Reversing Principle: why was it gone?

Answering Gunther’s question in another post about what caused the elimination of the reversed R, this was the official word, from Leslie and Zoubek’s “A List of Changes in the New Gregg Shorthand Manual”:

“The most important simplification, however, is the complete omission of the reversing principle. Next in importance are the presentation of a simple, definite rule for the omission of r, and the presentation of a simple, definite rule for the past tense — a rule with no exceptions.

“The relatively limited usefulness of the reversing principle in business dictation does not compensate for the difficulties it causes in the learning of shorthand for use in the business office. The reversing principle may be worth while for the one in a thousand who goes on to become a court reporter. It is definitely a handicap to the ordinary learner intending to become an office stenographer. It introduces an element of doubt into the writing of a large percentage of circle joinings. This doubt hampers the acquisition of shorthand speed because of the hesitation over every circle written on a straight line. The elimination of the reversing principle immediately removes one of the most difficult single parts of the shorthand learning and results in a remarkably rapid development of shorthand speed when dictation is begun.

“The dropping of the reversing principle is not only helpful because of the saving of time in the learning of the reversing principle itself but also because it is one of the factors necessary for the working our of a simple and consistent method of representing the past tense.

“For at least thirty years teachers have been suggesting that rd be expressed by raising the end of the r just as ld is expressed by raising the end of the l. The adoption of this suggestion in the new Manual means that a large proportion of the words formerly written with the reversing principle or by the omission of the r can now be written in full with the rd.

“Many of the reversing principle words reversed the circle before n, m, sh, ch, j. The joinings of r before these letters present no new problem as the learner becomes accustomed to them early in the study of shorthand. The only new joining is rt, which is the same joining that has always been used for “melt”, “salt”, etc.”

(by Carlos for everyone)



19 comments Add yours
  1. I'm not attempting to start an argument, but I truly feel Leslie & company were mistaken in the elimination of the reversing principle – that in fact was caught my attention after studying Simplified and reviewing Anniversary texts. In fact, I believe everyone who has thoroughly gone through the Anniversary texts (be it the 1929 Manual or 1936 Functional Method) will find all the rules associated with the reversing principle and past tenses much easier to remember and retain when taking dictation than the Simplified and subsequent revisions.

  2. I'll vote with Leslie on the hassles of the reversing principal. Mind you, I started with DJS, and that's what my hand falls back on when faced with an unfamiliar word.

    The reversing principle makes me think farther ahead. Instead of A, then R, I have to think AR. It's similar to prefixes; I have to think CON rather than C-O-N. I find prefixes are easier, though, because that's how I think of them when spelling normal English.

    I also don't like that it only applies to straight lines. If I hear "AR", I have to ask, "What stroke am I coming off of?" I don't have to ask that coming off curved lines. It means I have to learn combinations rather than individual sounds.

    Leslie's other points are also good. A different way to write a past tense if it's a brief form is annoying; let me write the brief form and add a D and be done with it!

    Again, falling back on DJS complicates things. If the D is attached, is it a DJS word or brief form, a full word in Anni, or some combination?

    I use Gregg less often than I did before starting Anni. Writing a mix of the two systems creates illegible notes.

    I'm sure practise would take care of all of that, as I move from sounding things out to writing entire words.


  3. Personally, I LOVE the reversing principle. But I do remember the frustration of trying to read outlines where R was omitted "just because," such as large, etc.

    I think the main reason the principle was dropped was because teachers found it too difficult to teach and students found it too difficult to grasp!


  4. I also like the reversing the circle to represent "r".  In most cases.  I first learned Series 90, so I have some habits from that.  I find I have less comfort writing the reversed circle in words like "merit".  I like the reversing principle particularly at the beginning of a word, but also as the "er" termination at the end of a straight stroke.  The principle of eliminating "r" in words like "large" was a concept I readily adopted.  I'm from Massachusetts originally, we have lahge cahs in havad yad all over the place.    As for the past tense, it seems to me that Simplified actually did simplfy the principle.  They used the disjoined "t" consistently.  Anniversary doesn't.  Sometimes it's connected ("worked" and "dedicated") and other times not.  I seem to have adopted the Simplified manner of showing past tense with the disjoined "t".  I find that it keeps me closer to my line of writing even though it is a pen lift.    I have to admit that when I write the word "weird" I write "oo-e-rd".  🙂

  5. The problem with the reversing principle is that the explanation in the Manual is awful, and therefore, hard to teach. One of the best explanations for the principle I've read in The Gregg Writer (for example, April 1942 issue):

    "The method of expressing r following a circle vowel is a shortcut too, for while it is called reversing the circle, the circle is actually written exactly as it would be if the sign for r were included in the writing of the word.

