Learning Stenography

From Plover Wiki

Suggested Learning Route


This is just a suggestion for people who are unsure of where to start! Feel free to skip parts, or do things out of order, or do other things entirely. The best way to learn is the one you enjoy and can stick to.

Learning Level Suggestion
Absolute Beginner Choose a theory and read a textbook.

Join the discord. It can be easier to learn with other people. The discord is full of friendly people you can chat to and ask questions about steno and Plover.

Read the Glossary. There may be a bunch of terms that come up in the textbooks and when discussing stenography that you'll want to know.

Learning the Keyboard Learn the Steno Keyboard on Steno Jig. It can be easier to learn where all the keys are on the steno keyboard separately from learning vocabulary, and not dive into chording right away. You will need to turn off the dictionaries to use this.
Learning the keyboard (QWERTY) Download one of the keyboard cheat sheets.
Beginner vocabulary Practice writing with a steno-focused tool. Popular tools are Typey Type, Steno Jig and Practice Plover.

Start using flashcards. Some people like using flashcards to practice vocabulary and identify problem words.

Learn to use tools and plugins. These can help you discover how to write new words and briefs that may not come up in early lessons.

Check out the Misleading Strokes in Plover's Dictionary and Top 100 English Words in Plover's Dictionary. It's common to have questions about why a word is stroked that way, or why you should pick one option over the other.

Intermediate vocabulary Practice on other typing sites. Many of these will have you practicing quotes with unseen text. It can be useful to learn fingerspelling and punctuation before you try these so you don't get stuck.

Start adding your own entries to the dictionary. Learn how Plover's Dictionary Format works, and try using the Add Translation dialog to add your own vocabulary and briefs. Every stenographer's dictionary is going to be personal for them (and may be specific to certain contexts). For example, Plover's main dictionary contains many legal and medical briefs which you may want to override with vocabulary you use more often.

~30wpm Start using stenography in your day-to-day writing. Check out this FAQ answer for tips. (30wpm is roughly where people aren't frustrated with their speed, but this may vary).
~50wpm Practice with Steno Arcade, or other slow dictation. (About 50wpm is what you need for the slowest song included with Steno Arcade, but it's possible to add your own songs which you may find easier).
~100wpm Consider investing in steno hardware. Steno hardware is nice to have at any speed, but at about 100wpm it starts to have a bigger impact on your speed and endurance.

Available Steno Theories

A steno theory is a set of rules used to break down complicated words into steno chords. There are many steno theories available to professionals, and they differ mostly in how much rote memorization is required and how much importance is given to the spelling of words. Theories can also be tailored to a specific dialect of English. For hobbyists, there are three main theories to choose from.

Freely available steno theories
Description Learning resources
Plover The default theory that comes with the Plover app. Used by Mirabai Knight, the founder of the Open Steno Project and a professional stenocaptioner. Various online textbooks
Lapwing A derivative of Plover theory made for hobbyists and designed to be easier to learn. Online book
Platinum Similar to Plover theory in basics, but primarily used by court reporters. Video series available on YouTube

Unfortunately, all of these theories are based on General North American English.

We generally recommend choosing Lapwing theory. It was designed with consistency in mind, and requires less rote memorization than Plover theory. The rules are more defined and less ambiguous, making more complicated words easier to write. The Lapwing theory book is also very comprehensive and covers topics other than writing English words (e.g., symbols, shortcuts, and editing text).

That being said, it is not terribly important which theory you choose. It is not difficult to switch between them after the fact; the basics are all very similar. It also does not matter which theory to choose in terms of speed; a stenographer's speed comes from tailoring their dictionary and adding their own shortcuts that make sense to them.


These sites aim to teach you a steno theory, from the layout to the terminology to the strokes.

Plover theory textbooks

  • The Art of Chording The Art of Chording is a textbook that aims to guide the student through their stenography learning by providing a broad amount of knowledge from the first lesson on. The goal is to get students writing real words and sentences as quickly as possible and then delve into the minutiae of how to write with Plover's default dictionary quickly and without conflict. It includes additional sections on approaches borrowed from other steno theories that can be found in Plover's default dictionary.
  • Learn Plover! (EPUB, PDF) Learn Plover! is a free online textbook by Zack Brown, based on his steno tutoring sessions with Mirabai Knight. It offers a step-by-step introduction to Plover for beginners, with practice material at the end of every chapter. The accompanying exercises are available online in several places, notably Steno Jig and Typey Type.

