Shorthand tip from Emma Dearborn

Though she said it in reference to her own invention, Speedwriting, in one of her books from 1927, Emma Dearborn said something that fully applies to Gregg:
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; and YOUR shorthand is only as good as the most troublesome word in it.”
Can you imagine?! Here I am living in fear of the thousands of words out there just waiting to turn up and stop me cold, words that I won’t live long enough to have practiced specifically and individually.
SO, the only hope I see is a nice, handy list of TYPES of words or even just sound combinations that number in maybe the hundreds, hopefully even less than that, so we are prepared to easily write previously unpracticed words.
Any suggestions?
P.S. I don’t mean stuff like “analogical word endings”, etc. because the problem is just as likely to come up in the front end of the word as at its end, just some pesky connection like turning “s” the wrong way before the following consonant.

(by cricketbeautiful-1
for everyone)


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  1. Hi, Chuck – I've gone through two manuals several times each.  SIMPLIFIED says something like "you now have the principles to write any word in the English language" and I don't doubt it; I already can do that. The problem is doing it without stopping to think.   Also when you say it takes "YEARS" I would like to know exactly what you mean. Except as an idle hobby, I don't have years to while away while also trying to make a living, and, besides, I doubt that if "years" means more than a couple or three no one would have ever bothered. However admirable shorthand may be, it is not professional opera singing or concert piano playing.   I can already do the standard thing of 100-120 wpm like most people who ever took a year or two of Gregg, and even that has always been for most all stenographers a matter of fairly limited and familiarized material. I still wonder if THIS is not the missing element in much discussion: the hot dog court reporters simply learned and used a tightly restricted range of words an phrases, yet we have been given the illusion that a good stenographer should be able to write down anything whatever that comes down the pike; I don't believe it   As I once said in another post, I don't think the Pitman writer who got 280 in a contest was lying when he later tested at 165 wpm in unprepared material.   Really don't mean to be testy about this, but even stenographers who have worked for years already are usually working in a very defined environment – e.g. taking down business conferences in a very familiar workplace and setting.   Jim

  2. This reminds me people wanting to learn to swim, but that do not progress because they are afraid of drowning in the deep end of the pool.  The solution?  Take swimming lessons and practice swimming laps — fear of depth will go away once you know what to do.   Likewise, in shorthand, there is a simple solution: study the manual carefully.  It gives enough examples, lists of words, and all the sound combinations that you will ever need.  In addition, each shorthand manual comes with a supplementary book called "Most Used Words and Phrases", which supplement the words in the manual and presents them according to the units of the manual.  You can use that book as well to learn even more words.   Proficiency will come with practice and years of study, and not by dabbing on it once in a while.

  3. Dearborn drastically overstated the case.

    For a good list of words, look at The 5000 Shorthand Forms (Anni, available at Andrew's site,
    This book has Horn's 5000 most-commonly-used words, sorted by when you'll be able to write them, and it claims that those 5000 words account for 90% of all you are likely to be called upon to write. The list is a bit out-dated, but I agree with the principle. I'm sure there's something similar for Simplified.

    Just checked out

    Gregg Shorthand Dictionary Simplified, a gazillion copies (and one copy misspelled as Shorhand)

    Gregg Shorthand Dictionary Simplified, a Dictionary of 30,000 Authoritative Gregg Shorthand Outlines

    Aha! Here's the one:
    Most Used Shorthand Words and Phases Classified According to the Lessons in the Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified (ISBN: 9781432509576)
    Contains the shorthand outlines for 3669 words and 1696 phrases selected on the basis of usefulness and frequency.
    Charles E. Zoubek
    many, many copies

    As for the court reporters and speed contests, check out the actual records. They are quite honest about it. They have different sub-contests for legal material and literary, with records 50wpm lower for literary.

    I disagree that court reporters never come across a new word. Those witnesses aren't lawyers. But they lose as little time as possible, and catch up again when it's back to familiar territory. (Hence the carrying ability; while panicking over one word, they're still hearing the rest of the sentence.)

    Yes, there will always be words you have to think about. I I scribble it down as best I can, add a big circle near it or in the margin, so it's easy to see, and carry on, then during a break go back and, worst case, write it out longhand, until I get home and figure it out properly.

    Also, once you have the system mastered, writing out material in your own field will, by definition, have the words which are unique to the field.

    Relax and enjoy!

