How many good shorthand stenographers alive today?

I’m curious about how many really good shorthand stenographers alive today.  Any by good, I mean maybe at least 70 wpm.  It must be a small number.   What countries would have the highest number?   Where is this skill still valued other than for personal use?

(by beantea
for everyone)


37 comments Add yours
  1. …."And by good, I mean maybe at least 70 wpm."

    BeanTea, with all due respect—some long-time stenographers are going to laugh at this…

    In the "good old days" of stenography–that is, when there still pen stenographers in courtrooms–speeds of over 200wpm weren't uncommon…

  2.     OK then,   let me revise that to over 100 wpm.     At first I used the words "really good," then revised it to just "good."   I'm not even thinking court stenographer good, maybe old-fashioned secretary good.   Is that a more realistic number?

  3. Just as a curiosity, take a look at the result of Intersteno Congress (Wien, 2005), where you can see some results for shorthand speed as well as for multilingual shorthand.  For multilingual, the champion is Boris Neubauer, who can take in shorthand in 13 languages.  Very interesting.  By the way, there are many courses and associations of pen stenography in German.  In the Bundestag they use pen stenography. In Japan too.  And here in Brazil too.  The speed to enter the Parliament is about 130 wpm.

  4. "Punkt" means "score" in German, "the number of points scored by each participant in a competition".  Yes, they count syllables per minute, not words per minute.  They call them "Silben".  And "Fehler" means "mistake" in German. 

  5. The advantages of machine shorthand are: 1. Anyone can read it since it's printed; this contrasts with penwritten notes. 2. It can be coverted to text by a computer. This is called real time shorthand and is how they close caption live broadcasts the evening news. 3. Some people who would not have been able to hit the necessary speed with penwritten shorthand can do so with machine shorthand. I sometimes say that people are hard-wired or "built" to be pen reports just as some people are "built" to run a 4-minute mile: Most of us could train for a lifetime but never hit anything near that speed. Brian

  6. BeanTea:

    Well, it's hard to say. I've seen on Ginasta's site the alltime record translates to 250wpm. Several of them have speeds that translate to over 200wpm.

    But very few are English shorthand writers; most of the highest winners are German or Hungarian, it seems.

    For English shorthand writers? There probably aren't many left who can write over 100wpm. Our own ShorthandMarc used to write at 140, though, and one other forummate wrote at 175.

    I await other answers…

  7. Thanks, George.  Yes, I used to write 140 w.p.m.   Today, I think there are very few who write with any speed (and accuracy, of course)!  And of those who do, they're probably Pitman writers since Pitman is alive and well in most of the world except the U.S.   If Anniversary or pre-Anniversary Gregg were only taught in schools today. . . !   Marc  

  8. I used to write a wobbly 140 words a minute in Teeline. I've used it for nearly 20 years, but haven't done any speed building for a long, long time, so I couldn't say what my speed is now (100?).  I do write it more fluently now though.  I know Teeline's not the best theoretically (and it is ugly!), but it works well for me and until I find (or create!) that perfect system, I'm not going to bother to change!  Contrary to what I've seen on other sites, I can still read fluently diaries (sorry, journals 🙂 written over 15 years ago, so legibility's not been a problem.   Regards, Ian

  9. I tend to hope there are more than ya'll are guessing. Based on my running into a few here in my own city of 1,000,000, and based on the relative ease of finding textbooks in used book stores, I'd guess there are at least a handful in any given large city. Let's face it, most of them wouldn't exactly be members of the computer generation, so we may not be aware of them through the internet.
    Shorthand: isn't it about time?

  10. 70wpm? A few of us writing at over 100? This is surprising. When I took up Simplified early this year I presumed I'd get to 100+ and even dictation speed naturally (if not easily), judging by the popular bias against Series 90, etc., which could "only" get a student to 100.

    If 100+ is so rarely attained whatever the version, shouldn't we all just be learning Notehand or Series 90 just to save the 6 months or so—or at least encouraging newcomers to do so?


  11. Derek   I think many of the regular posters in this group aren't in it for the ease of learning. So, of course, we're bound to steer people to the system/version we like best. I, personally, like the look of DJS and Simplified much better than the look of Anny, but that's probably because I "grew up" with Charles Rader and other writers outlines don't seem as beautiful as his. I'd like to get a look at a Centennial text, but I'm not really willing to spend the $40 USD they sell them for on abebooks.   If we really wanted ease of learning we'd not be doing Gregg, but an alphabetical or fast-to-learn symbolic like Teeline.   I actually like the look of Teeline, Ian. It's a bit alien, but that's what people say about my Gregg: "you can really read that?"

