Monday, August 30, 2010

Steno 101, Lesson Two

Steno 101: How to Do It
Steno 101: Lesson Zero
Steno 101: Lesson One
Steno 101: Lesson Two
Steno 101: Lesson Three
Steno 101: Lesson Four

It's been a while since the last installment, but here without further ado is Steno 101, Lesson Two. Now is probably a good time to review Lesson Zero and Lesson One.

Before we get started, I have to address an issue I inexcusably neglected in the previous two segments. If you look at the steno keyboard, you'll notice that the left hand side has four columns of keys before it hits the asterisk, but the right hand side has five columns after the asterisk.

So unless you're Count Rugen from the Princess Bride, you might be wondering how you're supposed to handle that extra column of keys. The answer is that the right hand pinky finger operates both of the two rightmost columns, even though it rests on the left TS column rather than the right DZ column when it's not in use. I prefer to use steno machines with wide keys that let me hit all four keys with one pinky, if I want to, but different stenographers have different preferences. The main thing to remember is that the pointer fingers should always be on the columns adjacent to the asterisks, and the rest of the fingers should follow naturally from there. I've recently started tutoring a beginner in steno, and her fingers kept wanting to drift over to the right, which meant that she had to either stretch or shift her hand left whenever she wanted to press the FR keys, which is really inefficient, considering how often "FR" is used in steno, versus "DZ".

So you've learned S, T, P, and R on both sides of the keyboard, and you've memorized all the various vowel combinations and diphthongs you can get out of the four vowel keys, A, O, E, and U. What's left? First, the other consonants just represented by individual keys:

You can see there are more on the right hand than on the left, but they should all be pretty easy to remember, since they're just straight-up letters rather than chords. The tricky part comes in here:

These are all the letters represented by chords. This time there are more on the left hand side than on the right. In fact, in most steno theories, including mine, only the left hand side has a complete alphabet, and it's the only side used to spell words out letter by letter when they aren't defined strokewise in the steno dictionary.

All this is a lot to memorize, but I hope that breaking it down in this way will make the process easier. Feel free to print out these charts and have them on hand for reference. You might first try memorizing the individual keys on both sides, then try to memorize the complete alphabet on the left hand side incorporating both chords and individual keys, and finally incorporating the four chords on the right hand side. Then try putting the letter keys and letter chords together with the vowel chart from the previous lesson. Once you've got all that under your belt, you'll be able to write almost any English word phonetically, and you'll be able to use the left-hand spelling alphabet (which I write using the letter or chord plus the asterisk key for lowercase letters; I'll get to uppercase letters and other alphabets in subsequent lessons) to spell out words that aren't in the dictionary. Next lesson we'll learn what to do when a word isn't possible to write strictly phonetically, then work on a few principles for briefing prefixes, suffixes, and other common word components.


smilingthax said...

Shouldn't there also be a right-hand 'k' in the last graphic?

Mirabai Knight said...

You're totally right! Thank you so much for catching that.

Mirabai Knight said...


Jay Gold said...

I think I learned SKPW for initial Z -- have you heard of that or is that something else? thanks

Jay Gold said...

or is that the initial ND sound, like endorse-- SKPWORS?

SPW for the initial NT sound -- SPWAOEUR for entire

Jay Gold said...

KPW initial mp sound -- like KPWAOEUR for empire

Jay Gold said...

STKW for initial Z?

Jay Gold said...

I see that Z- is STKPW.

STKW would actually be the dsw sound, like dissuade.

then STKP for dsp, like dispute.

sorry about that!

Anonymous said...

What does


In Steno Mean?

Mirabai Knight said...

I think it was intended to say "see you soon", though most steno theories use "U" for "you" rather than "KWROU" (pronounced "yow") or KWRAOU, (pronounced "yoo") which are sort of cumbersome. Not sure what the S is doing there, though; that would be "see jow soon", which doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph of this lesson says:

If you look at the steno keyboard, you'll notice that the left hand side has four columns of keys before it hits the asterisk, but the left hand side has five columns after the asterisk.

The second mention of "the left hand side," should that be "the right hand side"?

Mirabai Knight said...

Yes! Thank you for catching that. I can't believe that error has been there for so long. Eep. Fixed now.

Anonymous said...

On average, how long does it take to learn steno to where I could be able to take a dictation a 180 on a qwerty keyboard, using Plover? I need an idea so I can take the lessons and divide them up. Also, how long is each lesson supposed to take, assuming the keyboard is memorized?


Mirabai Knight said...

Hi! Steno 101 is deprecated (I should really update these lessons to indicate that fact). The new best learning resource is Learn Plover:

Unknown said...

I'm flabbergasted, I just learned the Steno keyboard in one hour using this page! #THANKYOU Mirabai Knight, I start school in 2 weeks 👊