Shorthand is a method of writing that involves the usage of abbreviations and symbols. People choose to learn shorthand to greatly increase their productivity and to save time. In the past, people commonly learnt to write shorthand, although the discipline has greatly diminished due to modern dictation machines and recording utilities. Despite the decrease in popularity, some students and professionals still choose to learn shorthand as a fast alternative to traditional note-taking methods.
Learn the basics. Purchase a book on shorthand or use the free resources on the Internet to learn the fundamentals of a shorthand method. There are many different types of shorthand and no one system is the best; try out multiple systems to see which one works for you. Pitman and Gregg shorthand are the most common English versions in use today. Both are phonetic and are relatively simple to learn.
Practice the basic alphabet. Every shorthand system has a specific symbol for a certain sound. Before you start writing whole words, learn the phonetic symbols; this will enable you to accurately string together symbols to create words quickly and efficiently. Gregg shorthand has a distinct symbol for each sound, while Pitman shorthand makes use of thick and thin lines to distinguish between some sounds.
Write entire words. Start off with small words that don't require more than four symbols to complete. Learn how to string the symbols together and how to incorporate vowel markings. As you get more comfortable, write bigger words that require more complex formations. Practice both writing and reading; there's no point writing shorthand if you can't also read it.
Use shorthand in everyday life. Incorporate shorthand into everything you write. The more you practice shorthand, the quicker you will be at writing it. Although you will undoubtedly be slow at the beginning, you will quickly show signs of improvement. Write all notes and memos in shorthand and remember to practice translating them back into normal writing.
Pitman shorthand requires the use of thick and thin lines. Don't try to write Pitman shorthand with a ballpoint pen; you won't be able to vary the pressure enough to distinguish between a thick and a thin symbol. Learning shorthand won't enable you to write at the speed of speech right away. Don't give up; by constantly practicing shorthand you will consistently see steady improvement. Shorthand is easy to learn, but difficult to master.