How do you write….?

I’ve been googling whether there was a “how do you write…?” thread, and there doesn’t seem to be one, so I decided to start one. Apologies if there already is one that didn’t appear on my searches.

There have been a few words that I have been trying to work out what is the “proper” way to write the outline:

“psychosomatic” – sikosom (using the abbreviating principle) ?

”throwaway” – thro(underline)a (I’m not sure if it should be thro(dot)ua)? In fact I’m really not sure how to write any of the -away words.

I use the Gregg 1916 manual.




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      1. Not according to theory, because you have a word with a suffix that can be modified with derivatives. (For example, how would you write psychosomatically? ) That's one of the reasons the disjoined ending is used.

        However, you can always write it anyway you want, as long as you can transcribe it.

        1. Hmm.. reading through the Gregg manuals I thought that the abbreviating principle disregards  whether there are any further derivatives:


          1888 – Drop the terminations of words, i.e., write so much of the outline as will, with the aid of the subject matter and vocalized context , suggest the whole word, as "unan" for "unanimously," "diplom" for "diplomacy."

          This appears to disregard the fact diplomat could represent diploma, diplomat, diplomatic, diplomatically, diplomacies

          1916 – Many long words may be abbreviated by dropping the terminations. It would be a waste of time and effort to write more of a word than is necessary to suggest it when transcribing. This principle is already familiar in longhand, as Rev. for Reverend, ans. for answer, Jan. for January, Phila. forPhiladelphia, etc.

          The extent to which the principle may be applied depends upon the familiarity of the writer with the words and subject matter. Every writer can apply it easily and naturally to familiar words, and adapt it to the special requirements of the line ofworkin which he may be engaged.

          Seems rather vague

          Gregg shorthand dictionary 1916 – Almost all -atic entries use the disjointed ending. Exception to this is “democratic” dmk

          So really, the abbreviating principle should be “drop the terminations of words, if there are no further derivatives”?  Or maybe “drop terminations, as long as there are no joined or disjointed endings”?

          1. Think of analogical endings (whether disjoined or not) as applications of the abbreviating principle — you're still writing what is sufficient to reconstruct the word. It is just that in the case of "psychosomatic", if you stop at the "m" instead of the disjoined "a", you're stopping too soon according to theory. That's all. The advantage of using the analogical ending is that you can easily modify it for derivatives — that’s what I meant in my previous post. Anyway, as I pointed out, you can write the word anyway you want, as long as you can transcribe it.

  1. "Anyway, as I pointed out, you can write the word anyway you want, as long as you can transcribe it."

    Yes, Carlos! Now this might seem weird, but in my professional notes I use r-e-k for "computable" and r-e for "computably enumerable". There's a rationale, of course. In my field of study, these terms used to be "recursive" and "recursively enumerable", with a standard abbreviation of r.e. for "recursively enumerable". In the 1980s there was a shift in the terminology, but I've kept writing the abbreviations I started with before that happened. It causes no problem for me to transcribe these short forms, but it would probably seriously confuse anyone except a rather elderly person in my field.

    1. Your example reminded me of "hundredweight" in Anni, which is expressed as subscript n-u. (But then how many of us have ever used that word?)  🙂

      Dr. Gregg's assertion that "the correct outline is the the one you can correctly transcribe" was offered in a very general context, but I think his point has particular relevance to actual writing.

      Obviously, when you're engaged in rapid writing there's simply no time to stop and look things up. The point is that one should be adequately familiar with the principles of outline construction to come up with an acceptable outline on the fly–don't allow the scourge of hesitation to creep in!

      Dr. Gregg also said that if you're unsure the outline you've written is technically correct, "put a ring around it" and check it later. I follow this advice for three reasons:

      1. There may be a more compact way to form the outline.

      2. There may be rules that should have taken priority over the rule(s) I relied on at the time.

      3. There may be additional reasons why an official outline was adopted, such as avoiding conflict with another word.

      1. Actually, it seems to me that the Gregg short form for "hundredweight" is reasonable, given that "hundred" is subscript n and "weight" begins with u. The strange one is the standard longhand abbreviation for it, which is cwt. I suspect the c comes from Latin centum. I guess "hundredweight" must have been a common word at one time.

