Gregg article

Hey Everyone,
I’m a freelance writer (and recent convert to Gregg) just getting started on research for an article about shorthand in America. Although I know a bit about the history of Gregg, I’m clueless about its current status: who still uses it; is there a ‘shorthand community’; how has it evolved since the schools largely abandoned it etc? In short, what are the lingering cultural effects shorthand in a world that seems to have largely passed it by.
I guess what I’m looking for is a ‘guide’ to lead me into the modern (if that’s the word) world of Gregg. Someone to introduce me not only to modern converts, like me, but also to the old reporters and stenos and secretaries etc. who clung to shorthand in the face of competition from computers, digital recorders et al. Any suggestions?
I can use all the help I can get.

(by dennisinhawaii for everyone)

47 comments Add yours
  1. Hi, Dennis.

    I'm one of the people who learned Gregg in high school, back in 1958 – 1960. In the '60's I was often invited to record meeting minutes. Had not really used shorthand in several decades, but while doing some spring cleaninbg this year ran across some old steno pads and was surprised to be able even now to read my notes.

    Because of this board I learned of the Expert Gregg books and through a reseller obtained a copy of a 1945 text which emphasizes Congressional reporting and teaches additional shortcuts.

    My interest piqued (I was taught Simpliified in school but had self-taught myself Anniversary), I've been slowly working through the 1945 text and try to practice reading and writing for short periods daily. (Do I have too much time on my hands?)

    I always liked shorthand and am sorry it is no longer widely taught as anyone headed for college would certainly find it very useful in taking accurate, succinct notes on lectures.

    Some co-workers who also learned Gregg in school have also been pleasantly surprised that they still can read the shorthand plates in the texts I have. Apparently the skill is much like riding a bike, once you've done it well, you don't lose the ability … only your speed … which can be regained through dedicated practice.

    I'm no Gregg expert, but using the system for personal notes and memorandum the last few months has been very amusing.

    I write reviews for a local newspaper and have been making my first drafts in Gregg before going to the keyboard and producing a text which I can then submit to my editor. Shorthand can be very useful to a writer.

    Hope you enjoy learning Gregg. It's a cool system, as I'm sure anyone employing it regularly will agree.

  2. Hi, Dennis,

    I'm not quite 40, so I didn't learn Gregg in school. I'm also an over-achiever and a licensed engineer (though I quit just after earning my license).

    Back in high school, I decided it would be a useful skill. If the secretarial stream could learn it in a year, surely I could learn it over March break. (Oh, how naive and arrogant.) From the texts I glimpsed, I suspect they were learning Forkner; it was the last year it was taught. I got books on several systems from the library, and settled on Forkner; the shapes were more distinct, so easier to write at first and more likely to age well. I never did get much speed, nor did I practise enough to read it fluently, but it was good for short term or private notes and minutes of meetings.

    Every now and then I got a book out of the library (or internet), from different systems, and worked through bits of it, usually giving up and going back to Forkner. I never did get much speed out of it, but it was fun to play with.

    I discovered this group a few months ago, and it's really helped. I never realized there was literature published in Gregg, and there are a lot of study tips I'd never heard of, but which do help. So does the feedback; talking to my husband and kids about it just isn't the same.

    This time, I hope to reach 85wpm, which is typical for the end of a first course.

    I try to take personal notes in Gregg now, but still find it hard to decipher them, especially lists. It will take practice.

    You should also look up TeeLine and Pitman. TeeLine is taught to journalists in the UK; they need 100wpm to be certified journalists. Pitman is still used by some companies for shared notes. In India, Pitman is still used by the court reporters and taught to business students. There are several online groups for the different systems, but this is the most active I've found.



  3. Hey, Dennis —   I learned shorthand in the 80's in high school.  My first job utilized shorthand quite a lot.  I held that job for 4 years.  In the 80's shorthand was on the downhill slide.  Dictating equipment had started to find its stride.  In my first job I used shorthand in the courtroom.  My second job was as a word processor.  However, the word processing department was historically known as the steno pool.  I was working for a utility company.  We did have to pass a shorthand test.  There were two classes of stenographers:  A and B.  I was hired as a steno B and had to pass a shorthand test at 80 wpm.  They were no long placing steno As.  You had to take a shorthand test at 100 for that position.  While I was there, I took dictation a few times.  I did get loaned out to some folks at the Service Center to record meetings of a team working of some software redesign.    Once I moved to California, I got a job in a law firm.  When I was assigned to a desk, I had an attorney who appreciated that I had shorthand skills.  She would dictate to me while driving into work.  I transferred to our San Francisco office and haven't used shorthand since or more than my own uses (drafting correspondence, taking notes, phone messages, etc.).  As a result, my skill degraded.    I was unaware of any sort of "community" of shorthand writers until I stumbled upon this MSN group.  I had figured that like the dinosaur, folks like me were going quietly into that dark night.  I was very pleased to find that there were folks out there who still had an interest in shorthand.  Folks seem to be interested and motivated.  It's a lot harder these days to learn shorthand than it was in days past.  There is very little instruction in shorthand unless you are writing with a stenograph.    There are a few practicing court reporters who are members of this group.  It is good to know that there are some folks out there still working with shorthand.  It has been an uphill battle.  Law firms nowadays need much more high-tech features that aren't necessarily available to the pen writer.  We can get "rough ascii" transcripts of the day's proceedings at the conclusion of the deposition and we typically have a videographer and have the transcript synched to the video for use at trial.    I'm not sure that there is any significant lingering cultural effects rising from shorthand in the current day.  These days, people tend to by mystified by the two-column set up of the steno pad.  Some of the folks in the group don't even use a steno pad.  There's only one vendor who can supply steno notebooks that are correctly ruled for four-voice testimony.    Good luck with the article.    Peter

