Anniversary vs. Simplified – The Great Debate

Anniversary and Simplified have been identified as the two Gregg editions suitable for court reporting speeds. But the question remains: Is Anniversary’s speed advantage worth the higher memory load?

Like most novices, I wanted to find out before committing to either edition. Marc Semler responded that numerous court reporters used Simplified before machine stenography took over. But others maintained there is no substitute for Anniversary when it comes to literary matter and other rapid speech. (I switched to Anniversary just to be safe.)
The introduction of Louis A. Leslie’s functional method books states that Anniversary shorthand writers have been clocked at upwards of 200 words per minute. Chuck’s shorthand comparison guide notes that both Anniversary and Simplified are considered “fast,” but only Anniversary has a words per minute figure listed. Is anyone aware of any test results of Simplified writers?
Anniversary’s memory load consists of 300+ brief forms and as many special forms as you care to memorize. Simplified reduced the count drastically. Note that 50% of running English consists of 69 words, and 25% consists of the first 10 words in this list. How many are briefs forms in YOUR shorthand edition?
the, of, and, to, a, in, that, it, is, I, for, be, was, as, you, with, he, on, have, by, not, at, this, are, we, his, but, they, all, or, which, will, from, had, has, one, our, an, been, no, their, there, were, so, my, if, me, what, would, who, when, him, them, her, your, any, more, now, its, time, up, do, out, can, than, only, she, made, us

(by nathanlarson32767 for everyone)

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  1. 49.   In Simplified, I spell out: to, a, we, or, had, has, no, so, my, if, me, who, him, now, up, do, only, she, made, & us.  How many are in Anniversary?

  2. The reason why I didn't include actual speed numbers for Simplified is because I don't have that information.  I'm not sure if they were holding speed contests in the 1950s with written shorthand.  The 280 wpm figure comes from the 1920s.  These contests were less popular in the 30s and 40s.  If someone can tell me where I can find that information, I will add it.   I learned Anniversary in the first place because that was the book that my aunt had!  (I remember as a kid that she wrote really fast, and was always amazed when she read back to me what she wrote, hehehehe.)  When I became aware of Simplified, I didn't like it because it spelled out too many words.  Since I like to abbreviate as much as possible, unconsciously it felt like a waste of speed.  That doesn't mean that Anniversary is better than Simplified.  In my case, it was a matter of luck and taste.  One thing I realized though was that the longer I studied shorthand, the more I became aware of resources available for Anniversary (or pre-Anniversary) writers: all sorts of literature, speed building courses, dictionaries on different subjects, and even a specific reporting course!  Some of that is also available for Simplified, but with fewer editions.  So, initial effort in learning the most "difficult" version was worth the rewards, in my case.  YMMV, I guess.   In Anniversary, there are 319 brief forms, and 130 "special" forms, which are basically brief forms with a different name.  Simplified combined these two lists into the 49 you see at the end of the book.  The number of brief forms in Anniversary seems ominous, but remember that you are learning these since lesson one, so it's not a big deal.  By the time you are halfway in the book, you've learned all brief forms in Anniversary.   There are subtle differences in the forms between Anniv and Simplified.  For example, the word "my" is "m-a"  in Anniversary, but is "m-ai" in Simplified.  The word "only" is o-n-e in Anniversary, and it is "o-n-le" in Simplified.  The word "might" is "m-a-t" in Anniversary and "m-ai-t" in Simplified.  That's where a good chunk of the simplifications went, and how they were able to reduce the number of brief forms.   If I were to recommend someone which version to learn, I would ask what would the purpose be.  For casual note taking, probably use one of the easier versions.  If you have the time to dedicate to study, go for Simplified or Anniversary.  But if you want to really take advantage of the resources and books available, go for broke with Anniversary.

  3. Chuck wrote: There are subtle differences in the forms between Anniv and Simplified.  For example, the word "my" is "m-a"  in Anniversary, but is "m-ai" in Simplified.  The word "only" is o-n-e in Anniversary, and it is "o-n-le" in Simplified.  The word "might" is "m-a-t" in Anniversary and "m-ai-t" in Simplified.  That's where a good chunk of the simplifications went, and how they were able to reduce the number of brief forms.   Okay. Wait.   What is this m-ai-t, and what does it look like? is ai just what we call the i in DJS? because in DJS we write m-i-t.  Or is the ai something else?   In DJS, we also write "o-n-e" for only — the e stands for ly.   Am I missing something?   Billy

  4. Yes, the i = ai: it is the broken a circle.  We are saying the same thing.   I have to check the outline for only in Simplified (I don't write Simplified): but I thought it was spelled out — forgive me if I'm wrong.

  5. My bad for "only" — thanks for pointing this out.   But let me give another example of a subtle difference:  the word "young" is written u – ng, with the u joining under the ng in Anniversary, and it is written e – u – ng in Simplified.

