From Pitman to Gregg

Hi everyone – this is my first post here.

Back when I was but a lad, I was into codes and cyphers and “secret” writing. The local library had books on Pitman and Gregg, and for whatever reason, I gravitated to Pitman. Short forms aside, I found it easier to read.

However, I’ve recently discovered the beauty and elegance of Gregg. I’ve heard people on both sides say their favorite system is prettier, but for me, I find myself quite drawn to Gregg’s more flowing look and feel. I still find it harder to read — less straighforward somehow — but that may simply be my inexperience.

I’m thinking about using Gregg mostly for personal journaling and note-taking. I like using pen and paper, but I am easily frustrated at how long it takes to write down an idea in longhand (compared to typing). My concern about Gregg is something I remember reading somewhere on the Internet a while back: that Pitman is better suited for long-term use, and Gregg generally needs to be transcribed while it’s still fresh in the mind of the person who wrote it. Someone said they discovered in their attic a diary written in Pitman, and they were able to read it just fine. And yet I hear that there is literature out there written in Gregg. So I can only assume the person making that particular Pitman-is-better-than-Gregg comment was wrong.

Or maybe they were referring to a version of Gregg that is less-suited to long-term use. I saw an example of Anniversary the other day, and saw the vowel markers for the first time in my life. I never knew that was once part of Gregg. Maybe that’s the difference, I don’t know.

Anyone care to comment?

P.S. – This is a great group, I’m very happy to have found you all.

P.P.S. – I loved the idea someone had of writing a padlock combination in Gregg right on the lock. Very clever and actually pretty funny!

(by mikemcmichael for everyone)

63 comments Add yours
  1. Hello Mike,   My name’s Mike (or Mikhail) as well.  You know, I am finding myself in a similar dilemma.  I can’t decide between Pitman and Gregg.   You will find on this site many references (and in Gregg’s writings as well) to the ‘fact’ that Gregg is more legible and easier to read than Pitman.  Apart from Gregg himself, who was marketing his own system, I feel that most of these remarks are from people who have not really studied Pitman to any extent and just take his or someone else’s word for it.  Frankly, Pitman can very wll be easier to read than Gregg, if well written like in a book or personal journal.  I commented on this site before that I felt visa versa, but this was before I brushed up on my Pitman (having written Teeline and Speedwriting the last couple of years).   I can not comment, though, on what is easier to read if the shorthand is written at speed.  However, Morris Klingman, the author of How to Write Pitman at 240 WPM, could read his own court stenogrammes from 16 years ago without any hesitation whatsoever.   Funnily, when I lately became interested in Gregg it was for the following reasons:
    – the aesthetics
    – no shading
    – no lines   On the other hand, after a few days of practice, Gregg started looking ugly to me, compared to the austere and uniform lines of Pitman.  After a bit of Pitman, well, back to Gregg.  So I’ve been on this yo-yo diet of Gregg-Pitman-Gregg-etc. for the last few months.   Some things that put me off Gregg:
    – no proper sign for the H or ZH sounds, making it useless for Russian (my native language)
    – impossible to combine some vowels (and Russian has tons of consecutive vowels) like in the word highway, where you have to use a connecting mark, which is apparently not even present in post-Anniversary Gregg. – having to use a special sign to denot the W in the middle of the word like in 'quick'
    – ambiguous vowels, remedied only by vowel marks, therefore making it not much different than Pitman when reading back is concerned.  Fully vocalised Pitman is far easier to read
    – requires much more penmanship skills to master
    – Pitman undoubtedly better suited to phrasing
    – Even though Mr. Gregg says that Gregg keeps to the horizontal more than any other system, if a form goes downward in drops like a brick, some words can go 3 or 4 lines below the starting line if there are lots of Ps Fs Vs or Bs, all frequent letters in Russian, for instance.   So could aesthetics, absence of lines and shading outweigh these ‘put-offs’.  Well they just might, so I’m still not too sure.   Just for balance, here’s what puts me off Pitman:
    – Lines, can not use checkered paper (squared? Gridded? Not sure what the correct word is).  And finding a good lined notebook is next to impossible over here these days.
    – Shading, need to use ballpoint or a flexible ink nib, or a pencil only.  Can not just grab anything.
    –  Need to double trace some lines to make hand notes on my PDA.   So, I will be very interested to hear what you think and how you get along once you start Gregg.  Please keep us informed!   Cheers,
    Mike from Moscow

  2. Forgot to mention another point where Gregg is better: having to think ahead.   I have this idea, that the ideal shorthand would actualy not require that you think to much ahead, that is have the outline in your mind before you write it.  In Pitman you always have to think what to upcoming several sounds are before you know which form of some letters to use, of whether you would need to half, double or add hooks.   There is less of this in Gregg, the most difficult being the vowel+R principle, which is done away with after Anniversary.  Plasing vowels inside and outside curves if followed by an opposite curve can have you pause to think for a moment at frist too, but not as bad as Pitman in this sence.

