People and Perspectives
The Disappearing Art of Shorthand
In a digital age, the school’s Executive Assistant to the Head finds that shorthand still comes in handy
In an era when technology is all around us in the workplace, we run the risk of forgetting the ways we used to do things and losing valuable skills. Shorthand, once a must for any administrative worker, is one of the skills at risk of disappearing. But BSS is lucky enough to have a shorthand expert on staff. Executive Assistant to the Head Elda Scott has been using Pitman shorthand for over fifty years.
Ms. Scott first discovered shorthand when she was studying at Shaw’s Business College in the 1960s. “I loved it! It’s like another language,” she says, “It’s so fast, I can hear a word and write it in one stroke.”
In Pitman shorthand, each stroke represents a letter, while vowels are represented by dots placed above and below the line of strokes. This allows for words to be written in simple, quick motions that can keep pace with spoken dictation. There are also shortcuts that reduce common phrases to short forms for even faster writing.
Ms. Scott found that shorthand came in handy as soon as she graduated from Shaw’s. In her first job, her manager would return from business trips having met with numerous clients and shorthand was the only way to keep up with the flow of correspondence.
As the number of digital tools available in the average office has increased, shorthand has fallen out of use. Despite this, Ms. Scott’s shorthand skills are still helpful to have. Rather than using a recorder, many of her managers have preferred to dictate directly to her as she writes in shorthand, since this method makes it easier to go back and make changes over the course of a single session. At BSS she’s used shorthand to take dictation from Judith Carlisle and former Heads Deryn Lavell, Kim Gordon and Natalie Little.
What does Ms. Scott think the future of shorthand will be? “It isn’t needed as much as it once was, since now we have so many ways of capturing words. But it’s so fast… and it’s different from anything else you might learn, even any other language you might learn. It’s definitely a skill I’m happy to have and it’s fun to use.”