Ben’s Questions

By lesson 3, I have so far learned that the shorthand little circle represents Ē, Ĕ, Ĭ and the obscure vowel. Now, the book is telling me to spell each shorthand word aloud if possible, thus: m-e-s, mess and etc. So, when I come across the little circle, what should I be thinking in my head? (I have 4 choices) Or should I just skip reading that letter aloud and look at the consonants surrounding it? Thanks!

– Benjamin –

*Learning from Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified, 2nd Edition

(by bdg5048 for everyone)

19 comments Add yours
  1. Right, right, I understand. Now, does phrasing ONLY combine brief forms together, or will phrasing sometimes combine a brief form with a regular shorthand word (one that needs to be spelled out) to produce 1 outline? Do you know what I mean? Because I'm reading each outline and I'm constantly trying to figure out if that stroke is a brief form or a letter, or deciding whether those couple strokes are a brief form or simply 2 letters that make up the entire word.

    Basically, when I look at an outline, am I guaranteed that it is either a combination of brief forms into a phrase or a combination of letters into a word? Thank you very much! I love a challenge.

    – Benjamin –

    *Learning from Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified, 2nd Edition

  2. In the examples that are given in the text, they are telling you which vowel they represent. In real life, you will know by context which sound the vowel represents.  For example, in the sentence   a – l           m – e – s        th        t – r – a – n       period   it will make more sense if the word m – e – s is miss, instead of mess.   But in the sentence   th     r – a – n     l – e – f – t     dot     m – e – s   the m – e – s will be the word mess.   You will spell them as you pronounce them.   A thing that was eliminated from the second edition of the Simplified manual are the vowel markings that were used to distinguish between the three A sounds and the three E sounds. For the A sound as in rain, and the E sound as in bee, one can put a small vertical dash under the circle. For the sound of A as in park (car, large, harm, etc.), and the E as in get (met, bet, tell), a small dot can be put under the circle. In that way, you can distinguish which sound is meant.  These markings were eliminated because like I said, you will be able to get the correct vowel by context.

  3. Phrasing can combine brief forms and regular words: there are basically no limits! The cardinal rules for phrasing are that they should be (1) common, (2) natural, (3) easily joined, and (4) short. Pay attention to the examples that they are providing you with regards to the phrases, as those are the ones you should be memorizing. As you progress, you will learn many more, and eventually create your own.   When you see an outline, it can be a phrase, a brief form, or a word. Again, rely on context to decide which one it is.   One very important aspect about learning shorthand is mastery before speed — study the material for each lesson well before proceeding to the next. In that way, when you read an outline, you should not have any doubts as to what it means.

  4. I created a list of brief forms by Gregg spelling, adding to it as I did each chapter. It's worth doing as an ongoing exercise. That saved me a lot of time when reading — all the possibilities were grouped in my mind. I also created some "families"; there are tons of words with s,p and an e or two somewhere.

    I started a similar list of phrases, but that got too long. It's still a useful exercise, though.

    Another trick when you encounter a hard outline is to write out the possibilities. Write each Gregg letter at the head of the column, then write each possibility (sound and brief) in the column below the letter, then mix and match.

    First, though, try reading the rest of the lesson and coming back to it. Sometimes your subconscious just needs time. Save the lists and mix-and-match for the tough ones and for drills.

    After the first few chapters, time your reading. You should be able to read twice as fast as you write. It's not a hard and fast rule, but the extra reading practice really does help. Read out loud, or follow with your finger (and don't let your finger stop) to catch any hesitation.

    There's a trick to "fuzzing your brain" when reading, where you read entire phrases, then go back and fine-tune the individual words. It feels really weird when you first start developing it. Complete opposite to the way I was taught to read English.


  5. On page 24, beginning with line 5, what is the meaning of:

    "…on the job. Harry (58)
    27. Miss Paul: on May 15…"

    I understand that "27." indicates a new reading exercise. I don't understand "Harry (58)."

    *Learning from Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified, 2nd Edition

  6. Fascinating. That is really cleaver. Thank you, Chuck! And here I was flipping to page 58 and heading 58 trying to find a relationship. So when I start writing for speed in a few months, I will use that knowledge. Until then, I'll use it to help me examine my reading ability. Very cleaver… 🙂

  7. That is the number of standard words in the passage. In Gregg shorthand, a word is not counted as a word. Instead, to compare passages of different word intensity and word length for dictation, an arbitrary unit called standard word was created. Based on an analysis of texts, it has been decided that a standard word contains 1.4 syllable (or that 14 syllables make 10 standard words). If you read the passage in one minute, then you read it at 58 wpm. Same thing if you were to write it, if you wrote it in one minute, your writing speed would have been 58 wpm. (The actual number of words in that paragraph is 68).   It is relatively straightforward to find out how many standard words a passage has. Just count the total number of syllables, and divide by 1.4.   Why was the standard word created?  Because the length of a word affects the speed at which you write. It is not the same to write Mary had a little lamb, as compared to Ferdinand traveled extensively through California, even though both sentences have 5 words. The first sentence has 5 standard words, while the second sentence has 10 standard words.

