A cross between shorthand and typewriting.


by Marnanel Thurman

Stenography is a cross between shorthand and typewriting: it allows you to type at dictation speed, around 250 words per minute. It's often used in courtrooms, to make a permanent record of the proceedings, but it's also used in subtitling (aka closed captioning), and in lectures to display a textual version of the speaker's words for the benefit of deaf students. Whatever the area, if you do a lot of typing, then putting in the effort to learn steno might well pay off.

It takes quite a bit of practice to get good at steno, but the underlying idea is simple: every keystroke forms a syllable. Your left fingers form the consonants that begin the syllable, your two thumbs form the vowels, and your right fingers form the consonants that end the syllable. Until recently, steno equipment was specialised and very expensive, but a few years ago the Plover project began to make an open source steno system. All you need to practice is a gamer's keyboard— ordinary keyboards don't allow you to press more than a few keys at once.

For myself, I've reached the level where I can type things in steno, but not yet as fast as I can on QWERTY. Have a go, and let me know how you do.