Teaching methods

I’ve always been been curious to know how shorthand used to be taught in American high schools or business schools. What speed and what level of proficiency were considered as standards, let’s say for intermediate courses ?

I’m a conference interpreter and I learnt shorthand, not Gregg shorthand unfortunately, in a Swiss school that trained conference interpreters and stenotypists. Dictation courses were pretty much like military drills and we were required to take 130 wpm only after six months’ intensive courses. I still use pen-shorthand whenever I can.

(by mark for everyone)

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  1. Mark,
    I took shorthand my senior year in Highschool,
    1967, and think most of the class could take aprox. 120 – 150 words per
    minute.  Once dictation was over we had to type what we had written in
    a business letter.
    I forgot all I had learned years ago and am
    starting over.  My twelve year old daughter who lives in another state
    is learning Diamond Jubilee at the same time so we can write

  2. I never took shorthand in high school but I would have learned DJ if I had. As I recall, after two years, 120 or higher was required for an A, 110 would yield a B, 100 a C. I believe it was for mailable transcript so errors weren't permitted.

    When I worked for McGraw-Hill in the early 1980s, various post-secondary schools had their own standards. I believe 140 or better was standard for an A.


  3. Thank you Stuart,

    120 – 150 wpm! Wow, that's pretty fast for high school students! Did you use your shorthand in your job afterwards ?

    130 wpm is really fast in French, as the word-count is different and words are generally longer.

  4. Mark,

    For an entry-level position, a minimum of 80 words per minute would have been required, although everyone wanted someone faster. The so-called seasoned secretary was capable of 120 or more, hopefully more. Executive secretaries were required to write at least 120; again, faster was better.

    As someone who did work as a temp for while, I can tell you that NO ONE dictates at 80!


  5. Sorry, forgive the separate post.

    Yes, I did learn the stenograph although I never knew of anyone who used it in an office. It was always easier to gab one's steno pad or some paper than to have to set up a machine.

    In the State of New Jersey (where I live), a court reporter must be able to write 225 words a minute on testimony (question and answer). I just read in the Journal of Court Reporting about a guy who shattered his own record by writing 340 words per minute for five minutes with the required 5% or fewer errors. THAT is AMAZING.


  6. Typical speeds for business employement in the US 100 to 120 wpm. This would be for high-school graduates entering the work force.   Prior to the 1960s, routine speeds for those leaving technical schools would be 140 wpm. I was able to hit 140 in 8th grade.   Court reporting and Congressional reporting were 200 wpg.    Brian 

  7. When I was in high school, 1977-78 about, they taught "personal" typing. (I had already taught my self typing from my mother's typing text. I had hit 80 wpm without error!) In this personal typing class–in distinction from the standard business class–one only had to type GROSS wpm to get an A!   Brian

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