  4. Hey, y'all   I don't think Emma Dearborn overstated at all; I think what she and all shorthand instructors should have ALSO said is that, taking a clue from the linguists and dialectologists, it is a misconception that we all just speak the same English. Even the most innocuous areas of human social activity have an astounding degree of specialized terminology, lingo, slang, etc., and a great deal of attention has been paid to the misunderstandings that occur because people wrongly assume we are all on the same page in this regard.   Also, there have been found many pitfalls in the compiling of "word frequency lists." I spent several months with Horn's 5000 list, and I found it very limited in application. Beside its quaintness in the historical sense, it has words that I think got in there because Horn's source was a very academic and literary one.   Anyway, I thought I had learned my lesson from studying and posting about the 1913 Jury Charge reproduced on Andrew's site, but I don't think the broader application of it really sank in until lately. Part of the reason is that  I started reading through GREGG ADVANCED DICTATION SIMPLIFIED again, and I was surprised what a limited vocabulary it has, not just specific words, but a whole arsenal of phrases and sentences that fit the style of 1950's business and advertising lingo.   Though I doubt everyone would agree with me, I would advise shorthand students to study specifically the exact area in which they wish to be able to work well and ferret out the exact words and phrases that will turn up there. It might even require very specific and even arbitrary abbreviations suitable to that area.   As for the "YEARS" thing, I would say it is exactly correct if one wishes to reproduce the facility we have with our ordinary handwriting – something equivalent to the 12 years of grammar and high school with all the reading and writing that went on during that time. Gregg is just a handwriting system, quicker to write than ordinary Roman letters, but it requires the same practice that our primary handwriting system did to have the same overall facility.  Gregg's spelling of words is completely different than the first spelling we all got used to in school, but also similar enough to cause confusion that must be overcome.   I think I have been being tossed back and forth between two approaches that need to be kept separate: the broader one of just writing anything and everything that comes up, and the more practical one of getting the skill I need to get out there and do some work using shorthand and not taking 5 more years to do it. I just really  don't think that even the great court reporters had that many years to waste between high school and making a living.   Jim

  5. The speed contests weren't just restricted to testimony and jury charge.  There is also a portion of literary material that is dictated.  Usually, it's not as fast as the testimony and jury charge because of their specialized and phrase-friendly composition.  I find I take legal material much faster and easier than some literary stuff because it's the language I use all the time.    The reporters who wrote that fast could do a couple hundred words a minute and the literary is not necessary suited to the same phrasing that testimony or jury charge happens to enjoy.    Any form of shorthand, if you are trying to attain verbatim reporting speeds, takes years of practice.  It's an unfortunate fact of the nature of the beast.  It took me nearly three years to get to 140.  There's something called the "principle of diminishing return" (there's a graph in the 1920's version of the "Gregg Reporting Shortcuts" that illulstrates the point).  Basically, the longer you practice and the more progress you make, the less great your strides will be in attaining high speed.  In the beginning, I would make progress very quickly, gaining 10 words a minute from one day to the next.  As I got farther along, it was harder for me to increase my speed.  There is an acid test of sorts.  You need to be motivated to make progress the longer you write.    What you have to remember (no pun intended) is that shorthand is a mental skill.  It's the automation of your vocabulary that helps to bring faster speeds.  With much of your running vocabulary automated, your brain has the time to construct the outlines that are not so readily available to you.  Very rarely will you find someone who studied for a short time with remarkable skill.  There are folks out there who are naturals, but the rest of us need to work at it.  It takes readings lots, penmanship practice, and lots and lots of dictation.  There's no doubt about it, the dictation is where the rubber meets the pavement. 

  6. Really, y'all, I don't want to be merely argumentative, so maybe we could get V-Lindsay's input.  When she said she knew of 70 pen writer court reporters in Mississippi alone, is it really believable that they all spent years to become reporters? I've only known two myself, but they both (one much older and deceased now, and the other much younger) just went on fairly soon to become court reporters out of college. The older one was a very distant cousin of mine, and she took a job with a local judge right out of school.  She was his secretary and just went to court with him as part of the job. The younger one said that her DJ was very good right out of college, and she trained for a number of months with local reporters, and then went right to work. She said something that I can't quote verbatim(!!) the upshot of which was learning court terminology and procedures.  I am almost certain that I am not misrepresenting the situation to say that the DJ itself was sufficient as her basic skill, and it only needed adding some special terms and abbreviations for court work.  I will certainly make it a point to speak with her again soon and try to verify this, but I remember our last conversation so clearly because of my newfound interest in reviving my shorthand, something I would not do if I thought it would take me years more.   Jim

  7. Jim,   The hole in your arguement I can see is that, if learning shorthand to verbatim speeds were so easy, don't you think there would be more who could do it?  Given the remuneration levels achievable with certified shorthand skills, it would be worth a few months of anybody's time.   I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's a highly unusual feat.  In the stenotyping world, those who reach certification from a standing start in less than 2 years (i.e. 0 to 225 wpm) are held in great respect.  There is perhaps only one example of someone reaching certified verbatim speeds in 6 months – Karla Wollin Boyer – and she is held in almost godlike awe for achievement.   As to whether it's believable that so many people spent years to become reporters – absolutely it is!  It's a matter of fact, not supposition.  And the financial rewards at the end make it believable.  Anywhere between 2 and 4 years is the norm.   Of course, you're not starting at zero words a minute, so I'm not saying it's not possible for you.  Some people are naturals.   Ian   (I know I'm using stenotype as justification for my arguements, but trust me: it's no harder to learn than pen shorthand, and beyond that, the speedbuilding principles are the same)  

  8. Two to three years to get $60k to 100k as a court reporter? Wish I'd known. Took me 5 years of Hell in engineering to reach $40k Canadian. (60+ hours a week, doing math and science most high school teachers can't even do.)

