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Why you should still consider learning shorthand


There is no doubt that shorthand has become in many ways a lost art. Moves towards the digital age and technical solutions such as voice recording have certainly left this method of quickly writing information down virtually obsolete. However, we shouldn’t write it off just yet, afterall it’s been around for more than 2,000 years.  It even has its ancestry in the Senate of ancient Rome and has survived being forbidden by a Roman emperor, who saw it as a secretive code that encouraged subversion and an association to witchcraft and magic in medieval times.

There are several types of shorthand and in the UK Teeline is now the most popular system replacing Pitman which dates back to the 19th Century. Pitman is now seen as more tedious to learn and can take several months to master. However, the initial stage of Teeline is relatively simple and there are even one day masterclasses offered.

The world of texting and social media has seen its own version of shorthand that most people can read and understand. Shorthand put simply is a way to compress your language and writing, only keeping the useful bits. Our minds can easily learn to recognise bits and pieces of words and characters.

Traditionally seen as a secretarial skill, shorthand offers great benefits to anyone who works in a modern office. It allows a detailed, organised, private and real-time recording of meetings, where the use of laptop can appear awkward, distracting and a barrier to communication. For those times of long meetings, shorthand is easy, whereas using a laptop or writing in longhand can be gruelling.

Shorthand also offers great benefits to accurate and efficient personal note and telephone message taking, again allowing privacy, whilst reducing the chance of details being forgotten or misinterpreted.

Today’s PAs, EAs and secretaries need to be as aware of the company’s strategy and objectives as their bosses do, and when they sit in a meeting, or with their boss and take notes using paper, they digest and absorb the information more than when you use a computer. Shorthand combines the skills of active listening, summarising and recording. In effect it makes logical and rational sense out of chaos. 

However, one of the primary reasons to learn shorthand is that it can help be the differentiator in a competitive jobs market. Whilst an employer may not specially ask for shorthand it could be the icing on the cake when an employer is faced with a number of suitable candidates. 

With the fast pace business world we live in today, writing by hand will always happen in one way or another and let’s face it, everyone could benefit from the ability to take shorthand notes.

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