New to shorthand – chose Gregg – benefits???

Hi, everyone. I decided to do a career change recently. I’m sick of IT and I want to go into teaching. So, I’m now pursuing a Masters in Education. I was reading the book, How To Study and it mentioned some easy shorthand techniques. I did a web search and instantly I saw Gregg. Now, I was like most people. I had heard of shorthand, I thought that it was an old-timey thing and it wasn’t used anymore – until I started researching it. I started thinking – how cool would it be to have the power of fast note taking in everyday life. Especially since I’m going back to school and I take notes all the time at work. Now, I see it is really a cool skill. Not only that, I think it would be cool to (somewhat) encrypt my thoughts and feelings so snoops couldn’t read it. So, now I’m studying it like crazy. I bought the Gregg Simplified book and am starting from the beginning. Now, I’m not new to learning new skills. A couple years back I learned morse code for my ham radio license (and for fun). I got very good at morse, but it’s kinda sad because it’s not a very practical skill. I can see shorthand being very useful. Anyway, I was going to ask you to share your thoughts and experiences. Tell us about times when it came in handy. What are the benefits you’ve received? Is this something that’s really helped you over the years?

(by scribey-doo for everyone)

26 comments Add yours
  1. Welcome to the group! I think you made a great choice in selecting Gregg as your shorthand and am sure you'll enjoy using the method. I believe you'll find Simplified perfect for your needs. Shorthand is a great aid to accurate note taking. Should you suddenly decide you want to take verbatim notes, however, AFTER you've mastered Simplified, I'd recommend you look at Anniversary to decide if it's worth all the additional brief forms and shortcuts. Please keep us advised of your progress. After you've finished the Simplified Manual, you might want to get the Simplified versions of Dictation or Transcription to have additional reading material which will serve to reinforce the shorthand outlines in your memory.

  2. Excellent choice of system (Gregg) and series (Simplified). Congratulations! Please keep us abreast of your progress and if you have any questions, just post them here.   One small advice as you are learning: mastery before speed. In other words, be sure that you really know the lesson well before going to the next one. That is because if you learn things halfway, when you are presented with a new word, you will hesitate in writing. And mental hesitation is the biggest stumbling block for the development of writing speed.   Also, if you haven't done so, check our Links section to the right. In it, there are interesting websites related to shorthand. Check out Marc's website ( and in particular, read the "Learning Shorthand" section — there's good advice there. Also, Andrew's website ( has excellent material on the different series of Gregg and some adaptations to foreign languages. Ms. Letha's website ( has great material for dictation, which applies to all series of Gregg.   Lastly, welcome to the group and good luck in your shorthand studies. I'm sure you will enjoy it and find it useful.

  3. Thanks for your responses. I find extreme repetition is the best way to learn. I copied the pages of the book and I mark on them. I blacked out the text next to the symbol so I can work on reading the symbol without seeing the answer next to it. I have a complaint about the book though. It seems to me that some of the characters are extremely similar, indistinguishable at times in fact. The Ch, T, J, Sh are even written at various heights throughout the book. This is a terrible thing to do to a new student. I think it would be MUCH more helpful to make the angles greater so I can see the differences. In fact, I think the J, Ch, and Sh, should be vertical, and the N and M horizontal. I just have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the symbol. Other than that the other characters are fairly easy to learn. It's ingraining them so they are automatic that's the hard part.

  4. Hi Scribey-Doo.
    You'll eventually learn why "t" and "sh" are written at various heights in later lessons.
    The perceived problem of characters being similar will dissipate with practice. I can read Gregg now with no issue at all, if it's well-written… the only trouble that could arise from the similarity is in maintaining consistent and proportionate penmanship at high speeds.
    I do think, however, that exaggerating differences between the letters early in the book would be detrimental, as you'd learn incorrect shapes. The letters are streamlined and designed to fit the natural writing movement of your hand, and exaggerating angles or curves would make them more cumbersome to write, adding strain on your wrist.

    As for the "n" and "m", they are indeed horizontal. The reason the "j/ch/sh" aren't vertical is that it would greatly interfere with writing rhythm: Gregg is a forward-moving shorthand, with a consistent slant which aids in writing with a smooth, easy rhythm, rather than forcing your hand to suddenly change the angle the letters are formed at half-way through a word.

    This is a high-level skill with some nuance… differences that seem subtle and difficult to you now won't be after diligent practice, so don't get discouraged!

  5. Welcome!

    Check out this page:

    Although it's anniversary, most of it applies to all the editions.

    Most lines come in three lengths. (My first text didn't tell me that, so my T/D sequence didn't leave enough for DD and I had to relearn.)

    There are four angles for straight lines.

    The N/M/MM sequence is written horizontally, left to right.

    The T/D/DD sequence is written upwards to the right.