Lapwing theory textbook

  • Lapwing for Beginners Lapwing for Beginners is an online guide for Lapwing theory. It offers exercises to be completed with Typey Type and covers a wide range of content. Setting up Lapwing theory with the Plover app is covered in chapter 5.


For a glossary of terms used in stenography and plover, see the Glossary page.


Plover comes with a lot of built-in tools which are useful for learning, such as:

  • Lookup. Write words here to see how you can write them.
  • Stroke Suggestions. Suggests alternative ways of writing the words you write.
  • Paper Tape. Shows which keys Plover thinks you're pressing.


Check out Plugins for how to install plugins.

Check out the awesome-plover page list of plugins for a longer list of awesome plugins.

Here are 3 community favorites.

  • Spectra Lexer This is like the lookup or suggestions window, but with a lot of extra features such as explanations for why a word is briefed that way and diagrams. There is also a web version and a bot in the discord server, though these only use the default Plover dictionaries and not any additional user dictionaries you may have.
  • Plover-clippy or Plover-clippy-2 Logs suggestions that are more efficient than what you used to type to a file in your plover configuration directory. Useful for finding new briefs, especially for phrases. By default the output of Plover-clippy-2 is written into clippy_2.org in your config folder, which you can open from Plover's menu item "Open config folder". Open the clippy file in a text editor and review it from time to time to see what you could type more efficiently.
  • Plover Word Tray Automatically looks up efficient outlines for words that start with the current input, much like autocomplete suggestions. It's similar to the lookup window and suggestions window in one. In addition, if you are stuck on a word, you can start fingerspelling it or sound out the first syllable and it'll try to guess what you're trying to spell.

Practice writing using stenography

Practice material and tools made for stenography

  • Typey Type for Stenographers Type Type for Stenographers is a drilling and learning resource with a fair amount of practice material and detailed quantitative feedback. It includes lessons that follow the Learn Plover! book and lets you upload your own practice material. It also has dictionaries, flashcards, recommendations on how much of which lesson to do next, a break timer, a lookup tool, and a diagram generator. Beginners may want to reduce the word count and/or repetitions in the settings to make the lessons a more reasonable length. (Doing 45×3 words at 5 WPM takes 27 minutes!)
  • Steno Jig Steno Jig has a wide variety of words, sentences, etc that you can practice with optional stroke suggestions. There are several beginner drills, and a large set of vocabulary words, and sentence practice drills that you can work through to gradually learn the top 8,000 most used words. It has Learn Plover! drills with stroke hints and lookahead display.
  • Steno Grade Steno Grade is a fork of Steno Jig that aims to improve interface and add functionality. It has a built in spectra integration within its hint system and more configurable grading options. The page is in early beta but stay tuned to see updates.
  • Practice Plover Practice Plover is a newer tool and still under construction. It has a whole set of interactive beginner exercises, many with audio, taking you most of the way through the material covered by Learn Plover.
  • Qwerty Steno Qwerty Steno is a fantastic resource which has a tutorial on steno theory written by Mike Neale of the Open Steno community. It is made for use with a qwerty keyboard, without needing to download or enable Plover.
  • The Steno Grind The Steno Grind provides interactive drills for any combination of exercises from The Art of Chording.
  • Plover Dojo (unavailable) A lovely visual approach to learning the keyboard and basic chords, using a standard QWERTY keyboard, by JR, Jay Liu, and Myrntillae Nash.
  • Top 100 Words in Plover's Dictionary A small tutorial covering the top 100 English words according to Wikipedia. Many of them are briefs and this text gives some insight as to why these strokes are the way they are.
  • StenoCycle Driving game - early prototype, but does let you drill your own words and phrases.


If you want to eventually caption speakers, you will need to be able to take dictation.

