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The struggling student’s short guide to shorthand

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You’ve applied to grad schemes, sneaked into interviews, and tried to avoid it as much as possible. But finally, you’ve come to the realisation that really, there’s no way around it: to get into journalism, you need to learn teeline shorthand.

It’s basically another language, and you need to be able to write it fast. 100wpm fast, to be precise.

Scary? Yep. But follow Career Camel’s tips, and you’ll be a pro at shorthand in no time.

1. Go to classes

There’s absolutely no way you can teach yourself shorthand properly from a textbook – you’ll fall into bad habits. Instead, get yourself a good tutor and go and see them regularly. By regularly, I mean every day.

I’d recommend taking an NCTJ, as it not only teaches you how to get up to 100wpm in shorthand, but also other essentials for a journalism degree, such as media law. Check out my course at Press Association Training in London – my tutor Sylvia is fantastic.

2. Drill, drill, drill

Drill, drill, drill

Drill, drill, drill

This sounds like the most dull thing on earth, but it really works. Basically, you need to write the outline of a particular word or phrase over and over again until it’s stuck in your head.

A method that works for me is read the word, write at least one line of the outline, and then continue the process for another nine or so words. When you’ve written around ten, start a new page and write down the words in longhand. See if you get the shorthand outline correct for each word, and re-drill the ones you got wrong.

3. Learn special outlines

Special outlines

Special outlines

Commonly used words and phrases have special outlines to save you even more time. Often they’re just one or two letters, and are really useful. Drill them again and again to learn them and help stop wasting time by writing silly, long outlines.

4. Practice, but little and often

Unlike fact-based exams, you just can’t cram shorthand. Which is gutting for procrastinators like me. As shorthand is a skill, instead you must put aside around an hour each day (on top of your classes) to work on your outlines and dictations.

"Forget house every weekend, its shorthand every weekend"

“Forget house every weekend, it’s shorthand every weekend”

I think it’s best to timetable shorthand into the day – for example, while on the train home, or just after dinner. Then your hour of work will become a natural part of your routine, rather than a forced effort.

5. Set targets

Trying to jump straight from 0-50wpm or 60-100wpm is not only impossible, but also really demoralising. Instead, set yourself realistic targets to reach as you improve your speed. Once you’ve progressed from 30-40wpm for example, then you can start working to achieve your 50wpm over the next couple of weeks.

Good luck – and get drilling!

Do you have anything to add to our guide to shorthand? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo: Clint Budd / Flickr

Sian ElvinThe struggling student’s short guide to shorthand

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