The Typed Competition: EasyScript and NoteScript

My son is starting to use an AlphaSmart in school because of his handwriting. (Cheap laptop, well-designed for the school market.) Naturally, I went to the library and looked into shorthand that can be used for the computer.

Question: Has anyone adapted Gregg for a keyboard? I looked at the font in documents here, but I’m not sure if all of the frequent shapes are easy to type. Has anyone tried it at any speed? He and I would be the only two who could read it, but making a system so transparent that teachers could read it might defeat the purpose.

EasyScript, using book EasyScript Express. There are also 3 books in a series, but the Express book doesn’t give any indication that they exist. The website is really big on “only five rules!” Heavily copyrighted.

Blech!!! It really is only five rules and some brief forms / prefixes / suffixes. It can be summarized on one essay-style page, complete with brief forms, prefixes and suffixes. There’s no difference between written and typed.

They let you use brief forms from another system, if it comes naturally to you. They also recommend you get your entire company to use it, so you can all share notes. Am I alone in seeing a problem?

They sell dictation tapes up to 120 wpm, but I question its readability if you’re reading outside your field. E.g. “chc” is “choice”, “chp” is “chip”. I know that advanced Gregg leaves out a lot of letters, but Gregg begins with rules, so you know which letters are safest to leave out, and you can go through the rules to see which one you might have used. (E.g. M could mean M or MENT.) I can see new users of EasyScript, after their half-day course, leaving out way too much, with no feel for how difficult it will be to read later.

Also, you can’t always tell whether a letter is a pre/suffix, or part of the root. More complexity.


NoteScript, from NoteScript, 1966 . Only two titles on AbeBooks, both old, same author. Meaning either he held on to the copyright, or no one wanted it.

Blech, but not as bad as EasyScript.

He starts with the 100 most common words, and a simplified alphabet. Maybe a dozen blends. About the same level of simplification as Forkner, but different letters. Not nearly as simplified as TeeLine.

Very few changes between written and typed.

Coming from Forkner, I see places he could have saved strokes. “SH” is two separate, full letters. “TH” is the bar of the T and a full H. A feature is that capitals don’t mean anything different from the lower-case, since systems where they do are as difficult as symbol shorthand to learn. Retain silent letters where they give the word a distinctive shape. Yeah, faster to learn, but…

He has good advice about research notes, where you have to be very exact, to the point of repeating mis-spellings. If using initials in your notes, but they’re spelled out in the text, circle them. Squiggly underline words mis-spelled in the original text.

He allows some customization, but recommends you decide on them early. (I’m against free-form customization before you know the system — too much chance of a conflict with later chapters.)

100 brief forms for the 100 most common words, maybe 50 pre/suffixes. Use a period after several abbreviations, so you know they’re abbreviations.

I only spent a few hours on it, compared to years with Forkner, so I may be biased, but I think Forkner is a stronger system for personal notes. The extra freedom in NoteScript may make sharing notes difficult.


(by cricketbeautiful-1
for everyone)

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  1. Hey Cricket   I tried EasyScript — totally useless IMHO.   Speedwriting was originally designed to be typed or written. There's an original Emma Dearborn (sp?) book on ebay. I saw it once, a long time ago. I thought the use of capitals was a little odd, but it is certainly supported by lots of available materials. I'm not sure if you could use autocorrect to expand the words.   McGraw Hill did publish a very early version of a computer word expansion program, and used principals of Gregg shorthand for the short forms that would be automatically expanded into words. I borrowed the book from a library in Ottawa, but it was a very skeletal system. IMHO the time spent learning it wouldn't justify the time savings later.   In a earlier post someone found an interesting book in the online university libraries archive — I forget what the archive is called. The book's title is: Shorttyping, a system of shorthand for the typewriter. It's a complex system which uses the letters of the alphabet, numbers and symbols commonly found on the typewriter keyboard in the early 1900's. Interesting, but quite a large memory load. I don't have any idea how successful an autocorrect feature would be in expanding the shorthand.   Personal Shorthand is based on only the 26 letters of the alphabet and is heavily spelling dependent. It appears to be relatively easy to learn, but you wouldn't be able to use an autocorrect system on it — most of the letters of the alphabet are brief forms in their own right — p has four or five different meanings.   Some people have learned to type straight English at over 150 words a minute, though, so you might just want to enroll him in a solid touch typing course. There are various ones online that include typing games which may be more fun for him.   My eight-year-old is in French Immersion and his writing is terrible. Nobody seems to care, though, at the school.   I think it's just that nobody actually uses handwriting all that much any more, and the teachers spend less time on it since it's not a necessary communication skill.   What about teaching him one of the alphabet shorthands? It would improve his handwriting, if that's a goal.   I just want mine to learn how to spell. I'm pretty sure he'll be using a keyboard for most of his writing, and spell check isn't all it's cracked up to be.   sidhe