  4. Thanks for responding JRGAnniversary.   I'm curious about your high-school shorthand class. Since I've learned the little that I know strictly from the mish-mash of texts I was able to find at used bookstores, the whole classroom thing is a mystery to me. How was it taught? What was the make-up of the class? Was it required, or was it part of some program? Did you envision using it professionally, or did you take the class as a lark? Was it taught as an academic class, or more like typing? Did you like it at the time, or only now? How did your fellow classmates like it? How common was shorthand experience when you graduated? Were there shorthand clubs, like there are French clubs or chess clubs? Outside of this online kind of group, have you run into any groups of shorthanders? Do you remember any of the old speed contests?   As you can see, once I get going, I end up with a lot of questions. But that's enough to get started, I think. If you can think of anything else, though, by all means chime in. Like I said before, I can use all the help I can get.   Thanks, Dennis  

  5. Hey Cricket,   Thanks for taking the time to reply. You brought up a couple of interesting questions. First, I don't know about Forkner; was it similar to Gregg or a completely different system?   I was aware of TeeLine, but hadn't decided whether to include it in this article because it seems to be limited to the UK. It's interesting, though, that journalists need 100wpm to be certified. I actually know a couple of English writers and I'll have to quiz them to see if they're still up to snuff.   I will probably have to talk about Pittman, although I still don't know much about it. Do you know the names of any of those companies that use it for shared notes? I was also unaware, but not surprised, that it's still used by court reporters in India. I'd love to wangle a Sub-Continent junket out of this story, but I doubt I can persuade an editor.   If you think of anything else that might be useful, I'd sure appreciate your help. And I'll keep you informed on my progress.   Thanks, Dennis  

  6. Hey Peter,   Thanks for the thoughtful reply. It raised some useful questions. You mentioned that you learned in the 80s. What part of the country do you live in? Was shorthand still a normal part of high school, or was it part of a particular program that you were in? Were there different levels of class, like in a language course? Did you take it because you expected to use it professionally, or just as an elective? What was the composition of your class at the time?   You mentioned that your used shorthand in the courtroom for your first job. Were you a court reporter? I thought most of them used Pitman. How big was the steno pool when you started working there? What was the mix of Pitman vs. Gregg? Do you know of any companies today that still use stenos? By the way, do you use the stenograph?   You also say that "we can get 'rough ascii' transcripts" from the machines. Are you working with a lawfirm now? I'm glad to hear that there are some court reporters in the group. That's a whole separate world of shorthand that I want to explore. Do you know any practicing court reporters from work? Do any of them still know pen based shorthand?   My own experience with shorthand is pretty rudimentary. I've taught myself out of a mish-mash of texts that I've been able to find at used bookstores, with the result that I probably use parts of various different versions of Gregg. All I know about the other systems is what I've been able to glean from these websites. Anyway, although I'm getting reasonable good at taking notes during interviews, I'm certainly no expert.   For example, I really don't know why there's two columns in a steno pad. I saw somewhere someone use the right column for additions and corrections, but I don't know if that was an idiosyncratic use or common practice. For my part, I use a reporter's notebook–a long, slender notepad that fits neatly in one hand when taking notes, and just as easily in a back pocket. But it only has one column. I note, though, that, on the front cover, it's labeled "Gregg Ruled." So there's a least a little residual cultural effects. Of course, I'm hoping to find something more. Maybe some revived version of the old speed contests. By the way, do you know the name of the vendor that still sells steno pads ruled for four-voice testimony?   Anyway, thanks again for all your help. Hopefully, once this rattles around in your head for a while, you'll think of other information that might be useful to me. As I mentioned, this is still in the early stages of research, so I'm not working with a deadline yet. Feel free to chime in anytime.   Hope to hear from you soon.   Dennis        

  7. Wow.  You did come up with a lot of questions.  I will respond when I'm home from work this evening.    The two column thing is to save time and energy.  You have a smaller area to cover so you don't get too much momentum built up going from side to side and then down to the next line.  If you have a person who dictates and makes lots of changes, it's a good idea to write down the left side and use the right side for comments, notes, insertions, etc.    There are some penwriters here.  Post a note and I am sure that you will get more information.   I was not a court reporter, I was a courtroom deputy clerk.  I took minutes more like a meeting.  I did have to take some things verbatim, but I didn't record testimony.    I'll be back later with answers to your questions in order of presentation.   Cheers.   Peter

