Realtime Writing: Short and Sweet!

What is Realtime Writing?

Stenotype machine: the Stentura Protégé

Realtime writing is when a reporter records conversations verbatim with the help of a special stenotype machine. Different key combinations represent the various vowel sounds, words and (oftentimes) entire phrases.  Similar to a piano chord, multiple key combinations can be pressed at once. Realtime reporters can write much faster than with a normal computer keyboard. There are shortened versions of all prefixes, suffixes, and roots called “briefs”.  The entire language of briefs comprises the steno theory. There’s more than one theory: Plover, StenEd, und Magnum are examples of steno theories. I personally like Magnum, which was developed by Mark Kislingbury. Mark holds the Guinness World Record for 360 words per minute.



Learning Steno is like learning a language. Sometimes learning all the briefs can appear quite easy. The word “company” is written as K-P.  On the other hand, words such as “global” are written as TKPWHROEBL.  Why the bizarre spelling? There’s neither a “G” nor an “L” on the intial side (right side) of the keyboard.

If you take a look at my stenotype machine above, you’ll notice that there aren’t any letters or numbers of any kind on the steno keyboard. That means that writers have to memorize where all the keys are. The English and the German keyboard layouts seem similar, but with a closer look, you’ll see that they’re quite different:

Stenotype Layouts:

The German stenotype layout

The English stenotype layout

What Does Realtime Writing Look Like?

Below are example sentences that I’ve written with the Magnum Steno Theory:

It’s a pity Peter didn’t come to football training. He would have liked it.


The “/” only indicates that a new chord gets pressed, just like a piano chord.

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