Consider a new house being built. What is the first thing the builders do? They lay down the cement foundation. That's steno theory. In court reporting, steno theory is the foundation upon which the rest of your training will be built.
A weak foundation equals a weak body of work, so it's important to make sure your steno theory is a solid one. Without that, the house - or your steno learning - will never be complete.
Theory is the language which court reporters write. Using the steno keyboard, pressing one key or several keys in combination creates a letter, number, sound, word or even a phrase.
Whether you learn court reporting at home or at a campus, your theory classes are the most important part of your steno learning. If you fail to learn your steno theory inside and out, building speed on your steno machine will be quite the chore. The very best court reporters have a firm grasp on their theory.
Generally, learning your steno theory will take anywhere from 15-40 weeks, depending on the particular theory you choose to learn. Yes...there's more than one steno theory to choose from. There's StarTran, StenEd, Phoenix, StenoMaster and more! More about that on the Which Theory page.
When learned properly, your steno theory should teach you the steno keyboard layout and the letters, numbers and sounds they represent. Additional teaching may include the learning of "briefs" as well - a way of writing some words and phrases using fewer steno strokes.
By the time you have completed your court reporting theory, you should be able to write efficiently at a speed of at least 60 spoken words per minute.