  3. Hi Danger!  How've you been?  Some comments:   Have you studied Pitman?   >Penmanship of Gregg Shorthand is a skill that is not quite as hard to master as is Pitman. This is because Gregg is based on the ellipse/oval, as longhand is. Pitman is based on the perfect circle and has difficult obtuse angles that cannot possibly be executed quickly.   That's what I've though, before I put it to practice.  At high speed and with lots of practice in keeping proportion, maybe.  But it is actually difficult to write Greeg at lower speeds, like you would use for journal keeping.     >Since vowels really are the most important parts of words,   a ou ea i? e ou a iio oa a ou a!  (see way below as well)     > Pitman is hard to read, because, for instance, strd can be read twenty different ways! (Saturday, steward, stride, strayed, astrayed, astride, eastward, yesterday, sturdy, stirred, storied, star-eyed, asteroid)   So, what does that say?  I went to the movies on steward?  No, must be I went to the movies on star-eyed?  No, that does not make sense, it must be I went to the movies on yesterday.  Does not sound right, how about I wen to the movies on eastward?  On strayed? on astride? on stirred? on storied??   Context!  Plus if its a stand alone word, you can just vocolise it for 100 percent accuracy!   >Position-writing takes away the linearity, too. Can't argue there!   >Usually when a reporter takes dictation in Pitman shorthand, that shorthand cannot even be read by another Pitman writer. Gregg is legible almost to all readers of it.
    That too is for the most part an anecdote.  cn y rd ths? bt y mlln dllrs tht y cnt!

  4. I have purchased a book on Pitman phrasing and it is clear to see that Pitman rules make phrasing a more tedious process because the many rules provided for each letter (and its given form in a multitude of situations)  requires quite a complex exercise in decision making for longer phrases. Isn't it true that in longhand some people find printing speedier than cursive for them. It might be helpful if you purchase "The Story of Gregg Shorthand" or "The Principals of Gregg Shorthand" (on online shopping) to investigate the scientific basis for Gregg and how he created his characters based on amount of usage and facility of connection. (He gives the other systems positions in generous quotations and allows them to speak for them-selves. Most informative! Also Gregg is available in Polish, similar inmultiple consonants to Russian with the nesessary adaptations and considerations for frequencyof use and connectibility of forms.        DOC

  5. Basically, it's in the "basic principles of Gregg shorthand", that I found Mr. Gregg to be very biased and selective in his quotes.  That's why I was defending Pitman in my above messages.  I just isn't fare!   However, I will most probably still choose Gregg in the end by the looks of it.  So sorry if I've offended anyone, it's just that Pitman is still a bloody excellent system.  Why would the entire English Speaking world, save America and Canada, sware by it?  I just feel Pitman is getting to much prejudiced carp, misleading at the least.  Gregg and Pitman are both excelent systems!

  6. Thanks to all for the replies so far!

    Mikhail: your yo-yo effect is familiar to me! 🙂 I find myself appreciating both systems, each for different reasons. (And BTW, we call it "graph paper" here in the US.)

    DangerArranger: Your example of S-T-R actually makes me think Pitman would be clearer. Maybe it's because my only manual (so far) is the Diamon Jubilee version, but Gregg seems much more likely to confuse the vowels. Pitman has always seemed to be more of a stickler, with its three positions, dots & dashes, light and heavy mark, to create (I think) 12 different vowel combinations. It's position over/under or left/right determines whether it comes before or after the consonant.

    I pretty much agree with Mikhail that context is a huge factor, as it has to be with *any* shorthand that abbreviates all hell out of many words.

    As for legibility at speed, I've looked at the Gregg samples of Swem and Dupraw written at full speed, and they look fine to me. Of course these guys had great penmanship, and did it every day.

    I have to agree with you, Mikhail, about the strange shortcuts Pitman takes that require thinking ahead (at least for a beginner). It always seemed counterintuitive to express, for instance, PL by doing the L hook before the P.

    And I can't get around this one thing: I have a Pitman and a Gregg (DJS) dictionary. Both are presumably examples of the best penmanship the editors could find. I have to say, Pitman leaves me cold. My eye, my aesthetic sense, is drawn to the warmer, softer look of Gregg.