  2. Here's another theory question: when reading the Gregg books, "left" is written l-f-t . But "lift" is written l-e-f-t. Is there any reason why the vowel is omitted in the first case but not the second?

    1. There is no hard and fast rule for the omission of circle vowels. In this case, "left" is more common than "lift", so the vowel is omitted from the most common word for convenience, and is included in "lift" to make a positive distinction.

      In Simplified and later series, both words are written exactly the same, with the circle vowel.

  3. How do you write "genre" in DJS and Simplified?

    I know "zh" sound is written by using ish in most words like "treasure" "vision" etc. What about if it begins with "zh?"

  4. Here's another one that puzzles me: why is "cordial" written k-o-j (it appears in the "short vocabulary" section of the 1916 manual written like that), since it is pronounced /ˈkɔːdɪəli/ (with a d sound)? 

    1. The outline for "cordial" is following the American Pronunciation (Merriam-Webster, Cambridge) of the word ( \ˈkȯr-jəl \ or /ˈkɔr·dʒəl/) + Omission of R rule + Abbreviating Principle.

      In the UK Simplified dictionary, the word is written with the rd stroke, while in all US Gregg dictionaries, it is written with the j. Unfortunately, "cordial" is not in the short vocabulary of British edition of the 1916 manual.

    2. Another comment on your question on writing the word "cordial."  When writing words with "ord" and "ort," the "r" is omitted.  For example, "sword" is written "s-o-d."  Report is written "r-p-o-t," and "sort" is written "s-o-t."

    1. This is an extension of paragraph 64 of the manual: derivatives of brief forms usually have their endings disjoined to make the root form distinct. The ending can be joined if the outline is still distinct. In this case also, if we write “usage” with the ending joined (e – oo hook – j), it can be confused with the word "huge" if one leaves the h dot out.

  5. I love this blog!  I just joined!  I have taught shorthand for more than 30 years and use it every day of my life.  I started a shorthand club in March 2003 with two ladies.   Our mailing list is over 200 and growing.  We write each other birthday cards, notes, news articles about shorthand, etc.  Shorthand Writers of Maine meets once a month for lunch and meeting.  I take a white board and markers and we begin with a brief form/phrase quiz, theory lesson, crossword puzzles/jokes/word search, and, of course, dictation of business letters.  We laugh more than anything else!  And love it!

  6. The average age of our group is 80's.  We just celebrated two 100th birthdays this summer.  One of our members passed away a few months ago at the age of 104.  Last month we celebrated a 100th birthday of one of our members who also taught school.  One of her shorthand students, a member of our club, was there–she is 87…..Class of '48.  I have a picture of "teacher and student" 69 years later.

  7. Why is "humblest" written h u-m-b s-t (with the s-t disjoined)? From the comments above, the suffix is disjoined to avoid confusion. But I can't really see what it could be confused with? What tripped me up with reading this word was that the h is often omitted, so it ends up as u-m-b s-t , which I spent ages thinking it was the -istic ending, which actually creates more confusion!

  8. How do you write "nonparametric"? Because it could be made of prefixes it could be "n-o-n-p m-e k" or "n-o-n-p-a-r-mt-r-k"? (Is it the second because "non" is not a joined prefix?)

  9. In addition, how would you write parameter? because "para" and "metr" are word beginings, is it "p m-e" above the line, or is it "p mete" (last e reversed)?

    1. "meter/re" is a disjoined prefix in pre-Anni. In Anni "meter" and "metric" are written out.

      I'm as interested to hear what Carlos says about this, but I've sometimes used double prefixes. In Astronomy class I wrote "electromagnetic" as disjoined e-l, below which I wrote the m for "magn," and below that t-e-k. Two separate prefixes!

      In your other example of nonpara-, I think disjoined n-o-n-p would be appropriate, as this is common practice in prefix construction.