  • Steno Arcade Steno Arcade is a project funded by the Open Steno Project, developed by For All To Play. It contains Steno Hero, a game where you write lyrics in time with a singer and get graded on accuracy. You can create custom song files for use in the game by using wavelyric. The easiest song requires a speed of about 50 WPM.
  • Television Try captioning your favorite TV show once you are able to. Nature documentaries are especially good for beginners because they tend to have long pauses between dialogue.
  • Twitch and other streaming sites Game streams can provide a variety of casual vocabulary and, depending on the streamer, have enough pauses to be easier.
  • YouTube You can find a variety of videos on YouTube. There are videos specifically for dictation (search "dictation X WPM"), as well as material designed for ESL students, and speeches by your favorite speaker. You might want to download a browser extension (available for both Chrome and Firefox) which allows you to control the video playback speed with more fine-tuned control.
  • Platinum steno Platinum steno is a court reporter course that is now free for all on YouTube. It provides theory lessons (although it uses a different theory to Plover's), and a large amount of dictation material from 60 WPM to 225 WPM. Paul Fioravanti has written two excellent blog posts on following their course: one on doing the theory courses after learning Plover theory, and one more general post on using Plover with Q&A style dictation.
  • Stenonymous's Resource Page This resource page has lots of great resources, including links to many dictation services. It also has information on whether or not they are paid services and what speed they go up to.
  • StenoTube A selection of dictations, though mostly at higher speeds.
  • Pitman London Pitman London has a page of dictation for people learning pen shorthand. The dictation ranges in speed from 40WPM to 130WPM.
  • IPS Dictations ranging from 100 WPM to 280 WPM.
  • Court Reporting Help CRH has some free dictation posts. Especially useful is the Magic Drill, for beginners and experts alike.
  • englishlearning.webgarden.es This repository of ESL resources has some simple texts with slow dictation. In particular, "Easy Reading Texts" for 1st and 2nd year students and "Reading Texts" for 3rd and 4th year students tend to be dictated at around 100 WPM.
  • www.stenolife.com Many short pieces are available across a wide range of speeds. Making an account is required.
  • www.ev360ultimate.com A repository with longer pieces and guided practice sessions. Making an account is required.
  • Make your own: Christopher Day has an article on How to Create Timed Dictation and Josh Grams has a tool for adding timing marks (which can also repeat/shuffle lists of problem words, if you want to dictate those at a particular speed).

Volunteer Projects Needing Transcription

Other Typing Sites

Sites not made for steno are not ideal for use with Plover, but they offer good quality practice material for the intermediate stenographer, or to judge your skills with a metric.

Depending on the site, you might want to adjust Plover's spacing setting (before or after).

  • TypiNation Multiplayer typing game with a stenography user option. Has a mode to show steno strokes for each word based on the Plover default dictionary.
  • keyma.sh Multiplayer typing website public racing rooms.
  • monkeytype Some steno users have reported having their scores not saved as they were detected as bot-like Typing game with many different modes, including copy practice, timed practice, and quotes. (The quotes are now available on Steno Jig as well). You may want to change some settings for steno input to work well:
setting name setting notes
freedom mode on Allows you to delete any word, even if typed wrong
strict space on Spaces are strict. This can make it harder, but it's recommended to keep it on so that you know what is/isn't a prefix or suffix stroke
stop on error off Allows you to write incorrect characters
confidence mode off Allow you to backspace
quick end off If on, means that the test will end as soon as the last word is is typed, even if incorrect
indicate typos below/replace Show typos
  • ZType Vertically scrolling shooter: write the words to shoot them. Nice graphics and sound effects. Press enter to save yourself with one of your three bombs, asterisk/backspace to unlock it when it locks onto the wrong word.
  • TypeRacer Now bans steno users who show up in leaderboards, a sudden flip after years of steno users being allowed on the site Online realtime typing competition. Use the steno universe to avoid getting banned (but it does mean racing against fewer real people). There is an input character limit which can get in the way when writing fast or writing phrases. You can install this user script to get around the limit (instructions).
  • 10 Fast Fingers Bans steno users who break 100WPM Short test of most common words.


You can use flashcards to help you memorize briefs, theory rules, phrases and more. See Using Anki for Learning Stenography for more details on how to get set up and community materials.

Cheat sheets

Quick image and text references.