  7. The rumors you hear about only being able to transcribed Gregg when it is fresh and that Pitman can always be read, I must say, are only as accurate as anecdotes. Through scientific analysis, one can see that Gregg shorthand (since it is much more regular in its spellings) is more readable, even after many years. This is assuming that they are well written. Penmanship of Gregg Shorthand is a skill that is not quite as hard to master as is Pitman. This is because Gregg is based on the ellipse/oval, as longhand is. Pitman is based on the perfect circle and has difficult obtuse angles that cannot possibly be executed quickly. And the way words are abbreviated in Pitman is another process. Since vowels really are the most important parts of words, Pitman is hard to read, because, for instance, strd can be read twenty different ways! (Saturday, steward, stride, strayed, astrayed, astride, eastward, yesterday, sturdy, stirred, storied, star-eyed, asteroid). Position-writing takes away the linearity, too. Usually when a reporter takes dictation in Pitman shorthand, that shorthand cannot even be read by another Pitman writer. Gregg is legible almost to all readers of it.

    But that is my two cents. It is excellent to see that you have joined the group! I am glad you chose Gregg from Pitman; it is a whole 'nother world. 🙂

  8. Mmm…I love the smell of controversy in the morning! Thanks all for keeping it intellegent, as usual. Sorry I can't find my former post where I mentioned that I was suprised to be able to read my last year's Gregg notes without trouble. And I could even read Ms. Letha's high speed meeting record from 20 years ago!

    Shorthand, isn't it about time?

  9. Mr. T. S. Halton once said, "Take the word rhinoceros. Pitman writes rnsrs, Gregg writes rinos—diphthong i and the accent on the nos. Now any ordinary person can recognize a rhinoceros by its head and shoulders, but it takes a skilled anatomist to recognize it from its skeleton and dry bones."

    You are right about context, surely. Vowels, though not very usable alone, make a word a word. Without a vowel, a word cannot exist (with exception to rarer words like nth and cwm, and even that uses a vowel, w). Take, for instance, the sentence, "I went to the store and bought some Shout in a bag." If just the vowels are removed, you are left not with laundry detergent, but a less pleasant substance. Wouldn't you say that a system where vowels are an extra effort places too little emphasis on the importance of vowels?

    Though position writing does make some vowels more noticible, it puts way too much weight on the mind and it puts the pen in that danger zone where it is not touching the paper. These "unregistered pen movement" area is exactly where the pen does not need to be for a long time at all.

    Gregg was clear when he said that when an obtuse angle, when quickly executed, will form a curve (unless you stop at the angle, which is not advisable).

    You have some great points. 🙂

  10. Mikhail:   I write both English and Spanish Gregg shorthand and can see your points about the difficulty of "translating" Gregg to other languages.  However, Gregg is perfectly suitable for words with lots of vowels.  Consecutive vowels are extremely frequent in Spanish (2, 3, and even 4!), and Gregg handles those beautifully.  Yes, there are special rules, but they are pretty straightforward.  If you tell me which vowel combinations you find awkward in Russian, I could tell you what conventions are followed, and maybe you can create your own Russian version of Gregg.  That would be awesome!   At high speeds, in English we even make shortcuts for the difficult vowel sounds.  For example, the word "highway" is not written "ai  u – ai" with the ligature.   You write "ai – n": the horizontal stroke for the "n" is not really "n", but the indication of the "u" dipthong (ua, ue, ui …).  There are other nifty tricks that are standard in advanced writing that may be employed.   In terms of the penmanship, in practical terms the important thing in Gregg is proportion, and not really writing like Charles Rader.  Of course, you practice penmanship, but it is so that when you go at high speeds, your outlines will suffer less than if your penmanship is bad.  However, as long as you can read your notes, you are fine.   I'm not so sure about your point in terms of the phrasing.  There are tons of phrases in Gregg, however, they started to disappear in Simplified, and were almost gone in Centennial.  (Can you believe that the phrase "Gregg Shorthand" was gone in Simplified?)  Part of the reason was that people were not taking shorthand so often so as to warrant the use of a particular phrase — if you don't write a phrase all the time, then why bother with learning it?  Same thing goes for brief forms: if you are not writing the word "draft" often, why do you need a brief form for it?   As to your point of words dropping from the horizontal like a brick, Gregg solves that three ways: (1) using brief forms, (2) using abbreviations for endings and beginnings of words, and (3) using the abbreviating principle: you write as much of the word as necessary to reconstruct the original.  Again, let me use the example of Spanish.  Spanish words are much longer than English.  But you seldom write a word completely when you take shorthand in Spanish — in fact, it is abbreviated heavily, both in the use of brief forms, prefixes and suffixes, and in the application of the abbreviating principle.   As to the lack of the "h" and "zh" sounds in Gregg, why not reassign strokes or use diacritical marks to represent these?  (For example, why not use the "x" stroke for the "h" (sounded as in "Loch Ness"), or the "j" stroke for the "zh"?)  That's how Spanish deals with some of the unique sounds of the language.  Try and experiment.  It is part of the fun.