    Note that in writing the simple word "art" in full, the circle is written with the counterclockwise or left motion, and when the r is struck out it is still a left-motion circle. This is true of all the applications of this principle: the fact that a circle is written with the left-motion shows that r follows it, just as it would be if the r were written. Here again it will be noticed that any forms coming under the principle are not only easier to write but easier to read as well.

    In some cases the reversed circle is written under the following letter and in others it is written over the following letter. This is because straight lines are likely to curve in fast writing, particularly when followed by a circle or a curve.

    If you were to write "charm", say, rapidly, with the circle above the next stroke, as in "barn", the influence of the circular motion would almost inevitably tend to make the ch assume the appearance of a curve."

    Compare that explanation to the Manual's explanation on paragraphs 71, 161, 162, 163, and 164: so they took five paragraphs to explain something that could be explained in two paragraphs.

    Further, the elimination of r in some words is simply explained in The Gregg Writer (November 1942) as follows: "And, as in the case in the speech in some parts of our country, the r may be dropped or omitted entirely: large, march, starch, etc."

    On the other hand, Simplified corrected inconsistencies in outlines, especially with endings and beginnings, and that was a good thing. Here are some:

    1. The word beginning re- was regularized. There were words in which re- followed by a downstroke, the e was not dropped in Anniversary: revenue, regent. In Simplified, the re- prefix is written as r. (However, if you think about it, the e was written in Anniv because the stress of the word was on the first syllable, re-).

    2. The -ate endings are all written with the t in Simplified ( a good thing, because trying to remember whether we need the t or not is a pain in Anniversary!).

    3. The u-hook expressing ul- was regularized as well.

    4. The -ple ending was regularized. So all of these words are written with -pl in Simplified: simple, sample, example, ample; plus the words that the manual forgot to tell you that were also written without the l: people, scruple, disciple. (This one could have been taken care with a "simple" — no pun intended — explanation as to why you drop the l.)

    5. -ward always written disjoined eliminates hesitation in deciding whether to write it joined or not.

    6. The construction of word families for -iferous, -iverous, -titute, -titude, -side, -cide, -tribute, -quent, -itis, -iety (in my opinion, this is one of the best things about Simplified!).

    7. The elimination of r in the syllable ort: import, sort, court, quart

    8. The blending or joining of d in certain past tenses: assumed, formed, timed, dated, examined, edited, turned

    9. The writing of the t after p and den, as in the following words: president, adept. This can become a problem in Anniversary if not practiced!

    10. Plaintiff and Defendant: the special forms were dropped, because in legal dictation, you would write plaintiff as "p" and defendant as "d", so why learn the special form?

  6. Yes and no. Simplified arranged words in families which makes things more consistent and the learning easier. Anniversary has word endings and also word families as part of the "Abbreviating Principle", however, in some instances, they are not consistent, both in the presentation of the principle and in the application of it. Here are some examples:

    1. Anniversary presents the ending -cide/-side as one example of the abbreviating principle, with the word "decide". But the manual doesn't tell you that you can write the words "inside", "reside", and "aside" the same way! You have to infer that, or look in the dictionary.

    2. With respect to the application of the families, here's another example. In Anniversary, there are three ways of writing the ending -pare/-pair: as a p like in "prepare" (p-r-e-p), as a pr like in "compare" (k-p-r), and as par like in "repair" (r-e-p-a-r) (because two of those words are brief forms). Simplified has it as -par always.

    3. Another one: other than the word "present" which is a brief form in Anniversary, there's only one word in the Anniversary dictionary in which the prefix pre- is written as pr: "presume". That goes against the rule that pre- is written as pre-. Why do we need an exception for that particular word?

    It is little things like that which make Simplified more consistent than Anniversary. (Incidentally, I'm an Anniversary writer.)

  7. The elimination of the "e" in "presume" I think is just a function of having an easier joining.  I think the controlling principle is the "sume".   I'm reading through "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and I find that the theory is inconsistent throught the book.  There are times when "wives" is written according to the "wife" outline in the special forms, and other times when it's written out entirely.  Also, the word "side" is written out almost always.  I've noticed other outlines that aren't according to Hoyle but at the moment I can't remember them.   It is great to see so many folks adopting Anniversary.  Having so much extra reading material of a non-business correspondence nature helps. 

