Pleasant Surprise

Today, while signing up for NCRA membership (I am trying to become certified as a CART provider), I was pleasantly surprised. In the drop down menu in which a prospective member would select his/her stenography method to be tested on, I noticed that Gregg and Pitman were both listed along side “Machine.” I found it intriguing since nowadays a stenographer who does not employ machine shorthand is basically unheard of (though apparently as of 1996 at the age of 90, Mr. Dupraw was still working as probably the last real pen stenographer).

It made me go back and think of how much more time and effort it took me to work up to a useful speed in Gregg than it did for me to gain speed in steno writing (took me a good 6 months to reach 80 wpm in Gregg while it took me just 3 to get to a fairly consistent 130wpm in steno). Though this could be attributed to the fact that I knew a pen system and the underlying general stenographic principles prior to learning to write on the machine. Nonetheless I feel that I now understand the dedication and pure genius of the legendary writers like Gregg himself, Zoubek, Schneider, Swem, Dupraw, and the others.
It was also one of those “How the hell did they live back then without microwaves/cars/the internet/video games/TV/electricity?” moments. With steno, a computer translates your raw shorthand into English instantaneously and untranslated outlines are almost always legible to the writer unless s/he completely botched it. You don’t have to retype everything from scratch nor will find yourself trying to decipher from context stray dashes or sloppy squiggles whose proportions lie exactly between a K and a G or a V and an F. Anyone who is comfortable enough with Gregg or any other pen system to tackle an NCRA test at speeds of 250wpm present day would not only earn my respect, but also my official recognition as “ballin’ and shot callin’.”
I can only hope that one day I’ll be good enough at Gregg to walk into an RPR certification test with just my fountain pen and steno book. 
Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know that at least according to the NCRA, Gregg is not officially “dead” yet :P.

(by Stan
for group greggshorthand)


32 comments Add yours
  1. If you're referring to the NYT article on the great Mr. Dupraw, I'd say there's nothing to apologize for. 🙂

    This is indeed good news! I've also wondered whether any States still recognize shorthand court reporters on their books. If so, I have delusions of one day walking in and asking to take their certification test. Not that I'd actually use it, but it would be the crowning glory for a Gregg enthusiast! This of course would be quite a ways down the road.

    Thanks for the note!

  2. I can't imagine not having that option for court reporting certification. I imagine very few people try the test with shorthand, but it is important to keep that option open. Else one throws away a whole beautiful tradition. After all, the NCRA used to be the NSRA, the S for Shorthand.

    I had not read the article, either. Thanks for posting it, Stan! I assume Dupraw is no longer with us. I would be interested in knowing when he passed, if he has (he'd be, what, 104?). Any obituaries out there?

  3. Just a shoutout to a fellow machine stenographer 🙂 I did CART for a year before going over to broadcast captioning.
    When I was in school, I got my Gregg up to 120wpm simultaneously with my machine shorthand. My school allowed me to test in both (even made special certificates for my Gregg when I passed a speed). Then 140s were so hard that I focused on that and stopped improving my pen shorthand. Isn't it funny how 140/160 is like the blargggdeath speed that pen and machine shorthand writers get stuck at alike? I seem to recall reading an article about Gregg speedbuilding that said that was a very tough speed for pen writers.
    My theory is that it's the point where hesitation really starts to kill your speed and things have to start becoming somewhat automatic to keep up.

  4. Well, Dupraw will be remembered for sure — at least in our circle. But that's good enough, right?

    @duckfiasco: Yeah I totally agree with you there. I am a completely homestudy steno student — as in I've come up from ground zero to 130wpm without stepping foot in a court reporting school. I basically bought a steno machine, software, downloaded a stock dictionary, held my breath and jumped right into it. But it's been tough lately because I'm totally entering that stage at which speed gains are beginning to occur progressively more asymptotically. My Gregg writing is in the 90-100wpm range, which arguably for pen systems is a plateau speed. I've been trying to keep up with Gregg but it's hard to devote a lot of time to it because I already have a lot on my plate; I am training myself this summer to get CART certified and then moving on to becoming a simultaneous interpreter-captioner (listening to words in different languages and realtime translating them into subtitles in English. NOT EASY :[ ).

    But I figure if I just practice Gregg consistently and use it for my lectures, the speed should come automatically or at least I will be able to maintain what I have now until I have more time to drill it.