  11. Mike,   >And I can't get around this one thing: I have a Pitman and a Gregg (DJS) dictionary. Both are presumably examples of the best penmanship the editors could find. I have to say, Pitman leaves me cold. My eye, my aesthetic sense, is drawn to the warmer, softer look of Gregg.
    That, and the fact that you can write with anything anywhere.  I will probably stick with Gregg as well.  I guess I have Pitman withdrawal!  But I will defend Pitman when it's being unfarely degraded

  12. Mike McMichael!
    I, too, have looked at PItman in the past. It may be more "exacting," or "balanced," in appearance, but I don't know about the speed aspect. Others who know it and use it can better answer that one! I learned Gregg Diamond Jubilee when I was 15; later, at about 23, I learned Gregg Simplified when I worked with another secretary who had learned Simplified; we both had to read each other's notes from time to time. My "comfortable" speed using a combination of DJ and Simplified is 175-185 wpm, although I've been clocked faster… and 175-185 is comfortable executive-office dictation speed…

    in undergrad and graduate school the skill was invaluable!

    i'm in st . petersburg, florida… b.a. is from Eckerd College.. m.a. from univ of south florida…

    welcome to the group 🙂

    marc 🙂

  13. Just a small correction:   Wordsigner wrote: "Why would the entire English Speaking world, save America and Canada, sware by it?"   Actually, a majority of shorthand writers in Canada learned Pitman, until the mid-80's, then Forkner got a bigger share.  The only place in Canada Gregg was taught was in Québec. And I don't think it is still taught there very much. I learned Gregg because I went to high school in Québec.

  14. Hi, I'm very new to Gregg. I learned Pitman (Montreal, Quebec) 40 years ago. I'm starting to learn Gregg now as I was never very good at Pitman. Pitman is very easy to read since the angles are so exact but it's very difficult to learn – it takes a lot of practice. I never did acquire a very good speed. I found it confusing with the lines above, on & below the line, depending on the vowel sound and we always have to have a good (HB) pencil or a special pen to make sure that the darker strokes showed up well. But reading it is easier, even if we don't add the vowels to the words (which is common in Pitman, contrary to Gregg) because of the position of the words and also because of the clearness of the angles between consonants. I find that Pitman has shorter "words" to write since we don't add all the vowel sounds and also because an "r" or an "l" can be added to another stroke just by adding a hook. But although Gregg "words" can be rather lengthy, I do find it easier to write….so in my case, I'll probably get up a better speed than I ever did with Pitman since there aren't as many rules and we don't have to think ahead before writing a word since there's no position.

    Now, this is just my opinion. Although I was never very proficient at Pitman shorthand, I still find it rather easy to read. Whereas Gregg seems MUCH easier to learn but I find that the strokes are not quite as clear since there are no real "stops" or angles between strokes. It's hard to explain. Pitman has more direct angles so it's much easier to see which stroke you are reading. Gregg is smoother and prettier but sometimes with all the smooth zigzags that go "one into the other", it's a little harder to determine which strokes they are. This is just my opinion.

    When I had the choice to take Pitman or Gregg at business college, I was told that Pitman was harder to learn but was easier to read. (I personally do agree with that, but then again, I haven't learned much Gregg yet.) I chose the harder only because I thought it would be better but I've always regretted my choice so now I'm learning (on my own) Gregg. Trying, at least! 🙂

  15. Hi, TwinPea54   That's interesting that you learned Pitman in Montreal in the 60's.  At my high school they only taught Gregg, and I'm pretty sure they taught it throughout the Protestant School Board. Unless you can correct me?

  16. Hi sidhetaba,

    I didn't learn it in highschool. I went to a Catholic school and didn't have the option of taking a business course of any kind – there was only the classic course. I took a business course at Sir George Williams (Concordia). I really don't know what the Protestant School Board had as options. I did have a few friends who went to Westmount High (Protestant School Board) but they didn't take a business course so I don't know if the school even had a business course.

  17. Isn't that funny — I went to Westmount High.  We did have business, and I actually signed up for shorthand, but they didn't offer it that year, only Notehand. They cancelled the Notehand class after Christmas because I was the only one in the class. But I did all the other business options. 

  18. And the Mother House Secretarial School taught only Gregg, because you could choose to do the course in French or English or both. (I didn't attend, boys were not allowed, but a friend of mine did.  She had to go to the school to be inspected before she went on a job interview AFTER SHE GRADUATED. And she had to wear a hat and gloves.)   The nun who wrote the North American Gregg texts in French was there at the time, I think.

