Top 5 Ways to Practise Shorthand

February 10, 2011

When it comes to mastering shorthand there is little you can do but practice, practice and more practice. Unfortunately there is no other way of doing it. There are plenty of shorthand dictation tapes out there on the web, or from your course centre for you to pass. You should be practising for at least an hour a day if you want to get your 100wpm. However, there isn’t an endless supply of dictation and the passages can become familiar after a while. It is always nice to try something different to spice up your shorthand relationship, so why not try these five on for size?

Credit SparkleShellstar @ Flickr

Shorthand to the beat

It is possible to take down teeline to a song and it can be a novel way to change up your practice routine. Try and pick songs that have clear lyrics and a tempo that isn’t too fast for your shorthand speed. Not only will it help your shorthand but transcribing the words back will help you learn them for your next karaoke trip as well.

While watching T.V

Finding time and motivation to churn out an hours worth of shorthand practice can be difficult at times. But as all you need is a pen and paper sometimes it is nice to encorportate it into other activities like watching T.V (or listening to music). Taking down teeline to the news, or a chat show can be good practice at the faster speeds. Even if you are only at 60wpm trying to keep up for 30 seconds is still good practice.

On the move

If you take the train or the bus anywhere and you have left your Ipod at home, don’t worry. You can still practise your shorthand. Take down what you hear and try and get it back, it could be a mobile phone conversation or the radio on the bus (not sure if the bus plays the radio, to be honest) but it all helps towards that 100wpm.

Ask a friend to read to you

Probably the most unlikely of the five to happen on a regular basis. But if your flatmate or partner is around with nothing to do, asking them to read at a certain pace is a good way to break things up. If only to get you away from the usual shorthand passages and voices.

Dictation

OK so it’s really a top 4 but it cannot be avoided. Your shorthand dictation passages provide the best way of practising your shorthand and getting up to speed. The above methods are good ways of getting away from the dictation when they become monotonus or familiar but the passages should never be kicked to the curb. Take a break from them to try something different, but keep them close at hand, they really will help you pass.

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Guest Post: The Girl With The Shorthand Tattoo

January 24, 2011

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.


What’s Changed With The NCTJ

October 8, 2010

As I mentioned a week or so ago the shorthand section of the NCTJ course has experienced some changes recently. But it isn’t just the teeline test that’s changing, the entire syllabus will change from September 2011. Seeing as some centres are delivering the changed syllabus now I thought it was about time to highlight some of the differences.

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, news writing doesn’t exist anymore. Nope, it’s now known as reporting and teaches multi-platform reporting and news writing for online, magazines and TV/Radio as well as print. The discipline also looks at basic editing skills, finding and telling stories and accuracy and use of English.

The move can certainly be seen as a step in the right direction and will answer the NCTJ critics that recently questioned its street cred. However, the current NCTJ pre-entry exams provide a very good grounding for a trainee newspaper journalist on a local level. A balance will need to be struck and the NCTJ will have to be wary of following journalism degrees that try to cram in too many aspects into their courses and leave students without a real speciality.

The portfolio also changes and is now called the multimedia portfolio which allows students to submit stories on any format in another move to try to produce a more rounded journalist.

Both public affairs and media law have been rebranded as essential media law and essential public affairs, while the shorthand changes can be found by following the link at the top of the page to my NCTJ Shorthand – The Future post.

Anyone concerned that the new curriculum may be leading students down a path of uncertainty in the job market, with too many skills and not enough specific knowledge can breathe a sigh of relief.  Students will not be able to gain a diploma in journalism unless they pass all the required elements above AND two specialist subjects.

The subjects include court reporting, online video journalism, sub-editing, sports journalism, business of magazines and broadcast journalism. Again, this is a change for the better and it allows more variety to be offered and will help to produce a well-rounded journalist with a refined specialist field with which to work in.

Upon launching the changes Donald Martin, chairman of the NCTJ Journalism Qualifications Board, said:

 “We all now operate in a multimedia world. The boundaries between journalism sectors are no longer distinct. Employers like me are demanding multi-skilled journalists. And students, who are full of enthusiasm for this new world, want multimedia training and multimedia NCTJ qualifications.”

So there you have it, the qualification which best suits trainee journalists has expanded and should be able to help place young journalists in jobs across all forms of media and not just the local press. A change for the better, I’d say.
If you are taking or going to be taking this new form of NCTJ courses or are already taking them please get in touch. We would love to hear your thoughts.
You can also read the full aticle of Donald Martins launch of the Diploma in Journalism here
Pic Credit – Arvind Balaraman

NCTJ Shorthand – The Future

September 16, 2010

Tomorrow is a big day and it has nothing to do with the Pope. No, tomorrow is all about 100wpm and my first attempt at a shorthand exam (I have already sat one but didn’t submit so it doesn’t count).

However this isn’t just any shorthand exam. It’s a new version and guess what, it’s easier. The new format has just recently been rolled out and the exam on Friday is the first of its kind to be held at my training centre in Wimbledon.

The first two minutes are the same as normal, followed by the usual 30 second break. However, it’s in the second half of the exam when things take an unusual twist as there is a further 15 seconds rest between the third and fourth minute.

But the biggest change of all comes in the final minute which contains a very important quote that you are expected to get down word for word, no mistakes. But get this, that’s all you have to get down; the rest of the minute doesn’t even have to be transcribed.

Now in light of recent articles questioning the use of shorthand and its necessity in modern journalism, I can’t help thinking that the NCTJ aren’t helping themselves by making the exam decidedly easier.

Do they think this is a better test of the skill, or do they just need a boost in the pass rate? I know many of the people who have already passed on my course feel that the exam can be passed now with less effort than before. In truth I am not sure how the change benefits the future journalist. But as all I need to do is pass, you won’t hear me complaining.

Now, if only I could keep up for the first two minutes….


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