  2. I'll look up SpeedWriting. Sounds like you were less than impressed with the rest.

    I think the schools have gone too far from demanding perfect handwriting. I don't take my laptop to the doctor! Notes on the Palm are really hard to do.) I carry a small notebook. My goal for most kids would be is writing that the writer can do fast and read forever, and another mode that others can read, which might be slower — so you can share calendars and grocery lists and leave quick notes.

    My son was formally diagnosed with a handwriting problem when they tested him for ADHD. Bottom 1% of his gender and age. We are working on getting it as good as we can, but it's at the point where it's seriously getting in the way. He can't read his own notes, and with ADHD you absolutely have to have a datebook you use easily and trust without question.

    If he has to write more than 10 words he stalls. He should be doing 100 word answers easily. He can come up with great answers verbally (well, I need to pull teeth — he's very literal, and if the question is "what did you like about the book" and he didn't like it, he stops there, rather than explaining what he didn't like).

    I was entirely against spellcheck ("doe snot" passes, homonyms aren't caught, and Mom once typed a report for the Department of Pubic Health) but when I heard him ask the computer, "Well how do I spell it?" I realized it can be a great teaching tool — teaches the spelling when he needs it, not in isolation.

    I'm not keen on autoexpansion at the moment. I'd prefer he have two modes — shorthand and English — rather than a blend. I always turn it off — it's wrong more than half the time! But, I was wrong about spellcheck for him, so might be wrong about this.

    When he's ready for shorthand — when he's proven he can produce standard English — I'll show him long passages in all my books, point out the subtle important things, and let him try copying them. It has to be his choice, or he'll fight me the whole way. I suspect he'll prefer Teeline or Pitman. An alphabet system will let him use his bad habits, and we've given up on cursive. Gregg, as we know, is a bit fuzzy, so his current problem with line-length and angles will be worse, but if he wants the challenge he'll do really well at it. Meanwhile, I want to have my research done, so I can help him make an informed choice. A typed equivalent would be a point in favour.

    A portable stenotype machine would be cool, too, but expensive and hard to replace.


  3. Actually, I'd go for the Personal Shorthand — I think it's the easiest to learn, and there are very successful spelling dependent shorthand systems — Teeline comes to mind.   On the stenotype front, if you just want to get it on paper in shorthand, then ebay routinely has Lasalle stenotype machines for v. cheap — 10 bucks US or less. They're quite light and easily portable, as are the Stenograph ones. The Lasalle ones have a broader base with rubber feet, so you can use them on a table, and you don't have to take your tripod with them.   The manual Stenograph machines are a bit more expensive, but I got mine for about $30 US.   There are lots of pre-computer stenotype theory books on abebooks for cheap.

  4. Stenotype for that much is tempting. Have to check about paper and ribbon.

    What the internet has on Personal Shorthand (formerly Briefhand) looks promising. One of the underlying principles is it can be typed.

    I tried TeeLine a few years ago. (It was the first shorthand book I tried with speed goals. I actually made decent progress.) The first level would work, but for higher speeds you use a lot of blends, and the vowels are diacriticals. Still, worth looking at again.