  19. Oh….that's strange that they didn't have Pitman at the Mother House. When my sister went to the Mother House, she took Pitman Shorthand. But that was the 1959-1960 year. I can't ask her if she had the choice between both Pitman and Gregg because she has passed away but they definitely did have Pitman. As a matter of fact, I have her Pitman book. Yes, in those days, they wore a hat & gloves. 😀

    You went to Westmount High? I went to St. Paul's Academy & graduated in '65. Gosh, it's a small world.

  20. In the biography of Gregg it says that he was literate in several shorthand systems (including Pitman) and yet never developed real speed in any of them, including his own lightline system. It further tells how Gregg and Pitman enthusiasts created a quite tumultuous climate in the world of stenography. Today shorthand is an art being revived by enthusiats such as us. In Philadelphia the public schools taught Pitman, the parochial schools taught Gregg, the private school varied. Today neither are taught. A few schools and colleges teach variations of alphabet notehand. My point is that both school systems for almost a century turned out excellent, capable and quick stenographers and reporters. I follow Greggs lead in that whatever system you learn the faster you can visualize and transfer it to your hand the more efficient stenographer you will be.Period. While we in this group enjoy the advantages of Gregg lightline , I think voiced disdain for Pitman and other systems will cost us some potential members , enthusiastic about their shorthand experience!

  21. I recently read "The Life of Sir Isaac Pitman,
    Inventor of Phonography".  Very interesting book (well, that is, if you're
    interested in shorthand kinds of things . . . )
    He was quite a character, much more of an eccentric
    than Gregg, who was really the consummate salesman and businessman.  Pitman
    was a vegetarian, a Swedenborgian, very interested in spelling reform,
    etc.  He spent considerable time focusing on English phonetics, including
    the development of new letter forms and type for printing.  Apparently in
    his shorthand publications he could never refrain from promoting the
    Swedenborgian religion. 
    Pitman intrigues me, but the logic behind the
    development of the system and the way it's used escape me.  Plus, I truly
    believe in the age of the ball-point pen/marker, there's no possibility for a
    shaded system.  It's in the same category as Spencerian penmanship–I love
    the shaded strokes, and can produce them with a dip pen and ink, but for normal
    writing with a ball-point it just won't work.

  22. I'd love to read that book about Pitman — I think you've got to be pretty driven to invent a shorthand system (well, actually, to learn one, too) — and it sounds fascinating.   My friend went to the Mother House in 1965-66.  I thought she said she did not have a choice between Pitman and Gregg, but that may be because she wanted to do both French and English shorthand.   She learned DJS (75e Anniversaire). Your sister would have been taught Simplifi챕e if she'd chosen Gregg.   6 degrees of separation. Only I'm finding it's really only 2 degrees.    

  23. In Quebec, the official system of shorthand was neither Pitman nor Gregg but Perrault-Duploy챕, approved by the Conseil Provincial de l'Instruction Publique in 1940, at least for French. Both Pitman and Gregg shorthand were adapted to French, poorly for Pitman, but French-speaking religious schools taught Duploy챕, for historical reasons. Most court and parliamentary reporting was done by Duploy챕 stenographers.   Mark, bouffe-la gugusse.  

  24. I have to say I find it very interesting that a Canadian nun wrote the Simplified and DJS series French Gregg texts.   I wonder if the Mother House also taught the Duploy챕 system to the monolingual Francophone stenographers?   Imagine — teaching three different kinds of shorthand in one school.

  25. I used to work with someone who originally trained to be a teacher in the 1920s. She indicated, at that time, students learned both Gregg and Pitman since you didn't know which school system and which shorthand system you'd be teaching. She said speedbuilding was awful because she'd always start to write the first system she learned!


  26. I can understand that because even now that I'm practicing Gregg, I have the tendency to write an "m stroke" instead of a "k stroke" and vice versa because in Pitman and Gregg, they're exact opposites. Certain strokes are a little confusing. But I'm hoping that with time, the Gregg strokes will become more automatic since I haven't done Pitman in a very long time. It's funny how long it remains in our minds, though.

  27. On Apr 5, 2005 11:33 AM, Alex wrote:

    > etc. He spent considerable time focusing on English phonetics, including
    > the development of new letter forms and type for printing. Apparently in

    Is this where George Bernard Shaw got his inspiration for his Shavian
    shorthand, perhaps?

    > his shorthand publications he could never refrain from promoting the
    > Swedenborgian religion.

