Former Platewriter

Glad to have found this site! I learned Gregg Shorthand (Diamond Jubilee Series) when I was in college preparing to be a business ed. teacher. Shortly after college, I worked as a shorthand platewriter for McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. I held this position for about two years before I was replaced with computers and laser printers that could recall digitized shorthand outlines.

(by Robert for group greggshorthand)

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  1. Here is some additional information.

    Some of you may be aware of a video titled, "Shorthand: See Them Write." One of my college instructors at UW – Whitewater, Dr. Mary Margaret Hosler, decided to remake the video shortly after I graduated from college. After the video was produced, Dr. Gregg Condon, from UW – Eau Claire, sent some of my script work to McGraw-Hill to be considered for platewriting. Apparently Jerome Edelman no longer worked for McGraw-Hill, and they were looking to replace him. That summer, a UW – Eau Claire grad and I went to New York City to learn platewriting skills from Charles Zoubek. We trained with him at the NYC office as well as at his home. The Eau Claire grad didn't continue the work, but I did and returned again the following summer. During my two years of platewriting employment, I wrote Series 90 plates for Gregg Taquigrafia Dictado y Transcripcion, the 1985-86 and 1986-87 Gregg Tests and Awards booklets, a unit in Exploratory Business by Grubbs and Ashmun, and selections for the December 1986 and April 1987 issues of Today's Secretary. My final project was to write one word each on a 3×5 card … basically the Series 90 dictionary. Each card was scanned, and the plates were then created by retrieving the digitized images in the necessary order. My platewriting career ended there. After that, any publication containing Series 90 or Centennial shorthand outlines no longer included my name as the platewriter. Personally, I still use shorthand almost every day.

  2. You are correct that the "flow" doesn't seem natural with the piecing together process. I also remember accommodations being made for the computerized process. Each 3×5 card contained a small box outlined in blue. I was instructed to write the shorthand outline inside this box. As you can well imagine, some words didn't fit; e.g., vegetable. I was told they would accommodate for the size problem. When I saw a finished product, I noticed that the accommodation meant that they reduced the size of the entire outline so that it would fit on the line. There were quite a few accommodations made due to the digitization process. It was frustrating.

  3. Charles Zoubek … I was constantly in awe of him. He was so incredibly personable and very focused on making sure that we developed decent enough skill to continue the tradition of high-quality script in the publications. We practiced and wrote for hours. Of course, the instruction was much different from what a teacher would focus on in a classroom setting. Here we were trying to develop a more artistic approach to the writing. Whenever we produced a decent outline, Charlie would say, "It's a thing of joy and beauty to behold forever." When we went to his house for lessons, we would first have lunch on back patio, then have our lesson … on the back patio. We took the train from NYC to Connecticut. I miss him. He was a wonderful man.

  4. For the Spanish editions, the company employed a woman who wrote all of the text in shorthand. She sent the drafts to me, and I rewrote them in my handwriting using special paper and pens we used for platewriting. I have never learned Spanish, and it is amazing that I could have written those plates never having known what I was writing.

  5. The platewriting process made use of special paper … thicker stock and with a glossy finish (much like photograph paper). The pens were a special brand with ink that was extremely dense. If I wanted to make a correction, I would rewrite an outline on another piece of paper, cut it out, and paste it into position using rubber cement. (Yes, old-fashioned cutting and pasting.) I'm pretty particular, so it was difficult for me to eventually give up and send the work to NYC. I just never felt it was good enough. My handwriting hardly compares in quality to Jerome Edelman's or Charles Zoubek's. Because the outlines had to be of consistent thickness, we had to work at not releasing the pen too quickly at the end of an outline, thereby creating a "feather" finish. Conversely, we had to work at not holding the pen so tightly to the paper that the final stroke of an outline ended with an ink dot. It's not quite as easy as one would think. Taking dictation is much easier than writing plates.

  6. Another interesting tidbit … I mentioned Dr. Gregg Condon from UW – Eau Claire as the person who submitted my script for platewriting consideration. Dr. Condon's first name is actually purposely spelled as is because of a family association with shorthand.

  7. Dr. Condon's name appears on the copy of College Book 1 (Centennial) I have in my library. He ended his career with McGraw-Hill and platewriting at about the same time I did. Politics.

