mechanical pencil with self-advancing lead. Also, obtain a steno notepad with a line that runs down the middle. The spacing for Pitman style shorthand, which is one of the most widely used and oldest versions of shorthand, is 3/8 of an inch thick.

Step 2

Learn to read and write the most basic letters of shorthand. You should first learn the appropriate shorthand symbols for the sounds "th," such as in the words "thin," "thank" and "think." A different stroke "TH" is used for words such as "they" and "them." Other strokes that you can learn are "T" and "D." Copy the shape of these markings, along with the appropriate line thickness, by writing them on your lined paper. If you need help to get started, you can trace the markings.

Step 3

Practice writing and recognizing another set of letters, such as "CH" and "J," "SH" and "ZH," "H," written with a clockwise loop, "S" and "Z" written with a small counterclockwise loop attached to another stroke.

Step 4

Write one consonant sound used in shorthand on the front of an index card. Write the shorthand symbol on the back of the same card. Make at least ten index cards with different letters and sounds. Use these "flashcards" to test yourself and identify these ten shorthand symbols.

Step 5

Build up your recognition skills until you learn all consonant sounds. Test yourself with a complete set of index-card "flashcards." Once you are reasonably certain that you can recognize all of the consonants, concentrate on learning the vowel sounds.

Step 6

Study and memorize vowel markings. Vowels are created in shorthand with dots or dashes, which can be either light or heavy, in addition to other marks. Marks are written before or after the consonant in the order of its occurrence in the word. With certain letters that are written with horizontal marks, such as "K" and "G," "M," or "N," or "NG," vowel marks are written above the consonant if occurring before the consonant, or below if occurring after the consonant. Practice writing a few simple words in shorthand, using vowel markings. In Pitman shorthand, the outline of the word is formed first with consonants, and afterward vowel markings are added. If speed is an issue, vowel markings do not have to be used.

Tips

  • Correct your mistakes, in Pitman shorthand, by circling the word and rewriting it correctly. This method is faster than erasing and rewriting the word.

    Write vowel markings, which use light markings with the lightest marking you possibly can, to distinguish them more easily from vowel sounds using darker markings, representing other vowel sounds.

Warnings

  • Do not give up easily. Learning any new language or writing system takes perseverance.

About the Author

Scott Wolfenden began writing in 2006 on the subject of mental health. He has written a book on ADHD, children's mental health, education and parenting partially based on experience teaching in public schools. He blogs for Learning Things, an educational products website. He graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a Bachelor of Arts in social science and additional coursework in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images