An article I found

The topic:
Is shorthand the route to success in science or anything else?

The irony the question is never answered, rather a well laid out history of shorthand full of stories is written over 10 pages.

PS – the last paragraph gives mention of a continuation to this article, unfortunately I can’t find it!

(by michael_lisitsa
for everyone)


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22 comments Add yours
  1. "…verbiage-ridden age of the information explosion." He hasn't read older letters!

    I love this bit: "The well-entrenched Pitman organization provided formidable competition, and it mounted an extensive advertising campaign to quash Gregg’s new system. A widely circulated Pitman poster featured a large black circle with a small white wedge cut into it. The black part, claimed Pitman, represented the writers of Pitman shorthand, while the small white slice represented writers of all other systems combined. Gregg, whose pamphlets advertised his "Shorthand for the Million," parodied the approach. The large black field in his poster represented those multitudes who had begun
    the study of Pitman, while the tiny white wedge stood for those few who were able to make the slightest practical use of it after years of tedious study.

    Also, William Rosenberg had mastered Gregg shorthand. I He won the highschool speed championship […] He had broken his writing hand on the eve of the state competition but managed to win anyway, clutching in his swollen fist a potato through which he’d stuck a pen.

    — Yep, shorthand is as much mental as physical!

    I recognize a lot of the symbols in the math and science and medical shorthands from my school days. The symbols are commonly used, even though the teachers don't know where they came from.


  2. Cool!

    Even now, 23 years later, I know several published authors who, although proficient at computer typing, still prefer longhand for their first draft. That's one reason I picked shorthand up again. I definitely see that dictating is a skill. Ages ago, I could do a longhand essay in an exam situation. Start with a brief outline, then go right to the final product. Now? I shudder to think of it. My outline/draft/final process is all mixed up, sometimes within a single sentence.

    Secretaries filling in details? I can just imagine my department clerk's reactions if I asked her to do that! A few dates and order numbers that she would have handier than I did, maybe, but nothing more. (Could it be that she trained me well? Then again, I could type faster than I could write neatly, so doing my own typing saved the company money, and I could look things up faster than I could explain what I needed.)

    "The best Pitman or Gregg stenographers today can only record your brilliant utterances if you slow down to about 125 to 150 words per minute."
    — Where did he do his research? It's twenty years later, and some members here can do that easily.

    LOL, the 1982 study that found in favour of audio recording was flawed.

    I agree with him as well about dictating not being as useful during edits. That's another reason I do shorthand.

    An interesting pair of articles, although I admit I just scanned the stuff I already knew.


  3. I'm continuing to search the NYT archives and some ineresting finds. Heres an article about an early test of the stenotyping machine proving remarkable unsuccessful for the handwriters, and of almost unbelievable 592 words/minute familiar material for the stenotype machine.
    Read to believe:
    Article written in 1912. No mention if gregg or pitman is used.

  4. JRG: "Still will never understand how Gregg did not trounce Pitman in the UK as in did in the US."

    It's interesting to note that the US is the only country in which Gregg completely dominated the shorthand scene.

    In the case of Pitman, it has been felt that the system is "faster and more accurate" than any other system in the English language–their words, not mine. I have also read that Pitman is "harder to learn, but easier to read."

    I offer these comments not as statement of fact, but food for thought.

    I guess the Pitman vs. Gregg debate will never really die, will it?

  5. In the same vein, I can state with fair certainty one fact:

    The same bugaboos that give Pitman its name for difficulty, viz., shading, position-writing, et. al., give the system quite a bit more flexibility for abbreviations. In this respect, it's probably fair to say that it's more flexible than Gregg.

    There's a book called "How to Write 250 wpm in Pitman Shorthand". It involves learning a zillion new short forms, as well as some new abbreviation tricks. Evidently, in its heyday, those speeds were not all that uncommon to reach with sufficient practice.

  6. George Amberson,

    I have no doubts about the "proven" speeds attainable with Pitman, however the learning curve and memorization required seem to make it a very difficult method with which to acquire the same speeds available to Gregg students in a much shorter time. Further, if you look at Gregg after the 1949 Simplified editions, it's clear that to develop "Expert" speed; i.e., 180 or faster, it was necessary to memorize many more brief forms and phrasing shortcuts.

    Reading Alice in Wonderland written in pre-Anniversary Gregg is fairly easy because of Lewis Carroll's vocabulary usage. (However I'm sure a non-English speaker unfamiliar with the book would have trouble with K-R-O-K-A which readily in context is "croquet".) The Sign of the Four is much heavier reading because of the extensive use of the abbreviating principle since Doyle's vocabulary is more extensive than Carroll's. Probably having a complete consonant outline would make many words more readily recognizable.

