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  1. It always interested me how Swem was such a proponent of simplification. But I believe that tendency to be more of practicality and advancing the system. This same argument is made in the machine shorthand world between writers of Phoenix Theory (the simplified and regulated system) and the writers of Stenomaster/Magnum Steno (the memory-heavy system based off of older reporting theories, with less regulation, and a brief for nearly every phrase and word). The writers of the latter system produce a tremendous speed and with few strokes, claiming that the mental strain is not considerable enough to warrant simplification. The writers of the former system claim that the lack of hesitation to produce strokes evenly, logically, and correctly, is more important and can be maintained for just as long a time. I think these two camps will always exist in stenography: "simplified/regular/easy-to-iron-out hesitation vs. short/irregular/hard-to-iron-out hesitation."

  2. I agree Andrew. If a person cannot write outlines automatically, it doesn't matter how small the actual outline is, the person will be slower. I definitely like the way the Simplified manual was rearranged for learning. I also like the better use of analogical endings. I still believe, though, that some "simplifications" were a little too far. (For example, you can see how they had to reintroduce the word "manufacture" as a brief form in DJS!). Especially, the almost complete erradication of the abbreviating principle to me was a big mistake.

  3. The reason I like pre-simplified Gregg is that not that the forms are shorter, but because they are easier to write. Even though Simplified is easier on the mind, it is harder for the hand. I love the way that shorthand is taught in Simplified and on, but I really wish there were a book that used that method to teach a pre-simplified version.

  4. So true that those two camps still exist today, as evidenced by the fact that I hear that same argument made to death on court reporting forums. As a Phoenix writer myself, I think it's misrepresented since it has plenty of briefs and phrases, but how many students take the time to learn them? It's much easier for students to blame their lack of advancement on the theory's design than their own inadequate practice or study, or even just admitting that building speed is HARD. I think most theories, machine and pen alike, are efficient enough to get you to 225. But it boils down to how you prefer to balance the mental and physical aspects: steady and smooth with a lighter mental load, or slower but less even with a heavier mental load?
    I like a more middle-of-the-road approach, with reducing hesitation being the top contributor to speed and savvy use of briefs/phrases helping give you that extra edge. When I caption news, I regularly average 230wpm and often hit above 300wpm. Let me tell you, all the briefs in the world will not save you at those speeds if you hesitate even a split second. I imagine this is just as true for pen shorthand, and I can just hear the stuck 140s pen students back in the day talking about this or that great phrase that would help them finally pass the test.

  5. Nice article.

    I disagree with Swem about living becoming more complicated. Just read Little House in the Big Woods, where Laura explains how Ma makes corn meal, cheese, soap, straw hats, etc. On the other hand, I just got a new cell phone. Half the menu items aren't in the manual, and half the things in the manual aren't on the phone.

    I like how Swem (and Gregg) were willing to revisit their early assumptions about abbreviations and small outlines. Many people claim to have "scientifically" to developed their systems (e.g., some alternative medicines). My first reaction to Gregg's use of the term was uncomplimentary, but that's changed.

    Gregg did use science. He used whatever method was available to make a first theory (hypothesis). Then he tested it and, most importantly, if the test showed that the first theory was wrong, he changed it. Then he created a new theory and repeated the process.

    Gregg also benefited by having many high speed testers for several versions. He learned that the features that make a shorthand easy to learn aren't the ones that let you reach high speeds, and that some some (not all) features which seemed to make high speed easier were un-necessarily complicated for all but the most advanced writers.

    I think Simplified can lead to more hesitation, since it isn't obvious that you need to memorize the outlines. You can create them on the fly! Anni has lists of outlines to memorize. The student/teacher in me hates how they do one or two from each family in each chapter (such as the combinations and permutations of e, s and p), but by obscuring those relationships they encourage students to memorize them rather than think about patterns.

    The abbreviating principle scares me more than any other bit of theory. You need to be confident that another word isn't lurking in the background, ready to jump out at you weeks later and claim the spot of the intended word. This is a place where reading shorthand in many fields written by others pays off. Yes, you really can read those outlines.

    I'm still tempted to write Anni outlines, even though I switched to Simplified. At my stage, a few extra twists and turns take a lot of time. On the other hand, those twists and turns occur in so many other words that improving my pen control overall is still necessary.

  6. I would think that the two camps could be compared by a series of speed/accuracy tests. Incidentally, which of the two machine systems mentioned above regularly tests at a faster and more accurate speed? Also, which system do the top stenographers use, and which system is the most widely used? These should be excellent indicators of the advantages or disadvantages of systems with more brief forms and abbreviating devices.

    From what I read on all the Gregg sites, it seems that no version of Gregg has been proven faster than the original (or Anniversary). Is that not a generally accepted notion? If so, then where is the evidence that "simplified" systems with fewer brief forms can actually out-perform these earlier systems? People can speculate all day on how long the brain might take to remember a brief form and tell the hand to write it, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the performance.