    Reminds me of Helen Keller, who tried to do the same thing about the
    same religion, but nobody ever took her seriously.

  28. >Is this where George Bernard Shaw got his inspiration for his Shavian
    >shorthand, perhaps?

    Shaw was a writer of Pitman shorthand, but the Shaw Alphabet was created
    after GBS's death, as a provision of his will. He thought Pitman was
    unsuitable for every day use, and wanted to create a more fitting phonetic
    alphabet for the English language.

    There's considerable information about the Shaw Alphabet (also called
    "Shavian") at


  29. Hello Mike, I feel like I have some things in common with you. I am a mathematics major and LOVE cryptography and codes and secret writings, etc.etc. I am currently a computer programmer for a health system in Iowa but previously lived in Italy for 14 years and am, thus, profficient in Italian. I have just become interested in Gregg shorthand (DJS) and am trying to learn this as best I can.   Best of luck to you. Mark [email protected]

  30. <>

    Danger, this simply isn't true.

    'S'es have 3 different ways to write, 't's have 2 ways to write, 'r's have 3 ways to write, and 'd's can be written 2 ways. Differences are depending upon the presence or absence of a preceding or following vowel (and other criteria).

    In addition, 'y' has a separate stroke.

    Therefore, most of the words you quoted would have completely different outlines.

  31. Exactly. 😉

    Wouldn't you say that having so many ways to represent each phoneme is a little much? I doubt the fact that there being so many ways to write an s, t, d, or r helps hesitation in writing or transcription. 🙂 Check out a nifty book that I put on my site at "Basic Principles of Gregg". On page 35, it gives how "str" can be written so many ways. I got my example from page 75. In the very next sentence, it says what you said. Check it out. 🙂

  32. DangerAvenger:

    I wouldn't doubt for one micro-second that Pitman is harder–much harder–than Gregg.

    There being so many ways to write words, however, makes Pitman such an accurate system. Reading a passage back written in Pitman is easy even decades later.

    Just as the other forum-mate said,"Pitman is harder to learn but easier to read." I couldn't have said it better.

    Personally, I think both Pitman and Gregg are stellar systems that are both dying. I think it's better to focus on keeping shorthand alive than to argue about which system is better.

  33. Dangeravenger:

    Perhaps I didn't make it completely clear in my last post.

    All those words would be more difficult to "write"—because of all the variant ways they can be written—but much more easy to "read".

    In actual practice, though, vocabulary and theory is learned at an early stage, so the various words involved would prove to be no problem unless the word was completely new to the writer.

  34. DangerArranger:

    Quite so. I remain respectful of both systems; both have their pros and cons.

    In fact, I'd seriously considered learning Pre-Anniversary Gregg. Unlike some later versions, it's very accurate in writing and reading. There are diacritical marks for every variation of vowel sounds.

    I hope we can work together to promote Shorthand in general. It's a dying art, sadly, and I applaud the efforts of people like you who have put up websites that have been a tremendous amount of work….

  35. DangerArranger, hi.

    The only thing we're trying to say is that no matter how easy Gregg is to read many many years later, Pitman is even easier. That's all. It's not a contest. Pitman is easier to read…absolutely…..I've learned Pitman and part of Gregg. I see the difference. But Pitman's drawback is that it is much harder to learn. No one is knocking Gregg at all! Actually, I wish I had taken Gregg way back when. It's simpler and probably faster for that reason.

    When I had the choice of taking Pitman or Gregg, I was told that Pitman was harder to learn but was easier to read. I figured I'd take the harder one (why does a challenge seem like so much fun when we're young???) but I never excelled in it, unfortunately. And I never used it much at work because many companies were using dictaphones by then.

    Where you said "Pitman cannot even be read by another Pitman writer", it's very well known that that sentence goes for every type of shorthand. Each person has his/her own handwriting (so-to-speak) and many times, words are adapted to the user's advantage – invented short forms. And it depends on how precisely the strokes are written. The type of shorthand doesn't make any difference….it's how the stenographer writes that makes the difference. That goes for anyone who writes shorthand, whether it be Pitman, Boyd, Gregg or any other shorthand. If a Pitman shorthand writer follows all the rules, then Pitman can be read from the 1800's also. You seem to be taking this subject as an affront. It's not, so please don't take offense. We're just discussing the two different shorthands. If I knew anything about Boyds (which my father used to know), I would discuss that one also. Unfortunately, I never learned it. I started it but never finished. I wish I still had the book! 🙂

    Like I said, I prefer Gregg…..but I'm finding it hard to learn Gregg properly because I have the tendency to read and write the Pitman strokes. Maybe with time it will become easier….? Has anyone here made that transition?

