Words Per Minute
Court stenographers are to be phased out in the UK and replaced by modern audio recording. Stenographers keep up with the speed of speech, which is often defined as 180 words per minute (wpm). Anyone who has tried to take a note in longhand at that speed will tell you it is impossible.
Many journalists who learn shorthand struggle to hit 100 wpm, so the only way to keep up is through a skilled professional using a stenotype machine. The machine has a minimal keyboard, which omits key letters like i, m or n, and by hitting a combination of keys – known as chords – they can produce the missing letters or phonetic sounds like “th” or “sh”.
The stenographers say that by switching to audio you’ll miss the nuances of speech that stem from virtual lip-reading. Stenos learn a great many shortform phrases like PH R O PLT – Manslaughter due to diminished responsibility – to ease their speed.
When stenos in the courtroom go, though, they’ll be hired by corporations wanting to take perfect notes – and they’ll probably earn more.