  8. Just to complicate things:

    Once you get good, it flips. A few long words become easier than many short ones, as long as the words are in your field. The long words get abbreviated.

    E.g., "jj" means "Gentlemen of the jury". Seven syllables written in one vertical stroke. It's a waste of time for a medical secretary to learn that one, but she'd create briefs for for "Dr. Qwertyuiop" and "asdfghjklitis".

    Save that sort of thing until the text teaches it. There are guidelines on when and how to abbreviate so you keep enough information and don't create conflicts. Some fields have abbreviation lists already written, which helps, especially if you're not already extremely familiar with the field. Again, that's for after you've learned the first manual.


  9. Just for an alternative view on things, the NCRA (National Court Reporting Association) uses and tests by standard word count, and so do most court reporting / captioning schools. The idea is to develop your burst speed and to prepare for having to bump up your speed temporarily to keep up, which is how people normally talk… I had an experience recently sitting with a captioner for a math class (I was going along for the practice), and the teacher would go from a slooow 140 to a lightning-fast 260, then taper off down to 180. That's an extreme, but very few people talk at the steady pace that syllable count produces.

  10. Erik,

    While you were in that math class, were you writing shorthand or typing it? 260 wpm? That IS lightening. How long did you have to write like that and how long was the entire dictation? From what I've read about Simplified, it is limited to 200 wpm (according to Marc's geocities website). So, how can I expect to use my shorthand effectively when people are talking like lightening?

    – Benjamin –

  11. Erik is a very skilled machine shorthand writer.  🙂  Captioning is not easy.  It's great to see you doing so well.  I really admire real-time writers.   The Pre-Anniversary writers were very fast.  Martin Dupraw holds the record for 280 wpm with a rediculously high accuracy rate of over 95%.  The attainment of the expert speeds require automization of the the briefs, phrases, and adopting reporting style that has more briefs and advanced phrasing principles — particular classes of phrases used primarily in courtroom testimony and jury instructions.  Gregg is very flexible and can be tailored to the particular writer's area of specialty.  The same shortcut may mean different things depending on your area of specialization (legal, scientific, etc.).    I took shorthand while I was in high school.  At the end of my first year I was doing 90 wpm; by the time I finished the 2nd year I was doing 120.  If I had been smarter about my practice I could have done much better the 1st year.  Now I'm trying remind an old dog of old tricks.  🙂   Welcome to the study of shorthand.   

  12. Thanks for the kind words, AnniversaryFan 🙂 I'm not there yet, but I'm getting closer! I had to drop back down to 160-180 to work in a lot of revisions to my writing, and I'd say I won't feel truly confident working until I have a solid, real-time 225. So I'm a few steps off, still. But the changes are definitely, definitely worth it 😀

    bdg: The Wikipedia article on machine shorthand ( has a lot of good basic information on how it works. You'll quickly see it's not much like typing but more like playing a piano 🙂 I know that before I started and was a pure Gregg writer, I was very, very curious about how it all worked, so if you have any questions, it'd be my pleasure to answer them!

    I hope you don't mind this miniature thread hijacking 🙂 I did the math class when I went to school with a hard-of-hearing middle schooler. I was going to substitute for his normal captioner, but saw I wasn't quite ready yet. I went a day early to get a feel for things.
    As AnniversaryFan said, it was real-time, which meant that as I wrote on my special keyboard, it translated as I went for him to read, to provide on-the-spot captioning. To do it right, you have to be very fast and very accurate. Mistakes won't translate unless you have them defined already to come up right. It's kind of complicated how it all works, with the software and such.
    Anywho, each class was an hour long and the speed varied from sustained 160 to upwards of 240 in bursts, averaging 180-200. But captioning is such a varied field… I do a hard of hearing meeting every month that's two hours straight in the 180 neighborhood. My arms are like rubber after I'm done, let me tell you. My mentor captions seminars and all kinds of classes and meetings. She doesn't do TV. TV captioning is seen as the apogee of the field.

    If you're really ambitious and want 180+ Gregg, be prepared to work your fingers to the bone! It takes most machine writers around three/four years of nearly daily practice to get up to 225. I've been doing it for about a year and got to 200 before dropping down to improve my phrasing and add lots of shortcuts to reduce my stroke count. I think Gregg helped prepare me for machine shorthand 🙂

    You can do it though, if you really want to! There are lots of websites that provide dictation for machine writers, but which you can certainly use for your Gregg. Just keep in mind they almost all use standard word count.

  13. Ben,

    Don't let the high "real speech" speeds scare you. I'm nowhere near that and still find it useful. I'm barely at 60, and now find longhand painfully slow.

    Journalists in the UK need only 100wpm, and are taught a system that maxes out at 140. Gregg's max is higher than that, even before you start the advanced tricks.