      1. Words with "meter" are tricky to write because, although the 1916 new and revised edition uses the disjoined m-e when "meter" is used as a prefix, there is no standard way of writing when it is used as a suffix (this was standardized in the Anniversary edition by using m-e-t-reversed e). The outlines above use the "meter" prefix, while still retaining legibility (which is probably the most important consideration).

  10. I am puzzled by the treatment of the -ate endings in anniversary and pre-anniversary Gregg:

    For rate, late, tate, cut off the "t"

    For gate, kate, cut off "ate" completely 

    For everything else leave the word alone. 

    Why is there such a strange rule? Why not just use the abbreviating principle and cut off the "ate" in all cases? What are the authors afraid of getting words confused with? 

    1. Beats me. I haven't sat down to figure out why the rule was there in the first place. However, my preference would have been to write the whole ending instead of abbreviating, mainly because it would be easier to write the past tense without having to lift the pen.

      1. Ok, I did some digging: 

        From the Q & As of shorthand theory book:

        "The rule for the omission of tor d when slightly enunciated has been generally interpreted as applicable only when the t or d is preceded by a consonant. It has been gradually extended to many words in which a vowel or diphthong precedes t or d. In the revision of the dictionary greater uniformity of practice was established in this respect. The practice is to omit t in the termination rate, late, tate, sate; but not in cate, fate, gate, mate, nate, vale. The t is retained in cate, fate, gate, mate, nate, vate, because it requires no effort to execute."

        "A curious thing about cate and gate, especially when preceded by a short e or short i (icate, igate) is that the abbreviating principle is almost invariably applied after c and g, This has grown up generally without conscious thought or direction."

        1. Thanks for posting this. So the omission of t or d rule (that applies in words like "president" and "mind") was extended to the -ate ending, but without much consistency. Interesting.

    1. By Gregg messages, do you mean the postings from this blog?  If so, you could probably do a "print screen" and paste it into Word.  You'll have to adjust the graphic size on the page, most likely.  If it's only text, you can try cut and pasting.  If it's an image, you can right-click on it and cut and paste into Word.

      A better solution is to get an Evernote account and their Web Clipper plug-in.  Web Clipper will clip any web page for you and put it into your Evernote account, even if the website disappears later.  You can print from Evernote, too.  Evernote has its own powerful search engine, so you'll be able to perform searches on note content and tag your notes, and organize your notes by notebooks and stacks.  My shorthand library in Evernote is very impressive by now, including complete with dictation files, ready to play anywhere!  They have a web version, desktop version, and mobile version, and they all sync together.


  11. How would you write "reword" and "rework"? r-e-u-d (with the inside the r but the u outside) and r-e-r-k (r-r-k doesn't feel right). I use 1916 Gregg (but with bits of Anni).

  12. Might it work to disjoin the re as in r-e/u-d and r-e/r-k? It seems to me that this should do, in particular since the tr principle gives nonsense ("retroword" and "retrowork"). Alternatively, maybe you could use the disjunction but with the joining mark–that is, the "smile" written under the line to join the outlines.

    1. I could see someone disjoining "reword" for clarity and writing as disjoined r – e + oo hook d, but I usually don't disjoin if the outline is still legible. In contrast, the re- prefix in words like "rewind" and "rewire" would need to be disjoined to make the outline legible.

  13. Since there have been no new posts for several days, I thought I'd spark things up with a nerdy question.

    On an old Saturday Night Live broadcast, Emily Litella is asked for her reaction to television violence. She mistakes the word "violence" to be "violins", and editorializes that there ought to be more violins on TV in prime time.

    So here's the question: If you were to take this dialogue in your favorite series of Gregg shorthand, how would you distinguish between "violence" and "violins"?

    1. In general, when you have an outline that could represent different words and the outline meaning is still ambiguous by context (as in this example), or if you have different spellings for the same word and you want to make sure you transcribe it with the exact spelling (as in names, such as "Kelly" vs. "Kelley"), you just write the correct spelling in longhand on top of the outline. In the example you cite, you would write a longhand "e" or "i" above the outline, depending on whether it was "violence" or "violins", and in the “Kelly/Kelley” case, you just write in longhand "y" or "ey" directly above.

