A Survey of the Impact of High Rate of Failures in Shorthand


Shorthand has had a long history, its development closely parallel to the development and use of long hand.  There are considerable evidence that shorthand was in use before the beginning of the Christian era.  The early Greeks have been employed to take down lectures and record poems recited at such national meetings as the Olympic Games in abbreviated writing.

Over the century, a lot of technological developments had taken place as a result of industrial revolution. Sequal to this developments, different technical innovations were introduced by the early colonial educational as a means of time saving devices to aid business professional life in various works of life.

Today, businessmen and professionals make use of shorthand to facilitate business transactions through minute taking, dictation, etc to enable the writer acquire speed, skill and efficiency. It is pertinent for the researcher to review these concepts that will be of immense help to shorthand writers.


According to Somalia (1973) shorthand is a method of writing rapidly by substituting characters, abbreviations or symbols for letters, words or problems .

A shorthand learner must bear in mind that he is learning to write by sound,  that is, to write words as they are pronounced, and this calls for mastery of the phono0graphic signs.

According to Hornby (1989), “mastery is the act of having complete control, knowledge of something”.  So, the mastery of shorthand involves the learning of the consonants, vowel signs, short forms, phrases contractions, paper placement, position writing and the movement of ones writing material.

Tonne et al (1965) says, |mastery can be achieved when the material is completely overlearned and the learner applies it automatically when something is uppermost in his thinking”.  It means that for a shorthand learner to have mastery in shorthand, he must have a mental analysis of the sounds of words he chooses to write and be able to exercise it without conscious effort.  To be a successful shorthand student, the rules of the system must be thoroughly mastered, by employment of the various abbreviating devices.  The most important benefit to be derived from shorthand will be attained through the maximum of speed combined with legibility.


          Skill is the ability to do something well through practice.  Tonne et al (1965), believed that skill is based on the use of one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution, performance , or the habit of doing any particular thing completely.

Therefore, for a leaner to acquire the basic skills, he must be able to exercise the acquired knowledge effectively, demonstrate it well with complete control of the activity.

The student should thoroughly master the rules, principles and apply it through constant practicing.  The careful reading of printed shorthand and drilling, it, will also help the student in forming correct style of writing, although shorthand style varies a little from one person to another with the same strokes but different outlines.  The essential of shorthand is to be able to re-read one’s outline and transcribe it because a given symbol may represent two or more words.

This gives rise to some principles that should be considered.

Conning (1976), presented four essential elements to which concentration must be given, they include:

  1. lightness of touch:- He supported smith’s (1970) theory that lightness is a factor in speed.

Canning supported smith’s assertion that |lightness is a factor in both speed and stamina and students have to understand that from the start.  The pen or pencil should be held lightly and in a manner as to permit easily written characters and allow easy identification of the think and light strokes.

  1. SPEED AND CURSIVENESS OF EXECUSION:- To acquire speed in writing, the student need to be cursive in writing.  According to pitman (1845), to promote expedition in writing, the photographer may join two or more words together, and thus sometimes express a phrase without removing the pen.

It is only natural that when students begin to write what is to them at first unfamiliar as celtic rules, they would be slow, cantious and cumber-some.  According to canning (1976) “this belief must be resisted and insist at once that even if mistakes are made, the writing must be fast (at least, 5 WPM) and fluent.

Although a beginner tends to be slow and cautious of his writing, but with constant practice, the accelerated speed will be achieved.

  1. uniforming and distinction of size: Canning (1976), stated that “students should be allowed to write naturally, provided that the style adopted is not exaggeratedly large or so small as to pose real problem of legibility”.  The stokes should have uniform length and distant sizes for thick and thin strokes.
  2. correct formulation: Shorthand outlines must be carefully written so that a good formation would result.  This helps the shorthand writer tremendousely in the course of reading back.  The placement of vowels also help in the transcription of outline.  When strokes or modifications of strokes are first encountered, it is worthwhile to demonstrate these in their note books.

The concept, “Aural comprehension” is listening and understanding, and the conduct of every day life depends on the to and from of the spoken word.

Every teacher of the office skills realizes soon after beginning to teach, how vital a part of the students success or lack of it depends on how well they can listen and understand, which is demanded for the three or four minutes or more at a time in classroom instruction and the recording from the spoken word that is involved in writing shorthand or typing from audio.

