Relationship between Gregg and Leslie

I got my 1936 edition of the Functional Manual Friday.  Thanks, Chuck and others, for the suggestion.  I’m reading the Anniversary Manual for theory, and the Functional Manual for reading practice.
Gregg’s name does not appear as an author on the Functional Manual.  He does write a foreward, and in that he makes it very plain that he feels that students should start writing practice immediately rather than waiting until later in their study as Leslie has done in the Functional Manual.  And then, as soon as Gregg dies, McGraw Hill publishes a simplified version of the system.
So the question has been on my mind all weekend.  These two men worked with one another for years, and yet seem to have had fundamental differences of opinion.  Are there any biographies which talk honestly about their relationship, working or personal?  I have a feeling there’s an interesting story here.

(by john19970 for everyone)

12 comments Add yours
  1. I have also wondered how large a part Dr. Gregg played in the development of Simplified as there were many attractive principles in Anniversary which were discarded.

    But Dr. Gregg and ultimately his editorial staff towards the time of his passing and the end of The Gregg Writer constantly solicited suggestions and ideas for improvement from the many shorthand professionals across the U.S.

    Could it be that after WWII concluded the Gregg organization realized that for all practical purposes shorthand would be the provenance of the business office? If so, and there would no longer be a need for verbatim reporting, Simplified makes a great deal of sense as transcription would surely be easier and faster since there were fewer abbreviations and shortcuts to retain in one's active memory.

    Then, too, when Simplified was introduced and for a dozen years afterwards, the Anniversary Manual, Speed Studies and Dictionary were still in print. Anyone who wanted to learn a faster version of Gregg could buy this material over the counter.

    But Simplified still allowed the industrious student, especially with the "Expert" book to develop verbatim speed through practice.

    We can theorize all we want, but I really would like to know if Dr. Gregg played a part in the development of Simplified or simply turned it over to Mr. Leslie and the remainder of his organization. Are there any factual witnesses out there?

  2. Fascinating! I do believe if shorthand is used primarily for business Simplified is just fine. It could well be the ultimate product was modified due to user input. It would be most interesting to see what comprised the proposed version vs. what was dropped when the actual system was published. I'm sure with the revisions and to provide consistency in all the texts, a lead time of 2 to 3 years was required … which would mean work on Simplified probably began in 1946 or 1947.

  3. The Functional Method of instruction was Louis Leslie's baby.  It was his discovery.  He was supported by Dr. Gregg in his efforts and encouraged him in his endeavor.    He always had the idea that reading a lot first was a good idea.  On a related note, his mom used to bug him about not writing often enough.  He told her that if she could read shorthand, he would write more frequently because it would take less time.  So she agreed.  She read through the manual.  She would write him in longhand, he would respond in shorthand.  One day he got a letter, opened it up, and found that his mother had written it in shorthand.  It was pretty good looking shorthand, too.  She told him that after all that time, it didn't seem like it would be too hard to write to him in the same way.  The Functional Method was born.    Another radical idea at the time was having students copy from connected matter.  It seems he knew what he was doing. 

  4. The functional method is just a different way of teaching shorthand, just as there is a direct approach method (memorizing outlines before rules), and the regular writing/reading approach. The underlying system is the same and the shorthand is unaltered. Based of what I read, Dr. Gregg encouraged teachers to share their experiences to make shorthand easier to learn, and this was one of the approaches. Louis Leslie wrote in the "Teaching of Shorthand by the Functional Method that he "stumbled on the reading approach independently, and almost accidentally, about 1919. Many others have used it for so many years that it would be difficult now to determine who first applied it to the teaching of shorthand." He makes the point in three places at the beginning of the book to acknowledge Dr. Gregg by saying that the method was "developed under the personal direction of John Robert Gregg, S.C.D, Author of Gregg Shorthand." So while differences of opinion are natural in any enterprise, I believe they were working together in this endeavor. I believe that too, as I think that any effort to make shorthand more accessible would be welcomed by the Company.

  5. With respect to the development of Simplified, I have a couple of issues of the Gregg Newsletter from 1948-1949 which give a preview of the new system. The interesting thing was that some things got left in the editing floor. Whether it was done because of field testing, or done after Dr. Gregg died, or for some other reason, I don't know. The fact is that if you compare what they were thinking at the time with the end product, you can say that they were two different animals altogether. I will post what was proposed in terms of brief forms for the new version (remarkably similar to the Anniversary brief forms, but substantially less) and you can see that they changed them when they went into production. This is not unlike developing new software nowadays.

  6. Actually, reading for quite a while before you start writing parallels the school system, at least here in Canada. Children at 3 and 4 start learning the alphabet. Then they start reading simple words, and continue thru Kindergarten. They don't actually do much writing in Kindergarten. They start seriously learning the skill of printing in grade one, but do far more reading than writing. It's not until grade two that more emphasis is placed on writing — well, printing.   sidhe

  7. HOLD THE PHONE!  Where did this come from and when did it come from?    I've never seen anything like this.  Granted, I don't have a great store of the older printed materials or a huge selection of the Gregg Writers.  Was this something done as a nascent Simplified version?   Chuck, do you happen to have a catalog of your Gregg materials?  I bet your library is spectacular.  🙂

  8. Very interesting. I am curious as to why certain changes were made in the name of reducing the memory load but the two pages show that the planning for Simplified were well thought out. Me? I'll stick with Anniversary (and some pre-Anniversary shortcuts).. Since most of the discarded principles and briefs are already fixed in my memory bank, it would cause hesitation when remembering to write an outline in full. I still believe that Anniversary was the "best" version of Gregg but if the demand increased in the '40's for business use vs. verbatim reporting, the Simplified edition is an excellent example of evolution to fit what is needed at the time. The Simplified Manual would facilitate the student learning the theory and using the other texts to develop dictation and transcribing skills more quickly. However, I do believe McGraw-Hill pushed simplification too far with DJS and Centennial, effectively destroying the efficiency of the system even for the business office when other approaches such as Speed Writing could attain the same speed without the necessity to learn an alphabet based on symbols.

  9. The Gregg Publishing Company used to issue a newsletter for teachers about different aspects of shorthand, typewriting, dictation, transcription. I just have a couple issues of the newsletter where they described what they were thinking with respect to the new version of shorthand that would have followed Anniversary. I posted the proposed brief form list. This one was published January 1949.

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