AddThis SmartLayers

Student who learned shorthand with mouth helps mark 50 years of Teeline

A disabled journalism student who learned to write shorthand using his mouth has helped celebrate 50 years of Teeline.

Alex McKenzie, who studies at Nottingham Trent University, addressed the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ annual shorthand seminar, which has been held in London.

Alex, pictured, has a physical disability called Arthrogryposis, which affects the muscle and joints in his arms, wrists and hands.

He joined delegates in marking Teeline’s half-century milestone at the annual seminar, which welcomes shorthand tutors from across the UK to be brought up-to-date with key issues and developments in shorthand training and qualifications.

Alex McKenzie

As a result, he cannot grip a pen with enough strength to write, so as a child he learned to write by holding a pen in his mouth – a skill he now uses to write shorthand.

He told the seminar: “I remember at one of the open days talking to the tutors about having to study shorthand in third year and how they thought I’d struggle with it.

“It did make me think about whether or not to start the course but I at least wanted to give it a go.”

Alex, who recently passed his 60wpm shorthand exam, added: “After passing the exam I was relieved. When we first began to learn it I genuinely didn’t believe I would pass any of the speeds.

“At the higher speeds it can be very difficult keeping up, due to me writing with my mouth, but with regular practice I am determined to pass the exams.”

Attendees at Friday’s event also enjoyed a celebratory lunch reception, with a ‘Tee’ party themed lunch and 50th anniversary cupcakes.


Former NCTJ shorthand board member Alan Moultrie, who in 1970 became one of the first Teeline teachers to qualify, gave the opening address at the seminar.

Alan was taught by James Hill, who developed Teeline, and his wife Ivy at the training offices of the Express & Star, in Wolverhampton.

He said: “James was a quiet man, and it amused us when she would quite often interrupt him and tell him that he was wrong. She would then give us the correct version. After all it was his system.”

“When I started to learn shorthand at school I could never have dreamed that 65 years later I would have the honour of talking to a conference of shorthand teachers on such a memorable occasion.”

Alan, who recently announced his retirement, was presented with a gift by NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher at the seminar.

Joanne thanked Alan for his “outstanding work for the NCTJ over many years” and expressed her admiration for his 65 years of shorthand experience and his career in journalism and journalism training.


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • June 18, 2018 at 8:24 am

    What a fantastic achievement by Alex!
    It took me goodness knows how long to pass my 100wpm (many moons ago now) and I certainly didn’t have the challenges faced by Alex.
    I think I would most definitely struggle to pass a 60wpm exam now.
    But if any trainee journalist is struggling with their shorthand – they should read Alex’s story……..that should be inspiration enough to tell them that they can do it.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(9)
  • June 18, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Absolutely amazing and well done. I was fortunate to be able to use my hands and learn on my first job from a chief reporter who was an NCTJ examiner in shorthand. I still use it today at the age of 70 for scribbling notes. !! So well done to Alex. Determination will win.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)