Those who wonder how an Oklahoma court reporter seems to type so little and record so much should look to the history of shorthand. Court reporting plays such a vital role in archiving the events of the judicial system that it has to be respected for its power to keep track of the truth. Most people would not believe that as a vocation, that has been in practice for thousands of years.

First Court Reporting

The world can thank Marcus Tullius Tiro, a slave owned by Cicero, the Roman philosopher and attorney, for discovering shorthand. Since he needed a way to keep up with all of the speeches that Cicero dictated to him, he created a system of abbreviations and symbols for full words. His focus was on omitting the common words he could remember later, and this led to his development of more than 4,000 shorthand signs to keep up with his master’s speeches and financial affairs. This was such a model way of performing these tasks that other Roman scribes adopted Tiro’s practices.

Spread of Tiro’s System

The system became so popular and notably effective that it was used for purposes beyond dictation and legal affairs. Later, other countries would find the system helpful for documenting words and numbers. Scholars and monks also took what they called Tironian notes, or shorthand, using more than 13,000 symbols. For monks, the use of this system faded after 1100 A.D.

Shorthand Revival

The system of abbreviations and symbols seems to have revived in England. Although a monk, John of Tilbury, developed the first shorthand for English speakers, it was not until Dr. Timothie Bright published his book, “Characterie: An Arte of Shorte, Swifte, and Secrete Writing by Character,” that shorthand became more widely used.

After shorthand was improved by several other people and began to include the English alphabet instead of symbols, the English government appointed Thomas Gurney as its first official shorthand writer in 1772. Novelist Charles Dickens later adopted Gurney’s shorthand methods while he worked as a junior law clerk and later a freelance reporter who wrote stories about legal proceedings. Some of this shorthand influence can be seen in various scenes throughout his novels.

Shorthand’s U.S. Arrival

English pioneers passed their innovations on to the United States through John Robert Gregg, an Englishman who started shorthand schools in Boston and Chicago. Technology has advanced the cause of dictation and recording so that it’s easy for an Oklahoma court reporter at Lowery & Associates to get all the accurate details of legal proceedings. Modern reporting equipment is computerized with the ability to show English on a screen when a shorthand key is depressed. Voice recognition and dictation software will keep making these techniques even easier for reporters.