The Basics of Stenography

Stenographers are often an overlooked profession when it comes to discovering the career that best fits you. Have you ever wondered what a stenographer is or what they do? Here are some basic insights into the world of stenography:

 

WHY NOT JUST TYPE EVERYTHING WITH A KEYBOARD?

A trained typist might type at about 80 words per minute, but most humans speak roughly 180 words per minute and others even more! A stenographer writes at 200 words per minute minimum and so is able to produce an exact transcript simultaneously.

HOW DO THEY DO IT?

To reach these impressive speeds, stenographers write syllable by syllable, rather than letter by letter on a special stenography machine. It has two rows of four keys on the left-hand side, all consonants, which are pressed by the four fingers of the left hand. There are two rows of five keys – again all consonants – on the right-hand side which are pressed by the four fingers of the right-hand. In the middle, just below these keys, are four more keys which are pressed by the two thumbs. These are vowels. The left hand hits the first consonant of the syllable, while the thumbs hit the vowel and the right hand hits the final consonant, like playing chords on a piano.

 

stenographer keyboard - Orange Legal

BUT THERE ARE 21 CONSONANTS!

You’re right. In order to produce all 21 consonants, combinations of keys are used. For instance, some letters are completely missing from their keyboards! On the left-hand side of the machine you have to press the T, the P and the H together to represent an N. Why those combinations of letters? That’s just the way it has always been!

AND WHAT ABOUT THE 5 VOWELS?

Different combinations of the four vowel keys are pressed to represent the different vowel sounds. So the E key represents the sound in ‘set’ – SET in steno. And pressing A, O and E all together represents the sound in ‘seat’ – SAOET in steno.

WHERE DO THE PUNCTUATION KEYS GO?

Further combinations of the letters are pressed to create a code which represents a piece of punctuation. Many stenos use FPLT to represent a full stop.

There’s also no spacebar because the paper feeding mechanism turns as the keys are pressed, so the syllables read vertically down the special long, thin paper. Of course for live subtitling, the machine is hooked up to a computer instead, which converts the steno speak into legible English.

THAT DOES SOUND COOL!

It can take between two and five years of full-time training to steno at 200 words per minute, but it’s worth it! Stenography is as accurate and reliable as the stenographer. If you have any interest in learning more about stenography or court reporting, reach out to Jill Percy for more information, and always stay tuned for more Orange Legal news by subscribing to our newsletter below.


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Source and Credit: Ericsson Communication Rachel Thorn, Subtitler