    Any well-paid profession will require time to learn. Either time, or a willingness to do something stinky, dangerous, physically difficult, or with a huge responsibility. There's a reason doctors and get paid so well. If it were easy, supply would go up and price would go down.

    If you doubt me, look at the educational requirements for other jobs in that salary range. is a good place to start.

    I don't see formal educational requirements (although I do see programs available); it's a matter of proving you know the material rather than surviving (and paying for) a post-secondary education from a certified school. Most professions don't pay you diddly until you're all done, so for years you pay tuition and living expenses, and spend 60+ hours a week studying and doing slave labour (aka intern).

    Whereas court reporting, you can build speed at night while studying something else (or making money!) during the day. (A time to practice the language and procedures and forms, build your resume, get references, learn who's hiring before they buy the newspaper ad.)

    So, yes, it is reasonable that people would spend years mastering the skill.

  9. Hi Cricket and Ian and everyone:   Everything you say may be generally true of many professions, and there are degrees of shorthand practice as well.  Obviously getting hired by the Supreme Court or the U.S. Senate is not a low-level achievement.   However, I don't think any of the arguments even touch the issue, so to repeat what I think is the kernel of the issue:   I met a nearby court reporter who went from college business courses including Diamond Jubilee to working as a reporter within a short time.  When I asked her about the speed issue that I assumed would matter greatly for reporting, she said, "I already had the speed" meaning from the college course in DJ. She then said, leaving the speed issue aside as settled, that she did, however, work informally with court reporters she knew nearby, to familiarize herself with with the proper terminology, etc., this for a matter of months only.   Then from this, I went on to refer to V-Lindsay's statement of knowing 70 pen writing court reporters in this state, and I ventured the supposition that they had most likely gone into reporting fairly soon out of school, not years and years later.   All I want to do is determine the truth of this claim/suppositon, etc., and it would serve as a practical settlement of the question to me.   Jim

  10. Jim,   There's no reason why this person you know didn't build up the requisite speed while at highschool.  It is certainly true to say that, generally speaking, younger people master the skill quicker than old ones.  Even so, it would've taken her more than a few months.  None of that refutes the statements others have made in this thread.   Your point about Supreme Court, or the US Senate is a moot one.  In the US, to achieve certification, you must pass the RPR at 180wpm literary, 200 jury charge, and 225 q&a.  State specific tests are more stringent.   I'm also not sure why you cling to the supposition that pen writers become reporters out of high school, with the magical ability to write verbatim speeds without taking the years of training that everybody else does.  Don't diminish their accomplishments – I'm sure they trained long and hard to achive the necessary skill.    If, on the other hand, you're talking about 'reporters' who rely on tape recorders rather than an ability to take down the record, then that's a whole different kettle of fish.   With the greatest of respect, just because you want something to be so, doesn't make it so.  What we've said is correct, factual, accurate.    Ask yourself this: you're currently at an untidy (illegible?) 120 words a minute (forgive me if I'm representing this wrong, but you talked about having problems keeping your outlines in proportion).  If what you want to be true is true, why aren't you out reporting?   I know you won't believe anything I write.  But at least I've tried   Ian

  11. Check out whatever programs are available from the National Shorthand Reporter's Association (NSRA).  They do the certifications.  I think they still do the speed contests as well.  They would publish the notes of the winners in their magazine.  Also, if you have a court reporting school in your area, check out what they can do for you.  They are all machine schools, but once you get past the theory, dictation is dictation is dictation.  Generally the speeds are as mentioned above:  180 literary, 200 Jury Charge, and 225 Q&A.  I'm not sure what the duration of the exam is in each section, but I can't imagine the dictation would be less than five minutes at a given speed. 

  12. Hi Jim,

    I don't know if I can help or just cloud the issue. When I got my 2007
    membership directory for the Mississippi Court Reporter's Association, I
    recounted the number of court reporters who are penwriters and had to
    revise my statement about there being 70. That "70" figure was longer
    ago than I remembered at the time.

    In 2005 there were approximately 298 members of the association. There
    were 47 listed penwriters; 1 official stenomask; 7 officials who didn't
    say pen or machine; 24 freelance reporters who didn't say pen or
    machine; the rest were machine writers. Because of retirements and
    deaths, that number has dropped. In 2007 there are approximately 258
    members of the association. There are 42 listed penwriters and 4
    stenomask reporters. I did not count the number of reporters who
    neither listed pen or machine and I didn't count the number of machine

    Since there was no formal "court reporting school" in Mississippi years
    ago, I'm assuming most of the official pen writing court reporters
    started out like I did. Took shorthand in high school and college;
    worked at law offices that required shorthand and the secretaries used
    the shorthand even though dictaphones were available; then when the
    opportunity arose, applied for an official position. I hope to be at
    this job until retirement. Oh, yeah, the base salary for a state court
    official reporter is on a sliding scale based on the number of years
    experience and unfortunately the top of the scale is not $60k. Maybe
    for federal but not state court. The federal reporter's page rate for
    appeal transcripts is almost a dollar a page higher than the state court
    appeal transcripts.