  8. In the 1950's and 1960's Gregg was taught in most high schools in the United States as well as in colleges. My high school used the Gregg Manual Simplified Functional Edition. The first month or so, we only read the lessons. The teacher would write brief forms on the board and we would spell them out, then taking turns read the lesson material aloud. There were about 25 students in the beginning class. When someone stumbled on an outline, the teacher would have us spell it out and let us identify the troublesome word or phrase. Since the introductory course ran two semesters (September to May) we were assigned reading and writing assignments in short blocks. We began to write the outlines after a month or so … the Manual had many examples at the head of each Lesson and as I remember we had to write each example word or brief form 5 or 10 times. After we had written most of the connected matter, the teacher would dictate it. Lesson by lesson, we worked our way up from 20 to 80 wpm which was the requirement to pass the first year. As I remember, we completed all the theory that year but did not complete all of the booki.
    Second year we used Gregg Dictation Simplified the first semester and Gregg Transcription Simplified the second semester. That's when we were given lots of practice with "new" material being dictated. To pass with an "A" we were expected to be able to take 120 wpm.
    I always enjoyed shorthand … in fact most of my class members enjoyed learning and using it. I was so interested that I got my hands on some of the Anniversary material (the Manual and Speed Studies Third Edition were still in print) and on my own studied and learned the additional brief forms, abbreviations and shortcuts. My teacher was pleased enough at my attempts to order me a copy of the Speed Studies Teacher's Manual which had a complete transcript of the shorthand plates in that book, making it easier to identify outlines I could not get just by "spelling them out".
    In college, I used Gregg for taking lecture notes. Later when I worked for the Air Force because of my shorthand skill I was invited frequently to take minutes of meetings.
    Only in recent years did I learn that shorthand had disappeared from the curriculum, I suppose in the 1980's. Even in today's age of computeriization, I believe it a shame that shorthand is no longer widely taught.
    Our teacher approached the material as a language skill and made us appreciate correct punctuation and grammar when transcribing. (If you took the shorthand course you also had to take the typing course so that you'd be able to transcribe the dictation material.)
    I applaud the members of this group who learned or are learning Gregg without formal classes, because when you're spending 50 minutes 5 days a week plus a half hour daily for homework, naturally, it would be easier to remember the theory especially under the guidance of a dedicated professional … than attempting to master the material on your own.
    I am surprised that while Gregg dominated the American market and essentially wiped Pitman out on this side of the Atlantic, it never gained that strength in UK. Although if you do your research, you'll discover John Robert Gregg built up a fantastic marketing team and through his publications and speed contests was able to keep his system dynamically alive in the mind of the general public.
    Hope my comments are helpful for your article. You may also want to check a note I wrote some time ago on this board which elicited no response called "Ramblings" which sort of summarized the "development" of Gregg from the 1901 through the Simplified (1949) versions of the Manual.

  9. Dennis,

    I'll have to make this quick as today is already out of control here at work. (Why should this day be any different?!!)

    I was self-taught in the Anniversary method, using Mom's old book. I was able to crank my shorthand up to a respectable 150. I used it extensively in college and graduate school for note taking, drafting papers, etc. (If it matters, I graduated high school in 1974, college in 1978.)

    Before grad school, I decided to work first and worked as a secretary. Being male, it was a very strange experience. Male secretaries, while common before the second World War, were not so common in 1978. I wasn't dictated too all that often but was supposed to maintain the skill. Eventually, I worked for a legal firm and did take dictation pretty regularly.

    I also worked for McGraw-Hill, the publishers of Gregg shorthand, in 1980. I worked on the Series 90 (S90) books and was there for the NYC Katharine Gibbs conversion to S90 (from Diamond Jubilee) and the Berkley conversion. I was also there for the complaints that students couldn't seem to get past 100 wpm with S90.

    I'm currently the database manager for the Human Resources Division of a university. I no longer use shorthand but certainly got my foot in the door here when I was hired as a Principle Clerk Steno. The test, at that time, was dictated at 100. In the year I held the PCS title, I was dictated to ONCE. Dictating is as much a skill as taking dictation. I did–and still do–take notes using shorthand but I've certainly lost my speed.


  10. Dennis,

    Forkner is a completely different system. The wikipedia article is accurate ( .
    It uses about 3x the number of strokes that Gregg does for the same text, but is much faster to learn. Also, because of the extra strokes, it doesn't degrade as badly at speed. (Rather, when it does, there's enough redundant strokes you can still make it out.) From what others have said here, where they'd combine the two systems in a second-year class, it's 10 to 20 wpm slower. At that stage, more time is spent thinking than writing strokes, so the number of strokes doesn't make much difference.

    I've put up a scanned page from one of the final lessons. Here's a sample:

    (Samples of Pitman and Teeline are on many other sites.)

    I would include Teeline, since it is still actively taught. It claims to be the "modern" shorthand, although there are several other new systems which don't have as large a following. If I'd seen way back then, I might have learned it rather than Forkner. I tried it last year, before finding this Gregg group. It's between alphabetic and "random shape" in terms of design, speed, and risk of degradation. Some books divide it into two stages. The early stage is easy to learn: leave out unnecessary letters (most vowels), and replace the letters with an easier to draw variant, for a 1/3 (or is it 2/3?) stroke savings. If you continue, the memory work goes way up, prefixes and suffixes and "distinguishing outlines" and 66 consonant blends. There's a book on Amazon that includes a CD, and there's also a text online at

    The post about someone needing to use the same shorthand system as his coworkers is here:

    There are many Pitman courses to be found on Google. Try Pitman and Pittman.

    I look forward to reading your article.


  11. And, yes, that really is me in the post after his, being frustrated with Gregg. I took their advice and switched to Teeline, got frustrated with it when I hit the 66 consonant blends, and then found this Gregg group. Near as I can tell, all systems have their frustrating points. A group of active writers who can a) sympathize and b) reassure you that it's worth working past it and c) remain enthusiastic makes a big difference.

  12. Cricket: And all it took was a little time and practice 🙂 I used to have a heck of a time with the proportions and penmanship (I'd obsess religiously over them), but now I'm fine.
    I'm personally getting frustrated with how many (seemingly) useless abbreviations and "special forms" there are in Anniversary. Unfortunately, there are still tons of useful ones that I'm amazed weren't kept in Simplified, so my interest is reluctantly held 😛 Gotta learn the "mortgate"s and "husband"s to learn the "already"s and "change"s I guess.

    Dennis: I'm a 21-year old who's been learning shorthand for three-ish years. I used it extensively for note-taking in college. Now, it's just a useful everyday tool for quickly writing down directions, recipes and to-do lists.
    I use it every now and then at work (grocery store) to mark where some obscure item is in my notepad so I can remember in the future. Yesterday's was "pectin" and "hominy" 🙂 I also use it for taking down instructions on setting up displays.