    On a side note, does anyone know where I can get more writing samples by Zoubek? I really, really like his handwriting in this scan in particular. Though one can immediately tell it was written quite swiftly, it has a rounded/smooth aspect to it that is very distinct from anything I've seen in any of the manuals. His loops and curves are very aesthetically pleasing, almost "pretty" and it looks as though he tends to avoid making very sharp turns and angles. I'd really like to see more of his stuff so that I could perhaps adopt his writing style.

    @stenografio, mcbud, greggstudent: No problem! I just thought it was amazing that someone who won the 1925 championship was around well into the nineties still writing faster than anyone I know.

  5. Hi, Staniel. Just out of curiosity, are you currently at 130wpm? I've talked to many students who've been interested in CART anywhere from 140 to 225wpm and my advice to all of them has been to wait until they pass their last 225 before even thinking about it. I won't write a huge post about it just in case I misunderstood 🙂

    That's so cool though that you've done it on your own. I went to a school until 180s then finished at home with an online program and worked on my realtime at home as well. Which theory did you learn? 🙂

  6. Mr. Zoubek contributed outlines for Speed Drills in Gregg Shorthand and Functional Method Dictation (as did the great Mr. Dupraw.) He also wrote all of the outlines for Brief-Form Drills. I've seen his name listed for several others, but these are the only ones I can speak for.

    I have a framed photo of Mr. Dupraw by my desk, as a continuous reminder of what I strive for. 🙂

  7. Rounded angles are a staple of fast writing — one should avoid stops in corners when taking dictation. In the books, however, the writing is done to good penmanship standards so that one can get a good mental picture of the outline and emulate it. Zoubek had excellent "book-quality" penmanship, and that's why you can still read his dictated notes at fast speed.

    FYI, rounding of angles is discussed in the first edition of Gregg Speed Studies, Speed Study XII.

  8. He wrote many other books as well. Most of his plate work was before Charles Rader came into the scene. Mr. Rader wrote the plates of one Anniversary book (I can't recall which one it was); most of the plates for the Anni books were written by Zoubek, Leslie, Mrs. Richmond, and Mrs. Ramsey.

  9. @duckfiasco: I won't actually seek employment providing CART until I'm at least 250 maybe up to the 260 range. I do not believe in attempting to provide a service for which I am not adequately prepared. But I am confident I will get there considering I've got to where I am by myself in three months whereas I've talked to people who have been stenoing for 1+ years in school and are still stuck at 100 or even 80wpm.

    I started with Phoenix, moved to StenED, then finally migrated to a bastard child of Philly and Magnum. 🙂

    I pretty much have a brief for everything. 😛

  10. Hm, I will have to look around in the myriad of scans posted here. Too poor to be surfing around ebay as none of the local libraries have any shorthand books other than the Diamond Jubilee series. (I write Anniversary).

    Thanks guys.

  11. Good man, Staniel 😉 I've seen too many students go "well I can't pass 140s/180s/225s so I'll just do CART". I did it for about a year after getting my RPR and some days still mopped the floor with me. You don't necessarily need to be testing 250/260 to do it. I think once you have a solid 225, you can start getting some nice real-time going 🙂
    Interesting that you have a little bit of everything! I'm a Phoenix writer with some modifications.
    Best of luck with your speedbuilding! Getting to 225s was one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do, but if I can do it, so can you 😀

  12. Thanks for the encouragement! I'm stenoing Kanye as we speak. Yeah, I actually have corresponded with a CART provider in New York — Mirabai for a while and she's been immensely helpful in guiding me in the right direction towards the career and she also shares our position with unqualified providers. I couldn't imagine a 140's student attempting CART.

    "So, once electrons from the /KAR/BOBGS/EUL group attacks the hal general on the third carbon…[drop drop drop] … is going to gain a partial positive charge and the 1 2 di chlorine /O meth thane will form because the /PWEPBZ/AOEPB that was added…[drop drop]"

    Yeah, a catastrophe for the client.

    I actually moved away from the Phoenix theory because I felt it was to steno what Series 90 is to Gregg. Maybe they teach it differently in school but at least in the manual, there were very few briefs, everything was phonetically stroked out and it used too many vowels. I have a couple remnants from Phoenix that I still use today: TH- = the, TPRAUPL = from, -DZ = said, but for the most part I use Philly and Magnum conventions so that on average every other stroke is a two-worder (or sometimes more e.g.: KWRO*RPLT = I don't really want — and yes, I actually use this one fairly frequently.)