  12. IMO, 100 wpm is very attainable with Anniversary, without much practice; just by knowing your phrases and brief forms!  I define "encouraging" as someone who completes a first course in shorthand and does 60 wpm.  That is better than longhand!   A common misconception is that if one writes at 220 wpm, it means that you are writing down the words at that same rate.  That is not true.  You are able to write at 220 wpm, but really you are writing at a lesser speed than that.  How so?  Because you are relying on your carrying ability — you will be undoubtedly lagging the dictator, but your brain will be trained to absorb more of the speech.  In the beginning, when you are learning shorthand, the biggest stumbling block for development of speed is the knowledge of the system and the elimination of hesitation in writing.  Once you know the system down pat and you don't hesitate in writing outlines, the biggest stumbling block in developing speed is your word retention ability.  There comes a point in which you cannot physically write faster, but are able to take down more words because your retention ability is huge — that's how you're able to do the high speeds, not necessarily by writing faster, but by retaining more words in your brain.  You acquire speed by repetition, by practice, by knowing your speed expedients (brief forms, phrases), and by building carrying ability (retention of the spoken word).  High speeds in shorthand are not impossible, they just require you to develop the ability to retain more.
    How can you develop that carrying ability?  Start by dictating complete sentences of 10-15 words length, and write them down.  Steadily increase the size of the sentences until you reach about 35 words in one sentence.  Dictate the whole sentence before writing it.   How do you develop writing facility and elimination of hesitation at writing?  Dictate letters of progressively increasing size (19 to 200 words), and repeat the dictation several times in succession until you can write thenm without hesitation.

  13. > I think many of the regular posters in this group aren't in it for the ease of learning…

    Indeed. I suppose I'm not either, really. I feel the same about Centennial.

    Chuck, that's helpful.

    My professional real-time reporter friend tells me that she doesn't remember much of the material she takes (including from some fascinating stints) because she finds herself "tuning out" from time to time. Being less conscious of the material is faster, apparently. Also, she finds it very slow to compose on the stenotype (ie., slower than 140wpm, I suppose). That's all consistent with the point that speed is not all physical.


  14. "If we really wanted ease of learning we'd not be doing Gregg, but an alphabetical or fast-to-learn symbolic like Teeline."

    And certainly not Pitman! 'Less it's Pitman 2000, which is pretty easy..

    When we were taking DJS is the 70s, expected speed at the end of the course was at least 80wpm…

  15. Yes, George, in my DJS course in 1971-72 school year, I had to have 80 wpm to pass the exam at the end.   Unfortunately, I didn't use it again for 18 years, and lost even that. And I'm not even sure that I could write that fast — I just had really good lagging and carrying technique as Chuck explains it.

  16. Going back to the original question posted, my guess would be that most of  the secretaries that attended commercial schools and entered a job field where shorthand was considered a necessary prerequisite skill would be fifty five years of age or older. If that is the case most of them would have learned Simplified. The few of them I have encountered were schooled in Simplified. Here in Philadelphia the bookstores are still selling Simplified and Series 90. Since they are still being printed that says something. My own experience began in Borders. I started my Gregg with Series 90. Then I tried Simplified. I picked up the supplemental Simplified books in flea markets. Over the next five years I stumbled across the older and ancient series in fleamarkets, long before I found Ebay, Amazon etc. In the three years I spent with Simplified I copied thousands of lessons literally. I found my dexterity and form to be quite good and speedy because of the familiarity and absorbtion, due to lack of pressure (no dictation), and the joy of reading Simplified. Although I now gravitate to the tons of materials I have collected from the more ancient series, I genuinely think that there are lots of people out there who get the inspiration to learn shorthand , and as I did, go to the nearest bookstore and pick up a Simplified or Series 90 (otherwise they would be out of print. These people then go on to develop their skills quite content. Finally they discover, I'm sure to their delight , our shorthand group. They read all of the posts disparaging  the series they are studying  (usually Series 90  or Centenial, or more often Pitman), and read how speed and fluency are better attained in some other series, go on Ebay and start from scatch. I think this is unfortunate. I really think that speed and fluency in any form of shorthand comes from the brainpower, the coordination of manual dexterity, knowledge of the series, and an innate ability to shorten an already shortened system of writing. A truly gifted and skilled writer of any system can out perform a less skilled writer of another system. If we take a consumer friendly approach and rejoice that each of us loves shorthand in any of its many incarnations, and encourage others to enjoy the system they use, the frustrations of continually jumping ship can be avoided. Making comparisons of perceived advantages of a given form is healthy and informative, but biases expressed by anyone who has not mastered the series they are using or mass prejudice against another series or system by collective uninformed stereotypical consent is counterproductive, discouraging and dishonest to the earnest student of the suspect series or system!  Credentials give criticism credibility. No system or series of shorthand is a waste of time!!!      DOC

  17. While I have only read a few of the responses, I wanted to mention that while machine transcription has *many* benefits,  I have never seen them used except in legal proceedings never in the technical meetings that I attend. So many things get lost if good notes aren't taken so I see a real use for good shorthand.

