The stenographer whom nobody wants

Marcin Wichary
4 min readMay 17, 2017

A list of useful/undesired traits of a stenographer (typist) from a 1899 typing manual, Barnes’ complete typewriting instructor.

The stenographer whom everybody wants

Is intelligent, well-bred, and educated.

Makes his employer’s interests his own. Is always loyal.

Is on the lookout to make himself valuable to his employer in every way.

Always does his best, and is always trying to do better.

Pays attention to small details; strikes evenly, writes with clean type, never has a capital out of line, presses punctuation marks lightly, and makes the left-hand margin properly wide.

Is prompt and energetic; cheery, but not talkative.

Receives suggestions pleasantly. Cheerfully works an extra hour in an emergency.

Takes pride in keeping his machine in the best of order; goes to the office early to clean it before the day’s work begins.

Never hands in wrinkled or soiled sheets. Keeps a tidy desk.

Knows how to file letters, manifold, make letterpress copies, write telegrams, do mimeographing and all kinds of office work.

Inspects each letter immediately after writing to see if it is correct. Rewrites and corrects, if necessary.

Uses leisure time for self-improvement.

Works hard and does good work for small pay until he becomes indispensable to his employer.

Receives promotion. Deserves good pay and gets it.

The stenographer whom nobody wants

He talks about his employer’s business, not knowing that it should be regarded as strictly confidential and never mentioned to others.

He has very little common sense, and is saving of what he has.

He has a poor English education, but he learned shorthand and typewriting in an incredibly short time.

He is original in his spelling and punctuation, and does not own a dictionary.

He has an eraser, however, and he industriously uses it.

He covers his typewriter with paper scrapings, but not with the cover provided by its makers. It is not his machine and repairs cost him nothing.

He is fond of talking, and does not know that neither bright nor foolish remarks are wanted in the office.

He is late in the morning, but never late to meals.

He does not have time in the morning to clean and oil his machine.

His typewriter gets out of order frequently. The machinist comes, adjusts it in half a minute, spends ten minutes in cleaning it, and goes away disgusted.

His writing has an untidy, spotted appearance due to soiled type and an uneven touch.

He thinks it all right to strike one letter over another; he cannot afford to do better work for the pay he gets.

He does not mind a wrinkle in the paper or a finger mark here and there. His letters look as well as some others he has seen.

He often misses a word in dictation, and can seldom read his notes when cold.

He skips a word or a line now and then, but as he never looks over his work he is blissfully ignorant of the omission until asked to rewrite the letter. Then he asserts that he wrote it just as it was dictated.

If there is any mistake, his employer made it, not he. In his opinion, it is the stenographer’s duty to correct his employer when the latter is to blame.

He looks cross when reproved, and is properly indignant when asked to do a favor.

He is afraid of giving too much work for the pay received.

This stenographer brings novels and fancywork to the office, receives callers there, uses the telephone frequently, and is often sick on matinee days.

She chews gum; he smokes cigarettes.

Either may have a fine testimonial, but neither stays long in a place.