I have heard online many times (in the rare odd places you can actually find stuff about shorthand!) that people tend to believe for some reason that of the two systems of highest popularity, Gregg and Pitman, Pitman is superior for readability.
They often say that many reporters back in the day that used pitman were able to read back their notes they had made even years ago and read them and all their brief forms with ease. They say that Gregg is incredibly fast but that in comparison, the notes take considerable time to translate if it’s been a while.
However, in some old books written in the thirties and forties about reporting shorthand, they mention this and say that the only time that any shorthand writer will have such trouble will be if they have not mastered theory and have made quick and hastily made outlines and phrases that were not ever impressed on the memory through practice.
In my own experience I can still read stuff I wrote when I was first started three months ago just fine even though it was pretty ugly, but I’d love to know your experience with much older notes or even if the Gregg ever gets hard to read after time. Please let me know your opinion
Readability Over Time: Pitman Vs Gregg
I recently found an old notebook from a college history class – written in Gregg (Simplified) and I was able to read it with no problem. I was in college 50 years ago! The rumor back then was that Pitman was better, but I always thought Gregg was faster and it's apparently just as easy to read!
I have read notes that I made a long time ago with no problems, and not even remembering what the conversation was about. Further, having had the experience recently of transcribing something that someone else wrote in Gregg with an ugly penmanship a long time ago, I can say that those readability complaints about Gregg are mostly nonsense. Remember that when those lack of readability claims were made, Gregg shorthand was becoming more popular and Pitman writers at the time were trying to come up with arguments to discredit the system. It is like you say, if you don't know the theory, you won't be able to read your notes no matter what.
The first question I would ask is, what is the basis for the claim? And what evidence supports it? An individual writer would have to know both systems thoroughly in order to make such an assessment on their own. Otherwise, were there any actual studies referenced that would substantiate this? A few anecdotes don't count for much.
During the period of intense rivalry that Carlos mentions, the Pitmanites were notorious for making claims about the speed potential of their system that were plainly ludicrous. So assertions of this nature might be viewed with skepticism.
I can think of only one counterpoint to this, and that's the matter already noted about a thorough command of theory. As I understand it, a Pitman writer would have to practice full tilt for nearly a decade before achieving anything like a competent reporting speed, while Gregg writers could attain that level in about three years of like effort.
I suppose the extra SEVEN years that would be required would afford considerable opportunity for a fuller grasp of theory. But it's hard to see how this commends the Pitman system over Dr. Gregg's!