Guest Post: The Girl With The Shorthand Tattoo


Some of you may have heard of Anneka Masih recently. She is the NCTJ student who caused quite a stir by getting her name tattoed on her ankle, in shorthand. Holdthefrontpage broke the story, the NCTJ website covered it too. Even media commentator and City  University lecturer Roy Greenslade gave it some blog-time, but not everyone has been very complimentary. Well here are Anneka’s thoughts on the story, her reasons for the tat and her feelings on shorthand in general:

Shorthand is something that I find inspirational. I’ve been interested in journalism for almost four years and my tattoo serves as a reminder of how far I have come. I chose to get my name tattooed in shorthand on my ankle for a personal reason. The tattoo symbolises the stage of my life where I want to pursue my career as a journalist, and it’s something I can always look back on. I thought the outline of my name was really interesting and wouldn’t offend anyone, nor would it be pointless. Some people get tattoos of patterns and flowers, or a specific design because the design itself was quite pretty. But I wanted more than that. This tattoo represents a stage of my life where I worked hard to achieve a goal.

I really enjoy learning shorthand and agreed to the story being published. The fact that people started commenting on it was really interesting to me. I personally didn’t expect lots of people to read it, and I definitely thought it would only be a light-hearted story. Suddenly, it became really controversial within a few hours of being posted. Something which was supposed to be symbolic to me had become this central point for people to start attacking me personally. Some people called me an ‘idiot’ and one person even called me a ‘chav’, even though they don’t actually know me. This is my first tattoo and I wanted it to be significant in my life, and not something I did when I was 17 and drunk or something that will lose its relevance in years to come.

Some people have argued that shorthand will be dead in a few years and the tattoo will therefore be irrelevant, but I have to disagree. Newspapers have survived for hundreds of years and I think shorthand will be a part of them for at least another 50.

The outline of the tattoo has also been criticised, with some saying that it’s not correct and it looks more like ‘anthka’ rather than ‘anka’. That’s actually not true and the outline can be read back as Anneka by several people who have studied journalism. No-one I’ve shown the tattoo to so far has said that it doesn’t say my name. It seems that people are nit-picking for no apparent reason.

Shorthand is something that I am looking forward to mastering, as it’s such an important skill to attain, especially for journalists. My story was never designed to offend anyone, but to show people how passionate you can be about journalism.

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9 Responses to Guest Post: The Girl With The Shorthand Tattoo

  1. Ryan GS says:

    Hi Anneka,
    It’s unfortunate you’ve had to go on the defensive over your tattoo. To me, it seems both a relevant and modest symbol if achieving something very difficult. I don’t really know why it’s managed to strike such a nerve. Could be a twitter thing, as it’s so easy for an idea to snowball in a cyclone funnel of RTs. All the more reason, now the dust has settled, for you to supply a reasoned response.

    Well done Matt for blogging it up. Hope you get some new followers. Will use my RTs for good rather than evil 🙂

    • Matt Wiggins says:

      Thanks for the comment Ryan. I agree that it seems strange to have attracted such a negative reaction but shorthand is arguably the most divisive topic in journalism. I am sure anyone who has learnt the subject and toiled for hours over outlines and specials will empathise with Anneka and her reasons for wanting to mark the achievement, I certainly do. But at the same time there will be those who think it is a pointless symbol of a dying art form. I don’t think there is any need for the attacks but could it be put down to the nature of online commenting nowadays? An anonymous oppurtunity to mock others?

  2. I thought she was naive when I read the original story. Her comments have confirmed my original assumption.

    If young journalists are thinking: “Newspapers have survived for hundreds of years and I think shorthand will be a part of them for at least another 50.”
    Then we have a problem. This curmudgeonly attitude is to expected from people with careers in print. But if we’re looking to the future of journalism, young journalists need to not make assumptions like this.

  3. Ryan GS says:

    Yes I am sure some are hiding behind an avatar, as is often the case, to express their opinion.

