First look at DJS and Centennial books

A little while ago, I had said I would share my impression of the DJS series of books. Now, my goal is not to offend any DJS fans. I am purely speaking of the physical materials themselves, NOT the DJS system of Gregg.

Sitting on the library shelf, they are very cheerful as a set. A very colorful looking series! Which makes them seem approachable. I took a photo of them, which I hope Blogger will let me post:

I didn’t care so much for the look-and-feel of the books contents. My first visit to this section of the library, I remember looking at one of the DJS books and there was a large head-shot of a female, presumably a secretary. I remember the big hair and thinking she could have been in Cosmo magazine. I also wasn’t a big fan of the color coordinated insets. The Dictation book there uses matching fuschia to give its graphical elements color. One of the books had purple for its graphical page trim. The yellow book — yep, yellow color. I like the idea in theory, but in practice it makes the book pages look washed out, so I wasn’t a fan. 
On my next visit — when I got these pictures — I was trying to find the big-haired secretary type. This was the best I could come up with as a sample:
I guess McGraw-Hill moved on from the Simplified message that a girl doesn’t have to be a beauty to get ahead in business? 🙂
So the graphic design of the DJS books wasn’t quite to my taste. I felt, from just viewing the books, that they were focused on female readers with secretarial ambitions. The shorthand plates looked good though. They have that same larger, bolder look as the Notehand book, which I find appealing and easy to read.
I also took a peek in a Centennial book. Holy shoulder pads, batman! (I exaggerate a bit.) There was no question that it was produced in the 80s. It was a very colorful book, and had a workbook feel to it. The office pictures featured diverse staff and the offices could have been featured on any 80s TV show. There were two copies of the book I checked, and both were falling apart. Literally — there were many loose pages in each. I suppose they weren’t made to be long lasting. I noticed that the early lessons were a mix of longhand and shorthand writing, so they followed the model of “full” articles while introducing principles, apparently. Visually, I didn’t have anything against the Centennial books, but I really dislike how fragile they appeared to be.
That’s about all I have to say. I thought maybe someone would get a chuckle out of how a newcomer saw these books for the first time. Enjoy — or not. 🙂

23 comments Add yours
  1. Yes, DJS, S90, and Centennial were designed for the business office. That explains the layout of the books, the selection of the material, and the simplification of the memory burden. The theory was simplified because in the experience of the authors, the students mastery of English was not good, and some of the rules created hesitation and doubts when taking dictation. Also, words that were brief forms in the earlier series were dropped because of lack of use and vocabulary changes. Other phrases that in their research showed that writers didn't use were dropped as well (for example, "it is not", "to our", "understand" phrases, "had" phrases, "to him").

  2. Somebody's comment vanished, and I only got to read the part of it that showed up in my feed reader! If you commented here and didn't remove it on purpose — please write it again. If it was deleted by choice, then disregard this. 🙂

  3. Yes, that was me, writing late at night, and when I re-read it it was a little too inarticulate . . . (note to self: comment publicly only when fully awake).

    Great picture of the shelf in the library. I'm definitely surprised the library has kept shorthand materials–I doubt that the circulation is very high, and usually libraries axe things that don't get used.

    I had never noticed the color coordination between cover and in-text highlights beffore. Very observant!

    There's a wide variety of material in DJS, and not all of it includes photos that are so obviously dated. The first basic DJS high school text (yellow cover) only has line drawings–and although most of them are of women, there is one drawing of a male secretary laying out documents for a meeting. That's as inclusive as it gets, however.

    I'm reading through "Gregg Speed Building for Colleges" (DJS, first edition), and except for an obviously dated photo on the title page (boss with bow tie, secretary with big hair) the text itself is free of photos and drawings, just some graphics of a pen at the beginning of chapters.

    They started to use a lot more photos with the 2nd edition of DJS, probably in an effort to seem more modern. And because at that time shorthand was exclusively part of secretarial training, not general business, the photos reflect the era and the fact that generally only women took the courses and worked in those roles.

    The graphic design for DJS is really all over the place . . . depending on the edition, whether it was the high school or college text, and which text you're looking at.

    1. I agree. Also, changing from the one to the two-column format required changes in the book layout. I chuckle at the selection of some of the typefaces in the headings — some of them look like those used to advertise a disco club, and reflect the era.

  4. DJS included a number of specialized books, such as "Handbook for the Legal Secretary", "The Technical Secretary: Terminology and Transcription", "The Medical Secretary" (along with "Medical Secretarial Procedures" and "Gregg Medical Shorthand Dictionary"), and "Speed Dictation". (Many of these titles were in pre-DJS series as well).

    And of course, there is the "Gregg Expert Speed Building" (called "Expert Shorthand Speed Course" in Anniversary and Simplified). Not for the faint of heart: It introduces many new brief forms and speed techniques and principles that aren't found in the basic course.

    1. With respect to Gregg Expert Speed Building, the difference though with the earlier series is that the material is still business letters! Although the expedients & shortcuts are a welcome addition.

      It is interesting that most (if not all) DJS books were reissued as S90 books, with just minor changes in the theory. So you can find a S90 Gregg Expert Speed Building as well, and in this case, with exactly the same practice material as the DJS book.