    The SH/CH/J sequence is written downwards. It's almost straight downwards, but straight downwards is hard to write fluidly, so it's a bit to the left.

    The NG/NK sequence (I think there are only two in that one) is written downwards to the right.

    If there are other letters in the word, the direction of writing will be obvious. If not, the sense of the sentence will help you choose. Especially for the common words, it's rare that two with the same shape will also fit the sentence. (Gregg wasn't stupid.)

    The angles aren't geometric, but are what you are comfortable writing quickly. Yes, try to keep them on the right angles when learning, so you can tell them apart, but accept that they will vary. (Last week I spent five minutes trying to decipher a passage in one of the texts, before I remembered to accept that they will vary.)

    I've sometimes write out all the possible sounds and mix and match: First letter is D or T; second is e-short, e-long, or i-short; third is P or B. Add brief forms to the above and it really is a leap of faith that it's at all readable! But it is.

    Also, sounds in the T/D sequence are more frequent than the SH/CH/J sequence, so try them first. The NG/NK sounds are rare.

    Line length isn't absolute, especially the horizontal lines. It varies with what's around the letter.

    The downward moving lines are easy: Full space between the lines, half, and quarter. Again, though, it's somewhat fluid once you get going. I have problems with the horizontal lengths because there's no clue on the paper.

    Position on the line is irrelevant, although following the guidelines in the book is useful. Check the table of contents of your text and read that section out of sequence.

    If you look at Pitman, you'll see that all the lines are geometric; 90 and 45 and horizontal. (Although I think in a later chapter there's a 30 degree downward.) The entire system is like that, and written with a different feel. Gregg is waltzing; Pitman is that robot-dance thing.

    Hope that helps!


  6. I can only echo and expand on Erik's advice:   >>This is a high-level skill with some nuance… differences that seem subtle and difficult to you now won't be after diligent practice, so don't get discouraged!   Like learning a new language — you reach a point where none of it makes sense, then bang, the lights start going on.   It takes children years to learn to read and write with fluency, don't expect this to happen in a few months. Adults take much longer to learn new languages than children do, usually.   sidhe

  7. Hey, I've been away for a few days.  Welcome, Scribey-Doo.  The world can always use more good teachers.  All the best to you in your new career choice.   Shorthand is still beneficial to me lo, these many years.  I first learned Diamond Jubilee Series in the early 1980's.  I still use it in my current job, where I've worked since 1993.  I don't take as much dictation as I used to 15 or 20 years ago–usually only once a day or so–but I do use Gregg DJS for note taking at work and in belly-dance class, taking phone messages at work, and writing in my journal.   If I ever decide to improve my mind by taking some sort of college class, Gregg will be very handy.   When I first learned Gregg in secretarial school on Long Island, NY, it helped me land a job where I earned $150 more per week than I had earned in my former job.  Throughout the 80's and into the early 90's, my jobs involved quite a bit of dictation and transcription, both with Gregg shorthand and the Dictaphone.  At this point in my life, I haven't seen a Dictaphone in 15 years!   The outline for "employee" still trips me up for some reason, but that's just me!  I can remember years ago that "appreciate" drove me crazy.  It's funny what can be a mental block for a person.  In general, though, shorthand is fairly automatic for me.  It really is like learning another language, which for my particular brain comes easily.  On the other hand, I am not at all logical or talented in the area of higher math.  I will never win the Nobel Prize in physics, either!   I consider myself very, very lucky to have had two wonderful, "real, live" shorthand teachers during the time I was learning, from '81-'83.  When I moved back to Calif., I took a semester of intermediate shorthand at the local community college.  Although the class was in Series 90, the teacher was kind enough not to make me "unlearn" the few DJS forms that differ from S90.  I do use the "r-k" from Series 90 to write "work", rather than the "oo-k" from DJS.    One of my teachers taught me to write "a-m-t" for "amount", "r-e-t" for "return", and one n over another n for "interested in".  Those might be from an earlier form of Gregg.  In what little I've had time to look at regarding earlier forms of Gregg, it seems like the outlines are briefer or more abbreviated in general, so I think one would be able to reach higher speeds than I'll ever reach.  The fastest I ever took dictation was 90 wpm.  I am not that fast now…sigh..   I've found since I started reviewing and practicing again, my note taking is improving in legibility and speed.  I am hoping I am exercising my brain, too, to stave off senility.   I just recently learned how to write my own name, thanks to the nice folks in this group! 

  8. I can only repeat what the others have said. I have been reading Gregg for about forty years.

    Stop worrying about the lengths and the angles and just practice. I have been writing shorthand for forty years, and my 'p' and 'b' are still too similar to each other a lot of the time … but shorthand is like handwriting: You will have some personal idiosyncrasies.

    The Simplified book is excellent.

