Comparing Outlines in Three Versions of Gregg

In trying to quantify how much difference there is between the outlines in Simplified, Diamond Jubilee and Notehand, I compared their outlines for 67 words that begin with the letter N; 16 of the words are written differently in DJS and/or Notehand compared to Simplified. This document shows the data (using a quirky system of describing Gregg outlines with readily available letters and marks). Of course a larger sample would have given more reliable results but this is all I had time to do today.

attachment: Outline_Comparison_1.pdf

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  1. This is really fun to compare! And what an interesting project idea, too– kind of like the evolution of Gregg shorthand. Did the system really improve (become for efficient) as it went along? I guess each individual has to decide for him/herself. Thanks for posting! It gives me food for thought.

    1. In my opinion, no. I think that as the authors kept revising the system they went too far in the simplifications, culminating with the disastrous boat anchor of S90. I could go on and on about this, but let me show two examples:

      1. "Nevertheless": In earlier series, it was written n-v-l, then it changed to n-v-over th-less in DJS and S90. In Notehand it would be written n-e-v-r-under th-l-e-s! And, being a very frequent adverb, you would recognize it right away with the simpler outline. Why not the simpler outline? Because it would be confused with "envelope", which is a different part of speech? I don't think so. No official reason was given for the change.

      2. O written upright before r and l to "lighten the learning load" (?) and "greater legibility for the inexperienced writer". If this would've been a problem before, I'm sure Dr. Gregg would've fixed this in the very early editions of GS, and not wait until 75 years later to correct the problem! Further, try to write "door" with the o sideways and with the o upright and see which one is written faster. (Incidentally, the reason to write the o-hook on its side before r, l, n, and m is to avoid the angle to make the writing smooth and quick.)

      I think the system went from one whose primary purpose was to write fast and efficiently, to one that could be quickly learned, but was neither very fast nor very efficient.

    2. There are a lot of trade-offs in the design of a shorthand system and every element can be debated for eternity: ease of learning, consistency within the rules (every brief form is an exception), legibility, which joinings are more facile, the importance of lineality, etc.

      If I recall correctly, a doctoral student in the 1940s did a slow motion film study of three expert Gregg users and I think this had a major, permanent influence on Leslie and Zoubek. It showed that the actual writing of symbols is done at a rate around 300 wpm. What causes people to write shorthand more slowly than that is hesitating to recall or assemble each outline in the brain and send that data to the hand.

      There was also a widespread belief that when reporters are maxxed out, when they are writing as fast as they can, they "revert to first principles." I think this means, under that kind of pressure people tend to use only the most frequent 40 or 50 brief forms and they either write out phonetically or use the abbreviating principle on everything else.

      There was also a very high rate of students dropping their shorthand courses after the first marking period, higher than any other field of study in some high schools.

      With those observations in mind, plus ever increasing competition from stenotype machines, audio recorders, word processing software that helps executives write their own letters, and alphabetic shorthand systems that don't have *any* elaborate rules for joining the symbols, naturally ease of learning was going to be a primary concern for the publishers of Gregg Shorthand.

      Dr Gregg was not opposed to simpler versions of his system being made for specific groups of users. He wrote Greghand himself, after all, and had a hand in the design of Simplified.

  2. Rich, i have heard those points before and they are appealing – that a less difficult system could be as fast. The problem is that all of the fast writers (court reporter speed) had not only they base system they originally learned but even further abbreviations to speed things up.

    1. Exactly. Even in the DJS (and S90) Expert Speed series books, a great number of the additional abbreviations are Anniversary brief forms. This gives the impression that to be an expert in those series you need to bring your shorthand to the Anniversary level, at least as brief forms are concerned. The maximum speed in the reading/writing practice in those books is 175 wpm, whereas the minimum court reporting speed for certification is 180 wpm in literary, 200 in jury charge, and 225 in testimony. You'll need to keep practicing and increasing your retaining capacity to get to court standards, and that takes time.

      Bottom line: if you want to keep improving your shorthand and get more efficient, move to the faster series as soon as you can. If you just want working knowledge and speed is not your concern, any of the series is fine.

    2. This leads to a question to which I've never seen an answer. Clearly Anni is faster than the later series–decidedly faster than the DJ I learned to write. But the winners of the speed contests wrote 1916 Preanni, since Anni had not been published by then. Is it known whether 1916 is faster than Anni, or vice versa, or whether they're on a par?

    3. I wonder if Leslie and Zoubek actually thought the simpler systems could be written as fast as the older ones. As Rich Harrison pointed out, shorthand was under pressure in the schools and workplace, and the introduction of a simpler system, even if slower, might have been perceived as a way to keep it alive.

      In fact, I'm inclined to think that even S90 was killed more by the factors of the marketplace than by its own incompetence. After all, Pitman's New Era has largely died out in Great Britain, and it's certainly not an unduly slow system–its speed is like that of Anni.

    4. Replying to 2.b, I'm not sure that has ever been investigated. However, at really high speeds, 1916 and Anniversary are virtually identical in theory because of shortcuts, so I don't think there will be much difference.

      With regards to 2.c, I think the authors had that belief, at least with Simplified. However, this view was not widely accepted — I read somewhere that shorthand reporters were not happy with the changes that were introduced with Simplified, because they felt they went too far and would definitely hinder speed.

    5. Correction to 2b: The older winners of the speed contests must have learned Preanni 1902, not 1916. The later ones, like Dupraw, must have learned 1916.

      In regard to 2c and 2d: I remember seeing a quote from Swem to the effect that GSS would not retard speed too much relative from Anni, and that speed could be brought up with the appropriate use of extra short forms. That suggests to me that Leslie and Zoubek realized GSS was not quite as fast as Anni. Unfortunately I can't remember the source of the quote.

    6. I agree. You have to learn the extra shortcuts. The issue is that for Simplified, some of those extra shortcuts are brief forms in Anniv/Pre-Anniv, so you will be relearning old theory. So that's evidence to the slowness to GSS.

    7. re: 2e — I believe you're referring to this article:

      That thread led to an interesting discussion on this question.

      As far as Anni vs. Pre-Anni, there definitely are some outlines in Pre-Anni that are faster to write. I use the Pre-Anni form for "bookkeeper" written as b-c-c, contra the Anni b-c-p disjoined-r, (which looks ridiculous.) An -ing dot makes it "bookkeeping."

      There are probably not enough examples like this to really make a difference, although some hardcore writers have re-incorporated elements of pre-Anni that were dropped.

      It was mentioned in an older thread that some of these rules/shortcuts are in fact brought back in Swem's Reporting Course, like the "of the" rule where the following word is written in a disjoined fashion like an -ing dot.

      But again, how much difference would it make in the long run? Probably not much, but maybe a little. 🙂

  3. This post is one of the very few times I've written "bookkeeper" in any form. It s sole claim to fame, as far as I'm concerned, is that triplet of double letters.

    Re 2g: It's been a long time since I read the Swem article, and I don't think it was the one you referred us to. It's hard to tell though, since memory plays funny tricks on people. Anyway, I'm glad for the reference; the article at that ULR is interesting.

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