By Stephanie Thompson

My trusty old pen and notebook


It seems as though more and more people comment on my taking notes by what they consider an “old-school” technique.

Is using a pen and paper really considered an “old-school” technique? I don’t think so.

As much as we are advancing in technology, there is no way I’m going to be taking notes via a laptop anytime soon. I may be a fast typer when I am writing my own story, but taking notes quickly from what people are saying, that’s something completely different. I’m just faster with my trusty old pen and paper. As for that pen, I am very specific on the type of pens I buy. I have to purchase gel pens and they must be multicolored. It’s a way for me to keep track of my notes. I used different colored pens for different meetings or stories I cover. I also use mini Post-its to separate my interviews so I can quickly access the notes I need.

When I don’t hear the comments about taking notes in the “old-school” way, I hear comments such as “still using shorthand.”

Well, technically I’m not using shorthand devised in 1837 by Sir Isaac Pitman or by John R. Gregg in 1888, but it is a type of shorthand per the shorthand definition. I have my own methods of shorthand, which includes abbreviating words that are often repeated or using numerals or symbols for words.

For example: for the word community or communication, I scribble down comm., for association it’s assn., for organization it’s org. You get the idea. I also use my own type of shorthand for the word before and forward, it’s B4 or 4ward. Things like that are what help me write down things faster than someone else who may be taking notes.

But no matter what type of shorthand I use, I think it all comes down to how long I’ve been in the business. It’s may be hard to believe, but I’ve been a journalist for 17 years. That’s not even including my many internships, weekend reporting duties or writing for the college newspaper.

This shorthand that I’ve developed over the years, is unique to me. It’s based on what I cover as a journalist. As the meetings and issues I cover change, so does my shorthand techniques to deal with the new coverage.

I’ve covered court my entire career and have shorthand just for court cases and charges itself. For court cases though, I would hate to have someone glance at that notebook because they would probably think I am a potty mouth. For the next two examples you can figure out the abbreviations on your own. I abbreviated aggravated assault and battery and sexual assault. Others I am more comfortable sharing are possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver becomes poss cs w/del.

There are other ways to abbreviate quickly. Whenever there is a number spelt out it becomes a numeral. That’s a pretty simple one.

I never really thought about the shorthand I have come up with over the years to be that special, but as more and more people point out how fast I write or I must use shorthand to take notes so quickly, I realized I do something every day that not everyone can do anymore.

I can’t speak for all journalists, but this one takes notes by using shorthand techniques I’ve picked up over the years. It’s a skill I’m most comfortable using and something I guess I take for granted.

I just know that if I had to take notes on the computer, the screen would light up with errors everywhere, which would only distract me from getting the notes down quickly. The perfectionist in me would try to go back through and correct everything, which means I would probably miss a good quote or great detail to the meeting or interview I am conducting.

So for now, I’m just going to stick with my trusty “old-school” pen, notebook and digital recorder. Yes. I still prefer that over the cellphone recording option, but that’s a story for another day.


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