  5. Well, the Personal Shorthand book arrived last week, and I read it really quickly.

    I'm not impressed. Too many identical outlines. I know, that's a common newbie concern about Gregg, but using C for both copy and credit is a bit risky. Leaving out all short vowels and long-e is also risky. Gregg highly recommends it if you're sure you won't get confused. PS leaves them out on page 1, and I didn't see an option to add them in later.

    Six basic rules, 100 or so brief forms, in 4 short lessons, after which they say you can write anything, then a bunch of "phonetic abbreviations" where a single letter represents a group of letters. "t" can mean "th". All the theory is in 10 very short lessons, the rest is review and increasing vocab.

    The edition I have, the Cardinal Series, has very few shorthand samples — all the exercises go the other way. No samples at all until lesson 15 (of 40), and in the early chapters mostly single-words. Even near the end of the second volume, subtitled "Speed Building and Transcription", it's about 1/3 shorthand to text (short letters) and 2/3 text to shorthand. Doesn't give me much confidence in the readability.


  6. Well is copy and credit specifically under the brief form "c"? If they are then its not that much different to gregg where "kr" blend" represents car or correct; where "kp" represents company or keep.

    As long as its part of some brief forms that you have to learn, then it is safe. It is when you start using systems where they tell you to simply reduce the body of the word to two letters without anything systematic then thats a problem.

    Although I've never seen personal shorthand so don't trust my opinion completely.

  7. As with any shorthand system, you have to rely greatly on the context to give you the correct translation of an outline.  Familiarity with the subject matter also helps.  "You must submit a copy of your most recent credit report" would use the same outline in the same sentence, but if you had written sloppily, you'd still be able to tell which word of the two to insert.  Context is an important factor in transription.  Though, there were times when I'd look at my notes and think, "what the heck is that" and spent much time pondering. 

  8. I do medical transcription for a living, and I am not sure what your goals are in giving your son shorthand for the computer or why you don't want to keep working with your son until he has decent handwriting or helping him boost his typing speed, but I can tell you that the best speed increases in typing are obtained when you use shortcuts for phrases, not for individual words.  To do this, you use an Autocorrect type of function through your word processing program or (preferably) an external program and create a library of shortcuts to type that will change into the phrase you want once you hit the spacebar or a punctuation mark. 

    A few phrases from my shortcut glossary using the system II learned from a friend: 
    wapres = was present
    intlas = in the last
    foms – four months
    attdd = attention deficit disorder
    itsbnt = it should be noted that

    If this is what you are interested in doing and not in teaching your son a Gregg-type shorthand, let me know, and I would be glad to give you more details.

    On Thu, May 22, 2008 at 11:27 AM, Gregg Shorthand <[email protected]> wrote:

    My son is starting to use an AlphaSmart in school because of his handwriting. (Cheap laptop, well-designed for the school market.) Naturally, I went to the library and looked into shorthand that can be used for the computer.

    Question: Has anyone adapted Gregg for a keyboard?

  9. That sounds interesting. I see how phrases would be easier to invent and read, but I don't think he'd use those particular phrases. Is it a formal system suitable for general use? I'd hate to have you type tons only to find it won't work for us.

    None of the typed version's I've looked at have phrases, but they're a key part of pen and machine shorthand, and now medical transcription. I see a definite trend — those who use it for a living, rather than just invent and sell, like phrases.

    The PsychAssoc and Occupational Therapist have both said his handwriting won't do the job past about grade 4, when he has to start writing longer passages. I fought that, but after two years of extra work, his handwriting is still so messy he can't read his own work, so he can't edit or use draft copies. When he dictates and/or proof-reads, his marks jump two levels.

    When he started with a borrowed keyboard at school, even before learning to type, his answer length quadrupled, and he finally paid attention to spelling and punctuation.

    We're not giving up on handwriting totally. We have a summer program for him. It's a pain to use a keyboard for math problems and forms.

    The typed shorthand as much for my own curiosity, and so I'll have something ready if he wants. Although I suspect he'll be stubborn and create his own — which means it will change so much over the months that he won't be able to read old notes. It would also be useful for my PDA.