  13. Nifty Boy: Yep, time and practise and lots of reading. I'd never have guessed reading a lot would help so much. Given the trouble I have deciphering unrelated items on my own grocery list, I hate to imagine what it would be like to deal with the entire stock!

  14. Sorry to take so long to get back to you JRGAnniversary. What an interesting way to teach shorthand. It seems especially peculiar that you would spend so much time in class just watching the teacher and reading. Do you know if that was standard operation, or just a quirk of your class? Did all that reading actually help you write faster or more clearly when you finally got around to writing on your own? I guess that, if you got up to 120 wpm in less than a year, the process must have worked pretty good.   The whole language skills thing seems to have vanished in its entirety from the school system. I think it's possible now to go through 12 years of school without any formal education in grammar. In fact, that may be one of the best excuses to study a foreign language in school–that's the only place to learn even a smattering of that sort of thing.   As for the varieties of Gregg and their sequence, I have to say I'm still a little shaky on the history. I'll try to find your Ramblings and use that to clarify things for me some. One thing I'm wondering, though, is whether there's anyone at MacGraw Hill (isn't that who bought the Gregg Company?) who still keeps up with the shorthand material. That will have to be one section of this article. After all, in a sense Gregg was just a very specialized publishing house–one with an unusual marketing strategy: create your own language and they'll have to come. Many of today's shorthanders seem to have a considerable library of Gregg books. How's yours?   I guess it was learning that there once was this whole Gregg world that intrigued me as far as this article is concerned. Not just the classes and educational program, but the magazines and contests and clubs and certifications. Not to mention the demi mondes of court reporters and old cigar chomping journalists. I hope to find whatever's left of that world. Let me know if you have any suggestions.   As for learning shorthand on your own, I guess the main issue is motivation–as it always is for independent projects. For me, I've been motivated by my incredibly slow and shoddy notetaking skills. I do a lot of interview for my work, and, although I have a digital recorder, it's a real pain to transcribe hours of talk–especially since I'll only end up using a few minutes of it in the end. But I just can't keep up in longhand. So, like so many of you I'm sure, I heading down to the library to see what I could learn about shorthand. I have no idea how fast I write, but it's about twice as fast as I did longhand. Except when I come to problem words or make a mistake etc. which can sometimes bring me to a real stop and I have to revert to longhand to keep from missing anything. I guess that's just a question of practice and study.   Let me know if you think of anything that might be useful for this article. Since I'm a freelancer, I'll have to write up a brief proposal for my editors. Sometimes they take months to reply, so I'd like to get that in the mail within the next week or so to get this ball rolling. Once I have a contract, I'll be looking for people to interview in person. Let me know if you'd be interested in participating or if you know anyone who would be.   Until then, thanks for taking the time to help. Hope to hear from you soon.   Dennis    

  15. Hey Peter,   Thanks for summarizing your shorthand career. That helps me get the Gregg education system in a historical perspective. It seems that shorthand kind of petered out (so to speak) in the 80s then. That's actually later than I imagined. I graduated high school just a couple years before you, but I don't remember them offering shorthand electives at my school. Of course, maybe I just wasn't paying attention–it was high school after all.   But, if your experience is typical, then shorthand in the professional world also dried up more or less in the early or mid 80s–which makes technological sense. Do you know of some subculture where shorthand persisted longer than that? There seem to still be a few court reporters who are pen writers, but they seem like dinosaurs. How about the Congressional reporters? Do you know anything about them?   I was delighted to learn about the relationship between the Reporters Notebook and the Steno Pad. I love to find little artifacts like that–pieces of an earlier time that inhabit our daily life. Do you know of any other Gregg material that's still around, but perhaps unrecognized?   And, while you're at it, do you know anyone who actually competed in a speed contest as a pen writer? Maybe something local or regional. Basically, I'm looking for the last times large groups of shorthanders gathered together. Do you know of anything? Has this group, or any part of this group ever met together in person? Or do you ever meet with other professionals who use shorthand in their workplace?   Anyway, thanks for all the help. Hope I'm not a nusiance. Please let me know if you think of anything you believe should be in an article about shorthand.   Dennis

  16. Hey Marc,   Thanks for taking the time to reply. I'm fascinated with the whole Gregg publishing empire, so I was delighted to learn that you worked at McGraw-Hill in the 80s. What did you do there? You mention that you worked on the Series 90 etc. What was that like? How many people did you work with back then? What was the status of the Gregg division then? Were they treated as a different line or just a division? How long did they continue to publish Gregg material? What was the last material they published? Do you still know anyone over there who worked on the Gregg stuff with you? Did McGraw-Hill continue to do any of the other marketing stuff that Gregg did–the contests and magazines etc? In short, what else can you tell me about the publishing business end of shorthand?   I'm not at all familiar with the NYC Katharine Gibbs conversion or the Berkley conversion. What were those? Were they useful or successful? Did they help prolong the publishing end of things, or did they hasten its demise? As you can tell, I'm very interested in this part of the history of Gregg. At some point, I'd love to interview you. And I'd also like to find out if you know other people who would be useful in tracing the publishing side of things.   Well, thanks again for helping out. Every little bit help. Keep wracking your brain and let me know if you remember something that might be useful.   Hope to hear from you soon, Dennis  

