Meeting Study Buddy in Three Days

I finally asked in a local, general-purpose online group if anyone is interested in learning / reviewing shorthand.

On Thursday afternoon I’m meeting with a retired medical secretary who studied Pitman. I’m not sure if I’ll switch or not — I’ve made so much progress in Gregg, and have a decent library — but regardless of what happens, at least we’ll both be making progress rather than watching it slip week after week.

(by Cricket for


11 comments Add yours
  1. I'd be interested in your reaction to Pitman after exposure. I have several introductory and intermediate New Era books in my library, but each time I begin my interest wanders and I go back to the "Expert" Gregg books. It may be me, but I'm so used to Gregg and the abbreviations it's just (IMHO) more fun than Pitman. Remember that Shaw based Henry Higgins on a fancied impression of Sir Isaac. LOL.

  2. I actually made it 1/3 of the way through an NE Pitman book once, and used it in personal notes with no longhand backup. I found the text much easier to read because the shapes were more mechanical. A middle-length line could always be drawn by the same ruler. There's more ?specificity? in the vowels, which I found comforting. (Then I learned Anni Gregg's diacriticals do the same thing). On the other hand, they rarely use that extra specificity, and even if you know which vowel it is, half the time you can't tell where it goes! (Gregg often leaves out vowels, but not to the same extreme.) I also found the circle-in-a-loop hard to do — so tiny! — and always came out of the loops at the wrong angle. Then we have things like BL, where you do the L hook _before_ the B line! (Might be N hook, but you get the picture.)

    Gregg isn't perfect, either. Almost every text author has a different idea of "horizontal", and most new students complain that line lengths aren't consistent. The "perfect model" is harder to visualize, since it's made of eliptical curves rather than geometric shapes. It's harder to judge your own writing at the early stages.

    I'd say their respective pros and cons balance out. After much experimentation, including Teeline and Forkner (which I learned thoroughly but never worked on speed for), I decided to go with Gregg because of the active group. At this point, I've made so much progress that I'll probably stay with Gregg.

  3. Pretty good!

    She's going to work through a Pitman text from the beginning. I'm going to do Gregg.

    We couldn't get Cepstral running on her machine, which was annoying, but she'll type and email passages and I'll record them.

    We dictated to each other, just watching pen speed and keeping a bit ahead of it. You're right, dictation from a real human is very different from machine. When I get closer to normal speech speed, I want to try it again. (But I still say machine is more convenient, and easier than finding someone to dictate at a specific slow speed.)

    I tried reading the Pitman book, but my Pitman was too rusty, so she typed up a transcript of the first chapter. We'll look for a Pitman book that has transcripts. I already had transcripts from my machine dictation.

    We'll meet every Thursday.

    Friday, I spent about six hours overdoing it again, trying to get a bunch of files recorded for myself, (and then realizing I made a mistake, so redoing them, x 3). I've got a better system now. I also spent another $30 ($20 of that being shipping, and another unknown amount for customs) on books. When I finally put pen to paper, I realized I hadn't lost as much speed as I'd thought — half the tracks weren't necessary!

  4. Cricket, your comments are very interesting.

    Like you, I too finished about one third of Pitman theory. My conclusions on the most difficult parts of Pitman were somewhat different from yours, but conversations held with Pitman writers have revealed the fact that each Pitman writer has a weakness, an area of Pitman Shorthand that was not fully learnt.

    I would like to continue to hear about your endeavors in honing your Gregg writing skills.
    I experimented with Gregg once for a brief time years ago, but found that executing the strokes was difficult for me. In my case, my print has always been both easier to execute and more legible, so I think this predilection carried over into Shorthand. (I am convinced that good printers make better Pitman writers, while good cursive writers make better Gregg writers, although admittedly this remains a theory.)

  5. Watching her, she often paused between shapes in a each outline. I suspect that's because she's rusty. In Gregg, you can't hesitate between shapes and still get a decent outline. This makes it harder at the beginning.

    The first time I forced my speed with Gregg, my penmanship actually improved! All those pointers about how long and wavy to make the lines, and subtle changes of angle ("subtle" doesn't exist in Pitman) felt much more natural than they had while copying them slowly.

    I suspect Gregg writers are the same: The weaknesses vary. My current weakness is horizontal line lengths. I'm pretty good with diagonal and vertical — the lines on the paper help a lot — but

    I'm an example against your theory. My printing has always been neater, but while in school, writing every day, my cursive was more than good enough. (Now that I rarely touch a pen except for shorthand, I have to work to write neatly in cursive, but printing is fine.) I was never fast at full-caps, the way draftsmen do it.

    Now, I need to do another 7 minutes to make my goal of 15 minutes from dictation each day. (I don't observe Lent, but a friend who does said adding a discipline, while less common than giving something up, counts, so I've joined her.)

  6. "Watching her, she often paused between shapes in a each outline. I suspect that's because she's rusty. ."

