Stenography uses a chorded keyboard. On a chorded keyboard, you hit multiple keys at once, instead of one at a time. All keys are released simultaneously and the order that you hit them in doesn't matter.
Here is the steno keyboard layout in all its glory:
You'll probably notice some oddities:
- Missing keys: no "i" key, no "n", no shift, little punctuation.
- Repeated keys: two S's, T's, P's, and R's.
While strange and foreign, this really low number of keys is just about perfect for our ten fingers, and is part of what makes stenography so fast and ergonomic.
Everything that's missing from the base layout is made with chords made up of keys. Not only that, but the names of the keys don't represent letters, they represent sounds. If you hit the
W key, the result is not the letter "w", like on a typing keyboard, it is the full word "with". More on that later!
There are multiples of some keys because, at its core, the steno layout makes syllables. A syllable, like "tot", can have the same consonant at the beginning and the end. In the same way, the steno keyboard has a "T" near the beginning and the end. The layout actually has an explicit order across all its keys.
Steno keys are always processed in the same order. No matter if you hit "H" then "U" or "U" then "H" on the keyboard, the chord is always processed as "HU".
The full steno order is:
The left-hand side gives us the starting sounds (onset), the center gives us the vowel sounds, and the right-hand side gives us the ending sounds (coda).
Most stenographers will memorize steno order, either in study or as a consequence of reading raw steno notes. For now, you can refer back to this lesson while you are still learning. If you are ever on your machine and want to know steno order, just mash every key then release, and steno order will pop out!
Unlike a keyboard, stenography's entire layout is almost fully covered by just its home row. The home position for stenography is between the cracks for each set of keys.
The only keys not covered in the home row are
-Z. To hit these, your fingers will need to shift to the side during writing. Otherwise, your hand position never changes which makes for great ergonomics.
Each finger is responsible for just two keys, except:
- The left pinky which only has one:
- The right index which has three:
- The right pinky which has four:
Of note, some users use the left index finger to hit
*. It is a matter of personal preference. It is okay to use either or both hands.
Instead of backspacing letter-by-letter, stenography backspaces one chord at a time. To "undo" the last stroke, simply press the
* key (the asterisk key).
1. Pattern Recognition
For each raw steno chord, identify whether or not it is in steno order.
Remember, steno order is firm and is never broken. Without a consistent order stenography would be much more ambiguous and confusing.
SKTANope, K comes after T.
TSUNNo, S comes before T and there is no "N" in steno order at all.
AHNuh-uh, H is always on the left of the vowels in steno.
TKPBAODZNegative, the "B" doesn't exist left of the vowels. If we changed the B to a W it would be okay.
TACWrong, no C in steno order at all.
ZAOPLIncorrect, Z is the final letter in steno order, it would never start a chord.