    Your comments on technology are interesting. Are you involved in the publication of shorthand materials?

    Regarding the pens, they were nothing special. Someone at McGraw-Hill when to an office supply store, bought a ton of pens, and we just found the one particular style that worked. If I remember correctly, it was a rolling-ball style or something like that. (This was all in the late 80s.)

  8. Robert, welcome to the group. I worked with Jerry in the very early '80s before he got fed up and quit. I'm still in contact with him; he still uses his shorthand. BTW, he was originally a Simplified writer.

    So you didn't have to put with that smelly, disgusting ink they used to cook? It required a dip pen which is what I think everyone is referring to. The ink never really dried and we had to be EXTREMELY careful with the pages to avoid smudges. It was, basically, a nightmare!

  9. Fascinating. So that's how I believe the Centennial books were created. The problem with scanning and piecing together words is that the writing doesn't look even, and you can see it in the Centennial books. However, I believe that with much modern technology and better software nowadays, a nicer result could be achieved.

    How was your experience with Zoubek? Any good stories you want to share?

  10. That's great! I love that phrase — I should write it in shorthand and put it as a graphic for the site here, :-).

    Were the plates written from typed material, or did you have a cheat sheet? I wonder, because if that is the case, you would've had to learn Spanish and moreover, S90 in Spanish!

  11. Dr. Condon co-authored some of the Gregg books, if I'm not mistaken.

    From a technology standpoint, instead of regular cut-and-paste, now we can do the same with a rescan of the new outline and an electronic cut-and-paste. But I'm still amazed at how legible the old plates are, especially when writing hooks. The Anniversary plates are so beautifully written that they are a thing to behold, paraphrasing Zoubek.

    This is all very interesting. Did you get to keep the platewriting pens?

  12. I have written some of the reading selections for this site (actually S90 non-business related material, for the most part), and that's how I do it (I write Anniversary myself). The only difference is that I have a light box, similar to what cartoonists use, with a sheet of Gregg ruled paper. On top of the sheet, I place a sheet of glossy photo paper (for inkjet printers). The light from the box makes the lines under the glossy paper visible, so that I can write straight. Afterwards, I scan the image. If there is a mistake, I write the correction on the margin and since the whole sheet is scanned, I just copy the new image on top of what is already written. Finally, the image is cropped, so that the margins don't show. I have experimented with fountain pens and ball points — I'm writing now with a ballpoint pen that is pretty good.

  13. Gregg Condon went on to develop and market an alphabetic shorthand system (as did James Lemasters with SuperWrite). I wonder if politics and disillusionment at McGraw-Hill led to that, or if it was a true conviction that an alphabetic system would be superior (or at least more successful).

  14. Yes, that is the book. I never met the lady who supplied the platewriting drafts. I hope she was paid well since without her work, I couldn't have done mine. I remember the people at Gregg telling me that shorthand was alive and well in the Spanish-speaking areas. Hence the reason for the publication.

  15. Well, I found my copy of "Taquigrafía Gregg Dictado y Transcripción Serie 90, Segunda Edicion", and indeed they gave you credit for the writing of the plates, along with another lady, which I presume was the person who wrote the drafts. Pretty cool!

  16. Very interesting! Jerry called me a couple of years back and we talked about it all. His perspective was definitely interesting to hear. How neat that I have heard from so many living platewriters. Reading these comments also reveals more about Zoubek than I knew before. Ah, the stories behind shorthand.

  17. Has anyone tried writing shorthand on an iPad? I downloaded the Penultimate app and purchased a Targus stylus. The accuracy of the stylus is limited. However, I can see these tools becoming more refined as the iPad technology evolves. I must admit … it's very cool to see shorthand written on one of these electronic screens. (I'm not sure how to upload a sample image.)

  18. To upload images, go to the home page and scroll all the way down. On the right corner, there is a box called "Images" and inside the box it says "Add Photos." It will ask you if you want to upload to a new album or an existing one. Use a new album and upload the picture there. Or, you can always compose a new message, and when you do that, there is a toolbar that lets you insert an image.

    I would like to play with one of those tablets. I haven't tried writing on them yet.

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