  9. DocPanacea hit the nail on the head. I believe part of the problem some people are having with length of strokes and angles stems from the fact they jumped ahead by looking at the shorthand alphabet and trying to create outlines before completing the Manual.

    The 1916 Manual, the Anniversary Manual, and the Simplified Manual were created by people who had analyzed carefully how to present the material to new students with no prior experience in Gregg shorthand. Anyone who seriously studies and completes each lesson before going on to the next will find the aforementioned problem with angles and length vanishes with practice.

    I was fortunate to learn Gregg in a classroom with an experienced teacher for guidance. I mentioned in another post some time ago that we were taught shorthand as a language art.

    I know that writing the examples in whichever Manual you're using can be tedious … which is partially why I'm a big fan of the Functional approach … but those words and business letters are designed to implant the outlines in your memory.

    If you complete the Simplified Manual and use shorthand daily, speed will come. You'll notice that Dictation books usually have "preview" outlines for unfamiliar difficult words so they will not be a stumbling block when you're practicing.

    The best advice I've seen for building speed is covered in Swem's article which is on the angelfishy site. This same advice was reiterated on a yearly basis in the magazine The Gregg Writer in the '30's and '40's. Over 6 decades old, it really holds true for all editions of Gregg.

    Gregg is a great system and fun to use. The soundest advice I could give anyone who wants to learn the method is the same as the punchline in that Carnegie Hall joke: Practice, practice, practice!

  10. Ok, thanks for all the support. I am doing very very well and learning fast. I study, 3-4 hours a day. Yes, I love learning skills I see as valuable and "different". The problem I have with the line lengths, is that sometimes I simply can't tell if that is a J, or a Ch. I just can't tell some times. And, look in the simplified book. On page 16, it has on the top line 3 words. bay, brain neighbor. The "A" sound written in neighbor looks just like an "E". and the same for "Label" word just below it. Come on man, I'm a beginner. It's hard enough, the text should be absolutely clear. Anyway, the book is GREAT, and this Gregg fellow was a genius. I really like learning it.

    Ok, I have 1 more HUGE complaint. Starting on Lesson 3, it starts in on Reading practice. That's fine but there is NO answer key??? What? I think thats a huge mistake. Sure, I get 90-95% of the words, but if I can't figure out a word I NEED to see the answer so I can figure it out. Without that, I'm just reading words I know. I think that's a terrible mistake.

    Also, in learning something new like this, I find there are separate skills to be learned, actually. They are quite distinct and different. There, is reading, learning the letters. And something totally different is writing the letters. I figure I should learn and read first, then I will practice writing later, then slowly incorporate it into my notes as I take them.

    This also reminds me of when I took typing in High School. I didn't realize the impact at the time, but learning to type was brilliant. I can type amazingly fast now, and I'm glad I learned the correct way to do it. I tried to get my brother to take typing and he refused. He like his current system of hunt-and-peck. He's very fast, but will never be as fast as I am. He's simply less efficient. That's what I hope to get out of learning shorthand. I'll also teach it to my daughter when she's old enough. I wish I'd been doing this for years now.

    Btw, does anyone have the answer key to the Simplified book? In case I need to look up a word?

  11. Key to shorthand in the Simplified Manual – There was a teacher's key which occasionally shows up on eBay. Otherwise, the Functional Manual provides a key in the back of the book to the majority of the shorthand, as the purpose and intent of that approach was to have you read quite a few lessons before you set pen to paper. The Functional Manual (Simplified) can usually be found on eBay for a reasonable price. Hope that helps. You have a good attitude, stick with it!

  12. I forgot to mention if you get the Functional Manual, you want the 1955 edition. It's available on eBay (I just checked) for under $6 plus postage. The 1943 edition is in 2 volumes and represents the Anniversary edition of Gregg which I don't think you want unless you have a serious eye on developing verbatim reporting speed. Good luck!

  13. Awesome! Thanks for the info. You all rock. This is why the Internet is so cool. I'm 34 years old now. When I was a kid I'd want to know about something, I could never find any materials on anything. The local (smalltown) library was a joke.

  14. Another thing. I noticed that Simplified doesn't have the little marks underneath the vowels that signify whether it's "Long" "Soft" or "Short". But I noticed that Anniversary (I believe) does. I would think that this is much more descriptive and easier to read. Should I adopt the little mark indicators?

  15. Wow, I guess my Simplified book became useless very fast. It has awesome instruction until page 21, then it starts in with tons of reading – with no answer key. I saw this book for sale on Amazon and a reviewer said the same thing. I guess this book was designed for school and the teacher had the "key". I will probably switch over to Anniversary since the key is published on the Internet. I'll still use the Simplified manual, but I'm spending too much time trying to figure out words that have no key. : ( : )

  16. I used the Simplified manual to start, and the lack of an answer key didn't faze me at all. The only downside to the Simplified manual that I experienced was the sheer dryness and boringness of the letters. That was one reason I switched to Anni: the material is so much more interesting!

