Sneaking up on Shorthand?

Your normal handwriting is below average if it is 25-30 wpm, average, if 35-50 wpm, and above average if 55-60 wpm. Let’s say you shoot for 60 probably by using a simple, very-connected style such as Palmer.
When you achieve 60 wpm, then try one of the alphabetic shorthand systems such as Quickhand, Personal Shorthand (was Briefhand back in the 1950’s) or EasyScript. Words are abbreviated in such ways as:
PROBABLE is PRBB where final B is read as BLE
ASSIGNMENT is ASNM where final M is read as MENT
OBLIGATION is OBGLS where final S is read as SION
It may be possible to reduce words by abbreviation to as little as one third their normal length, one half, sometimes less, but just say it averages out to one half.
Your writing speed has now doubled from 60 wpm to 120 wpm
(Note that the abbreviating principles are similar to Gregg)
Now, switch to the Gregg alphabet whose characters are far simpler and thus quicker to write than Roman letters. Say they are twice as fast to write as normal letters. Now your speed is 240 wpm.
One possible meaning is that issues of achieving speed in Gregg are really and originally problems with plain old handwriting, ignored until one starts practicing Gregg.
Also, it then becomes clear that any system requires being able to go ahead and write without having to stop and think, something most of us probably still do even in everyday handwriting.
Several of the popular alphabetic shorthands offer the possibility through their instructional materials of speeds up to 150 wpm, as much as or more than many students ever got with Gregg. And, if you double that by using Gregg characters, you get 300 wpm.
Thomas Lloyd, a widely known writer and teacher of alphabetic shorthand, recorded the first sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives, and a shorthand society whose name I can’t find as of yet, put a plaque on his grave in Philadelphia naming him the Father of Modern Shorthand.

(by ukulele144 for everyone)

15 comments Add yours
  1. I believe speed in Gregg is built by familiarity and practice in Gregg itself, as well as developing good penmanship within the system. The problem with this idea, in my opinion, is that none of these systems are related to Gregg… it's akin to learning Swedish, then German, then French and presuming that you'll speak it better because they're all in the Indo-European branch. The only advantage comes from knowing how you learn by that point, and a better idea of how to pronounce things, since the other skills are not transferrable.

    The ability to write without having to stop and think comes from knowing your system inside and out… if I could develop a generic "write without having to think" skill, I'd hop aboard in an instant! 😉

    As for the 150wpm alphabetic systems… I get the impression that by then, you're really laboring along to write all those strokes, and using so many abbreviations and leaving so much out to keep up (because of the superfluous strokes), that transcription soon after is possibly necessary. I remember in Forkner, "trans-" was a capital T — a short stroke and a long one. With those two strokes, I could've written "should, touch, Dutch, indeed, would not, done, no charge, etc"… the point being that per stroke, Gregg contains much more information than alphabetic systems. I think 150wpm in Gregg is more informative than 150wpm in Alphahand, for example, and probably much easier to sustain.

    Also, the only record I've heard of over 300wpm was supposedly 350wpm done by a Pitman writer (in a Pitman-sponsored contest, if I'm not mistaken).

    Maybe there is something to be said for using this as a way to break a speed plateau if you hit one… an article on speed-building I read, though, said that speed comes from the mind and not the hand.

    What does everyone else think?

  2. If the limit were purely based on the strokes, you'd expect it to be 300-450wpm. (Forkner max is 150, at 2-3x the number of strokes, so Gregg would be 300-450.)

    But 250 seems the maximum for Gregg dictation (depending on the type of material).

    250 is also near the top of what can be easily understood. A stenographer must hear things more clearly than an average listener; he has to record individual words, whereas most people can skip them so long as they get the concept. If you want the audience to savour the details, 100wpm is about right. (I'm a storyteller,, and find 1200 words, or 12 minutes, is a good maximum.)

    Are there any figures for an expert repeating a passage over and over from memory, rather than from dictation? I suspect it would be even higher.

    So, for the top writers, the limit isn't their ability to think of the outline and draw it, it's their ability to convert sound to words, and the speaker's ability to speak clearly.

  3. Hi Niftyboy and Cricket and whoever else may be following the thread. I don't think I'd exactly recomment the scheme I described for someone starting out, but that it points up issues about writing and thinking that were there all along, issues that we tend to think of as purely "shorthand issues."   I had one teacher in high school and one in college who did not lecture but dictated exactly what we should write down.  I noticed then that a wide range of problems showed up with fellow students saying, "Wait!" "What?", and many who wouldn't actually say such things (it was sort of rude, actually, to do so) – these others would show by their demeanor that they felt the same.  I and still another set of students were quite comfortable with the whole situation. There was also a historical period when personal secretaries did take a lot of dictation in normal handwriting; I don't know if Tolstoy's wife used longhand or shorthand, probably the former.   Anyway, it could certainly be demonstrated that hearing, spelling, and writing skills have much room for development, and that there may be little attention to them, attention that comes up in a focused way in the study of shorthand issues.   I think it was Behrin who got 300 wpm with Pitman in 1922, and Swem got 280 when it was thereby thought to be proved that Gregg was as good as Pitman, it having been thought or at least claimed by Pitman supporters that the long strokes in Gregg would make it too slow.   This is all just by way of a thought experiment anyway, and I would also like to know if that 55-60 wpm "above average" handwriting speed is just what happens willy-nilly out there, or if it is something that some handwriters strive to reach. Very few shorthand users ever get the high championship speeds, so wouldn't it be a hoot if we started having championship handwriting contests and the winners got 80 or 90 wpm?! Just look at touch typing: 40-60 wpm is considered very good in many contexts, but as I mentioned in another post, Cortez Peters expected and got 130 wpm from his students. He himself reached 200 wpm, and Barbara Blackburn holds a higher record of 250 which they CLAIM is due to the Dvorak keyboard and I can tell you for sure  is not.  In this case, typing could replace shorthand now that keyboards are quiet.

