Reading Reinforces Theory

Thanks to Chuck’s assistance and recommendations, I’m really getting into Pre-Anniversary Gregg. Articles like this from Lesson 16 of the 1917 Speed Studies are fun to read. Pre-Anniversary was much more free-wheeling and phrase-laden than subsequent versions. However phrases like “It seems to me” should not give any problem to an experienced writer of any version. The outline that threw me for a loop and forced me tto reread the text several times is in the 3rd row from the end, the 6th outline: TH-reverse E-N. But after reading tthe sentence several times I realized it had to be “thoroughness”. I then looked it up in the 1916 dictionary and, eureka, I was correct. Looking up “thoroughness” in the 1929 dictionary, it’s TH-reverse E-N-E-S, so you can see how the the system slowly evolved towards simplification. This group provides a terrific forum for all your Gregg questions.

Attachment: Young Man.jpg

(by jrganniversary
for everyone)


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16 comments Add yours
  1. Regarding simplification, the very original version, back in Scotland, was very simple, and writers got good speed out of it. The competition then claimed that something so simple could not possibly be as powerful as theirs, so some of the complexities were actually added as a marketing ploy!


  2. Go, sidhe, go!

    It may be that Cricket is related to Bill and Ted of the Wonderful Adventure fame.

    Please, reveal your sources to demonstrate that (a) Gregg shorthand was created in Scotland and (b) that it was so simple the teen-aged Gregg made it more complex so it would outsell Pitman.

    Love ya'!

  3. Sure, make me go to the shelf in the other room.

    The Story of Gregg Shorthand, Leslie, 1964
    Oops on Scotland, it was Ireland. (Shouldn't be confused in my brain, but they are.)

    As for the "adding complexities", a quick scan of the most-likely chapters didn't catch it. I'll re-read it over the next few days.


  4. Here we go:

    Turns out it wasn't the competition, it was the teachers who used the competition who said it was too simple.

    Quoted from page 109:

    In the first edition of Gregg shorthand, in 1888, there is not a single rule. There are only two suggestions for abbreviating, but no rules for joining strokes. A printed key was given for all the shorthand in that first edition.

    That little book was fifty years ahead of the times in methods. The teachers of that day, accustomed to complicated systems that required intricate verbalized rules, and unaccustomed to the use of the key to the shorthand, demanded rules and demanded the abolition of the key.

    The inventor's chief problem was to sell his system. He could not afford, as he often told this writer, to complicate that problem by an insistence on methods to which the teachers were not accustomed.

    Similarly, the first edition of 1888 used the simplest shorthand outlines, outlines that involved the least learning or memory difficulty. The teachers of other systems, systems that had achieved apparent brevity of outline by complicated rules and a heavy memory load, insisted that the Gregg outlines looked too long. The inventor wisely gave in to these objections, in order to introduce the system, with the knowledge that the teachers would eventually become accustomed to the cursive style of shorthand writing and that the system could then be returned to its original simplicity.


    As evidence that this early system, the one that teachers claimed was too simple, could achieve high speeds:

    On page 44, Fred H. Spragg, his first student, wrote political speeches at 200 wpm using the 1888 system.

    Page 49, Edward J. Deason "wrote in a public hall before Pitman examiners at the rate of 200 words a minute on solid matter for six and three-quarter minutes, at which point the dictator broke down." This was after only 10 month of lessons, although Deason was very dedicated, and already had much practise with abbreviating and getting down only the important words.

    (At the time, 220 wpm in Pitman was considered phenomenal.)

    "I saw it written at 200 words a minute repeatedly by Mr. Deason, and on one or two occasions by Mr. Spragg, when the system was in its infancy and when its outlines were longer than they are today."


    Back to Cricket's voice: These writers probably invented their own short cuts and tricks, especially Deason who had the mantra of "nouns and verbs", but it proves that the original system, which was too simple to impress the teachers, was actually pretty good.

    That's not to say that the new "complications" were without merit. I suspect they standardized short cuts and tricks that writers of the 1888 system had to invent on their own, saving new writers the need (and risk) of inventing their own.



  5. Very interesting, Cricket. The earliest Manual in my small collection is a 1904 reprint of the 1902 Manual which uses EXTENSIVE shortcuts and phrasing … and even in the '40's Dr. Gregg in The Gregg Writer was requesting reporters to submit shortcuts they used and liked … perhaps the 1949 Simplified is more like the original 1888 pamphlets than I had realized. Thanks for sharing the info. I wonder what Chuck's take on this discussion might be.

  6. From page 43. (You've got me keeping school-quality research notes now!)

    "The writing was from the alphabet, with the exception of a few rather obvious abbreviations I improvised for common words as I went along. […] that was the alphabet which was copyrighted in sheet form on the 29th of March, 1888. […] The system was published in pamphlet form on the 28th of May, 1888, in an edition of five hundred copies. […] It consists of twenty-eight pages."


    So the 1888 version was primarily the alphabet, including blends. (Later in the book he emphasizes that the blends were a great breakthrough.) Simplified has a lot of shortcuts and pre/suffixes, and more than two rules for joining, so it's more complicated than 1888.