  6. Since I'm quoted, I guess I need to say something. . . .   Like Chuck, I have no figures on the number of reporters using Simplified.  I'm aware of the ones the Gregg books mentioned and no others.  By the time Simplified was being developed, it was pretty clear that machine shorthand would take over the courtroom given enough time.   The debate continues as to where the tipping point of memory load versus speed loss occurs and I'm not quite sure how it could be accurately measured.  I believe it's more of a personal consideration.   I also know that I have picked up many pre-Anniversary forms which I use whenever I do take shorthand.  But even Simplified writers were encouraged to use pre-Anniversary forms for court work which complicates matters.   Louis Leslie told me that once Simplified books hit the market, shorthand speeds increased dramatically.  In other words, there were more higher-speed writers being produced by high schools and colleges.  He didn't have statistics, though, and since Simplified was his "baby," I also wondered how unbiased his perception was.   Sorry I couldn't help clarify, but these are the facts.   Marc  

  7. I have to vote for Simplified. If you are really serious about hitting 200 wpm, you will need to go on to a book called Expert Shorthand Speed Course, which is based on Congressional material. This would probably be the third semester of a college course, back when shorthand was taught in colleges. (High schools usually taught only one year, which covered the basics, and a second year that worked on speed building.)   I really doubt that you need you will need to hit 200 wpm for any personal use. Simplified court reporters needed to writing for extended periods at 180 to 200 and burst for short periods to 280 on jury charge material. So it's clearly possible to get up to that speed in Simplified.   At my fastest, which was probably in high school, I could write 140 wpm; and that was just fine for taking detailed notes in class.   The speed contests were discontinued by the national organization that held them because both Gregg and Pitman seemed to training students specifically to win these competitions and not necessarily to excellent reporters. That is part of the reason that there are no similar data from the 1930s onward. But again: 200-280 wpm was routinely done in court and Congress in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. I remember a Gregg-writing court reporting when I was growing up in the 1970s. (In recent decades, machine shorthand has replaced the pen-written versions.)   Expert Shorthand Speed Course (by Blanchard and Zoubek) was published in about 1950 using Simplified. Its predecessor from the 1940s was the first book designed for advanced students seeking high speed on Congressional material such as speeches. The 1940s book comments on the lack of training material for such students, and it attempts to fill this void. These books may have come, in part, as reaction to the task-specific training (ie, to win the national shorthand contests).   Brian

  8. I thought 21st Century wans't Gregg, but could be wrong here… I found a book once but gave it back to a second hand store because it was really different, but that was years ago and my memory could be foggy…  Expert Shorthand Speed Course, has a lot of breif forms, etc., that are anniversary (I found the book and have lookd through it out of interest), so you will learn some ann. brief forms if you find and use this book.  Unless the brief forms I saw are ann. and simplified… Debbi

  9. Century 21 was a spinoff of Gregg that appeared in the latter 1970s. It used most of the same forms as Gregg, but its vowel circles always went the same way (I think it was clockwise). It was a competing system, and its appearance had the Gregg people at McGraw-Hill quite worried in about 1977. It turns out that only a handful of Gregg forms were copyrighted.   Expert appeared both in the pre-simplified (1943) and Simplified.   Brian

  10. A few comments:
    I have a copy of the "Expert Shorthand Speed
    Course" by Rupert P. Sorelle, dated 1910, so pre-Anniversary. 
    Interestingly enough, it has NO shorthand in it . . . it's just a series of
    texts to be used for speed training. 
    I also want to mention the "Gregg Expert Speed
    Building" book in the DJS, by Charles Zoubek and copyrighted 1968.  It's a
    gold mine of information about shortcuts, additional brief forms, speed
    strategies, etc. 
    Century 21 shorthand was authored by two faculty
    from Brigham Young University and published by the South-Western Publishing Co.
    (which also published some Gregg shorthand texts, most notably "Shorthand
    Dictation Studies" by Wallace Bowman, which went through at least 4 editions,
    and "Shorthand Transcription Studies" by Irol Whitmore, who was a lecturer at
    the University of Utah). 
    Century 21 pages look almost exactly like Gregg
    pages.  (Interestingly enough, in my 1974 copy the shorthand plates were
    written by Grace A. Bowman, who wrote the Gregg plates for "Shorthand Dictation
    Studies".)  In the introduction, the authors acknowledge "the pioneers in
    the Era of Modern Shorthand (1588-1900) who left a rich heritage on which to
    build . . . "  They name Willis (1602), Tiffin (1750), Stackhouse (1760),
    Taylor (1786), and Gregg (1888). 
    In the first lesson they introduce the usual
    symbols, but the "s" for instance is only a left s . . . no right s.  So
    you can imagine that right away things start looking "off" a bit.  Phrases
    like "at the" and "it is" are identical to Gregg. 
    They have a symbol for v and w that is like the
    Gregg under-ith.  The Century 21 "k" is the Gregg "ish". 

    Etc. etc. etc.  It makes me CRAZY to try to
    read some of the Century 21 connected matter.  It's like imposed

  11. Thank you, Debbi, Brian and Alex,

    Did that system catch on in the States, at least for a moment?

