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«1.1 INTRODUCTION You have learnt to read and write English language. You must have learnt an Indian language as well. So, you are quite familiar with ...»

Lesson - 1

Introduction to Stenography


You have learnt to read and write English language. You must have learnt an

Indian language as well. So, you are quite familiar with their scripts or alphabets.

But, do you know that these scripts are not fast enough to write the language

as quickly as you might require ? Look at Fig. 1.1 and Fig. 1.2 below wherein

a word and a sentence have been written both in English script as well as in

shorthand. Compare the movements of pen and time taken in writing the word and the sentence in English and shorthand. You will definitely find the difference.

English Shorthand Fig. 1.1. Know

Fig.1.2 I do not know

Don't you see that the word 'know' and the sentence 'I do not know' have very small and short outlines in shorthand ? Since the language scripts are not fast enough, there arose a need for a 'speedy script' to write a language as quickly as you might require. This is exactly what shorthand is. The shorthand has as such all the qualities to record the human voice speedily. Ordinarily, shorthand writing is six times quicker than the language writing.

In order to record the human voice into neat and clean shorthand script, and to transcribe the same accurately, you require thorough knowledge of the 2 :: Shorthand Writing principles of the system of shorthand, aided by a good background of the language.

With the invention of the typewriter the transcription of notes written in shorthand is now done on a typewriter/computer, so that the documents could be typed speedily, accurately and neatly. Thus, the term 'Stenography' has now come to be used in a wider sense, to represent the combination of three skills - Shorthand, Transcription and Typewriting. While the Shorthand and Transcription shall form the contents of these lessons, you will also have to acquire a fairly good speed

- say 30-40 words per minute - in typewriting, unless you possess it already.

Wherever you start learning any subject or skill, it is necessary for you to know its background, importance and the methodology used in learning this subject or attaining that skill. You will, therefore, study in the first lesson, importance of shorthand, qualities required for a successful Stenographer, techniques for writing shorthand and the material used in writing shorthand.


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Stenography was later known as Shorthand. Shorthand has been described by Sir Isaac Pitman as 'the art of representing spoken sounds in shorthand characters (written signs)'. Shorthand provides a way of representing every sound heard in English words.

Originally the transcription of shorthand notes was done in longhand or the language script, which involved a longer time to transcribe. The transcription of shorthand notes speedily and neatly be done on either the typewriter or computer.

Pitman's system of Shorthand The system of shorthand invented by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837 in England, has been found to be scientific and complete. In this system all minute sounds of English words can be written in shorthand, and the shorthand outlines can be read back accurately without any difficulty. Since this system is widely practised all over the world and each and every town of India, it has been adopted by the NIOS for imparting instructions to the students.

–  –  –

Shorthand may be briefly and accurately defined as "the art of representing spoken sounds by geometrical characters. It is also called 'Phonography' or 'Sound Writing.' It is a system to write words as they are pronounced. Since shorthand is written as briefly as possible, it is called Stenography.

Pitman’s system is phonetic It is a philosophical system of writing - a method based on phonetics (sounds).

Ordinary longhand is seldom phonetic. But Pitman's shorthand is phonetic, that means, words are generally written as they are pronounced, and not according to ordinary longhand spellings. With a few exceptions, only such sounds, as are heard in pronouncing English words, are written in shorthand. Unspoken or unheard sounds are not to be written. A few illustrations are given below :Words Sounds to be written palm p-ah-m tomb t-oo-m ache a-k coal k-oh-l 4 :: Shorthand Writing

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In writing shorthand three things have to be kept in mind, viz. speed, accuracy and freedom from fatigue. This depends on correct position of the shorthand notebook, size of notes, body, hand and fingers outline, rapid leaf-turning, besides table and chair of proper sizes. When sitting for dictation you should feel at ease and there should be no tension in mind.

