Cross’s Eclectic Shorthand…

Well, George and Andrew indicated in ‘shorthand history’ thread that Cross’s Eclectic would would be a challenge…

The textbook for it arrived today and I completely see their point! It’s a beautiful and very compact system. Thankfully Cross is a reasonably good communicator. He needs to be; this one is gonna take some work!

Thanks for some of the background some of you have provided.


(by ironsinthefire for everyone)

28 comments Add yours
  1. Are you going to learn the system?

    What an accomplishment! I'd like to hear everything you want to tell us about it.

    Are you trying to learn Cross BECAUSE it's hard? For the mental challenge? You're my kind of guy, Iron. I like to exercise my mental muscles the same way. That was one reason I graduated towards Pitman, and have such a healthy respect for Pre-Anniversary Gregg. No SERIES 90 for me!

    Please keep us posted.

  2. Iron:

    As a Post Script–if you need follow-up materials, the Moore Library at Rider University has several Cross manuals available through Inter-Library Loan.

    If you're in the Commonwealth, there are some copies at a university in Bath, if I'm not mistaken. I'll check further into this if you're a UK citizen…

  3. Dear George,
    I just tried to post a long post but it disappeared into the electronic ether and I had not been wise enough to save a copy before trying to post it. Very frustrating.

    Thankfully I have plenty of material for Eclectic at present; textbook, dictionary, Copious Exercises, and the phrasebook is on its way! Thanks for the Bath lead…

    Yes, it is a challinging prospect learning Eclectic. Time, Method, and Energy, It will be an interesting test for an array of methods centred on mnemonics, re-organising the material and the development of an ongoing cribsheet, for review and rehearsal of the theory, and practice using text and audio combined – I have the KJV Bible as a computer text and an audio file so that I can practice translating into shorthand and reading my script as well as be helped by the audio – by 'following along' – and eventual use the audio for verbatim training.

    The first draft of this post – which I lost – was much more detailed elaboration of what I've said above and really was the beginning of the 'biography' of the skill-acquisition process, giving a detailed account of how the appropriation
    was being tackled. Here's an example of a mnemonic application: The Cross' alphabet is divided into longstroke and shortstroke outline pairs, thus s and d equal such a pair, long- and shortstroke respectively. So 'sad' captures the two strokes of the alphabet. Make words for all the long- and shortstroke pairings and make a crazy sentence out of the words. Now you have all the alphabet word pairs to hand so you can drill the outlines at any convenient time.

    How do you know what actual outline goes with each letter of he alphabet? Take your name and convert it into the shorthand outlines for the letters (don't practice any abbreviation principles just transpose the letters of your name into shorthand characters). Now repeat-write your name in shorthand. That'll fix a few shorthand alphabet characters in the mind. Repeat this process with family and friends' names, use your address to capture more characters. Now use fav words, such as faith, hope, and charity. You can use quotes and bible verses if you want to gobble up the rest of the shorthand alphabet.

    Because you've got a crazy sentence of words representing the shorthand letters of the alphabet (or most of them) in their short and long pairing you can drill away at them conveniently.

    Thanks for your feedback George and Andrew…


  4. Dear George,

    The Eclectic textbook textbook (copyri '03) has a recap chapter commencing on page 55; a little before this – page 47 – Cross indicates that enough of the system has been given to enable the beginning of any word in the language to be outlined. I may make cribsheet #1 from the material upto this point, as without without speed and clarity with the theory so far there's a certainty of getting really bogged down later.

    BTW my personal email is an(binthispart)[email protected]

    I must admit I appreciate that there are some folks out there who know about how demanding this system is and I greatly appreciate the interest you've shown. I mentioned about letting you know about 'the biography of the acquisition of a demanding skill' in the previous posting. If you are interested in this, ie how the actual grappling with 'the beast stenography' (after Dickens) goes, throw by throw so to speak, I'd be very interested in telling it; I'd be aiming to show what happens when 'method' meets 'challenge of the task' and the interaction between the two. Orientation, feedback, response and adaptation. It's like a conversation. And on that last observation I must be careful of 'flooding' as they say regarding chat channels – and remember that this is primarily a Gregg group not a general short-writing group,which is why I've provided my email address.


  5. Pieman:

    No there's nothing substantial online; only an article in the online encyclo~ "wikipedia" . The article is v good but does not include the alphabet.

    If you're in North America you may be able to get something through library interloan. When you do the searches I'd put in "Cross" "eclectic" and "shorthand" bec. quite a few writers were using the word eclectic in their titles even though their systems were Pitmanic rather than Cross Eclectic based. Larimore, W.T. did a primer for it in which "Cross" appears in the subtitle. Eclectic seems to have been a fashionable word in the latter part of the 19th century.


  6. Pieman:

    For Interlibrary Loan–here's your info; the LC control number is the most important. Just take this info to your local librarian. To wit:

    LC Control Number: 03003423
    Type of Material: Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
    Brief Description: Cross, J[esse] G[eorge] 1835-1914. [from old catalog]
    Eclectic shorthand:
    21st ed.
    Chicago, S. C. Griggs and company, 1890.
    xviii, 264 p. incl. diagr. 20 cm.

  7. Hi!

    I'm just wandering how many stenographers were using Cross's Eclectic in its heyday in proportion to the other systems, and if any of them have recounted their experiences in print! I seem to have got the figure of fifteen percent scuttling about in my box from somewhere!

    I was also wandering if any court reporters who were using the system have had their original manuscript 'takes' archived and, if they are still in store, whether I would be able to get copies over to me in England.

    Incidently, George, you were so right when you said about some of the material for Cross's was getting scarce; I feel v fortunate to have got hold of the dictionary (1888), Copious Exercises (1896), Phrasebook (1892), and the later textbook copyrighted for 1903. There are at present only a few of the textbooks left on abebooks. Cross's Primer of four lessons, and Larrimore's Primer are nowhere to be had ( I've ordered photocopies through library interloan international request as these works are held at Libr Congress). The bindings on the dictionary have come apart and the other books will benefit from being rebound as well sometime over the next couple of yrs.

    Thanks for any leads that I may get!


  8. Iron:

    🙂 You asked the right person.

    I can provide some of the information. Here's a transcript from The Manual of Phonography by Benn Pitman, copyright 1899:

    "The following is a graphic summary of the Table of Statistics on the Teaching of Shorthand in the United States, in the Bureau of Educational Circular of Information No. 1, 1893, pages 40 to 141:

    …………………………………………………….Benn Pitman, 747 teachers, 34.7%

    {2 others, omitted for this excerpt}

    …………………Cross, 185 teachers, 8.6%

    {9 others, less than this amount}"

    Iron, Cross was also used in the UK, but the UK, having much stronger copyright laws than the US, (Gregg was outlawed for a time) probably would have had a much smaller percentage of Cross users….

    Apropos other Cross materials: there are almost certainly some Cross books at the Rider University, in the Moore Library–which has the largest collection of Shorthand books in the States. I hope this helps…

    By the way–how are your Cross studies coming?

  9. George;

    Thanks for that information! The study of it is going along alright ; just trying to get Cross's use of hooks more solidly fixed in my mind right now! I love the way that he's got consonant-places as well as vowel-places in his system and the way he adds the 's' or 'sh' sound by striking some strokes in the opposite direction. Initially, when this was explained, my reaction was to wander how effective it would be but then I looked at the outlines for 'wave' and 'waves'; in this instance his pluralisation method is V effective!

    The recent postings touching on systems' ease of writing according to them being geometric or cursive were interesting. I think Andrew was right when he indicated the penmanship may have some challenge to it. I showed the system to a friend who immediately commented on the capitalisation of the alphabet by the addition of a microscopic tick; he thought that was fiddly. I think Cross would explain that what you're doing when capitalising is making no more extra 'mark' that when you start of the comma or speechmarks with a 'head', and that with familiarity and practice this would not be awkward to read or execute as one would perhaps think. I'm very pleased that he's included a lot of 'supplementary reading' in the textbook; this will be invaluable later!

    I may contact the national court-reporting assoc. in the states to try and find out a bit more about getting copies of shorthand 'takes'.

    Interestingly enough W. T. Larimore, who did a primer, had Eclectic Shorthand as an OPTION at his college for those who wanted it. From what I've gathered he appears to have been an excellent teacher who was very well regarded in the profession. His Primer appears to been the only book he wrote. Another internet source indicated that Cross's texbook for the system was the biggest seller for the publishers S C Griggs and Co. for a time. They were the major textbook publisher in Chicago in this period. This is what prompted me to ask about the extent of the system's use. It seems it had just about enough support for the system to get properly developed and enough material to be put out to have the essential tools for mastering it without applying extreme resourfulness!

    How do you think it compares with Pitman New Era in terms of speed potential, complexity, and compactness? Cross reckons in the Introduction to the textbook that the system was fast enough for court-reporting without heavy use of phrasing! And in the dictionary's opening pages he says that the rules of the system afford a level of brevity probably unequalled in the history of shorthand. And it's based on movements of longhand (less the perpendiculars). I appreciate not having lists of grammarlogues and like having seperate forms for 'sh' 'ch' and 'wh' and 'qu'.

    I can see why Gregg really took off; his system is great; MUCH simpler and yet still amazingly effective. I believe that Cross's system once it is established in the mind is simpler than the amount of 'verbal' it takes to explain it would lead one to believe! Cross would doubtlessly explain this as due to the lack of 'arbitaries' and the use of 'principles' in contrast with the Pitmanic systems…


  10. Iron:

    I'm in the midst of learning Pitman New Era. It's hard to say how it compares with Cross in terms of speed potential; all available evidence seems to suggest they're roughly equal. In its heyday, there were many Pitman (and Gregg) writers who broke the 200wpm mark.

    The thing to realize, however, is that Pitman New Era wasn't invented until 1924; up until that time, Pitman-TYPE shorthands dominated in America. They're not all mutually intelligible! Comparisons made in Gregg's Basics of Gregg Shorthand are based on older Pitman versions that are quite different in many respects from the Pitman versions that followed.

    But back to Cross–in terms of complexity, I believe Cross to be much harder. In terms of brevity, at the highest ends, they're probably equal.

    Geometric systems in general aren't hard if the writer is adept at writing longhand in PRINT; as I've said before, writing Pitman is very similar in tactile "feel" as writing a sentence in block letters. My own print is far more legible than my cursive, and written just as swiftly. On the other hand, if the writer's cursive is easier and faster, I believe script systems would meet his needs better. I think this is a very fair litmus test on which type of shorthand system is better for a person.

    I'm not sure why Gregg didn't catch on big in other areas; it seems that the only place it truly dominated was in the US. Pitman dominated in the rest of the English-speaking world. The reason could be related to business- or publishing constraints. Perhaps our forummates could help fill in the blanks on this issue.

    Iron, I should like you to know I've enjoyed this discussion with you very much. Don't ever worry about boring me. The mechanics and "inner wiring" of shorthand writing fascinate me. Perhaps we can all come to some interesting conclusions on this matter.

    Please keep me posted on your progress. How far are you in the book, and in how many weeks?

    Hope to see you soon.

    George A.

  11. Hi George:

    I've just finished emailing the court-reporting association people to see about joining their forum in an attempt to track down some transcripts done in Cross's Eclectic…

    Every success to you in mastering New Era; I think your observations relating handwriting style and short-writing system are very appropriate; If I had yr hand I'd probably go for New Era (to think of the crazy speeds that hv been pulled down with the advanced forms of Pitman).

    With regard to the textbook, I've just used it initially to get a very rough handle on the system by repetition previewing; I wanted to get some sense of the DESIGN of the system. I know its alphabet, the five vowel-line positions and the left and right vowel consonant positions. I know how to mark up diphthongs; modify long characters by lengthening for added m or n, chopping in half short characters for t,d or th…
    BUT I have not drilled in any of the exercises yet. This I can start doing productively soon.

    I'm glad you mention the mechanics and wiring around writing/short-writing. Cross's seems to minimise movement of the fingures, which are primary in performing the up and down strokes, and emphasise forearm movement which is primary for horizontal movement. Having realised this I will experiment with fine-tuning my pen-hold by holding it further up the shaft and using small movements in my fingures to 'jolt ' the line for commencement of a new curve or line in the outline character. Interestingly this will be the opposite of the practice in one of the Pitman speed books which advises to hold the pen as close to the nib as practicable – presumably for the greater fingure control that is needed for the perpendiculars… My initial experiments suggest that this high-upthe-shaft pen-hold will work for the surface characters and the hooks and also intimate that 'writing from the forearm', so to speak, will not be so muscularly taxing for me. This is important as I'd like to take verbatim notes if need be for long periods of time.

    Thankyou John Sapp for the link you posted for material on good penmanship; it could not have been timed better and helped me get real clarity on the mechanics of writing.

    Changing the subject a little, does any one know of systems cursive or geometric that may be good tools for general quick-writing? I'm not talking verbatim reporting tools here but just a range of systems that would now be 'public domain' (bec. the author has been dead for a while). Everett, Pocknell ,Calendar (did I spell his name right!) are names that spring to mind, and to go further back, Aulay MacAulay, and Shelton (which Isaac Newton used, and was most popular I gather). If anyone has any thoughts on these it maybe worth posting them in the 'shorthand history' thread or starting a new one. In this vein it was good to see a post for 'Personal Shorthand'…



  12. Iron:

    As an aside–in the book Personal Shorthand, the author's preferred pen-holding style is "between the index and the second finger". He recommends this even when writing longhand.

    I've tried this. It seems to minimize finger-writing quite a bit, while enhancing wrist-writing.

    Back to the history of shorthand–I thought I had done a lot of research, but compared to you, my knowledge is rudimentary. However did you find out about those obscure, ancient systems? I remember one post you made about the best system overall,–a system I'd never heard of–which was, however, not too well explained "to the novice". Do you have any other information about this system?

  13. Iron:

    Thanks for a very fascinating read!

    It sounds like Oxford Shorthand, while being very interesting, presents too much of a headache in transcription, in my humble opinion.

    Concerning another statement made–i.e. "As has been said before there is no 'best' shorthand system as purposes and writers vary …", I couldn't agree more. Nor could I have said it better. 🙂

    I haven't heard of Pocknell's Legible Shorthand. I'm going to try to get it right away via ILL…

    I have a link for you. Please notice, in particular, the last entry. I think many forummates will find this of interest. To wit:

  14. Thanks for all yr feedback George! Thankfull there's quite a bit of stuff by Dewey in the u.k. library system. BUT first I need to get proficient in Cross's system and may be tidy up Kingsford's materials… And perhaps then get materials on a range of other systems. Anyone is welcome to draw a system to my attention for looking at later though…

    Again, thanks.


  15. Hello Ian:

    Thankyou for sharing so much of your knowledge. I think many of us really appreciate that. BTW I'm in the southeast of England. And thanks for posting the attachments as well! There's just one copy of Pocknell's Legible Shorthand on going for eighty pounds. If it had been going for a lot less I'd have considered getting it. Have you been able, in the past, to get books through interlibrary loan for Pocknell, Callendar, and Sweet? As I'd love to make photocopies if I can get them through interloan or download scans if any of them hv been .pdf'd.

    At the moment I'm trying to get hold of court-reporter work done in Cross's Eclectic and have recently joined a stenographers' forum to this end. I hope I have some good fortune here, as it would be great to have plenty of original 'take' for reading practice, though I'm not counting on getting any [thankfully the textbook has lots and lots of reading practice so it's not essential but it would be nice to see some original script].

    With regard to Kingsford's system, I've been waiting for ages on 'The 1000 most frequent words' that he prepared, but I don't think interloan are going to be able to deliver on this. This is the only material on K that I'd really like to get hold now, as I MAY at sometime in the future, try and re-organise his material to make it intelligble.

    Thanks for the added information on Cross's Eclectic. I'm certainly very pleased to have got all the materials I need to learn it as only a few of the manuals are left on abebooks and none of the support material; I bought the last dictionary, phrasebook, and exercise book. Thanks for giving some historical context to Cross's shorthand; I found it very interesting that there was a 'Spencerian' shorthand that showed some family resemblance to Eclectic. Spencerian LONGhand emphasises the importance of writing 'from the forearm' as writing that draws heavily on fingure movements tire the forearm muscles more quickly than writing which minimises finger use. The fingers are activated much more heavily in 'up and down' movement than in 'side to side'. 'side to side' involves more movement of the whole forearm (pivoting at the elbow), thus less work for the fingers and less fatigue for the forearm muscles which control the fingers. Evidently the Spencer brothers realised that George Cross had really grabbed hold of the mechanics of writing in the same way that they had when they designed their Spencerian longhand. [Thanks SO much for that penmanship link John S!] Interestingly Cross includes penmanship movement drills for his system. I'm hoping to give much more feedback in a few months regarding the mechanics and tactility (if there is such a word!) of doing Eclectic.