  17. Hey Cricket,   Thanks for the heads up on the Teeline. I'll explore that area a little better when I get a chance. I think, though, my editors will want me to focus mostly on Gregg for this article. I'm probably looking a 5-6000 words, and there's a lot I'd like to cover if I get enough material. The hard part so far is finding real groups of people–rather than virtual ones–who use shorthand regularly or as part of their job. Do you have any ideas?   Dennis

  18. Hello Dennis.  I also took shorthand in high school (Diamond Jubilee).  I went to a small country school so they only offered it one year.  I took it my senior year along with typing.  Again, the theory was that they would be fresh in your mind when you tested for jobs.  There were four girls in the class and we all got up to at least 90 wpm which was required by our teacher.  She sent me to take the Civil Service test (I think that's what it was called) to work at the court house, etc.  I passed the dictation/transcription test without any problems but decided not to work there.  I don't remember  what speed the test was, maybe 80 wpm?  I was waiting for the next sentance most of the time.   After I graduated I worked as a secretary for many years.  Some bosses dictated letters, most didn't.  Actually, I found more bosses in the last ten years wanting someone with shorthand than I did way back then.  Five years ago one of the professors at the university I work at was writing a book and dictated onto a tape.  He asked me to transcribe it for him so understanding the British accent and expressions was an interesting undertaking.   Take care, Joanne

  19. Hi Dennis,

    In the state where I live and in the court system where I work, believe
    it or not, we do still have some pen writers who are official
    reporters.  While an official reporter's requirements for producing a
    transcript are a little different from a freelance reporter doing a
    deposition, even pen writers can produce an overnight transcript (maybe
    not the whole day without help from fellow reporters),  produce an 
    ASCII disk of the transcript after it's done, produce a condensed copy
    of a transcript, and in some cases video, and we occasionally have to
    read back questions.  Pen writers may be dinosaurs, but our judges and
    the attorneys are pleased with our work.

    Most or all the court reporters in my state (both officials and
    freelance reporters) are members of our state association.  We all must
    have 30 continuing education points to keep our license.   We meet
    twice a year, once for a two-day seminar and once for a three-day

    You had asked me about talking with some pen writers.  I checked to see
    if you could access the list of the pen writers on our association web
    site, but no one can access that list unless you are a member.  So what
    I can do is talk with four of my personal friends who are still pen
    writers and see if I can give you their contact information.

    I think I wrote in an earlier reply about how I got where I am, so I
    won't restate it.  But I will say that even when the law firm I worked
    for started using the dictation equipment in the 70s and first part of
    the 80s (I say that because in 1987 I applied for and was hired as an
    official reporter so I don't know what my old law firm did after that),
    shorthand was still a requirement for employment.  The attorneys used
    the dictation machines, but they still dictated to the secretaries at
    different times throughout the day.

    Check out .  Like the decline of schools teaching
    shorthand, there seems to be a decline in the number of schools
    teaching the steno machine, so we have to wonder what's next.

    If you have any other questions, just let me know.  You can write me
    off list if that would help.


  20. Hey, Dennis —   I think you are going to be hard pressed to find a group of folks working together who actually use shorthand.  It hasn't been taught in a while and there's very little demand for someone who takes shorthand.  It's even harder to find folks who can take dictation at a rate over two digits.  As an example, I work in the San Francisco office of a Washington, DC, based law firm.  We have 11 secretaries in this office.  I am the only one who could take dictation or attend a hearing and record anything.  Some of the folks I work with have come to the job only in the age of computers.  They don't remember a time when having an IBM Correcting Selectric was considered having it easy.    I get much of my work through e-mail.  My attorneys will draft letters and pleadings and send them to me that way.  I'll construct the document necessary and then copy the text in and format it.  They will make some revisions and then hand it back to me to file.  I'd take dictation if I could — no one knows how to do it anymore.  Our young associates are coming in and they are pretty technically savvy and they know how to use a computer.  I actually don't use my dictaphone equipment but once every six months if I'm lucky.    I continue to work with shorthand because I like it, not because it's vocationally necessary.  A skilled stenographer is more the exception than the rule these days.  It's unlikely that you will be able to turn over a rock and find a steno pool.  If you find someone who requires someone who takes shorthand, they are typically older and more traditional BC'ers (Before Computers). 

  21. Hey, Dennis:

    I do have a large library of Gregg publications – most of the Simplified books and Anniversary; editions from my school days, the Diamond Jubilee series which I never actually used myself … and since my interest in Gregg was reawakened earlier this year i purchased 1901 and 1916 material from amazon resellers and ebay.

    Reading shorthand is very important to set the outlines firmly in your mind. The whole point of the Functional series, introduced in the mid-30's was to read quite a bit before you actually started writing, the idea being that you would not hesitate but that writing the proper outline would be an automatic reflex, much like when you type you don't actually spell the word, your fingers type the word as an automatic reflex.

    If you have any shorthand-related questions you'd like to ask me, you're welcome to contact me personally via e-mail. Although I know several people who took shorthand in school, they are in my age group and I am the only one of them who still uses Gregg regularly, if not extensively.

    You might find it interesting if you can find a copy to read The Story of Gregg Shorthand which was published, I believe, in the early 1960's. If you can get ahold of Volume I of the Functional Manual (1935?) by Louis A. Leslie, the introduction thoroughly explains the Functional approach. Regards, and good luck with your article!