    In Pitman, there would always be some kind of a pause between shapes. If you want to think in terms of printing, for example, no matter how fast you can print, you'll still have to pause a little to cross the "x", the "t", or even finish the "k". With practice, of course, the length of time between those pauses drops rather dramatically.

    One real strength in the system is paradoxically also its purported biggest weakness, viz., the position-writing, the shading, the various ways of writing one sound etc., For example, I can distinguish the words "look" and "like" without inserting vowels by writing in position, or distinguish the words "pens" and "pence" by which version of "n" I use. This isn't as hard as it sounds; it becomes instinctive after a while. These tricks enable the writer to dispense nearly all vowels in the advanced version of the system.

    Another point to consider is that Pitman relies a whole lot more on phrasing than Gregg (as opposed to abbreviation). This is probably the biggest speed-increaser in the whole Pitman bag of tricks. Unfortunately, phrasing is done mostly with shortforms, and I can tell you from direct experience that the memory for the short forms is the first to go. I can still read full words I've written in Pitman with ease—even years later—but the short forms have disappeared in the mists of memory. Hence, I am no longer a reliable transcriber of Pitman Shorthand, especially passages written in the advanced version of the system.

    Sometimes, while perusing this website, I've felt envious of Gregg-writers with Gregg's liberal rules towards abbreviation. This seems to be encouraged in Gregg Shorthand, but arbitrary abbreviation in Pitman would render transcription very difficult unless the abbreviations were done by an expert…

    Good luck to you in your endeavors. I remain interested in hearing of your progress in this tantalizing, but quickly disappearing art.

  7. She was pausing between connected shapes, not diacriticals or decorations.

    Gregg does rely a lot on phrasing, but maybe it's brought in slower. We even leave out entire words! (Mantra: Must have faith it will work.) Phrasing is done by attaching existing words and short forms together, rather than inventing a whole new symbol, at least for the core. Advanced writers, though, will often abbreviate even more. "Gentlemen of the jury" is "J-J".

    I found reading ahead in Pitman helped learn the brief forms. Instead of an arbitrary symbol (eg dark, short, <) it became "th(hard)-t". There wasn't as much of that messed-up-order in Gregg, although I remember DJS introduced "the" way before "th".

    Even so, Pitman did have some symbols which seemed arbitrary, but are actually hold-overs from earlier editions. I forget which symbol it is, but very few words used that sound, and it was close-enough to another, that it was discontinued. One of those words, though, was incredibly common, so that shape was the short form for that word, and it stayed that way. So, as far as new students were concerned, it was arbitrary.

    Most of Gregg's phrases include short forms. They're groups of common words, and common words have short forms. The "reverse dictionary" is indespensible at times! I sometimes list each "letter" in a shape, then list all the possibilities under each letter. Then go, "Duh! Obvious!"

  8. "Even so, Pitman did have some symbols which seemed arbitrary, but are actually hold-overs from earlier editions. I forget which symbol it is, but very few words used that sound, and it was close-enough to another, that it was discontinued. One of those words, though, was incredibly common, so that shape was the short form for that word, and it stayed that way. So, as far as new students were concerned, it was arbitrary."

    This sounds like either the word for "what" (which is shaped like a backward"c"), "when" (which is shaped like a normal "c"),. It could also be the symbol for "why", which is shaped like a right angle and cannot be reproduced here.

    The symbol for "what" and "when" was widely used in Pre-New Era editions, but is now used only under special, unusual situations. The symbol for "why" isn't used at all anymore in normal writing; it has been rendered obsolete, but it used to be used in situations of words beginning with "W-I", such as "wife"….

    It might be annoying to the student that these short forms seem arbitrary, but they cannot be mistaken for anything else because their placement is unique.

    "She was pausing between connected shapes, not diacriticals or decorations."

    I understand what you mean, Cricket; it's the pause between symbols in words like "pack" or "touch", etc—words in which two straight strokes join each other…

  9. Sounds like you've done more than "about one third of Pitman theory"! I find the evolution and what each had to say about the other's system fascinating — not enough to learn for an exam, but it shows how inexact the science really is, and a lot about humans. Sometimes the arguments between versions are bigger than the ones between systems!

  10. Well, Cricket, there's no doubt that pre-New Era versions were hopelessly obtuse; Dr. Gregg's arguments were "spot on" in that respect, although he did stretch the truth on other issues. But I think it's safe to say that there's otherwise little internecine disagreement in the merits of the different systems because they were designed for different purposes. New Era, for example, fit the needs of a court reporter very well; Pitman 2000 was introduced after the need for pen court reporters had subsided, and is about as easy as, say, Diamond Jubilee.

    It seems as if Gregg went through more evolutions than Pitman based on cursory investigation, but perhaps these evolutions were less drastic that the Pitman ones. (Pre-New Era and New Era texts are mutually unintelligible, for example.)

    Anyway, perhaps we'd better get back to the topic of Gregg. Since this is a forum about Gregg, I don't know how much more Pitman-talk the moderators will tolerate.

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