    I don't want to get in a debate about whether pen shorthand or machine
    shorthand should be the way to go. (I am studying machine shorthand so
    I hope to be able to do both.) Both systems, IMHO, have advantages and
    disadvantages. As far as using backup tapes or even video in the
    courtroom, you cannot totally rely on either system. Electronic
    equipment can and will fail. Books dropped, paper hitting microphones,
    people drumming fingers on the table and just plain failure can really
    make a mess of the record if there is no court reporter there. Besides
    the court reporter's notes contain a great deal of information about
    what goes on in the trial than a recording does.

    All that to ask this question. The number of penwriters started
    dwindling when shorthand was no longer taught in schools. Ole Miss
    doesn't have a court reporting curriculum anymore. (I know there are
    other schools in other states and I'm studying by correspondence.) Will
    the number of machine writers in Mississippi start to dwindle? And if
    so, what's next? At one time the Mississippi Supreme Court had thought
    about trying to replace official court reporters with video. (Is the
    new digital equipment the next push? I do use digital equipment and
    like it, but it's no substitute.) Our courtroom was part of the pilot
    program. The only advantage I saw was when the prisoners saw the
    cameras, they behaved better. Other than that, it was an expensive
    bust. Within a few months the main sound module went out and after the
    service contract expired, neither the state nor the county wanted to fix
    the system or upgrade the computer (Windows 3.1) that controlled the system.

    I apologize for the longwinded soapbox, but I really do love what I do
    and don't want to be replaced by electronics.


  13. Enjoyed everyone's replies – thanx.   All I am trying to do is answer a simple question: why have I gotten the distinct impression that many people who had high school and/or college Gregg shorthand courses went on to become court reporters fairly soon after those courses, and did not that I can discover have "YEARS" of intensive training to do so?  To repeat: the practicing court reporter that I spoke with a few months ago told me that she had the requisite speed from her college DJ course, and that she became a reporter after a number of months of informal training with court reporters known to her through her father's being a judge.   Also, from what V-Lindsay said in addition to my own knowledge, there was only a stenotype training course at one state university and that is now defunct, no formal training in Gregg court reporting at all, and yet there have been and are many pen writers in this state.   My current theory as part of my attempt to decide what direction I should take and how to refine my practicing is this:   Specific abbreviation for a specific field must be brought to bear because if one sets out to learn to write anything and everything that one ever hears, it will indeed take years and years to become proficient.  Attention to specific, job-linked abbreviations and shortcuts can be accomplished in a matter of months.   To relate this to Emma Dearborn's statement with which this thread started, she was right in my opinion that one's shorthand is no better than its most troublesome word for the simple reason that even a couple of seconds' hesitation can cause the stenographer to become hopelessly lost, and it this happens even a few times in the course of dictation it can be a real disaster.   Therefore, since it would indeed take years to familiarize oneself with the thousands of words which might come up in the world around us, it is necessary to avoid this by narrowing one's field to job-specific vocabulary.   This is how, I believe, many high school and college students of Gregg were able to go on to court reporting quite soon after their shorthand courses. The courses themselves in Simplified and DJ focus heavily on business and commercial correspondence.  If that is amended by attention to court proceedings, I believe it would be possible to be a successful court reporter in a fairly short time.   Other than for contest purposes, I see little value or practical application for so-called "literary material" and have no idea who thought it up or what they expected such skill to be used for. Someone is going to read Dickens out loud for some reason and expect you to take it down?!   Just say, if you feel the need, that I am presenting a very "mercenary" use of shorthand, one that could practically equip one for employment when "YEARS" of formal training are not even offered and never were that I know of in this locale, and would not be possible anyway for people who were already out making a living soon after their Gregg courses.   Jim

  14. The study of career-specific word lists is part of the speed building phase of shorthand; it is not something new and has been done for ages.  I'm curious though: do you write shorthand during the day?  Just for kicks, can you take your own posts here and write them completely in Gregg without stumbling?   The document "A Systematic Speed Course for Advanced Writers", by Charles L. Swem, lists some helpful pointers for self-study.

  15. Does your state have a court reporters' association? They'd be the best place to check.

    Also, does your state's certification require additional knowledge, like legal procedures or computers? Do they require a certificate or degree as well?

    I'm sure the court reporter at the local courthouse would be willing to make an appointment and talk with you for a bit. Also check the Human Resources Department; they might have a copy of the job description from the last time they advertised or a the union job description. (Two decades ago in Ontario, the most thorough job descriptions were those done for the sexual equality survey!) Other places are school career resource centers; high schools, colleges and universities all have them. (Helping graduates find work is good; no one will come to your school if your graduates are unemployed.)