    However, as a unashamed and 100% n00b journo student, I’m in no position to pontificate with any authority on what the future has in store for shorthand. I am on the same course that you took Matt, and part ofthat course is shorthand. So I will throw myself into it. And thank goodness my naievity at this stage, because it looks like a ton of work to do.

    I also see this as some fundamental skills to learn. I don’t have years of experience to know WHY I think this, but have always been a believer in learning the basics of anything first and see little reason (and choice for an alternative) for my coming year.

    Now, I’ve read the articles and it seems a little unfair for Anneka to also be asked to speak on the future of journalism. Mr Bentley, I totally see where you are coming from. Everyone on twitter is talking about the future of journalism, and no two people seems to actually agree.

    But whether we all end up in personalised flotation consumer-pods a la Wall-e being fed audio/visual nuggetrons through a straw – or not – Anneka has every right to adorn her ankle with some ancient rune as she (and maybe ten other future earthlings) actually knows what it means.

    Besides, I wouldn’t have ever heard about it had I not read it in the press. Funny that.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Goodwin-Smith, Matt Wiggins. Matt Wiggins said: Guest Post: The Girl With The Shorthand Tattoo: http://wp.me/p146AP-2Z […]

  5. Matt Baxter says:

    I really can’t believe why people are slating Anneka over this; it’s pathetic.
    A lot of people get tattoo’s that they say mean something to them yet are just stupid cartoons, ‘tribal’ designs and other rubbish (not that I don’t like tattoos).
    Regardless of whether people agree on its importance (I’m learning it too btw), she’s obviously put a lot of time and effort into her shorthand by the sound of things. At least it does mean something to her.
    All I can say to Anneka is ignore these sad people, work hard on your shorthand then flout your 100wpm (or faster) certificate in their faces as a sign of your commitment and hard work towards your career and just stick with things.
    I don’t think she’s naive at all.
    Many people give up when it comes to learning shorthand, show that you’re not one of them.

  6. Jeanna says:

    Hello, thank you for posting this. I did a Google search for “shorthand tattoo” because I am interested in getting a tattoo with shorthand in it and I wanted to see if there were others out there like me.

    The difference in my idea, however, is that I do stenography so I want to use the stenography shorthand, not of the handwritten variety like Anka.

    I don’t understand why people would have a problem with her deciding on anything she would want on her body. There are much more controversial ideas in the world on peoples’ bodies than shorthand, for goodness’ sakes!

    One thing I have always found very fascinating is ancient Egyptian culture. In those times, “Scribes played an important role in early Egypt. Only scribes and priests were taught how to read and write.” Hey, that’s a pretty big deal. And although these are not ancient times we live in, plenty of people get tattoos of ancient cultures’ ideas, philosophies, art, etc., so what’s the difference?

    Haters gotta hate, right?

    At any rate, have a wonderful day.

    ♥jeanna

    • Jeanna says:

      Oh, and regarding shorthand being a dying art form? Look at records! When cassettes then later CDs came out, everyone was saying “Oh, there’s no need for those records anymore!” Now there are people (in my circle of friends, at least) who LOVE to get their hands on records.

      You just wait, world, when computers crash… lol, then who will be laughing? People like me and Anneka (I re-read and realized I used the wrong spelling), that’s who 😉

  7. ne6local says:

    Hey,
    I’m a magazine journalism student and i had to learn shorthand, I’ve gotten to 80 wpm which is what I need on my NCTJ course and I think her tattoo is amazing!
    Really I was just talking about getting a shorthand tattoo with my best friend because we love it so much.
    I agree with the comments above that people get random things put on their bodies because it means something to them so why not this?
    Shorthand to me is like another language, you may not speak it but it’s something we are able to write that other people can’t read and it’s down to our hard work that it is possible.
    And with regards to the comment about shorthand dying….SO WHAT!…nobody speaks latin anymore but how may tattoos do you see written in latin these days?
    people who slate her for doing this just need to get a life, if it means something to her then that’s all that counts.

    Great blog by the way, stumbled upon it accidently!

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