  4. I've played with a Dvorak keyboard. (Really fun, the mistakes I made, usually get old finger but wrong hand, or new finger old row. Highlighted the fact that I do a lot of words as an entire unit, rather than individual letters.)

    Anyhoo, you might be onto something about Dvorak 2-hand not being so miraculous; less movement also means more cramping, and I think the act of moving between rows helps keep things in the right order. But, can't be sure.

    Dvorak single-handed, though, are most likely much better than qwerty, for their purpose; with half the number of fingers, there's even more travel involved.

    (LOL: I typed qwerty as querty! — yep, it's about hand patterns, not key patterns.)

    I used to use a Palm a lot. Best keyboard was Fitaly. (It won't work on my current one, sigh; old one broke and I bought the current one used and the digitizer is wonky.) MessageEase might be better than qwerty, on a machine with a better digitizer; I found it faster to type, but less accurate.

  5. Cricket, I can tell you from direct experience that the Dvorak keyboard really is faster, accurate, and more comfortable; my resting typing speed is about 5-10 wpm faster than my old QWERTY, and I can attest that it's a billion times more comfortable.

    To be fair, some of the claims by the Dvorak people are exaggerated; my speed gain was modest, not miraculous.

    Dvorak does have a niche, however. Probably a person who types a whole lot at home, and doesn't have to use others' computers a lot, would benefit a great deal from the change.

  6. Well, if Dvorak were a bunch of crap, I don't think it would be recommended to people with CTS, or the subject of university studies (one of which I read by the University of Oregon) that show retraining to Dvorak increases speeds by at least 20% across the board. I personally don't use it because I type in French more than English, and I can't just go 'e to make 챕 like I can with the US International (a qwerty layout) if I use Dvorak.

    Cricket: That's an interesting idea about potential cramping from staying in one position… It's hard to say if the extra distances needed for Qwerty somehow reduces cramps by stretching. I do know though that when I hurt my wrists last summer by consistently playing piano with a chair that was way too high, I was able to use Dvorak with no pain where Qwerty made a general ache.

    What I want to see though is… Gregg typing! And I don't mean "lu au kul im gis" but some custom keyboard and software to correctly join the strokes and everything 😀

  7. George: I'd like to be but as I said, I type in French probably 75% of the time, and there's a layout called US-International that lets me type 'e for 챕, `e for 챔, ^a for 창, etc. to easily make accents and the cedilla. Unfortunately, it's Qwerty and doubly unfortunately, there's no such option to do this with Dvorak 🙁 I'd have to resort to the old ALT codes if I wanted to use Dvorak, which are very time-consuming.

  8. Hi, George and all – I was basing what I thought about Dvorak on a couple of articles I'd read which described the real or supposed testing of the idea decades ago.  The issue that convinced me was when it was pointed out that ordinary qwerty typing makes no extreme claims (unless you find out about Cortez Peters and such people), and yet those who embark on Dvorak typing are expecting to type faster and work to do so. Also, Barbara Blackburn did very poorly in her original typing class, ie. not to be critical of her but just that she didn't apparently do as well as many ordinary students. I don't know if she set out to "find a better way", but she felt that she did find one. I would have never thought much was possible with qwerty if I hadn't seen a demonstration by Peters in high school.  It was still years later before I found out that he was not just some prodigy (tho' he is in some sense) but that his students dependably got 130 wpm.  I just don't think the Dvorak people were considering or recognizing that superlative when they set out to outdo qwerty. When I saw Barbara on David Letterman's show once, they didn't make it clear that she was using a Dvorak keyboard if she was, but Dave's secretary did quite well in the contest, too.   Your idea about Gregg typing, Niftyboy, may not be necessary though I bet someone could accomplish it.  What I mean is that it's not necessary because every letter on the typewriter is only the same single stroke, so Gregg characters would be no easier or harder to type than ordinary ones would. Gregg "t" would be "/" , just one stroke in each case, and connections would not be necessary because it's handwriting that Gregg and Pitman first set out to improve. Or, then, since Gregg and Pitman both depend a lot on abbreviation, that is already what the alphabetic shorthand people do.

  9. I also use a Dvorak keyboard. Is it coincidence that people who are looking for a more efficient way of writing are also looking for a more efficient way of typing? I bet there's a high correlation.

    I switched to Dvorak to help reduce my typing injuries. Switching only took 3 weeks 'til I was back to full speed. I will definitely teach my kids to type Dvorak. In a totally subjective way, it feels easier.

  10. In reference to last two posts, I would repeat what I said once before about typing, that Cortez Peters' students ordinarily got 130 wpm, and  mostly that when I saw him type, he did what he insisted his students do and typed at such a relaxed, even lazy pace, that you couldn't believe he was getting 200 wpm. You can probably be more or less relaxed with either keyboard.   The thing about handwriting is something I read somewhere, which said that slow handwriting is 25-30 wpm, medium, 35-50, and, of course, the 55-60 would be the "above average" speed.  However, it could be argued that why should one take up shorthand to write faster when he hasn't first made an effort to improve his plain, old grade school handwriting?  Still, when I was in high school, I remember quite well that any of the shorthand students who made A's and B

  11. My cat stepped on the keyboard and posted my reply before I finished!   Anyway, the students who made A's and B's fairly easily got 80-100 wpm with Gregg, and this was just the one year course from September thru May, so it could still be a good idea to spend time learning Gregg.

Leave a Reply