    Does the author state somewhere why he made such changes?

    I like Gregg shorthand because it combines elegance, speed and readability.

  12. I don't think Century 21 ever caught on.  It
    was probably used in a few school systems, but it had a short life and to my
    knowledge no subsequent editions were published.  The authors don't exactly
    say why they made the changes, but they do emphasize in the introduction that
    all motions are in the same direction, so that seemed to be an important
    principle for them–hence the "left s" only, and forms like "may" with the "a"
    circle on top of the m instead of below it.

  13. This post and this one [] were what helped me decide for Simplified, but I'll admit to some buyer's remorse of late. I thought it would be the best of all worlds, when part of me really wanted to start with Anniversary to maximize my speed potential for meeting minutes/verbatim dictation (even if I never attained incredible speeds, at least I would theoretically have a greater potential to).

    I erroneously thought I wouldn't be able to use Anniversary in a practical way for some time, and I wanted to be able to start using Gregg more or less immediately. That and I came across the reversed R (I was first learning from a military manual based on Anniversary that I got from the library while debating which book to buy), and I just thought, "Oh h*** no." Now when I peruse the Anniversary manual, after having already internalized so many concepts, it doesn't seem so bad.

    Part of me wants to scrap Simplified and learn Anniversary, another part of me says to stick with Simplified, do some speed building, and then see. Originally I thought I would want to write more words out so that they would be clearer and unambiguous. In practice, though, sometimes I find myself frustrated with writing out something in Simplified and thinking, "There must be a way to abbreviate this!"

    On the other hand I really like how systematic Simplified is, and how it lays out the concepts in bite-sized chunks. The Anniversary manual is a bit hard to wade through in comparison, and there seem to be many exceptions to rules and vaguer abbreviation concepts. I've read that the Anniversary functional method is better?

    Does anyone have experience with mixing and matching Gregg series? I know that in the post I linked above that Carlos recommended to Susan to not mix and match, but I'm curious if anyone does and how they like it. There are certainly already some brief forms that I immediately want to use from Anniversary (without, while, really), as well as more of the disjoined analogical word beginnings.

    1. My general recommendation is to stick to one series while in the learning phase, because that will serve as a base. Once you finish the manual you can continue your study, either by studying the second semester dictation books, or studying a faster series. Many writers (including me) mix and match series.

      Leslie's Gregg Shorthand Manual for the Functional Method (FMM) is divided into 80 lessons (called "assignments", same number as the Simplified manual). The manual itself does not present rules per se; students are supposed to deduce the rule from the examples (but you can always use the regular manual to find the rule, since the lessons are correlated). Students do not write anything until Assignment 21. The advantage of the FMM is that you have a key at the end and that it presents lots of reading and writing material. You can read more about the functional method here.

      1. Carlos, I see what you mean about learning one series through to begin with, and then mixing and matching later. I'll definitely check out the Anniversary Functional Method books. In any case, from my latest perusal of the Anniversary manual, it seems like Simplified doesn't often contradict Anniversary (though it does sometimes, like in "myself"), but rather omits certain Anniversary principals or teaches alternative ones (such as 'rd' after the model of Anniversary's 'ld' instead of some sort of left-wise circle technique). So it seems like it wouldn't be too much of a jump after internalizing all the Simplified principals. 

    2. 120 is doable in Simplified. 100 is very common, or was when careers depended on it, even for systems like Forkner and Teeline, that include way more strokes. Until that speed, most of the delay is thinking about how to write and going slow enough for your untrained hand. Simplified and other easier to learn systems will get you that far faster. I'm not sure when the benefits of even shorter outlines come in, but it's above that.

      1. Until that speed, most of the delay is thinking about how to write and going slow enough for your untrained hand.

        I'm definitely still in this stage, but it's really nice every time an outline just starts to flow automatically!

  14. I'd say the issue of speed is where "mix and match" comes in. You can acquire a very respectable speed in Simplified. If you wish to boost your speed, you can go on to the Expert Shorthand Speed Course, and/or mix and match series, and/or use reporters' shortcuts. I personally consider Simplified my favorite Gregg series. It's more elegant than Diamond Jubilee (which I learned) or the later systems, and more systematic than Anniversary (which Gregg himself considered not really a polished series).


    Since 21st Century Shorthand was addressed in some of the old posts here, I'll comment on it too. The authors state that shorthand students had particular trouble with distinguishing when curves should be made clockwise and when counterclockwise. The hesitation slowed them down. So the authors devised a system derived from Gregg in which all curves are counterclockwise. This required that the clockwise s be thrown out, and that new forms for some letters be invented. The result is a system that looks superficially almost identical to Gregg, but that to a Gregg reader is disorienting. Some outlines are exactly like Gregg, others look a bit "off", and still others are totally incomprehensible.

    1. I must admit: I often hesitate about the direction of the 's' and the hesitation inevitably makes me stumble. But it is because I'm rather a perfectionist. So I can consider it's not very important even if I'm glad when I do it right. (And speed is not my goal, anyway… 🙂 )

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