To use a shorthand dictionary, find a word in the dictionary, and practice writing the shorthand version of that word until it's committed to memory. Shorthand dictionaries typically contain a large number of shorthand words, along with modifications the writer can use to create a shorthand version of words not in the dictionary.
Multiple shorthand methods are available, including the Pitman shorthand method and the Gregg shorthand method. Sir Isaac Pitman developed the Pitman method, which became one of the most popular, although other methods have surpassed it in popularity. The Gregg method, developed by John Robert Gregg, became more popular than the Pitman method, particularly in the United States. Each method has a dictionary with the shorthand versions of words for that method.
One common way to learn shorthand is writing a shorthand word repeatedly for about one or two lines. After doing this, use the word with other shorthand words you're learning. If there's a word you consistently get wrong, write the correct shorthand version repeatedly for an entire page.
Once learned, shorthand increases writing speed. Journalists use shorthand to record information quickly, and it was a common skill for secretaries. However, recording technology and dictation machines have taken the place of shorthand for many situations, and the skill has decreased in popularity.