  18. Yay, Alex. Good point.   Is anyone taking notes at the meetings you attend?   In the town I just moved from, the reporter for the weekly paper took shorthand notes at the city council meetings. He recently retired so I would guess that he's an Anniversary writer. (I don't know what the new reporter does.)   Priscilla  

  19. Alex, there's always recorded dictation and transcribing from tape.  When I worked for the state in the computer department they had a room with 4 mics on the ceiling and double cassette tape so when one ran out the other started automatically.  So everything (including whispers, which could get loud) was recorded.  It was a nice setup.  The minutes were actaully so easy to transcribe for a regular meeting that I just recorded it just in case and took shorthand notes and typed them up from that, which was faster, I didn't write down the excess that would be on the tape. Debbi

  20. Speaking of that, did I ever mention that upon searching for an outlet to plug in my tape recorder, I was informed that it is forbidden to record previously mentioned important meeting that I was minuting? Ah! And my notes are getting colder every day.

  21. Mr S   That's hilarious. I had a similar situation in 1990 and "refreshed" my shorthand so i could do minutes — once every 6 weeks. I got special dispensation to tape the proceedings twice until I could do minute in shorthand, but the second time I set up the tape recorder, they said I could do it in longhand.   I got up and running in my approximately 50 words a minute refreshed shorthand and lo and behold, they decided that I could type the minutes on a laptop.   Ha ha.   I'm going to get up to 120 wpm or more this time FOR ME!   Billy

  22. I've been out of town for a couple of weeks and didn't have much internet access. I got interested in shorthand because I take the meeting minutes. My version of shorthand is that I listen very intently in the meeting and try to listen to everything as if everything is either a question or an answer and I write down the highpoints. I have learned to write very quickly, but it is not from any of the shorthand methos.

  23. Well, here's my 2 cents…..   I took shorthand more as an interesting side-dish in high school, 2 years of it.  I was the only male to ever have taken it at my school at that time.  Since then, hundreds of males have taken it since I broke ground first 🙂   I still take shorthand and remember it probably about 85% – 90%, although my speed is not as it was…I used to consistently take it at about 125 – 150 wpm, with 98% accuracy in transcription.   Now, I take it for myself, and also to post on white boards in my office.  Considering I'm in a work environment where literally dozens of the world's nations are represented, it is the one and only 'code' I can use that NO ONE can decipher!   I have had great chuckles as many of my Chinese and Japanese co-workers talk with each other trying to decide what language it is…"himalayian?  nepalese?"   Hah!   I posted, in shorthand, "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, CHECK THIS BOX" with an appropriate box.   It's been 14 months.  No checks….   🙂   Microsofties aren't as sharp as they might think they are sometimes!

  24.       If anyone every breaks the code, please post it here.  You never know.     There is an excellent English Gregg shorthand webite that is run by Koreans for Koreans.    I used it to help me read the Simplied Manual exercises.

  25. > How can you develop that carrying ability? Start by dictating
    > complete sentences of 10-15 words length, and write them down.
    > Steadily increase the size of the sentences until you reach about 35
    > words in one sentence.

    Chuck, this advice is helpful. Any particular reason why

  26. This is based on the methodology used in the book "Rational Dictation Studies" by McNamara and Baten, second edition.  The authors divided the material in six sections, the first three dealing with word retention, repetition, and speed stepping-up exercises (and the last three dealing with vocabulary and examples from actual stenographic exams).   Sentences bigger than 35 words would be impractical, don't you think?

  27. One sentence of 35 words would be an English teacher's nightmare, but there's nothing saying that if you're behind the dictator, it will be only one sentence.  Two 15-word sentences would be just as bad.    The best I can do is about 6 or 7 words behind the dictator. 

  28. Note taking gives you a little bit more flexibility in what you actually record.  Whenever I've used shorthand vocationally, a more verbatim transcript is what is expected.  The word carrying faculty is useful in verbatim reporting.  When recording testimony or rulings, you can't just give the gist.    When I go to court with my attorneys, they want me to get exactly what the judge says in order to prepare an order based on the court's rulings.  Luckily, the rulings aren't very long-winded.  🙂

  29. quote: I would often get distracted by something that somebody had said in a seminar and find my mind thinking about that instead of what was currently being said.

    Yep, that's me! Very distractable.

    I also find it's good for helping me keep my mouth shut. (God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we'd listen more and talk less. But my mouth seems to work overtime to compensate. Ooops.)

    I jot down the idea rather than rushing to say it before I forget it. It helps a lot.

    Also, it's good for going back. I let meetings freewheel a bit. You get to know the people and hear about things that, while important, wouldn't be mentioned if there were tighter control. But then I have this list of possible action items, with no one assigned. I put a large circle in the left margin of any point I want to revisit, and then can go back to it when the time seems right. I'm told I'm very good at keeping the meeting on track, although it seems to me we're often wandering.


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