  14. Yeah, there's no reason you'd need 98% verbatim skills, unless you plan on being very ambitious and want to do pen stenography for depositions.
    My Gregg caps out around 100-120, and I still find it very useful just because it's so much faster, more comfortable, and private to write than longhand 🙂

  15. Well, I'm sticking with Gregg Simplified 100%. No machine writing for me – despite how cleaver it is. I'm a sophomore in college majoring in Computer Engineering. My plans are to practice dictation during classes in a year or so, specialize my Gregg for Engineering words for work and use it personally! Very excited. As an update, I am now starting Chapter 2! 🙂 According to the "test" at the end of Chapter 1, I'm doing very well too. Thanks for the help so far! How can I spread the word about Gregg Shorthand? This system is far too valuable to diminish.

    – Benjamin –

    *Learning from Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified, 2nd Edition

  16. I think you're in for a great time. I was going through exactly the same process last year. I have found the lack of interest surprising. You look at the beauty and quickness of the system and you think people would be jumping all over it from the first mention, but they just politely acknowledge your hobby. I usually give them a little description on how you combine a few words to write words like dog or cat. They are like: Oh that's interesting! Then they go off to chatting about their day.

  17. AnniversaryFan1,

    Hey, I forgot to ask, what did you mean by "If I had been smarter about my practice…"? When you were learning Shorthand, what sort of things did you do wrong, didn't do and would do differently? Thanks!

    – Benjamin –

  18. Hey, Ben —   What I meant by that is:  I was initially learning Series 90.  I started to pick up Anniversary little by little.  I think that the way I was doing it caused me hesitation.  I don't think I did the homework I should have done the way it should be done.  And I didn't READ as much as I should have.  I didn't necessarily follow the suggestions for the reading and writing practice.  I'd read through the chapter's connected material pretty fast, never more than once, and then I'd set to copying.  I wouldn't read the groups of words and copy like they suggest.  I moved from outline to outline.  It was a bad habit.  I found that I'd be writing what I thought the words would be rather than what was actually written.    Now that I'm doing the review and trying to rebuild my speed, I am doing the practice more in line with what is suggested and I'm finding it more productive.  Also, even though I assimilate the principles easily, I didn't review like I should have.    If I were doing it all over again, I'd be a little less cavalier about my practice.  The more I read, the easier the writing becomes.  At this point, I can do 100 pretty easily on new matter dictation.  Since I work in a law office, my practice consists mostly of jury charge, some literary, and some two-voice Q&A.  The material is a little more dense than general business correspondence.  At least that's what I tell myself.  🙂   If after three years I was writing 140 with the bad habits I had, I feel that if I had actually been more concentrated in my practice, I could have done better.    And for your edification, I had a coworker at the courthouse who wrote Simplified.  With very few adoptions of briefs for the legal work we did, she wrote pure Simplified and she wrote faster than I did.  Her notes were ALWAYS readable to me.  When I was working late and transcribing my minute entries, I would grab her notebook and check my work with her notes.  Simplified has very good speed capabilities and is an excellent version of the system. 

  19. Hey Ben, I'm gonna say a little about how I got into Gregg, specifically anniversary because I remember it was really hard for me to decide on which version etc, so I think you might be going through this as well.

    I was looking for something that didn't abbreviate much at first. I had this fear of abbreviations as trying to 'guess' what the word is from my experiences with an alphabetical shorthand EasyScript, when I was around 16. I found a Gregg rip-off called HandyWrite, which basically took the basic principles of Gregg and butchered them to the point of nausea. Of course I didn't realise that at the time. I was too concerned that Gregg would have "blended strokes" and "missing vowels" that would make the writing ambiguous.

    Well suffice to say, I finished the HandyWrite manual (which is basically some online lessons on a webpage) and wasn't too impressed, so I decided to go Anniversary. I had heaps of time (I was on my gap year)! For the first month or so, I was constantly questioning a new rule, whether I actually needed to know a certain abbreviation, or a certain prefix. I felt that I am burdening my memory.

    Suffice to say I got over it. I finished the manual in like 4 months (remember I had no work, no study, only a little volunteering so I had all the time in the world, this might not be your circumstance). While the 400 or so brief forms sounded intimidating at first, you take it one at a time. While the prefix and suffix rules seem foreign, you warm up to them.

    I found access to reading material that really got me through the 4month – 12month period where my shorthand learning was complete but my confidence and penmanship needed a lot of work. After you finish the manual, your shorthand study is by far not over, and you need to read well-written shorthand and lots of it to cement good practice, the phrasing techniques and all the idiosyncracies of shorthand into your head.

    I hope I didn't sound too preachy, but this was my story, and I found that while my study of the manual was great, it only lasted 4 months, and then I needed reading material to keep my interest and raise my confidence, and Anniversary has a lot of it. Alice in Wonderland, The Great Stone Face, Graded Readings, Letters from a Merchant, Speed Drills by Zoubek (an absolutely brilliant book of 600 pages of material) and Gregg Writer Magazines (I was lucky to get 18 of them in one eBay auction.)

Leave a Reply