  36. I presume you are talking to me, but I recommend you study my screen name a nip harder. 😉

    "Easier" is rather subjective. Gregg shorthand to me is not only very easy and pleasant to write, but it is also easy and pleasant to read. 🙂 Any deliberation on that note would not be logical (due to subjectivity). While Pitman may be readable many years after it is written, I can still read Gregg publications from the early 20th century! Gregg Shorthand is extremely legible! Oftentimes, Pitman cannot even be read by another Pitman writer.

    They are both systems that one can use. However, it is my opinion that learning Pitman is simply unnecessary. 🙂


  37. Hi fellows, Reading an old message, I would like to share some samples of Pitman and Gregg shorthand:   1st)  Mantenimiento (Mantenance in English):  In Pitman, see how it's written with no special or abbreviation rules; then, see how short it is, after applying hook, short-form and halving size.     2nd) Comparison in phrasing:  "De todos modos" (Anyway in English):  In Pitman:  The "d" stroke is halved, because it's followed by a "t" stroke.  The "m" is halved and thickened, because it's followed by a "d", so we have:  [d – t* – s – m – d* – s].  The short form for "todo" is a "t" stroke like this |.  * These sounds aren't written due to the halving rule.  In Gregg (Pre.Ann),  [d-t blend  o m o d s]  The plural of "todos" is omitted, because it appears in the word "modos".     Comments? Regards,     VALO    

  38. Interesting, Valo, interesting!

    I'm in the process of learning Pitman (for some arcane reasons, it has to be Pitman) and, boy, it is hard! There seems to be a billion rules; it reminds me of that old 70s game Dungeons & Dragons.

    Learning Pitman is supposed to be about as hard as learning German, according to one source.

    So Pitman is probably a lot briefer, but it's much harder to learn than Gregg.

  39. Those are interesting examples, Osvaldo. But don't be fooled by the size of the stroke. If you don't know the principles of the system, you will write it as fast with as without the rule. Words such as "transition", "suppress", "magnificent", "circus", "transit", "support", "intern", and "shortage", look deceivingly simple to write, but they can create a problem if you don't know the rule.

    The ending "-tenimiento" is "tn-m." So "mantenimiento" is "mn-tn-m."

    In terms of phrasing, there is a principle in Gregg called the Principle of Balance, which means that you increase the size of a phrase, you write less and less in proportion. While it is correct that "de todos modos" is written almost in full, you can abbreviate it as "dt-m-o-s." In fast writing, if you write "de todos modos" like you said (according to theory), it can read "de otro modo", because of the size of the dt. You can also avoid this by writing "de otro modo" as "d – o – m – o." There are many phrases in Taquigrafia Gregg that are built this way (such as "lo m찼s pronto posible").

  40. Hi everybody!   You're right Chuck about knowing the rules for writing those words, but I suppose (and I hope all of us) when we talk about one system or another, it's obviously that the shorthand writer does master the rules.  For example, I don't have problem with those words because I have learnt all Pitman's rules.   A good feature in Pitman is that a word could be written in different ways, for example, I write "mantenimiento" in that way because it's shorter for me, instead of writing "mn-tn-m".  However, I write "mantener" as "mn-t-nr".   About the phrasing, if you look at the image I posted, you will see that there's a difference between the DT stroke and the D stroke.  "Modo" in Simplified is "mo", but in Pre-Anniversary (that I have chosen) is "modo" (in full).   GeorgeAmberson1:  Good point for you, but due to Spanish words ending, that rule doesn't apply.  Besides, the abbreviation for "mente" or "miento" could be a "mn" halved stroke, or just a "n" halved stroke when the first one is more complicated to write it.   First I learn Pitman; then, Gregg.  That's the reason because I can read a text just with consonants and some vowels, it's a thing of capacity.  For example, native English speakers can easily discriminate between B and V.  Chilean ones cannot. Got the subject?   Regards,   VALO

  41. That's interesting, Osvaldo.

    There has been some discussion concerning Pitman vs Gregg. It was generally agreed that while Pitman was easier to read than Gregg, it's much harder to learn for various reasons.

    From your point of view, what are the pros and cons of Spanish Pitman, and the pros and cons of Spanish Gregg? Which system predominates in Chile, and in South America in general?

  42. Osvaldo:

    Your information was very interesting. I had no idea–no idea at all–that there were so many Spanish shorthand systems! I'd never heard of most of the ones you'd mentioned.

    As an aside, in English Pitman, the presence or absence of a beginning vowel is easy to discern because in the few cases that it's important, the consonants are written in different ways. (Example, stroke-'s' means a vowel precedes, circle-'s' means one doesn't). I haven't found this to be a problem, personally.