    One final note, I think "simplified" is a misnomer. When I consider the outline for "girl", for example, the original form is much more simplified than the "simplified" version. The concept of a single outline, like a single spoken word, is much more simple than the concept of that same single word broken up and spread out into multiple letters or phonemes. When we speak fluently, we hear the words as units, not the letters. In that sense, systems that use more brief forms are word-based, while more "simplified" versions are letter-based (or more properly, phoneme-based). It seems that a "simplified" system that requires you to slow the flow to accommodate a bit-stream of letters may take up less memory, but the bandwidth, and therefore, the data transfer speed will always be more limited.

    I think brief forms simplify my concept of shorthand. I'm not a fluent writer yet, but once I learn a brief form, there is less of an outline to store in my mind, so the image of the brief outline is recalled more quickly than outlines that are merely letters strung together. I do want to learn to read the other versions, though, so I can enjoy the material that people have been uploading!

  7. In truth I'd be very surprised if veteran writer Swem actually discarded all the shortcuts he'd been employing for years and wrote everything in the 1949 Simplified version. I emphatically agree with mcbud that discarding "the abbreviation principle" in its entirety was not a good move. Since pen stenography is no longer widely taught or used, it's probably impossible to arrange formal speed tests between skilled Simplified and skilled Anniversary writers, but I'd be willing to wager those who used the pre-1949 Gregg would score far better in accuracy on long takes than their competition.

  8. re: mcbud's mentioning trial testimony… I did see a neat form for "that's right" that I didn't see in the manual. The reporter wrote "that" and then continued the loop again back down to the line of writing; essentially writing "right" in reverse and rotated counterclockwise about 135 degrees, so it ends up looking like a mirror image of "that". Pretty neat. That is an incredibly common phrase in speech. It definitely warrants a brief form.

    I also like the things you all posted from the Gregg reader written by Rader featuring more brief forms. Those are neat too.

  9. Trace9r, the thing is that at least for machine shorthand, there's such a huge range in contributing factors to speed that no comparison could really be made. You'd have to find two people that knew their theories equally well, had the same level of experience, etc. etc. and then how would you account for psychological factors like "good/bad writing days" or hesitation or if the material is more difficult for one than it is for another? Writing theory itself is just the medium for the writer. It's like comparing acrylic to oils and asking which one is more efficient for painting. For the record, the author of this short theory has placed in the top 10 of realtime contests… but not in the top 5.

    At least anecdotally from a machine stenographer's perspective, I had so many phrases at one point that it was actually hampering my captioning speed because I'd have to first listen for the long phrases and then manage to wrap my fingers around them. I have since broken up long phrases like "he could have been" into "he / could have been" and the like and gotten rid of complex and involved outlines in favor of two simpler strokes. No one would say my 230wpm average newscasts with bursts above 300wpm at 98.5% accuracy are slow or cumbersome.

    And incidentally, the Stenomaster theory came out and its main selling point has been that it uses less strokes than traditional theories (which have been producing excellent reporters/captioners for decades). So the author has spread the concept of "stroke intensiveness" to sell his theory and it's caught on like wildfire. People seem to forget that folks have been getting along just fine with "extra strokes" for decades.

    I think it's akin to saying Eclectic Shorthand is more efficient than Gregg because it contains more information per stroke and can be done with less movements of the pen. But which one is more challenging on the memory and the accuracy of complex strokes? Pure mechanical movement is only half the story when it comes to speed. Gregg said as much in several speed building books, if I'm not mistaken.

  10. @ mcbud: Actually I was referring to these notes on Andrew's page:


    It looks like a little bow tied. It's only "that" and "right", but the word "right" is almost upside down, and written in reverse.

    @duckfiasco: I think comparisons are ok to make between systems… as rational beings, we can't seem to help making comparisons. And I agree that comparing systems based on two stenographers performances is insufficient to come to any conclusion. But with wide usage, usually the most efficient system consistently performs better.

    I'm not sure I follow your painting analogy… art and aesthetics are purely subjective to the artist, so his medium of choice is subjective, but shorthand can be measured in words per minute and accuracy. So different theories of shorthand, put into practice by people should yield different measurable results. Not between just two people, but many people.

    I agree that it is pretty much impossible to analyze how each individual's delivery of each system is influenced by hesitation, memory, etc. etc. but in the end, speed and accuracy speak to the success of each system respectively.

    I also agree that to hit the other extreme of 100% brief forms for words/phrases would be memory overload. However, the trend in pen stenography over time has been from an original system that was fast, to slower systems with fewer brief forms. I think reduction in speed and number of brief forms is related.

    I'm not really knowledgeable of machine stenography to comment on that, though. I'm sure people were getting along fine with extra strokes before this Stenomaster theory came out that you mentioned. The interesting question is, will the average high-end speeds increase overall with this new system, or decrease? The answer may speak to this discussion regarding abbreviating devices relating to higher speeds.

  11. You don't really need to "learn" to read other versions. Once you learn Anniversary or Pre-Anniversary, you can read any version of Gregg. Probably one of the most difficult things to read are the business letters of early 20th century, but once you know the special phrases of those, it shouldn't be that difficult. (The letters from Gregg Speed Practice published in 1906, are good for learning those seldom used phrases.) Another hard thing to read is trial testimony, but once you learn the additional shortcuts for those, such as those appearing in the Gregg Reporter and in Gregg Reporting Shortcuts, you should be fine.

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