I’m well aware that this post could lead to me being the most hated Wannabe Hack by a fair amount of our readers, but I promise not to gloat too much. In case you missed my twitter announcement yesterday, I passed the NCTJ 100wpm shorthand exam. With 100% accuracy. To say I’m pleased (and shocked!) would be the understatement of the century.
To be honest, shorthand has been the bane of my life for the last two years. Initially I got on really well with it and found it fairly easy to learn the theory. But then came the gruelling task of building speed. And as I mentioned before, I gave up when I hit 80wpm. After a year off from shorthand classes, I started again in September and have let shorthand take over my life for the last 3 months, which, thankfully, has paid off. So I thought I’d share some tips with you about how I passed shorthand and hopefully help you do it too.
1. Be prepared to let shorthand take over your life
Whenever I’m listening to someone speak, in my mind I’m thinking about the shorthand outlines. Especially when there’s a word I’ve never written in shorthand (like victimisation – have I got you thinking now?). This has led to me completely missing the question I’ve been asked or saying something that I think is relevant to the conversation but actually has nothing to do with it.
2. Use shorthand in your day-to-day life
Write your shopping list in shorthand, and then face the challenge of reading your shorthand back as your wander around the supermarket. And then get home and wonder why you don’t have anything you went for, but you have items that are spelt very similarly to them!
3. Get used to writing at speed
Yes, it sucks and is definitely the hardest part of shorthand but the more you practise the better you’ll get. Try taking notes from your favourite TV show, this kills two birds with one stone as you get to watch telly and get some practice in. (But good luck keeping up with the cast of TOWIE!) What I did with this was to choose one character in a programme that I would take notes from. Initially I’d recommend choosing a character who doesn’t talk that much and gradually build up to someone who has a lot of lines.
4. Find your own special outlines for things
Obviously when you’re learning theory you learn a number of special outlines but you’ll probably find that a lot of passages have similar words in that don’t necessarily have an official outline. For example, I have developed my own outlines for children, cover and Facebook – ok, the last one doesn’t come up in official passages that much but you’d be amazed at how often it comes up in conversation. And I have heard it in at least one NCTJ passage so I reckon it could come up again.
5. Do reading practice too
It’s very easy to concentrate on getting the notes down and forget that you actually have to read them back and make sense of them too. So for everything you write down, even if it is just what Caggie said to Spencer on last night’s Made In Chelsea, make sure you read it back.
But most importantly of all, don’t beat yourself up too much. Yes it is hard work. But with a little bit of faith in yourself and some practice, you will get there. Don’t worry if you miss a sentence in a passage, just don’t let it mess up the rest of the piece. Pause for a moment and pick up where you can. And remember, you can do it.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look