The best advice for studying shorthand

shorthand, journalism, advice, top tips, media, Natasha Ireton Bourke, Kettle Mag
Written by Natasha16

When I found out I had got into university, there was only one thing that I was dreading… Shorthand. Shorthand is becoming more and more essential for journalists with Sky Sports News and Grazia magazine not even accepting work experience placements without 100wpm shorthand.

Having recently passed my 60wpm shorthand exam and now aiming for my 100wpm here are what I think are the best ways to study shorthand.

Know your theory

Theory is the bases of shorthand. You cannot even think about speed until you know the basics. Buying the theory books are really helpful as well as the word list. Try and go through a unit a day and start to learn word endings and beginnings which can help with speeds.


Drill sheets

Doing drill sheets can really help. If you come across a word you don’t know or remember how to write in shorthand, write it out at least ten times to get yourself used to writing the word. Then when you are writing at speed the word should hopefully flow.


It may sound obvious but make sure you practice every day. Even if it is just 20 minutes it means you are incorporating shorthand into your life every day which will in turn help you become more comfortable with shorthand quicker. 

Musical Shorthand

Find a song you are loving and try and write the lyrics out in shorthand. Some of the NCTJ exam pieces can be very dull so try something you actually like.


It is no good just getting the shorthand down if you can’t get it back into long hand. When doing shorthand exams at speed or when reporting interviews your shorthand is likely to not be as neat because you are writing at speed. So make sure you practice transcribing all of your work. For the NCTJ exams you are not marked on your shorthand outlines but on your long hand. (This is because everyone’s shorthand looks a bit different so they want to see if you can transcribe your own shorthand.) So you need to make sure you practice this part as well.

Try higher speeds 

If you are stuck at a certain speed and don’t think you will get past it, try and go a speed higher. This may sound strange but if you can get some of higher speeds down once you go back to a lower speed it will suddenly seem a lot slower. This really helped me when preparing for my 60wpm exam.

Shorthand can seem like a massive nuisance or that you will never get it. With hard work and determination it will click and you will start to get it. There are still words I trip over and have to go back to theory for. Learning shorthand has been hard but also very rewarding now having passed my first exam.  

What advice would you add? Have your say in the comments section below. To submit a question for Mastering Media, click here or email Alex Veeneman.