How I learned Personal Shorthand

Shorthand Textbook

My sister needed to use shorthand for her work. She kept looking for shorthand training courses at so many places but couldn’t find a single place offering shorthand courses. After a long search, she finally stumbled upon one place that offered shorthand courses. After she took the training course and brought the textbook with her, I got curious about shorthand. I was still studying at university by that time. I started looking through the shorthand textbook and my interest grew.


I then set about to learn shorthand from the textbook on my own. I used lectures I attended at university as an avenue for practicing my shorthand skills. It was not that I was learning shorthand so that it could help me write down lectures I am attending but it was actually the other way around. I was curious to learn shorthand so I used university lectures I was attending back then as an excellent opportunity for practice.

Personal Shorthand

I remember I started on that journey during the second semester of my third year at Cairo University. The type of shorthand I was learning is called Personal Shorthand or PS for short. It is a renaming of what had been known before as briefhand. What distinguishes PS from other types of shorthand, such as Pitman shorthand, is that it relies solely on the 26 letters of the alphabet and therefore is very easy to learn compared to most other shorthand methods and can even be typed on a computer since it contains no special symbols and relies only on letters of the alphabet.

Full Lecture Transcription

I started reading in the personal shorthand textbook and doing the exercises it had. I started practicing during all lectures I attended at university. It was a lot of fun. By the second semester on my fourth year at university I was able to write down every single word the lecturer was uttering during the lecture. I no longer needed to rewrite my shorthand notes into longhand as I came back home. I just kept the shorthand sheets I had written during the lectures as they are and studied from them directly.


When I went to university I did not need to take any notebook with me, all I needed was a few folded foolscap folios and a pen. A whole 2 hour long lecture could be transcribed in full in just 2 foolscap folios since I wrote on both the front and back sides of each folio.


As the time for the final exam came at the end of the semester, I used the transcripts of the 12 or so lectures that I had stapled together as a way to revise all lectures before taking the exam. I was surprised at the amount of information they contained most of which I would have totally forgotten had I been attending the lectures without caring to take notes during the lectures.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learnt from this story. One of them is that a new skill can help you do better in life. Another lesson is that lots of practice is required to master a new skill. Practicing in a real life context also proved more effective. A third lesson is that one can learn some skills from a book plus practice without the need for external help.

Have you ever thought about learning shorthand? If so, what might you be using it for?

Setting Ground Rules During Training

In order to make the training session proceed smoothly it is essential that the trainer set a number of ground rules and communicate them clearly to all participants. Ground rules can be set after the trainer has introduced himself and mentioned the training style. Alternatively, it could be delayed till after the first icebreaker.

Preset Ground Rules

There are several methods for setting ground rules. The simplest method is to include a slide in the PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of a training session listing a set of ground rules and to point to them as you proceed to that slide.

Sample of Ground Rules

Ground rules may vary from just requiring participants to switch off their cell phones or make them silent during the training session to a more elaborate set of ground rules including no smoking during the training session or inside the training room, asking questions only at the end of the training session and so on.

Collaborative Ground Rules

An alternative way for setting ground rules, other than listing them on a slide, is to have participants themselves suggest ground rules and write them down on a flip chart sheet. The trainer can then use voting to accept or reject any of those ground rules. The trainer may even go a step further by removing a suggested ground rule himself in order make a training session more relaxed.

he flip chart sheet can be hung on the wall at the side and in front of all participants containing the final set of ground rules clearly written in large type to act as a reminder for participants throughout the training program. The trainer can also easily refer back to it in case of any participant breaking any of the agreed upon ground rules. Icons can be drawn next to the ground rule statements for even better communication.

Allowing participants to participate in setting up the ground rules makes them more willing to abide by them.


Setting up ground rules from the start of the first training session in a training program can save the trainer a lot of effort and help make the training sessions run smoothly through such short or long set of ground rules be it preset by the trainer or decided on collaboratively by participants attending the training.

Do you think there are cases when it is not necessary to set ground rules? What are such cases?