Position of body : Sit erect at table, body close to the table. Hold your (i) head high at a distance of about 40 cms. from the notebook. Keep your feet on the floor.

Position of Shorthand Notebook: Keep your note book at right angle (ii) or slightly turned inside. Number pages and turn a few left hand pageends for rapid turning of leaves.

Position of arms, hands and fingers : Keep your left elbow on the (iii) table and throw your entire weight on the left arm. Rest your right elbow firmly so that it does not move forward or backward, or from side to side.

Keep your right wrist on the note book to ensure easy writing on the writing line. Hold the pen/pencil low between the thumb and the first and second fingers. Grip the pen lightly. The third and fourth fingers shall simply touch the paper.

Size of outlines : Writing very small or very large characters should be (iv) avoided. You are advised to write shorthand stroke of the size of 1/6" (5 mm approx.).

Rapid leaf-turning : While writing on the upper half of the leaf or page, (v) introduce the second finger of the left hand between it and the next leaf.

When convenient (not necessarily at the fag end of the last line) turn the leaf.

Time Management : You should keep the dictation material ready in a (vi) certain place on the desk, so that no time is wasted in searching for them when called for dictation. The pen should be filled with ink, and the pencil sharpened even before receiving the call from the officer. The date should be written at the top left hand corner of the first page to be started for the day’s notes. If you have to attend to many officers in the office, the 6 :: Shorthand Writing

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Furniture and layout: You should use an armless chair, approximately (d) 40-45 cms. high depending on your height. For writing shorthand you should prefer an office table (approximately of the height of 70-75 cms.) You should also make sure that the room in which you write shorthand, particularly when you are transcribing from dictation, should be free from noise. There should be sufficient lighting in the room, so that the thin shorthand outlines can be read easily.

Dictation Equipment : Dictation Machines, Dictaphones are used by (e) some officers when the services of Stenographers are not available, such as, beyond office hours, at homes or holidays, for the purpose of dictating correspondence or any other matter. These machines record human voices (dictated matter) on suitable media, such as, plastic tape, plastic disc, plastic belt, coated paper, wire etc. Shown below is the photo of dictaphone.

1.1 Dictaphone

The Stenographer or audio-typist plays back the recording on any desired speed, listens to it (usually through headphones) and types what he/she hears. Some modern transcribing units incorporate foot or hand controls for starting and stopping the machine, voice control adjustments (to regulate speed, volume 8 :: Shorthand Writing

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1. Buy a good fountain pen with a fine and flexible nib.

2. Use good clean ink, preferably blue-black.

3. Buy a good notebook with smooth lined paper.

4. Prepare the page for rapid turning over before beginning to take dictation.

5. Cultivate a small and neat style of shorthand writing.

6. Write lightly, with no digging into the paper.

7. Hold the pen lightly, not tightly.

8. Take the cap off from the pen in order to avoid weight.

9. Keep a spare pen/pencil handy.

10. Let the little finger of the writing hand rest lightly on the paper.

11. Concentrate when taking dictation.

12. Follow the sense of the matter dictated.

13. Practice drill exercises every day.

14. Memorize the Short Forms and Contractions.

15. Understand and apply the Principles of Phrasing.

16. Learn to spell correctly, whenever in doubt, consult dictionary.

17. Acquire a good knowledge of the rules of English Grammar.

18. Do plenty of transcriptions from your own shorthand notes.

19. Read plenty of printed shorthand matter.

20. Keep your general reading wide.

21. Write legible outlines when the speed is comfortably low. When the speed is high try to write the shorthand outlines for all the words dictated.

22. Read through the shorthand notes before transcribing.

10 :: Shorthand Writing

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Prepare brief outlines, phraseograms and intersections of all common words and phrases frequently occurring in the dictation in your office. Before using dictation machine, be familiar with all the working parts you are required to handle. Listen to the entire dictation of a letter or document before you start transcribing. Make sure that you type the necessary number of copies of the letter/document.

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