    What IS a problem–and it is odd that Gregg missed this in his tome BASICS OF SHORTHAND–are the goddamn di-phones and tri-phones, the different ways of writing SES, and worst of all, intervocalization, which I'm really struggling with! Jeez!

    Thanks for all the information. This has been an interesting discussion.

  43. Hi You said:  "I have no idea — no idea at all — that there were so many Spanish shorthand systems!"   I'm affraid about if you understand clearly the site at   That's a list of the shorthand writers who belonged or belong to the Representative Chamber of Uruguay.  The Spanish systems they use are:  Martí, Carissimi (Look at #59; he's the inventor of the system), Estenital, Escobar, Pitman (#101,107,111) and Gregg (#112,135).   The webmaster of that site is #117.   OK, See you,   VALO

  44. George says "What IS a problem–and it is odd that Gregg missed this in his tome BASICS OF SHORTHAND–are the goddamn di-phones and tri-phones, the different ways of writing SES, and worst of all, intervocalization, which I'm really struggling with! Jeez!"   Okay. I'm biting.   What are di-phones, tri-phones and intervocalization?

  45. Sid:

    (GeorgeA. takes a deep breath). Diphones and triphones sound easy at first until you dig deep. That's two (Di-phone) or three (tri-phone) vowels in a row.

    "What's so hard about that?", the uninitiated might ask. In Pitman, ten zillion rules. Did you know "w" and "y" are sometimes vowels? When you get a "w" and "y" followed by a double vowel, the rules vary a lot. For example, the word "wife" is written with one kind of stroke, the word "warm" with a second, and the word "aware" a third. Then you run into words with a "w" in the middle. Example "assuage" or "seaweed". These are written with the "w" still a fourth way. But maybe not–the word, seemingly in the same class, might also be written with a simple "w" stroke. Arggh! At one point, the writer asks himself,"What am I doing to myself, trying to learn this? Am I a masochist?"

    Intervocalisation is hard to describe to a non-Pitman writer. I'll try to simplify it. You can write "scr", as in the word "scramble", with a certain type of stroke…but the same stroke can also be used when a vowel intercedes, such as in the word "secretary" or "sacred". Intervocalisation requires a change of mindset, in the way we understand putting words together, that is very difficult–at least to me.

    Pitman New Era, which is "le plus ultra" of the Pitman Series, has been known to leave would-be secretaries in tears trying to learn it. Read this amusing article:,,6622-1096485,00.html

  46. Sid: After reading the passage above, I have realized I wasn't completely clear on the di- and tri-phones. (I wrote that piece late at night)

    If you break "w" and "y" down into its components, you'll realize they're really vowels, not consonants. "W" is "oo" drastically shortened, while "y" is "ee" shortened.

    "Wife", then, really begins with a tri-phone, viz. "oo"–"ah"–"ee", then "f". That "w" is written one way–as a vowel. But in other words, the "w" is written as a consonant–the word "ware" is written with one "w" consonant, while "aware" is written with the other one. In words like "assuage" and "persuade", however, the "w" is written, once again, as a vowel!

    This concept is as hard to learn as it is to describe.

    Hope this helps.

  47. Thanks, George. I have to tell you, sounding out Gregg, instead of having to think about di-, tri- and multi- phones as well as intervocalizations makes me quite thankful. Just the over and under "ith" rules and the right-s and left-s rules are quite enough.

  48. Chuck, I must qualify the article.

    The lady's referring to Teeline Shorthand when she's talking about "reaching for 80wpm". Teeline is now the preferred method of shorthand in the UK because it's quite easy. Teeline is based on letters of the ordinary alphabet.

    Pitman 2000, which is the second most popular, is somewhere between Diamond Jubilee and Series 90. Experts can reach about 130wpm.

    Pitman New Era, was able to reach 200wpm easily, but it's so freakin' hard that….well, you know the rest.

  49. I wrote them out, joys and joyous, and then looked inthe dictionary, but I don't know why the different s's, it just felt right. I guess I did learn the rule, because I would write the s differently, but I don't have a clue why.   Do you know why, Chuck?   George — in DJS, any consonant can be a full syllable, and likely context would tell the correct interpretation. The only example I can think of at the moment is the ending -ium = e-m. Emporium = m-p-o-r-e-m.

  50. joys: j – o – e – left s joyous: j – o – e – right s   Reverse R:  in straight lines, normally the circle is written clockwise.  If the circle is written counterclockwise, you have the reverse circle, and that expresses the R sound.  For example:  "a – t" written with the circle below the t (clockwise) reads "ate", while if the circle is written counterclockwise it would read "art".

Leave a Reply