Rules for er and r- Beginner Questions

I’ve been looking through the 1916 manual, and I’m not really clear why the rules for expressing -er are the way they are, especially when it comes to word-signs.

You can either use can disjoined r. Or you can use a joined r. Or you can use the reversing principle if the brief contains the last consonant of the word.

Why not just have as a rule: Joined r unless you have removed the end of the word?

Like “former” if done the “proper” way, would be fme(reverse).  Why not just fmr? It all seems awfully complicated. Or just have a blanket rule of disjoined r for all cases?

I’m also pretty confused at when you should use disjoined versus joined r. “Great” is gr, but “greater” is grr. But then “accept” is aks while “acceptor” is aks r?

The manual says the r can be joined when the “forms are distinctive.”. But there is no further detail into when circumstances these are.

The er suffix rules seem so convoluted, that it is hard to see how these could be applied at speed.

The r omission boils down to “discard the r, keeping the direction of the circle vowel the same.”. Is there  any reason why the presentation in the manual is so convoluted?  Later versions Gregg ditched this rule (I have the simplified manual as well), putting in ld and rd blends to compensate for this. What are the relative merits of doing this versus r omission?

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  1. I can't answer these questions specifically, because my edition of choice is Simplified and I never studied any of version, but overall I have noticed that the rules tend to have some logic to them that might not be noticeable right away. For example, I had the hardest time getting down how to connect things, especially vowels and consonants, and had to just memorize the rules. After a time of working with them, I saw the logic to it, and why it was easier. It just clicked.

    My guess about the "forms are distinctive" rule is that it means grr can't be confused with any other word, while aksr could be (although nothing comes immediately to mind). I suspect this because I have seen similar things show up elsewhere in Gregg. We are humans and not machines, and so we are able to learn to navigate these kinds of fuzzy rules. This is an important thing to keep in mind when learning shorthand in general. Use of computers tends to train us to think in a certain way because they are so unforgiving and terrible at understanding fuzzy rules, but this was not how it worked a hundred years ago.

    1. I think a little history may help explain the reversed circle situation and how it evolved.

      It all started with "The Reporting Style" section of the 1893 manual, which instructs to omit the r in "arch" and "arge", and in some miscellaneous words listed in the short vocabulary at the end of the pamphlet ("sort",  "surprise", "worth", "church", and others). Otherwise, the r will be written (for example, the word "turn" was written t-r-n).

      The reversed circle appeared first in the 1898 manual under the new rules for the omission of r that were developed, but the reversed circle only applied to (1) the beginning r before t, d, n, m and (2) the r between p, b and t, d, n, m. In all other cases, it was either written out (for example, "admire" has a final r), or omitted (for example, "arch" is written without the r, but the circle is written in the regular motion, a – ch).

      The reversed circle rule was extended in the 1902 to include -er at the end of a straight line, and r between all downstrokes and t, d, n, m. However, the termination -or still was written with an r. For the most part, this continued to be the rule in the 1916 edition.

      In Anniversary, the reversed circle was extended to include words that end in -or, like "motor."

      Dr. Gregg was well aware of the problems with these rules and was working out a way to simplify them in the new manual that he was working on. He worked on at least two different options. In the first option, he simplified the rule by eliminating the use of reversed circle at the end of words ("former" and "motor" will be written with the r), and eliminating the reversed circle before straight downstrokes (words like "arch" and  "urge" will have the circle and the r written), but keeping the other reversed circle and omission of r rules, and using the disjoined t for the past tense of a word ending in r. So this first option looks like an extended version of the 1898 rules. The second option was to omit the r in certain cases (ar, er, or, war, wor, sure), and implement the -rd stroke for the past tense if a word ended in r. Just before his death, Dr. Gregg decided to go with option 1, but Louis Leslie in his revised manual had basically eliminated the omission of r rule (only using it in certain cases, like ort, term-, etc.), eliminated the reverse circle (write those words with the r), and implemented the -rd stroke; and that's what you see in Simplified Gregg.

      About the joining of the "disjoined" r in "greater" and similar words, the exceptions applied to a small number of words of high frequency that are very distinct. In fact, Dr. Gregg did not touch these words in his revision. Here again, it was Louis Leslie who eliminated this exception in Simplified, disjoining the r in those words (to make them follow a rule).

      The -er rules were further developed because writers wanted to write faster, especially in the 1902 to Anniversary series. Granted, some of these rules may seem convoluted, but reporters demanded them.

      1. Interesting. So the chart "Comparative summary of R forms" refers to the proposed changes that Gregg was thinking of for option 1? What was the context of the chart? Was it part of an article about changes he was thinking of?

        I'm quite interested in the history of Gregg shorthand. Especially how Gregg and Leslie wanted to take it in different directions. I recall that you mentioned that Gregg was working on the next edition before his death and that this version was completed by his wife and Blanchard. Does anything remain of it? Or are there any clues about the changes he intending to make?

        Thanks for filling me in with the history, I find it really interesting.

        The way I work is I look up words that I want to write in the dictionary and then see how the principle applies to them – that's how I learned machine steno theory with Plover! At the moment I'm also going through the manual in order to slowly strengthen the foundations, along with reading the functional method book. 

  2. I think a general point that's important is that Gregg shorthand isn't, and never was, a rigorously logical system.  It was developed and revised for reasons of practicality and efficiency, not for reasons of phonetic precision or wholly congruent outline construction.

    A number of changes occurred from revision to revision and version to version, many of which are essentially arbitrary, but which were made to make the system optimally marketable.  Gregg's goal was to sell shorthand textbooks, not to create the optimally logical system of writing possible.  

    That's not a criticism.  It's just an acknowledgment.  

    And today, when shorthand doesn't have a commercial value, and isn't taught in schools, anyone who learns it is free to pick and choose and modify as they like.  It's great to know the historical progression through the different versions of the system, but it often comes down to "someone decided X instead of Y."

    My point is that you're not going to find reasons that are fully clear and satisfactory for many of these questions from a theoretical perspective.  But if you approach shorthand as a practical skill, and learn one version and its methods thoroughly to the point of fluency, you'll appreciate the genius and structure of it.

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