  16. Hi Cricket, Chuck and everyone,   Here is what happened: all I found out from official career counseling, job services, etc. for several years was that stenotype had taken over the court reporting and related fields. I would still not know otherwise if I had not accidentally met a pen writer and that only through contact with a voice writer who employs two stenotypists on her staff. The voice writer knew several pen writers still practicing, one of whom I met and have mentioned here.   I began to contemplate upgrading my shorthand toward the court reporting standard. I had used Simplified comfortably for years in the 80-120 wpm range depending on the material.   I discovered this group and found to my amazement from one of the posts that there were not just several but from  45-70 practicing pen writers in my own state both presently or up until recently.   I had been in touch as well with local university teachers who still taught Gregg until about 15 years ago, and also found out about Cortez Peters' Championship typing courses, two of which he conducted here at the university. Now the university teaches neither of those things, and the only court reporting school in the state at another state university discontinued its stenotype curriculum several years ago.   Almost everything I have posted in this group has to do with trying to zero in on what is required for greater shorthand proficiency, and it has lapped over into several areas – comparisons between stenotype and Gregg, comparison with other shorthand systems which have also been used for reporting, etc. I was looking for the common element in proficiency as it shows up with various systems of shorthand. The systems differ enough that it can be very puzzling, and I think it may be a mistake to think only in terms of Gregg and especially in terms of only one version of it. For example, Anniversay can't be the unalloyed magic bullet, because there are too many successful users of Simplified and Diamond Jubilee.  Even the seeming undoubted qualities of Gregg in general can't be the whole answer, because why, then, was that horrid Gurney System so successful for so long, or why is Teeline used for court reporting; it is a very crude system compared to Gregg.   Lately an issue has been my confronting the claim from posts here that both Gregg and stenotype can be written out in full by successful reporters, a claim that sounds like fantasy to me, and I cannot believe it.   Therefore, I have most recently settled on the conclusion that the only thing held in common by all the differing but successful systems is their judicious use of specific, even idiosyncratic, abbreviations, and I have felt the need to answer the question of how there can be so many practicing reporters for whom there was neither time nor opportunity to engage in rigorous training. It was not available; they did not have years to pursue it if it had been.   One last thing: it may or may not be obvious to everyone, but once the specter of the need for speed begins to hang over you, it is amazing how it can screw up your penmanship, spelling, and everything else which had been quite comfortable until then. I think my shorthand has gotten worse rather than better lately for this reason; it is ridiculously frustrating. It could well be kin to that devilish thing that happens when people who know their material quite well will screw up royally when they have to take a test.   Jim

  17. Transcription is an art unto itself.  It takes a certain amount of training to be able to convert your outlines to good and proper English and punctuate it as well.  From my own experience, you get good at it.  There's a transition where you're a little bit tuned one way or the other, but with enough practice, you can transcribe accurately and your shorthand will take care of itself.    I was very lazy and was almost fair at spelling.  When I realized what it took to transcribe (i.e., knowing how to spell and punctuate), I got a lot better at it.  I was motivated to do it and because of that I acquired the necessary building blocks to be able to produce transcripts that were "mailable."    Also, if you read your shorthand, your years of typing should help.  Typing is also one of those automatic skills.  When you read the outline as a word, your head will take over and your fingers will spell it right.  🙂

  18. Hi Jim,   Sorry, I was having a bad day!  I got the wrong end of the stick, but I think I understand you now.   I don't have time to reply today, but you raise some interesting questions that I will certainly ponder.   I've got to say that I'm very surprised that a Speedwriter reached court reporting speeds.  Do you have any more information?  It would be interesting to see how legible their notes were!  I'm also surprised about Teeline – I used to write it at a dodgy 140 back in the day, and I think I'd rather have learnt Pitman from scratch than try to scrape out an extra 40 words a minute!  That's contradicting myself, I know 🙂    The only quick additional point I would make is that when Gurney was used for verbatim work people spoke much slower than they do today.  I once read about an exceptional Gurney writer who had a certificate for 160.  That might have been sufficient then, but it can hardly be said to be sufficient now!   Speak to you soon,   Ian

  19. Hi Ian – Don't be too apologetic, because I can be contrary, or, maybe "contrarian" sounds more dignified and scholarly!   The same person mentioned to me both the Speedwriter and a Teeline writer who got court reporting speed – the former from results of a contest in business material and the latter actually reporting as a job, and known personally to the person who told me.   The Gurneys reduced Mason's original briefs from 436 to 100 but also advised the student to develop any personally expedient abbreviations.  However, the Gurney Firm's original notes could still be read up to 80 years later in one case where the originals had been lost.   One problem for Gregg may have been that the U.S. Congress adopted Pitman soon after it came out in 1848 and used it until 1971. That sort of biased things against Gregg.   Also, I read somewhere that it was only Swem's 280 wpm that silenced the Pitman critics of Gregg. This sort of thing is what makes me wonder if the same could have happened with Speedwriting or Teeline if the same controversial atmosphere had still existed when they came along later – all the somewhat well-publicized contests, etc.   No question that the flowery oratory of earlier days – really fairly well into the 20th century – was slower and more deliberate, and, to me when I hear a holdover of it, very boring and even pretentious.   Still, to restore my contrary reputation, I must say that "words per minute" is murky to me.  As Lewis Carroll said, "When in doubt, take an extreme case" – right up my alley! – so let's say you leave out "a", "the" and "of", maybe a few more expendable words as well, then you might hear 200 words spoken but only write down as few as 160-180 of them. Then, let's say you abbreviated enough in some manner to practically reduce the amount (compared to writing out in full) by another 10%.  Then you would actually be writing down  maybe even as few as 140-150 of the words in real terms. This way even "business Gregg" would be much closer to adequate  for reporting.   However, I still want to know about that perverse "writing out in full" thing! For one thing, why would a stenotype champion and Charles Rader, the Gregg expert, both say the same words?: "The longer I write shorthand, the longer I write shorthand."  Were they both quoting another earlier aphorism, or is it like those cases where everyone thinks Samuel Johnson made some witty remark and then it turns out is wasn't him (he!) after all?   And when did they switch over to writing out in full after years of using briefs? Did they just get so fast they got bored and decided to do it as a lark?   Jim                                      