    It could be that the Pitman marketing machine was less organized than the newly formed Gregg team. Also, was there not more consistency with the Pitman system in UK than in the US where apparently brother Benn had deviated from Sir Isaac's frequent updating? From what I've read about Pitman, the system seems to have fragmented itself in the last half of the 19th century.

    For ease of learning and speed possibilities I would recommend Gregg to a newcomer. However I am lazy and since Gregg has served my needs well for half a century, I'm sure I'm prejudiced.

    I don't want to start a debate, but it appears that it would be difficult to maintain the exact shape of Pitman outlines at high speed … but clearly not as one outstanding complement to Pitman is that others seem to have had no difficulty when transcribing the text written by others.

    Were you aware that there is at this time no official DVD issue of your magnificent family? Hopefully Criterion will take note and reissue the LD on DVD or Blu-Ray.

  7. JRGAnniversary:

    Strangely enough, reading Pitman written at very high speeds isn't very difficult. I know it's counter-intuitive, but I was able to easily read prose written at 200+ wpm in How To Write Pitman at 250 WPM.

    However, you're absolutely correct on the difficulty issue. Learning expert Pitman requires so much practice and memorization of 100s (if not 1000s–no joke!) that it almost seems hardly worth it, except to the most dedicated student.

    As for the last sentence in your post: .thank you for noticing the reference; probably not one person in a 1000 understands it.

    It is my hope—becoming more distant with each passing year–that a complete version will be found.

  8. I think it's also fair to say that even in the US, Gregg never supplanted Pitman for court reporting purposes, but existed alongside it.  Though it certainly had the secretarial market sewn up.   As for the time taken to reach comparative speeds, Gregg is certainly an easier system, but I suspect that this advantage only holds up until 150-180.  After that writing becomes automatic, and it's the speed of recall rather than the speed of applying rules that is the deciding factor.   It is interesting though why Gregg didn't do better over here.  Maybe it was in the marketing, or perhaps we were just too conservative a nation.  My theory is that Gregg – despite his birthplace – was just so frightfully American   (George – who's name I now understand! – I was waiting for you to come in on the Gregg not supplanting Pitman comment 🙂

  9. Interesting point of view, IJD. In fact persons of Dr. Gregg's nationality usually are outgoing and charismatic enough to sell ice to Eskimos. I would be interested in discovering percentages of Pitman and Gregg writers in actual court reporting in the '20's, '30's, and '40's. I'd guess any pen writers surviving in the US today would have been Gregg reporters as the teaching of Pitman had really become extinct in the US by the '40's and even perhaps earlier due to the "overwhelming" Gregg onslought.
    Considering that one of the "benefits" of Gregg is cursive handwriting, I am puzzled that the artificial hand position of Pitman apparently doesn't break up the outlines at high speed … because I can vouch from my minute-taking days that at speeds more rapid than 210 the cursive outlines tend to become scrawls … although still readable if you know the system and can adhere to the correct proportions. But the high-speed Pitman samples I've seen look "sampler neat" … except oddly enough a few of the personal notes that have been sent to this group written in Pitman look very sloppy.
    But who am I to question? I'm like one of the neighbors in Murders in the Rue Morgue who insist that the language spoken by the killer was Italian. "Do you speak Italian?" queried the detective. "No, but it SOUNDED Italian," replied the neighbor, while other neighbors insisted it sounded like other languages they did not speak. Guess I need to learn Pitman before I can make any hasty judgments about the system, admit I ruefully … adding wistfully that Gregg is so easy. Piffle! Easy for those of us who studied and practiced the system intensively for two years in a learning environment.
    As stated previously, one of the major advantages Gregg offered in the US was that there were no massive (although many minor existed) spinoffs of the basic system … and The Gregg Writer, probably a required subscription for all Gregg students, cemented the unified codification of the system throughout each school year. The official Gregg achievement awards publicized in the magazine did not hurt either. Really stupendous marketing!

  10. Ian, I just don't know exactly why Gregg didn't do well overseas, except to hypothesize that Dr. Gregg's marketing efforts were centered solely on the US.

    He probably didn't have the wherewithal–or interest–in mass marketing in the Commonwealth. I don't know—does anybody else here in this forum?

  11. << >>

    I can answer this to some extent. I did some extensive research on the topic a couple of years ago. It consisted in perusing contemporary sources.

    In the Encyclopedia Americana printed in the 1920s, the statistics were as follows:

    Secretarial (called "amanuensis" in those days): over 70% Gregg.
    Court Reporting: 91 or 92% Pitman.

    During the 30s and 40s, of course, machine shorthand began to eat into these percentages. Indeed, by 1949 or so, Dr. Gregg had already given up the suggestions of Gregg for court reporting, hence the advent of Simplified.

    On a related note, Gregg, by the 1970s, claimed over 90% of the American market. The teaching of Pitman was confined to a few large cities in the US, which didn't want to go through the rigamarole of training 100s of new shorthand teachers.