Canning (1974) Presented some factors that hampers understanding:

  1. Acuteness of hearing: he stressed that if one cannot hear, he cannot understand, and if he can only hear with difficulty or have to stain to hear, his understanding is bound to be less. This may be caused by actual hearing defects or inadequacy on the part of the speaker or of the environmental conditions of listening.
  2. pronunciation and speed characteristics:- although, English is the most commonly used language in the world today, but most people still find it difficult in differentiating between vowels, consonants and even an L sound from an R sound. He said that a familiarity with, and a basic intellectual grasp of common English structures is an undoubted element in aural comprehension, and that students should know the English structures and punctuation for a reasonable and progressive framework for understanding.
  3. vocabulary: obviously, if vocabulary is very limited, understanding will be loss and the failure to grasp several words in a statement will lead to a general dissipation (waste) of concentration and interest so that eh whole will suffer from the part. Pitman (n d. 104) observed that perhaps the most important asset of a stenographer is a sound knowledge of words, know the meaning of many words and their shorthand outline.  Canning, also said that “the study of shorthand is itself a valuable means of improving vocabulary”.
  4. idioms and interest: The English language is rich in idioms and figurative expression. Students are adviced to work on, understand and learn idioms.  The subject matter of what is being listened to and the students interest is a further important factor in comprehension.  When a student have a natural interest in a content, his listening will be correspondingly more concentrated and he will in consequence understand better.

Generally, students are much more used to absorbing what they can see than what they can hear, and they will learn still more effectively if they  can see and hear simultaneously.  Canning gave five facts to illustrate this:

  1. By giving daily listening practice
  2. By extending the content range beyond the narrow business field into topics of basic interest today. E.g population, etc
  3. By using script plus speech before using speech alone.
  4. By fostering concentration by every possible means, such as: the deliberate mistake, the request for repetition of the last eight to ten words, searching questions on detailed and a reprise asking for the missing word.
  5. By using the ‘situation’ technique as e.g a tape cassette in which the students listen to three or four different voice discussing in a particular situation.
  6. speed and competence: the speed at which a spoken message is delivered may also be significant for some people. Some students grasp meanings better when the speech is fast.  Others seem to need time to assimilate each thought and do better when the speed is not more than 100-120 W.P.M.  Competence, he said is the unconsciously built up or inherent background of linguistic understanding that produces a framework of patterns that enables one to understand the infinite variations that can be produced by sound and words within that frame.

The shorthand teacher has the right to decide on what method of teaching to adopt.  It is very necessary for him to consider the students, the school and its nature, the time of meeting, periods of teaching, text books and his own training experience.

The teacher should give equal attention to all students and make them to know the objective of the lesion or course, that is, being able to write from dictation and transcribe it.

There are many methods of teaching shorthand that can be adopted by the shorthand teacher.  Some of the methods are:

  1. objective method:- Holland (1963) described the objective method as the only method suitable to every young student. All primary ideas of childhood are gained from knowledge of objects obtained through the sense.  He said that touching, handing, smelling, tasting and seeing the actual thing means something to the child, his ideas of hardness, smoothness, softness, roughness, colour and form are widely given through the objective method.  Teaching is objective when actual objects are used to deduced facts.
  2. reading approach: a reading approach is widely favoured and for good reasons, canning (1976) has it that “if shorthand is to be learned, the students must be surrounded with correct specimens, so that they may be absorbed:”.
  3. lesson preparation: time spent on careful preparation can bring reward in the form of self satisfaction and student success.

According to Titterton (1974), teachers of shorthand should, before dictating a passage, read through it and note any specially difficult words or phrases that may be stumbling blocks to the students during the dictation, and teach them before or after the dictation.

Titterton said that, the teacher must be well organized in his preparation e.g

  1. The class and its individual problems must be borne in mind when lesions are prepared.
  2. All class work and time must be carefully planed, with as little wastage as possible.
  3. Full untilization of materials available
  4. Improvising where necessary on materials.
  5. Careful study of feedback from students since it is the best check of success or failure.
  6. teaching tactics: Titterton suggested variety of ways that shorthand can be taught. The class can be divided into groups to create attentiveness from students.

          The groups can all participate in drilling, and reading back from dictation from their own notes, this will help the student in forming a correct style of writing and recognizing the symbols.

Again, if an audio trainer system is in use, speed development can be assessed and careful note will be made of students’ progress.

According to Peter Pitman, Tape recorder is important in the teaching of shorthand because it provide shorthand practice from recorded dictation while the teacher can move freely round the classroom looking at penmanship, it also provides variety, not only in subject but also with different voices and different accents.


  1. Short duration of learning the course: it is quite clear that most of the students who are admitted into higher institutions are those who spent five years in grammar schools and who did not acquire previous knowledge of shorthand before coming in for the course.