  20. I didn't mean to really conclude anything, just that since Pitman got adopted for Congressional reporting around 1848 you would assume it would have had a real leg up compared to Gregg, also especially since it continued in Congress until 1971 when it was replaced by stenotype. That also applies to the contests. I know that anyone is technically welcome, but the contests were discontinued sometime  in the 1920's where the contestants were almost entirely Pitman or Gregg writers, and then only started back in the 1950's at which time there were (and are) almost entirely stenotypists.   I had first seen the "longer I write" quote attributed to a stenotypist, not a Gregg writer, and then someone here called my attention  to Charles Rader having said it. I was just puzzled that two people from different venues would have said the same words, or could one have been "citing" the other, whichever came first.   Do you suppose it would be possible in hopes of determining a benchmark to say that the most literal meaning of "words per minute" could be based on writing things out in full? If so, then 200 words spoken would exactly match 200 words written out in Gregg.  The Gregg writer in this case would have a literal speed of "200 wpm." Then, as abbreviation and briefs were brought into play, you could compare the amounts actually written to the full text. Let's say the Gregg writer actually wrote the equivalent of 160 words while yet 200 had been spoken.  Then, the writer should be said to have a speed of 160 wpm, not 200. This would avoid misinterpreting what speed really means.   That's another reason I did a good bit of puzzling over the quote in question.  When I first saw it, it was made in reference to a champion stenotypist who worked as a court reporter and did, it was claimed, write everything out. The reason the quote was given was instructional – i.e. if you are hesitating too much over briefs which you have not automatized and which thus slow you down, well, then, just write everything out; it can be done.  I'm not agreeing with this, just wondering about its validity as one might well do!   Oh, I wouldn't say I'm  discounting anything based on the experience of writers in the trenches. In fact, that's my problem: I'm collecting statements by just such people and trying to harmonize what sometimes seem to be contrary claims, both within Gregg and outside it.   Here is the exact quote from Kathy Dittmeier:   "You can ALWAYS write a word out. No one says you *have* to use briefs. And contrary to popular belief, it's not the number of strokes that slows you down, but how much you hesitate and have to *think* that slows you down. Many of the speed champs are known for "writing things out."

    So should I just stick to writing things out as I do about half the time, or not?   Jim

  21. Hi Peter and all –   It is in message 42 of this thread where Sidhe says he saw the reference to Charles Rader making the "longer I write" statement.   All I meant about the wpm thing is this: "he writes 200 words per minute" is not the same as "he can take down what someone says who is talking 200 wpm." Naive though I may have been, I went for years thinking that when they said "200 words per minute" that that was how many words you actually wrote; it is not.   To make it clearer but it will and does apply to Gregg as well:   Sentence: Do you remember what time that was? (28 letters) Personal Shorthand version: d u rem o i t z? (9 letters)   In PS you have written only 1/3 as much as was actually said.  Therefore if someone spoke 180 words in a minute, you would write 1/3 of that which would be 60 actual words worth of writing. You did not write 180 words during the course of a minute, but your dictation speed would be stated as "180 wpm."   I realize there are other aspects to the question, and a lot of mental factors are involved, not only the physical writing itself.   Jim      

  22. Jim,   200 words a minute, means 200 transcribed wordsa minute.  That's what all references to words a minute mean.  A certified speed of Q&A 225 words a minute, means 225 words of Q&A material per minute, not the number of words that were actually written down in shorthand.   In your example of PS, 180 words a minute were written, not 60.  You're comparing apples with oranges.  Just because you write 1/3 of the letters doesn't mean you write a third of the words.  Each word is disctincly written or otherwise indicated.   You might as well say that in Gregg you omit 3/4 of the phrase "it is a dog", since in handwriting it takes about 24 inflections of the pen, but in Gregg only 6.    Shorthand abbreviates by means fair and foul.  Some systems abbreviate in ways which omit words, and some don't.  Provided you have some means of understanding what the omitted words are, so that the transcript is accurate, you can't fairly say that they have been omitted.  They were written, just not in ink.  If they're definately indicated, then they're definately written.   I think we have to establish that as an absolute before any further discussion can take place, otherwise we're talking about different things:   The aim of shorthand is to accurately transcribe speech.   Therefore, a person's speed is measured by the number of words a minute that are in the transcript, not in the shorthand notes.   Can we agree to that definition?  Only then can there be a meaningful dialogue about abbreviation and planned omission of words as a means of helping you achive a certain speed.   Ian