    Thanks for the idea!


  10. Cricket,   Even in your examples you are taking one sentence out of context.  The sentences before would be telling you if you were talking about a credit to a customer's account or a copy of something.  Very rarely are you working in a vacuum.  If you find you need to differentiate your outlines, do it.  I worked with a woman who differentiated in/not by adding a "t" to the "n".  Yes, the outline would become "in it" but would probably not cause a conflict with the word "not" because of the context.  If you want to differentiate "copy" from "credit" could you use "cy" for copy and "cd" for credit?

  11. The system is basically to take the first three letters of the first
    word of a phrase and the first letter of each subsequent word in the
    phrase. I can export my dictionaries to a text file and cut and paste
    samples for you to look at and that wouldn't be hard at all. If you
    start with verb phrases (e.g., "is going") and prepositional phrases
    (e.g., "in the morning") that gives you a lot to start with, and you
    can add noun phrases as you need them.

    On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 7:34 AM, Gregg Shorthand
    > That sounds interesting. I see how phrases would be easier to invent and read, but I don't think he'd use those particular phrases. Is it a formal system suitable for general use? I'd hate to have you type tons only to find it won't work for us.

  12. One or two dozen examples a grade 5 would use would be more useful than a full dictionary. Enough to make it look useful and expandable, but not a huge list to read. I'll let him deal with programming the dictionary himself, if he chooses.

    What you describe sounds like the teachers can read it easily, so they might let him do his early drafts with it. (How many of us actually use the brainstorming, draft — which is almost as good as the final — and final copy we learned in school?)



  13. The latest entry, and last for a while (I overdid it on AbeBooks): T-Script, by Roy Tabor, also called Contemporary Shorthand. I scanned a few chapters here and there, and think it would be worth further study, if you want a low-speed system that you can both write and type. There are three modes, with claims of double longhand to over 100wpm. has the books and an overview of part of it.

    It's a single-author system. No evidence of others teaching it or providing feedback, unlike some systems which have books written by others as well.

    You're encouraged to customize very early.

    At first glance, it looks like a page of Teeline, but it doesn't go below the line as often. (I had to double-space Teeline.)

    It is phonetic, with only 100 core brief forms. It's three systems with a common core. The vowels are diacriticals, but can be used to facilitate joins. Only 5 vowels shapes, written above or below the line of text for short/long sounds.

    The first two chapters are common, then it splits to three modes. They're written in three separate sections, so I can't easily compare them, but it implies that the main difference is the shapes, not the rules.

    The Basic (aka Professional) mode has simple shapes (vaguely based on parts of the long-hand letters, but it pushes it) for each letter. Speeds of over 100wpm.

    The Alpha mode uses the simple shapes for vowels and a few common letters, and your regular form for the rest. It encourages you to try several longhand and cursive forms for the each letter, to find one that works best, but doesn't give examples. Speeds easily double longhand.

    Some use of blends, but not to the extreme of Teeline (where every conceivable pair seems to have a blend, as opposed to Gregg where the common pairs just flow nicely together).

    The Keyboard mode has a very short chapter. Some blends / pre / suffixes are indicated by a single letter, but you can add a hyphen between the root and pre/suffix if you like. Lists of pre/suffixes, but no examples. appears to be a subset called T-Script speedwriting, so I guess that's a fourth mode.

    One strange thing in that long vowels from the middle can be joined to the end of the word. "Late" can be written "l-t", with the vowel diacritical included or omitted, or "l-t-a". If the vowel sounds at the end of the word, you disjoin it. Seems counter-intuitive, but I suspect the more common type of word got the faster rule.

    I'm going to concentrate on Gregg again, but will keep this one in the "possible" list if my kids are interested.



  14. Forgot to mention: The exercises are evenly split between reading plates and writing from text, but the keyboard method has only a few pages. (One method had precious few examples of shorthand to read, which makes one question whether it can in fact be read.)

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