  22. Hey V-Lindsay,   Thanks for writing. I read your posting about court reporting earlier, so I was hoping to hear from you. It's exciting to hear there's still a group of pen writers doing court reporting in your state (did I read somewhere that was Mississippi?) I would certainly like to talk to some of you about your experiences with shorthand. Please feel free to pass my contact information along to any of the pen writers you know. You can reach me directly at [email protected].   I've already been to the Association's website and didn't really find any current information on pen writers–just the historical stuff, which was fascinating all the same. Still, it's good to know they keep track of these sorts of things, even if they don't open it to the public. Do you know the name of someone at NCRA or your state association who I should talk to for further information? I'm happy to call around if necessary, but it never hurts to start smart.   Also, once I've got an editor on board (as a freelancer, I still have to submit a proposal and quibble with editors about length and scope etc.) I'll start setting up appointments for interviews. I'd certainly like to interview you for this story; but, even better would be to watch you (or one of your colleagues) at work. To see shorthand used in this most professional of settings. If you're interested, that would also give me an opportunity to meet some of the other pen writers you know.   Anyway, that's the direction I'm going right now. Please let me know how it goes with your colleagues and feel free to contact me anytime. I look forward to hearing from you soon.   Dennis

  23. Hey JRGAnniversary,   I'm not sure it will be possible to assemble a good Gregg library in the time it takes me to write this article. So, at some point, I'll want to browse someone else's. Of course, it's hard to tell where anyone is in a virtual group like this, but I'm hoping to either find someone near me (I live in Hawaii, in case you haven't guessed) or near one of the people I visit in the course of researching this story. I'll let you know when I get to that point, and, if you're amenable, maybe we can meet and I can look through your collection. Alternatively, if you know someone else with a good collection, maybe I can make arrangements with them.   In any case, thanks for the continued help. I'll keep you posted.   Dennis

  24. Hey Peter,   You're certainly right about it being difficult to find a group of professionals who use shorthand at their work. But I'd settle for a group of retirees to talk about the world of Gregg in its hay days. Do you know any old speed champs or well-respected court reporters etc. There will certainly be a nostalgic air to this story, so I need an old perspective to talk intelligently. If you think of anyone, pass my contact info along will you.   Thanks, Dennis

  25. Hey Joanne,   These kinds of shorthand career postings will be very useful background information to me as I write this article. Thanks for sharing that with me. If you think of anything else that you'd like to share, please chime in.   Thanks, Dennis

  26. A group of retirees?  I have visions of you trolling the old folks homes.  🙂   Have you tried contacting some of the various court reporter's associations around?  Knowing that there are some pen writers in Mississippi, you might be able to have something submitted to their publication (if they have one) with your quest.  I have a book that was put out by the Kansas Court Reporter's Association.  Drop them a note or see if there's someone you can speak with.  When I checked the association in California, there was no particular listing as to what kind of shorthand the reporters did.  Most of them are machine writers now.  I wonder if you'd be more successful in the more rural locations than in the urban centers.    Just a thought and probably one you've already had.  But I figured I'd dip my oar in.    Peter

  27. Dennis,

    I was the Shorthand Editing Supervisor at McGraw-Hill for about a year. As an Anniversary writer, over time, I saw that S90 wasn't going to be as speedy as DJ and voiced my opinion regularly to my boss and to his boss. It got me nowhere. ("What does an Anniversary writer know?" I overheard someone say once.) I was there, as I said, for the kickoff of S90 in several well-known business schools/colleges, Katharine Gibbs being among them. I was also there when the complains came in that students couldn't generally get past 100 wpm. I remember one very angry letter from one school indicating they were switching to Speedwriting since it took less time to learn and was faster to write. I left McGraw-Hill because I saw S90 killing off symbol shorthand. When I left, Gregg shorthand had a PROFIT of $8 million per year.

    As I recall, there was a staff of 8 who worked on the texts in the shorthand division. Of course that doesn't include those who wrote the more advanced texts (Grubbs and Popham come to mind). I worked on editing material in the texts as well as the scripts for the correlated tapes. By the time I got there, I started on the college-level "transcription" book for S90. What I remember most, is counting material for dictation (with a little clicker) and reading the final shorthand text against the printed transcript.

    I do not know how long McG-H continued to publish Gregg nor am I in touch with anyone I worked with other than Jerry Edleman, our shorthand plate writer.

    Hope that helps!


  28. Hey Peter,   I'm certainly not above dropping by the assisted living center to chat up the old-timers. In fact, I have a real weakness for geezers. For many years, I managed an old-fashioned, residential hotel that was chock full of quirky retirees. There was nothing more interesting than to sit in the lobby in the evenings and listen to their elaborate tales. Of course, many of them were liars and drunks, but their stories were glorious all the same.   I'm working on the Association angle as we speak. I've got a letter in to the NCRA already, and will try to contact a few of the state associations also. Naturally, I'd like to find someone locally to get me started, but the Hawaii association seems to be rather informal. Anyway, they haven't responded yet to my e-mail or calls. I may just have to drop in on one of the members to get that ball rolling.   I'd like to get the proposal for this story written within the next couple weeks, so I'll need at least enough information by then to write that with some personal insight. Then there will be the usual lag time–often a couple months–while the editors mull the story over and decide whether it fits their current needs. Except for the time factor, I'm not particularly worried about finding an publisher. There are several magazines where this will fit neatly, though I'll probably start by pitching it to Smithsonian. This story has the historicism and cultural interest to fit their editorial requirements. Besides, they owe me a favor.   Anyway, if you happen to think of any other information sources, please let me know. I guess the most important item I need right now is some kind of personal anecdote from someone that says something revealing about the world of Gregg Shorthand–either how it is today, or what it was like in its hay days. Got any suggestions? Mull it over and let me know.   Dennis