About 99% of secretarial studies students of Benue state polytechnic Ugbokolo agreed to this assertion.  It was on the same view that tonnel (1970) said that ‘ to popularize shorthand for efficient use, it must be taught as early as the first year in secondary school or earlier”.  Unlike other subjects which the students passed either in WASC or GCE before entering school, shorthand pose a big problem and hardship to the categories of the students who had no previous knowledge of shorthand.  As a result, they start from the preliminary part of the course and the period expected of them to cover large areas in the shorthand textbooks in order to attain a speed of go and so W.P.M is very, short.  Some students who did the course in secondary school and commercial colleges before registering for the course in higher institutions find it easy enough to cope with and pass it accordingly.  The course needs people who had a pre-knowledge of it as all indications reveal that the  students under this group pass shorthand very easily.

  1. command of English: one major cause that confronts shorthand writers is the fear of the unexpected”. The unexpected always come to most writers of shorthand by way of words which are not familiar, they will sound strange to the ears of the writer. Pitman (nd. 104) observed that “perhaps the most important asset of a stenographer is a sound knowledge of word. Know the meaning of as many words as possible as well as shorthand outline for them.
  2. Student attitude to the course: Many students of shorthand contribute to their failure in shorthand by failing to adhere to the principles of shorthand. Everything has a rule and shorthand is not an exception. Either they do not make effort to master all consonants and vowels in Pitman shorthand or they assume that once they have crammed the outlines, it will be easy to put immediately on paper. Some students absent themselves from class work and also fail to do their assignment or practice the course study daily as it requires.
  3. Lukewarm attitude of teachers towards teaching: Some teachers of shorthand do not come to class on daily bases as it is expected of them, and even when they come to class they do not teach very well or teach on the principles of shorthand, instead they dictate passages to students without giving them a pre-knowledge of the contents of the passage or some difficult word in the passage. They go striate into dictation thereby making it very difficult for the students to understand or transcribe what they have written.
  4. Inadequate facilities: Lack of adequate facilities have also contributed heavily to low performance of students in the Benue State Polytechnic. For instance the audit typing recorder which is very local for student studying secretarial studies is not available. Regrettable, the institution does not have shorthand laboratory and the relevant equipment such as audio visual aids which will help the students develop skill in the course. Cassette, as a tool to shorthand speed development is indispensable to the student and not every students could afford one before entering school, still none is provided by the institution. Students are then lefty with no option than to make use of improvised materials.


According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary by Hornby A.S, The word “Impact” means a strong impression or effect on somebody or something.

The impact of high rates of failures in shorthand has both psychological and physical effects on the students where the students become very disturbed mentally. Whenever they hear the word shorthand they lose concentration and feel very reluctant to attend classes, on the other hand, some students who have the interest in shorthand feel very happy whenever they hear the word shorthand and are always ready to drill shorthand at any point in time.

The impact of high rate of failures in shorthand has so many effects on the students which could be either negative or positive.

NEGATIVE IMPACTS: The negative impacts of the high rate of failures on the students is that, they become uninterested in the course and feel very reluctant to practice shorthand, some of them even apply for a change of course. Students also resort to cheating during exams and sorting lecturers in order to pass the course. This failures also causes fear, depression, anxiety in the students and they become very nervous each time they are to write shorthand, most especially during exams.

POSITIVE IMPACT: The positive impact of this failures on the students is that, some of them become very serious in the practice of shorthand by putting extra effort in the study of shorthand, attending extra lessons doing their assignment, forming shorthand discussion group and asking questions in difficult areas during lectures. These group of students try all the possible means to make sure that they pass this course through hard-work.


The literature Review is summarized as follows

  1. According to Somalia (1973) “Shorthand” is a method of writing rapidly by substituting characters, abbreviations or symbols for letter, words or phrases.
  2. According to Horny (1989) “Mastery” is the act of having complete control of something. Mastery of shorthand involves learning of consonants, vowels, signs, shortform, phrases, constructions, paper placement, position writing and the movement of one’s writing materials.
  3. Tonne et al (1965) believed that skill is based on the use of one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution, performance, or habit of doing something completely. Therefore, for a learner to acquire basic skills, he must be able to exercise the acquired knowledge effectively, demonstrate it well with complete control of the activity.
  4. Aural comprehension is listening and understanding. Every teacher of office skills realized soon after beginning to teach. How vital a part of the student’s success or lack of it depends on how well they can listen and understand shorthand.
  5. There are many methods of teaching shorthand which can be adopted by the teacher. He has the right to decide on what method of teaching to adopt
  6. The causes of high rate of failures in shorthand is summarized as follows:

Command of English

Students attitude to the course

Lukewarm attitude of teachers towards teaching inadequate facilities.

  1. The impact of high rate of failures in shorthand could affect the student either positively or negatively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *