Gregg Omitted Vowels…Please Help

 I’m a DJS Gregg writer.  I’m trying very hard to learn the system well, but I don’t have a teacher, and I’m having a very hard time with one aspect of theory…and it’s driving me bananas.  When do I leave out the stupid vowels?  It’s not the blended words like “as a result” or “one of the” phrases that are a problem…I can get used to that.  It’s common words that are kicking my butt…I can’t seem to find anything concrete on why library is l-i-b-r-r-e (no a) and damage is d-j (no a) but college has an e before the j, and pencil leaves the e out between the p-n, but  puts it in between the s and the l.  
The word ‘build’ has the e in place, and so does develop (second e), but telephone leaves the second e out (t-e-l-f-o-n).  Yet ‘original’ is o-r-e-j-n-l (why the e before the downstroke on this one?)  It is REALLY slowing me down, because I’m forever trying to think of whether or not I should put in a’s and e’s or leave them out.  I’ve tried to decide if it’s downstrokes (like the short u sounds) that determine it–but no, that’s not it.  I thought maybe it was whether or not the vowel was stressed…obviously that’s not the answer either (look at ‘pencil’).  Could it be that the Gregg system is so quirky and arbitrary that you just have to learn all of these questionable words by rote with nothing to go on theory-wise?  I hope that’s not the case.
I once had a shorthand teacher tell me “as long as you can read it, it doesn’t matter”…but surely there’s a right and a wrong on this…it can’t be that everyone just decides for himself if it’s write to put the vowel in or omit it, do they?
Can anyone shed some light on this for me?  It’s about the only thing that’s really holding me back.

(by troyfullerton for everyone)

11 comments Add yours
  1. At the risk of being damned as a heretic, in my opinion, based on my admitedly limited study of various styles of shorthand, it would appear that it is easier for people to learn the "spelling" of a word than rely on memorizing the rules that apply.   Frankly, in English, one may or may not know the rules of spelling — but you still have to learn an enormous number of exceptions. I suspect that is likely true of many languages, especially post "global village".   I suspect that's why the Functional Method works — it mirrors the way children learn to read and write. Children spend a lot of time learning to read before they begin to write!

  2. That's an aspect of Gregg shorthand that can be difficult to get used to.  You will learn by writing a lot, but here are some hints:   1.  In general, you leave out the vowel in the syllables "be", "de", "dis", "mis", and "re".   2.  With the syllable "re", the "e" is retained if the next stroke is a forward stroke ("k", "g", "m", "n", "t", or "d").   3.  With the syllable "de", the "e" is retained if the next stroke is k or g.   4.  The suffixes "-ary", "-ery", "-ory" are usually written as "r – e."   5.  The preffix tele- is "t – e – l."   6.  You leave out the "a" in the syllable "-al", when it is a suffix.   7.  There is no final "a" in damage, because the suffix "-age" is expressed as a "j."   8.  "Pencil" leaves the "e" out from p and n, because "pen" is written as "p – n."  The vowel is written in the ending "-cil" because "s – e – l" is easier to write than "s – l."   9.  "Original" has the "e" because the syllable "ri" is spelled out.  Another example is the word "river."   I hope this helps.

  3. In learning shorthand, figuring out when to leave out vowels has been one of my biggest problems too, and apparently, there are no hard and fast rules. There is some guidance in paragraph 94 of the 1916 Gregg manual (available at, which states

    "While the omission of vowels in general is left to a very large extent to the judgment of the writer, the following suggestions will be of assistance:
    (a) A vowel is often omitted between two reverse curves.
    (b) A hook vowel is often omitted between T, D, R, L, and P, B.
    (c) A circle vowel is often omitted between P, B, and a horizontal or upward character."

    Rule (c), by the way, explains why the E is dropped in pen and pencil. It appears that vowels are often dropped when they are awkward to write, e.g., in vocal [v-k-l]. Conversely, vowels are written out when they make joining easier, such as in merit [m-e-r-e-t].

    The fact is that outlines are often inconsistent in different editions. The word angel, for example, is [a-n-j-l] in Anniversary and [a-n-j-e-l] in DJS. Birthday is [b-e-r-th-d-a] in Anniversary and [b-r-th-d-a] in DJS. Tenor is [tn-o-r] in Anniversary and [tn-r] in DJS.

  4. Thank all of you for your help.  So if I'm understanding the overall gist of this, there are some very general guidelines as to when to leave out vowels, but apart from those general guidelines, it's at the discretion of the writer–is that what most people do?  If you look a word up in a shorthand dictionary and find that they put an 'e' or an 'a' in where you tend to leave it out (or vice versa), you just don't worry about it?  Or do most shorthand writers look up every questionable word and memorize the Gregg "spelling" of that word?   It seems that if you get the main part of a word down, then the rest is easy to figure out from the consonants.  Also, it seems that they often put vowels in before curves or to separate curves from other characters.  I'm still a little confused, but the more input I'm getting, the better.

  5. One thing that has helped me is to say the words to myself in a britsh accent. I think Gregg was originally a system of writting down the sounds of british english (though really Im just guessing) Sometimes the outline of a perticular word (at least in anniversary) seems to make no sense until its said Like a brit. For example, The word water sounds to an american like it sound be shorthanded like this:  oo-a-t-r   but accordong to the anniversary dictionary it is really spelled like this oo-o-t-e(backwards)   Now if you read the way the outline is supossed to be written (again, in anniversary) you will sound english. the o sound instead of the a, even the backwards e symbol in place of an er makes some sense. anyway my point it, some times if you say the word like a brit does youll understand why some vowels are left in and some are thrown out. it isn't just the gregg system it is also the way the british talk.

  6. I try to follow the way it's written in Gregg because I have tons of reading material available to me in Anniversary.  But I don't always because I'm still "learning" it even though I finished the manual (it was hard for me). I believe in Anniversary the 'r' is omitted in Water like in several words.  The 'e' is written as if you would write the 'r' but you don't.  It's not really based on the sound. Although I thought some shorthand was based on sound.  I know the speedwriting/alphabetic shorthand I learned was based a lot on sound (but ommitted vowels more often then not).   Ommision of Vowels – link to another discussion on this. "R" Omitted – link to some words where 'r' is omitted in Anniversary   Debbi

  7. The problem of phonics has always existed for teachers of reading and teachers of shorthand. Distinctives of regional pronunciation are not always evident in the printed word or stenographic symbols. Often one comes across a poem that does not quite rhyme in Philadelphia, but does so perfectly in Atlanta. But even though Gregg was based on the sounds of a particular region, it is quite evident from the many posts on this website that the student eventually assimilates familiar regional phonemes with the proper Gregg symbol, thanks to the consistency of the system. When I taught Gregg as a supplementary activity as part of the spelling curriculum in my elementary classroom, the children never missed a beat in pointing out the inconsistencies of English orthography, while lauding the merits of Gregg (especially the poor spellers who spelled most words phonetically)!               DOC

  8. Debbi,   The 'e' in water is written with left motion which, in Anniversary, indicates the 'r'. (At the end of a straight stroke circles are written with right motion, so a left motion circle indicates an 'r'.     I really like the British pronuciation theory. I think this is going to help me.   Doc–I love your teaching s-hand to grade schoolers. Do you have any materials or suggestions?   Priscilla

  9. When I was teaching elementary school I wanted to try new things. Spelling became the venue. Each year something different. Spelling in English and Spanish, French, German, Polish, foreign alphabets, and finally shorthand. We first tried Alphabet Shorthand but that was too confusing. Then Pitman proved too difficult. Finally we successfully went into Gregg Series 90. I made great use of the chalkboard and would rarely use exercises from the book because our spelling list was mandated by our curriculum. The Gregg dictionaary was a great help. The interesting thing was that even though I required the children to pass tests on English spelling and the foreign language or shorthand, not one student or parent complained! Shorthand texts, charts and worksheets can be found sometimes in the closets of schools that used to teach shorthand, in some pedagogical libraries, and even the main branch of public libraries or in the used book outlets run by some libraries. DOC

Leave a Reply