    I liken it to what happened to me with Gregg; I started with DJ and the simplified manual 'cause it was easily available at libraries and bookstores but I eventually converted over to Anniversary (and sometimes pre-Anniv shortcuts) because to me it was just writing things out phonetically with a different alphabet. Why stroke out TKE/SAOEUD/-D if you could just stroke STKAO*EUD? Provided one does not hesitate, my obvious choice would be the one-stroker. But along the lines of what Mr. Swem said in some article I read here a couple days ago, a speedy stenographer isn't a man of an infinitely long list of briefs, but rather a man who has thoroughly mastered his system as to never second guess his outlines (or finger configurations in our case). I just happen to memorize and employ briefs fairly quickly, even if they are completely arbitrary and not based on phonetics or pneumonics whatsoever so I benefit from a lot of them; but to each his own.

    Since you obviously have to write *extremely* fast to do B.C., do you write Phoenix fairly faithfully or do you use common briefs like the -FS phrases for "was" and the -RP for "were?" I heard on depoman that it has a fairly real speed cap.

    What happens when you encounter words you don't know? I don't know how to input text from my steno machine with macros and stuff like I hear some captioners do. :(.

    Also, this may be a long shot but I remember watching videos way back of CART in action on youtube from someone in OR. I can't help but now wonder if it was you?

    Sorry to everyone else. I seem to have gotten severely off topic :(.

  13. Thanks, McBud! Though I feel that in those scans, his writing isn't nearly as pretty. Hm.
    Well, it's good reading practice 'cause it looks like he likes to abbreviate the hell out of everything. :P.

    I don't think I can even read the first 5 outlines in his Roosevelt notes. :

  14. What a small world!! I know Mirabai too. Great lady 😀

    You know what my problem with Phoenix is… the manuals! There are so many great briefs and phrases, but they're presented in supplemental books, so you never hear about them. I never even knew about the extra materials until I got out of school. Now I'm discovering lots of gems I can use in my captioning work.

    Things like -FS and -RP are really a basic part of Phoenix, not add-ons (AFAIK every machine theory uses those). I do use lots of phrases and briefs, mostly additions to Phoenix or slight modifications, like *F for -have so I can use *FB for -have been.

    The thing about Depoman is that lots of folks are of the write-as-short-as-possible camp, so they see a theory like Phoenix (which is actually shorter than other vanilla theories) and bash the heck out of it. I know other captioners and a CART provider who use Phoenix. And believe it or not, my captioning mentor doesn't phrase at ALL. And she's one of the company's top captioners. "Stroke-intensive" is more a talking point to sell Stenomaster, not a make-or-break thing. At least in my opinion 🙂

    And yes, those CART videos on Youtube were me, if it's the plain black window with text and lectures going on. I've been meaning to make more, but I get really nervous when I record videos of myself for some reason… maybe because people can play back the same mistakes over and over again 😛

    When I encounter words I don't know, they're usually already in there because Phoenix has a ginormous stock dictionary. When it's made-up words (like ginormous) or names, I either fingerspell them or use prefixes/suffixes to piece them together. It's definitely one of the challenging parts about captioning/CART, but you can get the hang of it 😀 I also fingerspell homonyms I'm not sure how to write for a correct translation, like "tulle" or "hoar".

    Sorry for the thread hijack everyone!!

  15. You may also want to take a look at this post: Lest We Forget. It features Roosevelt's Day of Infamy speech, taken by Mr. Zoubek listening to the radio at the headquarters of the Gregg Publishing Company, in NYC.

    Do you have a copy of one of the Anniversary Gregg Speed Building books? This book had four Anniversary editions: 1932, 1938, 1940, 1941 and 1943, with high school and college versions for the 1940-1943 editions. The shorthand in the 1932 edition was written by Mrs. Richmond, while the shorthand in the other editions was written by Mr. Zoubek. I highly recommend the college version of the 1943 edition (Gregg Speed Building for Colleges), reprinted in 1946. And if you enjoy Mr. Zoubek's writing, you would certainly enjoy what I consider the holy grail of shorthand books: Gregg Shorthand Reporting Course, by C. L. Swem. The plates in this book were written by Mr. Zoubek as well. Here is a scan of Page 250.

  16. Maybe it's only within college circles where my friend's adage holds true: "If you don't have a facebook, you might as well not exist."

    Crazy the extent to which our culture has become mechanized and electronified. But then again, that's another reason as to why simple little skills requiring no handheld devices like shorthand seem so impressive.

  17. Try . It's a site where individual used book stores can post their inventory. Much cheaper than EBay. Most Gregg books are under $5. Shipping varies. I keep a list of interesting books on hand. When I "have to have" a book, I look for a store that has others on my list to save shipping.

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