  23. Jim,   I explained to you how words are calculated for dictation.  And even though in my experience and in my education this was how it is done, you still argue that it's not.  If it's not how you feel it should be, you seem to reject it out of hand.  For purposes of standardization and to give everyone a somewhat level playing field so that we could have a common point of reference, this was what as devised. WPM is the approximation of how many "standard words" there are in the piece of material.  It's a somewhat arbitrary standard based on research regarding speech patterns and word construction.  That's just the way it is.  Some of this you have to accept on faith.  None of this is exact.  But it does give us a measure.  It's a standard that has been adopted across the board.  Again, you are dismissing experience in the real world with how you think it should be.    The mechanics of writing what you hear DOESN'T MATTER.  Each stenographer will probably write the same material differently.  Some of us phrase more than others, some write out more, the point is counting the number of pen strokes is not a valid measure of whether or not you can record the spoken word at a given speed.  As I said, how you get it down doesn't matter, it doesn't matter if you wrote it longhand so long as when the transcript is presented it contains every word, correctly spelled and every sentence correctly punctuated.  Shorthand is a means to an end, that end is the production of an accurate transcript.  My employers didn't care that I wrote very good shorthand and that my theory was very good.  They just read the transcript I produced and judged my skill based on the transcript.    Just because they count syllables for the word count, another thing to worry about is the syllable intensity.  A take with a syllable intensity of 1.20 is an easier take than something that is 1.37.  That means that the 1.37 has longer words and a more dense vocabulary.  It would be harder to record.    Your confusion about much of this is self-imposed.  My explanations have been complete, and I would hope reasonably supported.  Once you get an idea, there seems to be no shifting it.  And, frankly, on some points you are just completely incorrect (see WPM discussion above).  You could write the entire 200 words in morse code, it still wouldn't matter for a word calculation purpose.  How many words your write down out of the total take is immaterial.   

  24. Hi Ian, I am surprised you would take such a sidetrack and then make it sound as though I had done it myself?!   However important the final transcript may be, the overwhelming issue for most people on this group is the need to take down in shorthand what is being said and to be fast enough to get it down accurately; you have hours if need be to transcribe later.   The less you have to write down on your steno pad the faster you will be and the easier it will be to capture everything. Therefore, whether you are expert enough to write everything out in full fast enough, or whether you have enough abbreviation at your disposal to keep up with the speaker is all that matters. It is silly pretend that such things as being able to omit words (a, the, of, etc.) is not an IMMENSE help in keeping up with the speaker.   They don't TIME you while you are transcribing except to give you so many hours or even days to produce a transcript. They TIME you while you are taking down what the speaker is saying.   I keep referring back to the claim of writing out in full because that is extremely crucial toward understanding what the stenographer does and CAN do. The writer who can write down a full rendition of each and every one of the 200 words spoken during a minute's time is doing WAY more than the writer who omits and abbreviates extensively. IF you have a written-out-in-full example to look at, then you can say precisely how much less actual writing the abbreviator does and has to do. AND if you as a stenographer cannot keep up while writing everything out in full, then you HAVE to abbreviate or you can't keep up with the speaker; you are constrained to learn how to write down less on your pad in order to get everything down.   Surely you can see that if I took Kathy Dittmeier's statement seriously, perhaps also backed up by Rader, my practicing would be entirely different than if I instead seek to learn and automatize a battery – a very FULL battery- of briefs. Words fail me if this can't be understood! Here is the full quote from Kathy; please direct your disagreement to her instead of me if you wish. I am very hungry for any advice to help me improve my shorthand, and I see no reason why someone would tell me to ignore her practical advice. I know that stenotype is not Gregg, but THAT is why I have been trying to track down the statement by Charles Rader. Note especially if you will where she says: "If your briefs are causing you to hesitate, then they're standing between you and your speed goal!"  
    "Kathy Dittmeier – 08/13/98

    Briefs require memorization, plus drilling to create an automatic response when you hear that word/phrase. Doing these things while trying to gain speed can be an added burden, especially if you're trying to incorporate many briefs at once or ones that don't make any sense to you.

    You can ALWAYS write a word out. No one says you *have* to use briefs. And contrary to popular belief, it's not the number of strokes that slows you down, but how much you hesitate and have to *think* that slows you down. Many of the speed champs are known for "writing things out."

    If your briefs are causing you to hesitate, then they're standing between you and your speed goal! You can always pick up briefs later, when you feel you really need them. And when you pick up a brief because you need it, it's easier to remember it and develop the muscle memory needed to execute it properly."