  29. Hey Marc,   Well, that's fascinating. I hadn't considered that the publishing house would be so interactive with the business schools; but I guess it makes good sense. How did that work? Did McGraw-Hill send reps to the schools, or did they come to you? Did the schools have any say in the editing process? Could the director of a prominent school–say Katharine Gibbs–have an effect on the publisher's output?   I suppose that part of the reason for the ongoing changes in Gregg–for the advent of new systems–had to do with the need to sell more books. It's still that way, of course, in the text-book business: if you don't have a new edition, then some students will just borrow and old one. Do you know how much the changes to Gregg were driven by the imperatives of publishing, and how much was the result of a desire to 'improve' the system? And, while we're on the subject, what was wrong with S90? Why was it so slow?   Editing these books must have been challenging. What was your role as the Supervising Editor. Were you involved in the technical side of it–arranging plates etc–or were you more involved in the textual edits? Who were the writers that you worked with? It sounds like the whole experience was kind of disappointing to you. Was that because you had a personal interest and were disappointed with the direction the company was going, or was it simply because you didn't like working there?   It's amazing that Gregg was turning such a profit so late in the game. Did they shoot themselves in the foot, or was the S90 fiasco just the last gasp before technology killed them off anyway? I've forgotten, I guess, what year you worked at McGraw-Hill? Wasn't that in the 80s already? Who was the head of the Gregg division at the time? Does anyone know when the last Gregg books were published?   In any case, I'd certainly like to talk to anyone who worked at McGraw-Hill or at the Gregg Publishing Company. Could you put me in touch with Jerry Edleman, or perhaps pass my contact information along. And, if you think of anyone else that was part of the publishing side of things, I'd love to get some names at least. I've contacted Mr. Ramsey, who's written on this site about his mother, who wrote plates for Gregg Publishing. But I'd also like to find some of the people who took part in the publishing side of things themselves. Any suggestions?   Thanks, as usual, for all the help.   Dennis      

  30. If you want to get a gander at what the "Gregg Community" was like in it's prime, check out "The Gregg Writer" if you can find any.  I have some that I could let you borrow to review.  There were all kinds of things going on.  Competitions between schools, the Order of Gregg Artists (they competed to have the most artistic notes), penmanship drills, a beginniners' department, and there were certificates of completion for various milestones in your typewriting and shorthand instruction.  They also had very cool advertisements for things like typewrtiers, fountain pens, office equipment, etc.  At some point (I think in the 50's) the magazine's name was changed to "Today's Secretary" — as for its current status I couldn't venture a guess.   Astrid also wrote the shorthand plates for books that were not published by McGraw-Hill/Gregg Publishing Co.  She did some work for Southwestern (I have a book where she was credited for the shorthand plates — her shorthand is excellent.  (Not that this matters to you one way or the other).    I would hope that the topic of your article would appeal to the Smithsonian.  It's just the kind of thing that they are there for, isn't it?    Peter

  31. Hey Peter,   That's what I'm most interested in. Gregg wasn't just a tool or a system that they sold to customers; it was almost a subculture, replete with competitions, associations, and regalia. And it lasted a long time–evidently into the 80s. Then, it almost vanished. The amazing thing is, hardly anyone outside the few remaining shorthand users remembers those days. I think that's the story in a nutshell.   Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find copies of "The Gregg Writer" or "Today's Secretary" here in Hawaii, so I'd love to borrow a couple representative issues if you're willing to lend them. I'm anxious to poke around in them to get a taste of that "Gregg Community". Let me know how you'd like to work that out. I could send FedEx after them I suppose; but I'll let you decide.   I wasn't aware that other companies published on Gregg shorthand besides Gregg and McGraw-Hill. I don't suppose any of them are still publishing; but could you refer me to a couple? You mention Southwestern; were there others?   Anyway, thanks for the help, Peter. I'll let you know how it goes with Smithsonian. You're right; this should be right up their alley. But that doesn't mean the editors will see it that way. By the way, do you remember ever seeing an article on shorthand in a general interest magazine?   Dennis

  32. Dennis,

    Once written, the books were pretty much finished from the standpoint of editing. There were minor changes, but nothing dramatic. I didn't work with any authors; I was too low on the totem pole, but I did get to meet them.

    Schools merely consumed the final output if they found it worthy. Schools had no say in what the books contained or the system rules.

    New books with current language were required. The sexist she=secretary/he=boss had to be removed. Prices in dictation material had to be brought up to date. Fresh photographs had to be done to keep up with changing fashion (clothing, hair, and makeup). New methods of teaching–such as the marginal reminders–had to be added. Fresh dictation material on current business practices had to be included. In this group we occasionally have a good laugh at phraseology, pricing, and office techniques featured in old shorthand texts. Has anyone here EVER used a hectograph? Bank pins? You get the idea.

    The trend was to make the system easier to learn with each edition. Unfortunately, the trade-off meant longer outlines and slower to write. The general idea was a new set of texts every 15 years or so. S90 didn't make it through its 15 years. Centennial–which was an attempt to move closer to DJ and not further out towards simplification of the system–came out about the time S90 should have had second editions produced. But, by that time, most schools had already dropped shorthand for a variety of reasons. Sales were falling.

    It was a perfect storm in some says. S90 came at a time when really competent women were no longer becoming the secretary to the lawyer, they were becoming the lawyer. The profile of the pool of candidates going to secretarial schools, evening classes, and the like, was changing dramatically. It is my belief that S90 was, in fact, inherently slower. But I know plenty of people on this site feel differently.

    The last Gregg books were Centennial. If I'm not mistaken, there were only two or three books done out of the usual set.


  33. Marc,   I have to agree with you about S90.  My second year I got to 120, and was generally 10 wpm faster than my classmates.  By that time, I had started to adopt the Anniversary principles.    And no, I've never even seen a hectograph.  I have always gotten a giggle about the pictures on the secretary on the job in the books from the 60s.    Peter

  34. As the old-timer sez to Fibber McGee,

    "That ain't the way I heerd it, sonny!"

