Shorthand: The Long and the Short of It

In an era of increasing litigation, a polarized political climate, and more televised content than ever before, the demand for verbatim transcript and closed captioning services is at an all-time high. This means shorthand reporting is actually more relevant than ever.

Below, we’ve listed a few of the reasons why shorthand is still critical today, how it’s used professionally and where you can learn it for yourself.

Why Shorthand Works

If you want to be a successful secretary, journalist or court reporter, knowing shorthand isn’t just helpful—it’s critical. Here’s why.

  • It’s convenient. It’s much easier to transcribe shorthand notes than longhand, or an audio recording.  With the advent of Computer Aided Transcription software, machine shorthand is the fastest and most efficient way to create a verbatim transcript.
  • It’s useful when dealing with sensitive issues. People often speak less freely if they know they’re being recorded.
  • It lets you pay attention. If you’re recording an interview, meeting or deposition using shorthand, you’re able to read people’s lips and detect nuances, unlike audio and video recorders. You can also choose where to focus. For example, if two people start talking over one another during cross-examination, you can choose to record only what one of them is saying—most likely the witness.

Where It's Used

Of course you don’t have to be a reporter to find value in shorthand, but it certainly comes in handy for specific professions. Here are some careers that require shorthand know-how.

Official court reporters work for the local, state or federal government.

Freelance court reporters work from home or for a freelancing reporting firm, and report on everything from depositions to meetings for stockholders.

Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) reporters work at colleges, high schools or government agencies to help the hearing-impaired.

Medical transcriptionists transcribe healthcare-related reports like a doctor’s dictation.

Closed captioning reporters write for TV programs that require an instant script for the hearing-impaired.

Legislative reporters record what happens with legislative bodies for the public.

Scopists make edits to transcripts produced by reporters using a Computer Aided Transcription (CAT) system.

How To Learn It

Perhaps the most efficient way to become a court reporter is to get an associate’s degree, which takes anywhere from two to four years, depending on your area of concentration.  

If you’re just interested in learning the craft for yourself, it’s helpful to know the basics. There are two types of written shorthand: Gregg, which is mostly used in the businesses and medical fields, and Pitman, which is most widely used in the UK. There are many books and online resources available to help get you going.

Hopefully you now see the value in shorthand, if you didn’t already. It’s an indispensable skill and, chances are, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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