The 411 on Shorthand (and Why It Matters Today)

April 27, 2016 7:14 pm Published by


In today’s world, accuracy is key. There’s an increasing demand for verbatim transcript and closed captioning services, which means shorthand reporting is a relevant and essential skill to have.

Here are some reasons why shorthand is still important, how it’s used and where you can learn the craft for your own purposes.

The Perks of Using Shorthand

There are plenty of reasons why shorthand can be a serious asset, for court reporters and journalists alike. Here are just a few.

  • It saves time – Court reporters can write at 225 words per minute or more.  Machine shorthand provided by certified court reporters remains to be the fastest and most accurate method of transcribing legal proceedings, corporate meetings, and anything with a voice.  When every second counts, there is no replacement for a stenographic court reporter’s verbatim transcript.
  • It allows you to hone in on what’s important – If you’re recording conversations and interactions using shorthand, you’re able to read people’s lips and detect tiny nuances that a video or audio recorder would miss. You can also choose where to focus and when to stop a proceeding when two people are talking over one another.
  • It helps others feel more at ease – People often hold back when they know they’re being recorded, especially if they’re talking about a sensitive or personal topic.


Career Options for Shorthand Reporters

Official court reporters are government employees that get salary and benefits from state and federal court systems while collecting additional money from selling transcripts to lawyers.

Freelance court reporters are traditionally self-employed and can set their own hours.  Most work for one or more court reporting agencies.

Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) reporters provide services for the deaf and hearing impaired.  CART reporters can work for educational institutions to provide services for students.

Medical transcriptionists are often transcribing dictation of medical reports that doctors issue for documentation purposes.

Closed captioning reporters provide similar services as CART providers, but specifically for television.

Scopists are usually not actual court reporters but aid court reporters in the completion of transcripts.  Scopists can read steno and will help court reporters edit transcripts before they are sent out as final.

Where to Learn More

The quickest way to become a court reporter is to get an Associate degree, which usually takes between two to four years total.

If you’re just interested in learning shorthand for your own purposes, it’s helpful to know the basics first. There are two types of written shorthand: Gregg, which is mostly used for business and medical reporting, and Pitman, which involves variations in line width and is most popular in the UK. There are quite a few books and online resources available on the topic, so a simple Google search is a great place to start.

All in all, shorthand is a valuable skill that’s pertinent to the needs and expectations of today’s society. We think it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay.

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This post was written by Lori LeRoy

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