  12. JRG,  I'm sure you're right – I just got the impression from various old US magazines that the debate over whether Gregg or Pitman was best raged until they were both blindsided by the stenotypists.  Certainly my few copies of the magazine of the National Shorthand (now Court) Reporters Association in the 50s always contained examples of Pitman, Gregg and Stenotype.   I see what you say about fast writing becoming a scrawl, and that Gregg being closer in shape to handwriting should theoretically not distort as much as Pitman, but the examples I've seen don't really seem to bear this out.  The samples I've seen of Pitman posted here are from old diaries – i.e. amateur writers – and the diary specimens of Gregg don't seem any more legible, to be fair.   I'm not advocating one against the other, you understand.  Just that both sides put forward theoretical reasons why their system is the best, but I've not seen any studies to prove Pitman better than Gregg, or vice versa.  In fact, the only academic comparison I've seen is between Gregg and Godfrey Dewey's Script Shorthand, where the latter was declared the winner.  (Although this was strictly a study for amanuensis shorthand and speeds of 120-140 only were reached by both)   Of course, the fact that there should be theoretical superiority of one system against another is what keeps people like us poring over ancient treatises on the subject!   George, considering that the UK is smaller than the smallest US state, I guess the question is why wouldn't Gregg concentrate his marketing where the money was, in the US.  Small, and subborn, potatoes we are.    Perhaps the answer is as simple as that; American's were more welcoming, and more lucrative.   Ian

  13. According to The Story of Gregg Shorthand, Gregg considered himself an American even before he moved. He read a lot of American literature.

    He continued to support a UK office, at considerable loss, for years. He wanted to free the population from they tyranny that is longhand, in daily life, not just for high speed writers. (Well, I may be exaggerating with "tyranny", but in that direction.)

  14. Ian, it's interesting to note that Dr. Gregg was an English expatriate, living in the US.

    Perhaps we're looking too hard to find an answer to our marketing mystery. It could be as simple a fact that Dr. Gregg focused his marketing strategy in the area where he WAS! (It's easier, of course, to market at home than overseas)

    Some internecine squabbling in the US Pitman community is also to blame. All the Pitman greats had just died, without a strong entity to defend the various Pitman varieties then extant. The advent of Pitman New Era in 1924–at the worst possible time–was probably also a factor.

    Dr. Gregg's timing was perfect; divide and conquer, indeed! He was an absolute genius.

  15. "I see what you say about fast writing becoming a scrawl, and that Gregg being closer in shape to handwriting should theoretically not distort as much as Pitman, but the examples I've seen don't really seem to bear this out. The samples I've seen of Pitman posted here are from old diaries – i.e. amateur writers – and the diary specimens of Gregg don't seem any more legible, to be fair."

    I agree on both points.

    Sometimes, an idea that seems intuitive doesn't bear fruit in physical reality. To illustrate this, in Morris Kligman's book, the Pitman word for "work" is specifically discussed. The usual word, using an acute angle, is assessed by Kligman to be impossible to read at mega-speeds. His answer? A word-sign using an OBTUSE angle! This doesn't make intuitive sense, even to me, but shorthand seems full of such incongruities.

  16. 'Tis sad but true. Most of the personal Gregg samples I've seen here from old notes and diaries have not been very clear. That's why the video of shorthand being written to dictation was so cool … that guy writes beautifully, just like the plates in the shorthand books (well … close to, at least).

    Of course some of the samples may have been written on the run or scrawled on a hand-held notepad. 쩔Qui챕n sabe?

    Isn't it amusing that usually comparison of systems resolves around the Pitman vs. Gregg struggle for penmanship domination? From what I remember of TV and radio ads in the '60's Speedwriting was making a concentrated attack on Gregg for supremacy in business schools. Most acquaintances with whom I've had discussions related to shorthand have commented on the fact upon hearing of the brief forms and abbreviations that it's a rip-off of text messaging. LOL.

  17. Acute angle hard to _read_? As long as it's not so acute it becomes a single line, how can it be hard to read?

    I think Pitman's geometricity (is that a word?) is what makes it easier to read and not degrade at high speed.

    In Gregg, the line lengths are often vague. (Witness the frequent newbie question about line lengths.) Also, the angles vary. Try "poet" and "poem". When writing "off text", I often experiment a few times to get things lining up, especially with diphthongs.

    In Pitman, at least the first chapters, a line is one of three lengths, on one of the approved angles. It doesn't change depending on what comes before or after. Yes, it's more discipline for your pen, but you have a clearer mental model.

  18. "Acute angle hard to _read_? As long as it's not so acute it becomes a single line, how can it be hard to read?"

    I know, Cricket; it doesn't make sense to me, either. But Kligman was one of the greats, and I have to take his word for it.

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