    When I was in the 4th & 5th grade my grandmother allowed me to keep a hectograph in her freezing compartment of her fridge to print the (elementary) school newspaper which I did weekly.

  35. Marc,   That's pretty interesting. Let me see if I understand correctly: New editions would cover the changes necessary to keep the books looking up-to-date (clothing, business practices, language etc.) but changes in the system (Anniversary, S90, Centennial etc.) were thought of as improvements at the time?   It seems that the general trend was to make the system easier to learn, which, I take it, had a concommittant effect on the speed and effectiveness of the student. Is that about right? Who was in charge of the changes that resulted in S90? I guess that means, who ran the Gregg imprint at McGraw-Hill?   Could you give me a few basic examples of what S90 simplified? Did they drop short forms? Did they add back vowels? How did it slow the process down? And, while we're on the subject, how parochial are the different Gregg camps? I notice two of you here in this discussion group use nicknames with "Anniversary" in it. Do you stick pretty close to the system in the book, or do you end up blending features of different editions? And, does it all come down to wpm, or are there esthetic or other considerations?   Also, you've revived some old memories for me. My great-aunt used to pin her money together in tidy bundles instead of using paper bands or rubber bands. Everytime she gave me a dollar, I'd hold it up to the sun and watch the light come through the two kinked holes. Was she using bank pins? I just looked them up online, and they're sold along with straight pins and T-pins nowadays. What were they used for before?   Interestingly, I believe hectographs are making something of a come-back–as part of the booming tattoo industry. They use the old hectograph pens to make temporary tattoos for the squeemish or indecisive. Life's a circle.   Oh, one more question on the McGraw-Hill era: did any of the Gregg family stick around? Do you know anything about the kids? What were their names? Did they live in NY?   Dennis        

  36. Hey, Dennis. I'm one of the Anniversary ids. 🙂

    I was a student of S90. I had a teacher who had learned Anniversary and she was rather disdainful of the S90 (she wasn't actually my shorthand teacher until my second year). I got ahold of an Anniversary manual and started going through it. At first I just wanted the brief forms. Then I adopted more of the word building principles, particularly the word beginnings and endings — mostly the disjoined ones. Then later I decided I needed to train myself out of the S90 mode and become more of an Anniversary purist.

    About that time, I went to work for the courts and found the whole reporting style. I adopted certain shortcuts and phrasing principles from that that I found useful.

    One thing that S90 did that I approved of was return the brief form for "work" back to "r-k" — in DJS it was written "oo-k". 🙂

    Series 90 wrote out more. The abbreviating principle is nearly non-existant. There were fewer brief forms. Marc will be able to speak more intelligently about this. I've pretty much purged it all. I haven't been able to find any Centennial books that aren't an arm and a leg, so I'll wait a while before taking a gander at what changed from S90 to Centennial.


  37. Actually, on the surface, S90 and DJS are remarkably similar. There are some differences though. In DJS, the ending -sume is "s-m", whereas in S90 is "s-u-m". Likewise, "-sumption" is "s-m-sh" in DJS, and "s-u-m-sh" in S90. Also, the prefix "post-" (as in "postage") is expressed by a "p" in DJS, whereas it is spelled out in S90.

    The following words are brief forms in DJS: big (b-g), during (d-r), gone (g-n), great (g-r), how (o-u), merchandise (m-e-ch-d-ai-s), merchant (m-e-ch-t), must (m-s), purpose (p-r-p), put (p), railway (r-a), shall (sh), such (left s-ch), those (left th-s), upon (p-o-n), use (e-u), why (ai), work (u-k), year (e-r), and yet (e-t). Doctor is a brief form in S90 (d-r), but it is written in full in DJS. DJS has 148 brief forms, while S90 has 132.

  38. Hey Chuck,   Good to meet you. Here's a question: why was it called System 90? Did it come out as late as 1990? Did 89 systems preceed it?   And, while we're on the subject of Gregg systems, setting aside your own preferences, is there a general concensus on which was the best–kind of like the 11th edition of Brittanica (you might not want to use it for your everyday reference, but all collectors want it)? Which system produced the fastest stenographers? Presumably, S90 was the easiest to learn, but how much easier was it really? How many brief forms did some of the earlier systems employ?   Also, someone recently told me about a previous discussion in this group about Pentagon stenographers in top secret areas. Can someone direct me to that discussion.   Thanks, Dennis    

  39. My story is a bit different.

    I'm a 31-year-old computer programmer who started learning Gregg as a hobby in February, 2007. I'm up to about 60 words per minute.

    Gregg helps me take notes as I interview job candidates, which I do a lot of. I also use it to take notes at meetings, but it's primarily a hobby.

  40. How did you get started? What book did you use? I need to learn Gregg as soon as possible as I am looking for a job and employers still want someone to take shorthand.

    I did take Gregg many years ago but I need to relearn.

    How do you recommend I get started?

  41. An employer is looking for someone who take shorthand? Wow! (I'm impressed, if he does it well. Most executives type their own material these days, and if they're slow typists or don't care about the formatting,…)

    You may be best to buy the manual for the edition you learned in school.
    is the absolute best site for determining which edition you learned first, and what the differences are (or at least an overview).

    abebooks has all sorts of manuals. I find the shipping costs more than the books, so I look for a store that more than one book.

    But, I'm still learning myself. (And sidetracked this week; eeps.)

    If you're looking for dictation of specific material at slow speeds, see . Search for "dictation".


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