Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Shorthand skills are essential for a journalist but in the world of business the speed writing craft appears to be on its way out.

I use Tee Line and my speed is at least 100 wpm, although I could be faster after 20 years of using it since I qualified. It's useful in everything I do, from taking and transcribing notes verbatim from several hearings and meetings, to jotting down ideas that tumble rapidly out of my head. These are the bones of any journalism or fiction story I write or idea I chase.

A discreet notepad on your lap rather than a voice recorder on the table between you when doing interviews is less intimidating to the person you're talking to. Shorthand notes are indiscernible to a layman so they don't worry about what you're writing down.

I used a recorder once in a face to face interview but it's presence closed up my subject who was guarded about every comment she made. I went a second time with a notebook and pen instead and she really opened up to me about she felt about the man who had killed her daughter.

Using a recording machine in court is illegal. I once kept one running in my pocket during a council meeting but the sound was too muffled to be of use when played back. A good recording of an interview or meeting can lead to wasted hours of rewinding to find the bit I want rather than a quick flick back to relevant pages with highlighted quotes I know I'll want to pick out.

That's why I prefer shorthand but I guess in today's modern technological world of instant communication, speed writing as an essential form of record taking is a dying craft.

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