  8. Most of the literature in Gregg appears to have been written (and published) between 1902 and 1929. I suspect even the later reprints used the original plates without modification, which would mean that the stories are written in pre-Anniversary style. If this is so, you'll note that if you're familiar with the shortcuts in Anniversary, pre-Anniversary shorthand is truly no difficulty to read (especially LOL if you have a key!). You can readily find Alice in Wonderland, The Sign of the Four, The Man Without a Country, etc. online.

  9. I have been able to find some of the literature in Anniversary.  A lot of it, however, is based on the 1916 manual.  I have a copy of "The Sign of the Four" and have to reach for my 1916 dictionary just to make sure I'm reading it right.  I know that Alice in Wonderland was done in both 1916 and Anniversary versions.  I have an Anniversary copy of that.    It seems the word is out about looking for the literature.  The prices have been going way up.  🙁 

  10. I'm not aware of "Alice in Wonderland" being published in both 1916 and Anniversary; do you have any details about the publication dates?  I've only seen the 1916 version.   And you're definitely right about the literature–it's becoming more expensive, and also scarcer.  You used to be able to find lots of the little booklets in used book stores, but that hardly ever happens any more.  Some of the more common literature booklets sell for reasonable prices on E-Bay and at and other places, but some (like Alice) are off the charts for price.   Alex

  11. Hey, Alex —   Here's the information from the fly leaf of the book:   Shorthand Written by Georgie Gregg Gingell May 1942 NP2   I compared the shorthand and looked for words that I knew were written differently between the two versions.  "Started" I found as an example.  It also would appear to be a later addition as Georgie Gregg must have married Mr. Gingell.  🙂   Cheers.

  12. One thing I've always wondered about was this: when the reversing principle was dropped, why did they not change the rules about giving preference to writing circle vowels clockwise?

    In words like "may" and "date," we are taught to write the circle vowels clockwise when connected to straight strokes. That made sense when the reversing principle was present, so that you could write the vowel counter-clockwise (i.e,, in the same direction as the letter 'r') to indicate the extra 'r' in "mar" and "dart."

    In addition, we are taught to write the A clockwise in "chat" and "fame," but counter-clockwise to represent "chart" and "farm."

    But when the reversing principle was dropped, there's no reason to prefer to write circle vowels clockwise. In fact, because cursive circles are generally counter-clockwise, wouldn't it be easier if circle vowels were generally written counter-clockwise as well? Maybe this is just my idiosyncrasy, but for me, it is certainly easier to write the above sample words with the 'r' than those without it.

    Gregg chose counter-clockwise curves for 'r' and 'l' precisely because those shapes were common in cursive. So I wonder why, when Simplified was designed, he didn't extend that principle to give preference to counter-clockwise vowels. Was it just that this would have been seen as too radical of a change?

    It's interesting that Century 21, a shorthand that seems to be designed as a simplification of Gregg, all circle vowels are written counter-clockwise 100% of the time.

  13. If taking dictation, whether Simplified or beyond, and writing at a regular rhythm, you will find when writing CH-A-R for chair, the counter-clockwise motion is smoother than writing the A clockwise would be and the outline is "prettier". As to "may" or "date", perhaps they were left alone because in 1949 and for a few years later all shorthand teachers would have learned Anniversary or pre-Anniversary, and perhaps they would have incurred difficulty "unlearning" the reversing principle. In 1959 when I asked my shorthand teacher about it, she actually smiled that I was interested and voluntarily provided me with some Anniversary material. I think she was then about the ripe old age of 30, so of course she would have originally learned Anniversary. Examening the issues I have acquired of The Gregg Writer from the '30's and '40's, demonstrates that the Gregg Publishing Company maintained student interest in the subject and theory by providing cumulative drills and interesting articles written in shorthand. It's really a shame that the discipline of a daily classroom is no longer available for any potential Gregg student, but the available textbooks still provide enough information for anyone who is seriously interested and will apply himself to become adept in the version of his choice.

  14. I think that the reversing principle is useful EXCEPT at the ends of words.  Joining RT,  Rten, and even RM, and RN slows me down.  On the other hand, I find it easier to write TR at the end of a word than to write T-Reversed E.  And I certainly find it easier to write DRS at the end of a word than to write D-Reversed small loop. Maintaining a clear distinction between a reversed E and a reversed small loop is challenging.  Transcription errors are less likely to occur when we write RS.

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