Changing Careers: Shorthand - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Changing Careers: Shorthand

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KENT ISLAND, Md. (WBOC) - A woman makes seemingly random squiggles on a page. They are loops and swoops that don't mean much to lots of people.

But that woman making those squiggles knows exactly what they mean. Mildred Chesney is doing shorthand.

Mildred - grandmother of WBOC's Mike Chesney - was a teacher for 25. For 20 of those, she taught kids how to do shorthand.

"I learned it in college," she said. "Shorthand was part of my requirements."

Basically it's an symbol system that allows people to write faster than normal. It used to be especially useful to secretaries taking dictation.

"Taking shorthand and then typing up the notes - that was typical," Mildred said. "That's what the secretary did in those days."

That's what they did in those days but not so much anymore.

"It's obsolete. Shorthand is obsolete and out. There's not need for it today," she said. "Today, first of all, there is dictating into audio machines, but mostly everyone uses the computer."

Computer, there's a key word. While written shorthand, like Mildred taught, is a thing of the past, computer shorthand is not.

On a Thursday night in April a group of women sat around a table in a conference room on Kent Island working on computer shorthand. It as a part of a class teaching them to be court reporter assistants. That's a job category the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see employment growth in the coming years.

"Court reporters go out, they take testimony using their machines," said Laurie Mayers, who teaches the class. "It comes out in all the funny little language on their machines, on their writers... They are very overworked, so they will hand their work off to an assistant to format and read the steno notes, which is what we're doing here."

Computer shorthand is much faster than written shorthand. And it uses letters and spaces instead of squiggles.

"Different capital letters represent each letter or an entire phrase, which is why they can 250 words a minute on that small machine," Barbara Burkhardt, a student in the class, said.

Burkhardt says it's like a puzzle, like the cryptogram in the newspaper.

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