    Yes, yr right when you indicate it's a bit of a large challenge. I think having consonant-positions as well as positions for the vowels is great BUT it all has to be learnt. BUT it is such a powerful system. For the 'p' and 'g' symbols I thought of a pig humping its back, and another pig lying on its back, its hump in the mud and its feet in the air! 'g' symbol is just the 'p' symbol flipped over. If any of you have seen Cross's symbols for these characters you'd see exactly why this works! Yes, it's a 'quick and dirty' mnemonic and not quite mathematically true as the 'pig on its back in mud' would hv to wriggle round to face in the opposite direction. But it's enough of a prompt initially so you don't forget.

    Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge and posting the attachments.


  16. Ian,

    I've just been giving the Pocknell sample a closer look. Thanks for giving some explanation of it's theory. To my eye it looks a good bit easier than pitman to execute the strokes; more clean-cut, less fiddly.
    I notice that Pocknell did a more basic version of his system called Common Shorthand. He really seems to have tried hard to make shorthand systems that 'work' and to get over some of the limitations of Pitman. Do think he succeeded in making the vowels 'understood' (to take the wording of one of the subtitles of his works)? I'm going to put in an interloan request for this.

    The info on Sweet was most v interesting. I know that Sweet hated the Pitman system and referred to it with derision as the 'Pitfall' system. That's why I asked about yr opinion on Pocknell's handling of vowels; do think Pocknell addressed the 'pitfalls' with some success? I'm going to have to put in an interloan req for Sweet's as well.

    Keep sharing your knowledge!


  17. Sid:

    That's a horse on me! (laughs at himself).OK—the information:

    LC Control Number: 21005025
    Type of Material: Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
    Brief Description: New York State Shorthand Reporters Association. Committee on shorthand standards.
    Shorthand systems analyzed: Gregg, Pitman, K.I., Paragon and Boyd syllabic, by the N.Y.S.S.R.A. Committee on shorthand standards in accord with The science of shorthand standards in accord with The science of shorthand indicating the strong points, weak points and misleading advertising claims of each. Bound with The science of shorthand, by Godfrey Dewey. Comp. by David H. O'Keefe.
    Brookly, N.Y., c1920.
    1 p. l., 5-72 p. front., illus., ports. 23 cm.

    Last one who gets this one via InterLibrary Loan is a rotten egg. 😛

  18. Ordered a first edition manual today. I'm curious about the shading (strange is that I'm not worried at all about the positioning system, actually I devised a positioning system myself for Shavian so that I was able to write a lot faster, so I don't mind have one with 5 positions (I make a three positioning system for Shavian)).

    Is a fountain pen really the best pen for shading? With a ballpoint it seems impossible as you lose speed by getting the pressure off the pen to make a lighter line.

  19. Tommie:

    This is from a Pitman student.

    A fountain pen with a fine, flexible nib was the instrument of choice for traditional Pitman students; shading is far easier with these pens.

    A ballpoint pen can be used, but it's inefficient.

    Modern Pitman students are instructed to use a pencil. (Yes, Pitman is still widely taught in the Commonwealth.)

    Don't be overly concerned about the difficulties of shading. With practice, it becomes instinctive, just as dotting your "i"s and crossing your "t"s and "x"s is in longhand cursive.

    Congrats on your purchase. If you learn Eclectic, you will be a very rare individual, indeed. There is only one other student that I know of who's learning Eclectic. I would, however, strive to get a later edition. Perpendicular strokes were eliminated after the first edition. This makes Eclectic a whole lot more Gregg-like; indeed, Eclectic is based on the ellipse, not the circle like Pitman…

  20. I did some exercises from my Pitman book yesterday with a pencil and I was stunned by the ease I could shade with it.

    I'll look if it's really a first edition as soon as I receive the book. I ordered one earlier but had to cancel it, now I'm not sure if that was the first edition or if this one is it.

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