When I applied for my BA (Hons) Journalism course at The University of Lincoln, I was overwhelmed with excitement about all of the new things I would learn and the new people I would soon meet. The prospect of this amazing course made it that little bit easier to get up at 7am every morning during my A-Levels. Well, everything about the course except for one thing – shorthand.
I guess it’s one of those things that you have to try yourself before you truly know what it’s like or, more importantly, how easy or hard you will find it.
Having now passed my 100wpm exam, I thought I’d share with my fellow journos some of my tips and techniques that helped me take off on my shorthand journey!
1. Practice every day
It may seem like a big fat pain in the bum to set aside time for something that you feel so disinterested in, and defeated by, but even just 20 minutes per day really makes the difference between taking off and falling behind – which would you prefer?
2. Know your theory
There is absolutely no shame in flicking back through your theory book – that’s what it’s there for! If you’re struggling with a particular word or grouping, check to make sure there isn’t an easier way of writing it. If not, why not make one up? If it works for you, that’s all that matters!
3. Musical shorthand
I get it – using music isn’t for everyone! But it helped me, and it could help you too! Putting my ear phones in and trying to transcribe song lyrics is both fun and a good way of becoming familiar with a variety of words and sentences. Starting with slow songs and gradually increasing the speed is a very smart move.
4. Transcribe EVERYTHING
At this point it may sound like shorthand has completely taken over my life – I assure you, it hasn’t! But looking at signs, posters, magazines, newspapers etc. and writing the words into shorthand makes sure you are constantly in touch with shorthand concepts. If you start to find this easy, try moving on to writing down peoples conversations – we journalists tend to be fairly good at eavesdropping!
5. Drill sheets
Using drill sheets really helped me move forward with my shorthand. Whenever you transcribe a passage, make a note of any words you struggled with. Then, find out what the word looks like in shorthand (using a Teeline word list book if you have one), and write it over and over again until it’s stuck in your brain.
6. Challenge yourself
The problem I started to have with shorthand was underestimating myself. In my head, I could only do 40 words-per-minute, so I never managed to do anything more than that. Getting yourself out of this mind-set is the first step. Why not try a more difficult one to challenge yourself? This way when you try a slower speed it will feel easier to manage. I never knew I could do a 60 words-per-minute until I’d battled my way through an 80.
7. Don’t worry
Shorthand is difficult. It’s like trying to learn a whole new language, therefore it’s only normal that it’s stressful and draining. But, if you work hard and put the effort in, it will come eventually. And as one of my favourite quotes promises: “Nothing worth having comes easily”.
Featured image: Wannabe Hack/ Flickr.