It’s going to take something special to top that joyous moment last week when I realised I had finally passed my 100wpm shorthand.
A wave of relief (we have to pass the milestone in order to complete the MA course at City) was closely followed by the revelation that I was free of my ‘shorthand guilt’ and would no longer have the embarrassing need to pull out my ‘Teeline for Journalists’ book and scribble furiously every time I stepped onto some form of public transport.
Now, if it seems like I’m gloating a little a) forgive me – it’s been a long and arduous slog and b) I feel I can because I know shorthand is something that ANYONE can do.
Back in December last year, you may remember I wrote a post noting two important reasons why shorthand was still relevant in today’s journalism and why it was worth learning. I was sitting on 50wpm at the time, still revelling in learning a new skill and unfazed by ominous shadow of 100wpm, which I thought I had plenty of time to get. Four months on and plenty of hours practising later, I now can say that, yes shorthand is WORTH learning, but it is also ACHIEVABLE.
Now, that may sound like a given and perhaps a bit patronising but for a long time, when I was stagnating on 70wpm, floundering on 80wpm and then trapped on 90wpm, I didn’t think it was possible. I was optimistic, yes, but I thought ‘God, I’m not going to make 100wpm, I can’t do it.’ I doubted myself and it was quite a worrying time.
And then suddenly it all clicks, just like Georgia Graham, the former City student now working as a reporter at the Ham and High told me it would when I was on work experience there at Christmas. Something happens, your brain clicks into gear and it soon flows.
You over-learn the simple words so they come much faster than before. The theory improves so you can draw on ‘r’ blends and ‘pl’ blends and all manner of fancy shorthand that aids your speed. And whilst you have some days where you just don’t get on with your shorthand (there were some days when I was on 90wpm when I couldn’t get the 70wpm piece) the next will be without any drama.
Obviously it takes a many hours practice (and those who haven’t yet passed will admit that’s because they haven’t practised as much as they would have liked) but put the graft in and you will get the rewards.
So if nothing else, this post is some reassurance, should you need it, that shorthand isn’t out of anyone’s reach and that, if you want to get it, you can.
Start learning the theory early – Those that passed first in our class (and therefore didn’t have to come to 9am classes every day) did lots of practice prior to the start of the academic year. Their shorthand was of a better standard and thus able to deal with the pressure of tests before Christmas, allowing them to get 80wpm without much trouble.
Get listening – I wish I’d done more listening exercises earlier rather than just copy outlines down into my book. Both forms of learning are important but the listening aspect, reacting to longer words, are what makes or breaks you in a test. Get that sorted early and it’s plain(er) sailing.
Drill one piece, no matter how boring – Towards the end, when I was sitting on 80wpm and above, I got most out of concentrating on one piece and going over and over it till I had got all the theory from it and practised the outlines I didn’t know. Even if I couldn’t keep up with the recording, I’d stop the tape, look at why I couldn’t write that particular outline and think of the quickest way to do it. A tedious process, especially when you could repeat the piece back to yourself, but a good use of time nonetheless.