Jacqui Frost

Through Thick And Thin

Is Shorthand A Dying Art?

Posted on: 22/04/2013   By: Jacqui Frost

There was a time when you could not get a job as a Secretary without demonstrating your audio typing speed and/or your shorthand skills. But with the advent of laptops and the increased availability of computers rather than typewriters, is there still a need for audio typing and shorthand skills?

many clients prefer to use a dictaphone rather than a shorthand secretary

many clients prefer to use a dictaphone rather than a shorthand secretary

I personally have used Teeline in the past and these days tend to back any note taking up by using a digital recorder - especially for any seminars that I attend. In one seminar I went to earlier this year, I was asked to take notes during an impromptu brainstorming session for one of the businesses in the room. I found my Teeline skills useful and the back up of my digital recorder which allowed me to listen back and triple check that I did not miss any comments or suggestions.

Teeline notation is very similar to our standard alphabet and a bit like learning joined up writing, some small adjustments are made to speed the writing up. Pitman Shorthand though has its own symbols and the thickness of the line written down determines which word is being represented. With both systems, the context of the symbol mostly determines which word you are writing down.

It can take some time to become proficient at using either system and I am sure there are many out there that began learning and gave up. Genie Jenny devised her own notation system based on abbreviations and symbols whilst she was at university so that she could reduce cramp during lectures.

We wondered whether shorthand was still in use or whether the fact that most people had a computer meant that the skill had been lost. So we decided to do some research with experienced PA's and secretaries. The results were interesting :

  • 16% Teeline

  • 37% Pitman Shorthand

  • 18% Speed-writing

  • 29% Other

There seems to be a difference of opinion about whether the skill of shorthand is still relevant or whether it is a dying art. In an effort to reduce the repetition in reproduction of notes, many VA's are choosing to take their laptop into the meeting and are typing their notes directly. With a suitable typing speed and accuracy then I can see that this would work well.

But as one experienced Pitman user pointed out, her shorthand allows her to take verbatim notes at any time especially during phone calls and record details from "off the cuff" conversations swiftly and accurately. Other PA's point out that the joy of shorthand is you never have to worry about where the nearest power socket is or whether you have enough battery power left. With shorthand you could continue on the napkins or table cloth if you ran out of paper!

There are many advantages to using a shorthand system. Even those that don't use shorthand have probably developed their own system for taking notes. The benefit of your own system is that any observations you make will remain your own, but it can make it difficult for someone else to type up your notes!

But for most business owners that use a VA service - in my experience - they tend to do their own correspondence, sending over information to be proof read and tidied up rather than dictating. We do often get requests for audio typing services. These tend to be from professional meetings such as tribunals, HR and legal meetings where a verbatim transcription needs to be kept for records.

To learn more about our transcription, Virtual PA and copy typing services, please call us on +44 (0) 1604 529170.

Until next time ...


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