    And don't be fooled: you don't use the vowel markers in Anni either – they're just there for exclamations like "oh!" and certain word pairs that would be ambiguous even in context (very rare).

  17. Thanks Chuck, I think I'll take u up on that. I hate to seem whiny, but I learn by repetition. I want to read and move on and when I get stumped on a word, I will sit for 3-5 minutes trying to put the whole context together to figure out the word. Or, I will skip the word and not learn it. I want to move along and read the whole passage.

    Would it be illegal to publish the key on the Internet? It looks like the entire Anniversary book is published on that gregg.angelfishy site…

    In about one week (3-4 hours a day) I was able to get most of the characters down automatically. All the way through to Lesson 4. I am able to read 90% of the lessons fairly quickly. (except a few words I get stuck on).

    So, seeing a "mark" now takes me about 1/2 to 1/3 second to know what it is. This is a huge jump from having to look up every single symbol. It almost flows.

    What else is amazing that I didn't expect is that some entire words I immediately recognize without thinking about it. Like "hope", "drive". That's very very encouraging

  18. Something else that helps my learning. I don't ever sit and study for more than 50 minutes. I will do 45 (roughly) minute sessions every few hours. When i learn something (fast) I try to saturate my mind with the idea so it becomes ingrained. I learned this when I studied Morse code. I'm trying to learn as much as possible because my classes start on 1/21/08. I won't have much time to do it then and I want to be able to start using it immediately.

  19. Chuck is awesome. He sent me the key instantly.

    Here's one (only one of many) example of why I need the key. In Simplified, page 23, #26 reading lesson. The first 2 words are "Dear Tom". The problem is that, "Tom" doesn't have the capitalized marks underneath it.

    So, I read Tom and it wasn't capitilized and I figured it had to be something different than "Tom". I think there are many minor mistakes in the book and they all throw me off without a key. Oye.

    This key should be published somewhere on the net.

  20. The little marks were removed on the second edition of the Simplified manual, which is the book you have. You can use those marks if you wish. Eventually, you will write without them, as you can tell by context the pronunciation of the word.

    You really don't need to switch if you don't have the key. The Simplified book came in two flavors: regular manual (the one you have) and Functional method manual (the one that has the key in the back). The difference between the two books is that, in addition to having the key in the back, you will not start writing with the functional method manual until lesson (or assignment, as it is called in the book) 21, and the functional manual has more practice selections than the regular one. I can scan the back pages of the functional manual book for you. Beware that while the lesson numbers would be the same, the paragraph numbers would be slightly different. Also, there is no key after lesson 54, since by then you're supposed to read all the shorthand without a key. Send me an email with your email address so that I can send it electronically to you (my email address is in the Penpals section).

  21. I continued to read the script and it the Dear John (uncapitalized) kept happening so I started to assume it was intentional. It's my pet peeve are strange confusing rules.

    It's like when you are looking for an address, and you are driving down Smith street reading the numbers, then all of the sudden, the name of the street changes?!? You look up and you're on Dupage street.

    But I have the key now so all is grand.

  22. Back to the "line lengths" issue . . . I think you're trying to approach Gregg as something mechanical, when it's really a form of penmanship.  When you're writing anything by hand, sizes and shapes vary all over the place.  The important factors in handwriting are the clarity of the strokes, the proportions, and how they function in context.    Same thing is true with Gregg.  It's probably better to see some variation in the models, rather than get the impression that the outlines were done by machine with absolute regularity and constant size/shape/form.    I occasionally encounter outlines I can't recognize . . . after a reasonable attempt at deciphering I give up and move on.  Usually there will be an "ah hah" moment later.  I read a text the other day that had "of yours" written as a phrase, in a bit of an unusual context, and I just couldn't see it.  "oh-oo-s" . . . hmmm, what could it be . . . and after 24 hours I read it again and it was clear as could be.    As far as keys/transcripts go, I actually do have a transcript of "Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified" (the 1949 edition), but I've never seen a transcript of the 1955 second edition.  There probably was one, though.   Alex

  23. The lack of the capitalization symbols in the salutation of a letter (or note) is no mistake. In all series of Gregg (except Centennial), capitalization symbols are not included in proper names after a salutation (Dear John, Dear Mr. Brown, etc.). That is because it is understood that whatever comes after the salutation (Dear …), would be a proper name. Capitalization marks are used when a sentence starts with a proper name, or if a proper name is used in the text.

    In Centennial Gregg, marks are used after the salutation.

  24. A little more on cap marks: in Centennial Gregg, they are used if whatever comes after "Dear" is a proper name, but they are dropped if what follows is "Mr. Jones", or "Mrs. Brown", because you can make a phrase with Dear and Mr/Mrs. Go figure …

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