TIPS ON TRANSCRIBING SHORTHAND
Shorthand students often find that they can get down all of the outlines at speed during dictation but then find they struggle more to transcribe it back into longhand. They key to successful transcription is obviously having a clear outline, which isn't always possible at high speed, and remembering, even vaguely, what the piece was about. Keep the theme in mind as you go through. Sometimes you hit a word that just seems impossible to read. You can neither remember what it was in dictation nor understand or work out a squiffy outline thrown down in haste as you struggle to keep going. The key is always to read around it. What are the words both before and after it? Read to the end of the sentence leaving the word out and come back to it and try and work out what it must be in context. If it doesn't sound right, or you are forcing it to fit, then it probably isn't right.
Over at this post, if you scroll down, you will see the Bateman's Brewery Press Release that I used to create THIS AUDIO at 100wpm. I took out some bits that would definitely slow things up like 5.5% ABV, LCC, ELDC, (initials are not necessary when you have already taken down Lincolnshire County Council and East Lindsey District Council in full) and characterful because with so many difficult words in this passage, including characteristic, it seemed kinder to remove it. The passage is already quite hard to get down at speed as it is without throwing the pen away in frustration part way through. But the key to taking down shorthand at speed, and transcribing back, is to keep going. Try again, and again, and never give up. You will get there - even if your shorthand at speed is as scruffy as mine. Like me, you will get to know your own shorthand and also the bloopers you make which in themselves trigger the key to transcribing an awkward word.
If you are new to shorthand, or working your way up to higher speeds, always use a lined spiral reporter's notebook. I am so familiar with my own shorthand that I can write it anywhere even on A4 paper that is not lined but I would never use scraps of paper in a formal setting like an interview, or when reporting from a court or other official hearing like a council meeting or press conference. Scraps of paper like the one with my shorthand on it below, can be lost, mislaid, and hard to keep. Remember, as a journalist, you must keep your notes for five years so notebooks, and your notes, must be dated and filed and able to be found quickly should you need to produce them. Clearly that is easier to do when they are neatly contained in a box full of dated notebooks than bits of undated paper or even the back of envelopes.
These contemporaneous notes taken down to the dictation are rough and if this had been a 100wpm exam setting, I would have had four errors which would still have allowed me to pass. I have highlighted my bloppers and words I found hard to bring back in red but I will attempt to explain the thought processes I went through as I transcribed the Bateman's press release.
PAGE ONE - The first fault I noted was the use of ank (ank word ending) with the L for Lincs (Lincolnshire). It should have been the ink (ink word ending) but I knew this was about Lincolnshire and not Lancashire as my outline suggests (Lancs). The second, highlighted in red, was 800. It should have been either 800 ringed, or 8 with the DR line below. Again, clumsy as it is, I knew the outline had to be 800th and not 800,000th because the theme of this press release was around the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Common sense also plays a key part in transcription. Some of the other outlines in this first part before the 15 second break will probably be difficult for anyone else with shorthand to read, but this is my shorthand and only I have to read it back.
I would, of course, advise students never to write in an exam, especially in longhand, the break between passages but you might like to leave a gap and begin the next part after a break on the line below. The word anniversary came out differently to the first time I wrote it (after 800 in the first part) but the following word celebrations was the key to knowing that it could only be anniversary however bad the outline was. I managed to read back the rest and then got stuck again when I hit Lincoln Cathedral. Very messy, not at all clear and certainly not theory correct but again, I know my shorthand and I remembered Cathedral was in there so it was only place it could be. Reading around the two words that caused me trouble meant that, in context, they fit. I got the bit Lincoln Castle where before the unclear outlines, and copy of the document is now housed, after them. Lincoln Cathedral had to fit between and it did.
PAGE TWO - The first word here to give me a problem is highlighted in red. I simply had no idea until I read on and I never managed to pick it up until I got to the word created further on. I recognised my version of Magna Carta, and then went back again. The group before the unknown outline was that would have been and after it by the barons who created Magna Carta and I knew there was an N and a Y and a D in my difficult to transcribe outline and then it it hit me that the word must be enjoyed. Nothing else would fit and once I realised, it triggered my memory and I was then sure the word had to be right and it was.
The word indulgent is a mess but I knew what it was because the next word luxurious triggered my memory of it. But, what, on earth, was the outline highlighted in red that has a B with an implied R and T that ended in S? It was a brain burp. My mind said write fruits but my hand did something on its own as my brain burped before it got to the pen. I confess. I had to look it up. It would have been an error in an exam. I did know the next word in red was enhance but afterwards I tweaked it to practise a better outline. No doubt it will just come out the same under pressure of dictation in future but it's always worth analysing your shorthand after dictation and drilling difficult or unknown words until you can write them comfortably and clear enough for you to transcribe. Remember that it is your shorthand and you only have yourself to please when taking it down. You must be able to transcribe it so use what works for you.
My final blooper, which made me think but didn't lead to mistranscription, mainly because of context, was use. Be very careful with those Us and Os and Ws which can be confused or even written more like a C as I did in haste.
So, now you've had an insight into my mind as it both writes and transcribes my shorthand, below you'll find the press release written in theory perfect Teeline. My handwriting whether writing longhand or shorthand is always a bit messy at speed and I have large handwriting, but obviously the closer you can keep your outlines to theory perfect ones, the easier you'll find transcription.