  25. Jim,   I'm sorry if what I've written is confusing.  I was just trying to establish common ground, not arguing with anything you've written.  I just mean that, when you talk about words a minute, we should agree that that means the words in the transcript, or the words dictated, in that minute, irrespective of what is written or stroked in shorthand.   The discussion then becomes how you manage to record so many words a minute.   I'm not at all disputing Kathy Dittmeier's advice; it's good advice.  Nor do I dispute that the same advice can apply to Gregg.  I believe I said that you could write out Gregg (or stenotype) pretty much in full, but that you writing abbreviations for words and phrases that you write frequently can save you a lot of work.  I don't have any disagreement to forward to her.  I have already had many fruitful discussions directly with her.   As I wrote before, some people 'take' to abbreviations and find them easy to recall, some people need the mental freedom of writing almost everything out by rule, whereas most people are somewhere in the middle.   There's no need for words to fail you – an unlikely circumstance anyway 🙂 – but there's not the magic answer to your question.  You need to find out what works for you.  There is no royal road to speed in shorthand.  What works for you may not work for someone else.  That's why you hear seemingly contradictory views.   Some people are briefers, some write-it-outers.  You need to try different ways of practicing and see what works.   But it takes as long as it takes to reach verbatim speeds, whether you abbreviate heavily or not.  One way is emphatically not better than the other.  It's is the time it takes to construct the outline that is far more important than the time it takes to write the outline down.  That may be following the crowd, as you accused me of earlier, but consider – it's a crowd for a reason!  It's a crowd because that's what hundreds of years of actual experience has discovered.   It seems this thread is starting to turn slightly antagonistic towards you and that's regrettable.  But I think it's bourne out of the frustration that we all seem to be repeating ourselves.  Certainly everthing I've written in this post I've written here before.   I'm not convinced there's any point continuing this thread.  You seem to be looking for 'the answer' and there just isn't one, because people are different.   Ian

  26. I have a book printed in 1951 in which Dupraw says, "A ??? k-f-i-sh (maybe k-f-i-rightS) shorthand reporter once said: "The longer I write shorthand the longer I write shorthand."

    (Gregg Dictation Simplified, page 412)

    This likely predates Charles Radar.


    You will not get an absolute answer as to the best way to practice.

    Do you naturally see words as a collection of shapes or one big shape? Do the shortcuts stick in your mind, or are they rarely there when you need them? If so, you're more likely to do well with them. Otherwise, not.

    My plan is to use the brief forms as the text book does, but only drill the brief forms as they prevent me from reaching my speed goals for each chapter.

    Once I'm done with the text, I'll write what comes naturally. If I notice I often hesitate over a form, I'll work on it. If I totally forget there is a brief for that word, I'll ignore it.

    Eventually, I'll go back and look at the big list again, to see if there are any useful ones I've forgotten.


    You said: It is silly pretend that such things as being able to omit words (a, the, of, etc.) is not an IMMENSE help in keeping up with the speaker.

    Has anyone said that such shortcuts don't help? (Assuming one has learned them well enough not to hesitate over them.)

    Your comment about having hours to transcribe is the red herring.

    You are correct, what matters is "the need to take down in shorthand what is being said and to be fast enough to get it down accurately."

    The tools used are not important. If I buy a desk, I don't care if they used a power drill to build it, I care that it's a good sturdy desk.

    If I hire a stenographer, I don't care what tools she uses (machine, short forms, omissions, the magic pen in Harry Potter). I care that the final transcript has every word I said.

    They time the speaker, not the stenographer. So WPM is based on the speaker's speed.

  27. Jim,   If writing it all out brings you comfort, do it.  Though I would suggest that you pick a route and stick with it.  There will come a time when you will hesitate because you'll be deciding whether you are going to write out or abbreviate.  Any hesitate will shoot your speed building right between the eyes.  It is hesitation that causes you to pause in construction.    The automation of your system is no joke.  You can write pretty well up to around 120 or so.  After that point, you won't make progress if you are hesitating.  And remember the three r's of shorthand:  reinforcement, reinforcement, and reinforcement.    When I was in school, our speed tests were given for 3 minutes.  In the old days, five minutes was the standard.  You should be able to sustain the speed for more than a couple of minutes to be able to call the benchmark yours.  A one-minute take isn't usually long enough to show that you can hold the speed for a sustained period of time.  But you should really strive for a five-minute take because most employment and certification testing is done for at least 5 minutes.    Getting someone to dictate I find to be a bit of a problem.  I've been scouring the internet to see if I can find any dictation materials.  What I've found so far isn't exactly what I want, but hope springs eternal.  🙂  I really do wish you well and would be interested to be updated on your progress.  It's an interesting experiment.    Peter 

  28. Hey, Cricket —   Nope.  I haven't yet attempted it.  As I read the string it sounded like what I was looking for, I just haven't been able to sit down and do the work to make it happen at my end.    But the weekend is here.  🙂  I hope that I can get it done this weekend.    It does seem like a really fantastic tool.   Peter

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