    It sounds like the 1902 manual went to the other extreme. Quite normal for any type of teaching — just look at the last 60 years of teaching kids math and reading! Things see-saw back and forth, and the good teachers recognize that each part of the cycle has strengths and weaknesses. I think it was good for the system to spend time at that extreme, but I'm glad it didn't stay there.

    Gregg survives at both extremes of the cycle. Those who learned at the extreme shortcut end can read material written by those from the other extreme. If they want their own writings to be generally understood, all they have to do is pay attention to what they leave out, and "write it out" (including the R-stroke after a loop). (Not saying that breaking the shortcut habit is easy, just that there's no new theory.)

    Inviting submission of optional shortcuts was genius. It kept the system vibrant rather than a dead language. Useful new things were put in. Confident writers were encouraged to invent things on their own. Nervous writers had a constant supply of things to try that wouldn't conflict. The submissions also proved that the system can be adapted to any field.

    I don't think adding optional shortcuts after you've learned the core increases the complexity. When determining complexity, I look at the first-year manual (i.e., the core), not the advanced or user-submitted stuff. How much to read general literature and the magazine? How much before the emphasis is speed building and theory review rather than new theory?


  7. Fascinating. My first post along with the title of this thread was intended to demonstrate the importance of sounding out those outlines which aren't immediately decipherable – i.e., the TH-reverse E-N when "their were not" which makes no sense came to mind, then upon rereading the entire sentence several times "thoroughness" sprang out of the page. Also the attachment was picked for it showed the abundance of phrasing in 1916 Gregg. But thanks to Cricket the thread drifted and now I've learned a lot about the development of Gregg from 1888 to 1902. Clearly within that time frame the system was refined extensively with the regulation of wordsigns and all those esoteric phrases which in 2008 seem designed to torment a 21st century reader. I would have said " bedevil" but the truth is that they are readable once one has done the homework and caught on to the guiding principles behind their formation. (Those readers who have the 1917 Speed Studies will enjoy the article on "what not do do" or "awkward phrases" in which a ghastly phrase which is a complete sentence is torn apart and rebuilt into several easily readable phrases.)
    Based upon the unexpected information concerning the 1888 Gregg, I can better understand why Pitman was not dethroned in the UK as shorthand system of choice at the close of the 19th century but swept the US from the commencement of the 20th century as the "refined" version we are used to seeing had been developed and published. And Dr. Gregg slowly developed a superlative marketing team to sell his system to all educators. Furthermore, the Gregg system had not become fragmented than as had Pitman with all its variants then marketed in the US.
    Dr. Gregg and his organization successfully kept control over the system until the inventor's death. Perhaps because of the Gregg records in speed contests the majority of Gregg users lacked the desire or initiative to create their own spinoffs in the manner of some Pitman enthusiasts. (Of course Pitman in the US as far as I know was a spinoff by brother Benn rather than Sir Isaac.)
    Thanks, Cricket, for bringing out those facts about "Gregg primitive".

  8. One of the things that stuck me when I saw the reprint of the first manual was how rudimentary it looked, in comparison to what we are used to see. The joinings of the hooks were very awkward, brief forms were almost non-existent, and the writing almost illegible. I have a copy of the 1898 edition of the manual (7th American edition, still named "Gregg's Shorthand"), and there you see a more refined product, the shorthand is similar to the 1916 Pre-Anniversary. The 1902 version added a little more, and so did the 1916 edition. The first round of what I consider "major" simplifications came with the Anniversary version, where some brief forms, prefixes and suffixes were eliminated, and some others were redone, and stereotypical letter phrases were basically dropped since Business English changed.

    The curious thing is that for reporting speed, principles from the early versions of Gregg are abundant. Those are considered shortcuts now, but were not at the time.

  9. Wow, Chuck.  You mean you have an actual copy of 1898 manual?  That's great.  I have a facsimile of the first American edition (1893), so am curious what the 1898 manual looks like.  Is it a pamphlet, or a book?  (The 1893 publication is a 36-page pamphlet).  The earliest actual manual I have is the 1902 edition, and I wonder if your 1893 edition has that format.   Very interesting stuff.   Alex

  10. Hi all, just joined the group. I've been interested in shorthand for awhile, and I would like to know: is there anyone here that can teach me Diamond Jubilee? I don't know of anywhere nearby that has a course in shorthand, I know noone who can write shorthand, and I have no means of paying for a course online. Please help!   A willing student, J. Q.

  11. In keeping with the title of this thread, I've begun to read Alice in Wonderland, a few pages a day, in shorthand. It's pre-Anniversary Gregg, using some brief forms which were changed in 1929 and uses the abbreviating principle consistently … but without consulting a key, it is very easy to read. When I hit an outline which throws me, I reread the entire sentance for context as many times as I need before the word/s represented jump off the printed page. If you can find a reasonably priced copy of Alice, I recommend it to hone your shorthand reading skills. (For Conan Doyle's The Sign of the Four you may need a key for some outlines because the vocabulary is much wider and varied than that employed by the Rev. Dodson.)

  12. Yes, I too had problems with the extensive active written vocabulary used in The Sign of the Four, whereas Alice is very simple reading … and fun! I hadn't looked at the book in decades.
    I do prefer having a hard printed copy in my hands but with the PDF you can download it and print it out, so big deal. I also have The Man Without a Country in Gregg, so at just a few pages a day I have lots of reading practice.

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