  5. Probably the nicest books ever published for Gregg Shorthand were the two-part set titled "Gregg Shorthand for the Electronic Office: Short Course, Series 90." Some features of the books are as follows. The hardcovers were printed with a glossy finish. The binding on the books is on the top, so they open like a shorthand notebook, with half of the lessons printed in the "front" pages and the rest printed in the backside, so that you would flip the book once you reach half the semester (each book had lessons for one semester). Pages are in full color, including some very nice color photographs and very nice typography. The books improve on the 2-column layout started with the Notehand books by placing the outlines on top of Gregg ruled "paper." All of the shorthand, including isolated words, is written on dotted lines, so the shorthand outlines are perfectly legible. The shorthand was written by Mr. Jerry Edelman, and his penmanship is beautiful. With the color and the glossy paper used for printing, the shorthand looks gorgeous. In addition, new shorthand outlines or outlines that could present a transcription problem are written in a different color. The paragraph numbers that were common in all previous theory books were eliminated — each principle is highlighted by using a color bar on the margin. In the back index, principles are referenced by using the page where they appear, and not by the lesson/paragraph number as in previous books. The books were published in the mid 80s, and I think they are much nicer than the Centennial books later published (with their awful-looking cut/paste shorthand outlines …).

    1. You asked (above, in a prior comment), so here's what I remember from back then. It was clear that symbol shorthand was going the way of the steel pen and ink blotter as business schools dumped Gregg in favor of alphabetic systems and then dumped the alpha systems as well. The electronic version was, as you point out, a last-ditch effort to show that shorthand was still a useful tool in the electronic office of the day. But it was the shorthand system, not shorthand, which was the problem. As someone who still uses his shorthand in the even-more electronic office of today, despite my position, my division still relies on me for the best, most complete notes at meetings and for getting stuff down on paper as be brainstorm or simply conduct business.

      And, yes, all the books reflect the time in which they were produced, big hair and ugly fashion included. The books were trying to be enticing and modern; now they're just dated and hilarious.

  6. They are gorgeous books, and must have been both expensive and complicated to produce and publish. It's ironic that it was the "electronic" office that more or less meant the end of shorthand as an office skill. It would be interesting to know what the sales figures were like for this series, whether they were really ever used in a signifcant number of classes or not.

    1. That's a good question. Maybe Marc would know the answer. My sense is that this was a last-ditch effort to save the series. An interesting thing is that the authors recognized that not all schools were offering two shorthand courses for the use of the two-part series (beginning & dictation) because of the small demand. Instead, they suggested in the instructor's manual that if there was a small number of students that had finished Part 1 and wanted to continue to Part 2, to place both groups of students (beginning and intermediate) in the same classroom, grouped by ability (beginners together, intermediates together), and to teach both at the same time. They further provided instructions on how to do it. I'm not sure if someone ever tried to do that, but it was an interesting approach.

    2. I took a closer look at that Electrical Office course book yesterday when I returned some library books. (In case it sounds like I'm living in their shorthand section 😀 ) I really like that they use "lined paper" for the shorthand plates. It makes the vertical proportions more clear to me, which has been something I struggle with. For example, I realized late into my studies that my d stroke was too tall, which presented a problem when I added the td stroke. A reference sample with the lines would have helped me a lot. Placing my steno pad over the Simplified shorthand examples hasn't been nearly as effective.

      I came across a lined paper illustration in the Notehand book the other day and it was very helpful to me for the same reason.

    3. Also, I'm glad that your library has so many shorthand resources. I recommend that you check them out. If the library shows that the book is being circulated, then they won't have a reason for tossing it away and getting it off circulation!

    4. I walked over again today, to look at the Centennial (college vol 1) and Series 90 Electronic Office books. I actually considered checking one of them out, just so I could review some shorthand on lines and get a better feel for proportion. I ended up not doing so.

      Aside from not wanting to lug around another heavy book, the Centennial plates use the larger spacing that you note so I felt that wouldn't be as useful; and I didn't want to pick up any bad habits from studying too much of these other series. I like my Notehand stories but that's my one exception from Simplified.

      Thank you for the links. I have seen them before, but I will review now that I'm far enough along to have these concerns about proportions.

  7. There have been some fairly "complete" lists posted in this group over the years. But new surprises keep appearing . . . I don't know quite how one would get all the editions and variations documented. But it would be fascinating to look at!

    I have the "Price List" of Gregg Publications from May 1, 1948, and it's 29 pages (not all shorthand, but mostly). I just noted that there are "Home Study Course" and "Advanced Home Study Course" listed . . . don't know that I've ever seen that material come up before.

  8. Between WorldCat and ABE Books you could make a good start but there are a lot of duplicates, cases of the same item listed multiple times with slightly different transcriptions of the title and so forth.

    I just searched WorldCat for items listing JRG as the author/co-author and it came up with 1483 hits.

    1. Here's a current example of the problem: The Diamond Jubilee Series Dictionary was published in 1963. It has the alphabetical word list, plus a "Part Two" that includes personal and geographical names. The Gregg Shorthand Dictionary, Diamond Jubilee Series, Second Edition, was published in 1974, and also includes a "Part Three" with frequently used Gregg shorthand phrases, and a "Part Four" with abbreviations.

      But I just yesterday saw a DJS first edition dictionary, copyright 1971, that includes the "Part Three" with the phrases, but does NOT include the "Part Four" with the abbreviations . . .

      I don't know how anybody could feel reasonably certain about having captured a "complete" bibliography of editions and versions and variations. I'll swear, Gregg (and then McGraw-Hill) had to be the most prolific producers of variations in the history of publishing.

    2. Lee, it's fascinating and if I had been interested in Gregg when I was in my twenties I would have attempted the bibliography project because I had a serious cataloging and list-making compulsion. Fortunately I've grown out of that phase. Maybe a wiki about Gregg publications could be established somewhere, and then various people could add data at their leisure.

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