      Continuing with this nerdy topic, should you write the longhand before or after you write the shorthand outline? laugh

      1. In the case of a proper name with variable or otherwise awkward or unusual spelling, the textbooks typically just write the longhand form in the first instance, then the shorthand form thereafter.

        If all that's needed is a longhand letter or two for clarification, my vote would be to write it after the shorthand outline. This maintains the general flow of writing, the extra letters being added in the same manner as diacritical marks.

        There, now I feel like a nerd!  😉

      1. They're both written the same way, with the e circle for the ending, in all series. The only difference is that in Simplified and later series, the broken circle used for the "io" sound is replaced with the double circle.

    2. I saw this dialogue when it first aired on TV. Just a few days ago, and many years after it first aired, I watched it again on YouTube. It occurred to me then that "violence" and "violins" are written identically in all Gregg series (at least as far as I know). So some sort of ingenuity is needed to distinguish them in a situation like this, and I'm interested in what you as Gregg writers might do.

      1. I suggested above that the -ens in violence is actually an -uns which then the short u can be omitted, while that is not so with -ins. Can't really think of any other solutions?


        Another tricky one is "raising horses" vs "racing horses". Or boar, bore, boor, Boer.

        1. Niten: You sound like me a little over six years ago.  🙂

          Early on I saw lots of potential conflicts of this sort. I was gently admonished by Carlos for an over-imaginative "discovery" of so many possible misreadings of this or that outline/phrase, when the chances of actually running into such a problem are so infinitesimal as to be statistically insignificant.

          In practice, over quite a few years I have come to recognize that Carlos was correct. It all comes down to context.

          Let's look at your examples:

          First, do you really anticipate a scenario in which you could not distinguish between "violins" and "violence"?

          "Let's keep things peaceable here; no need to resort to violins."

          "The whole orchestra was in rare form, but the violence sounded especially pleasing."

          As far as boar, bore, boor, Boer: "Boer" is capitalized and so should have two tick marks underneath. The (practically archaic) "boor" is pronounced with a short "u" sound and so should be spelled differently anyway. That leaves "boar" and "bore" both of which surely will be distinguishable in context.

          "Raising" / "racing" Now here you've found a reasonable example that could be confused–I'm not saying such cases don't exist!–and can easily be distinguished by the simple expedient of adding the "z" tick mark on the former. The "z" mark is rarely necessary, but is available for such a occasion.

          In a few isolated cases, vowel marks can be helpful. A long vowel mark is sometimes needed for "owned," as the outline could possibly be read as "want." There's an example or two of this in the Graded Readings.

          A classic instance is "immigrate" vs "emigrate" where a short mid-vowel mark must distinguish the latter. "Flood" and "fluid" may be an issue in a scant few cases.

          But these are so few and far between as to be of almost no practical concern. In studying the intermediate Anni materials over the past seven years, I've run into an issue maybe three times. In my personal shorthand, including notes on college lectures, it's never happened, ever.

          While it's certainly worth taking note of in the very few instances it could occur, it's not something to worry too much about.

          (It can even happen in longhand. We've all experienced reading a sentence that suddenly doesn't make any sense. Then you go back and realize that a specific word was of a different meaning or part of speech than we had assumed, and then, problem fixed.)

          It's a fact of life that many shorthand outlines represent more than one word. There's rarely a need to clarify them beyond the rule of almighty CONTEXT. This will be clearer for you as you go along, just as it became for me. 🙂

          1. Couple of other examples:

            "imminent" "eminent" — mid-vowel mark on the latter.

            "awe" "owe" — mid-vowel on the former, and in rare cases a long-vowel mark on the later.

            If I ever had to write "awl" I'd probably go ahead an add a mid-vowel mark to o-l, just to make it instantly clear. (How many times have I ever written this in shorthand? Zero.)

            These are the best known cases to watch out for. So very few.

  14. I posted my question because I was perplexed as to how to distinguish "violence" from "violins". But Niten Ichi's post gives me a couple of ideas.

    First, just like "raising" versus "racing", we have a z sound versus an s sound in "violins" and "violence". So we could mark "violins" with the diacritic for the z sound (found in Pre-Anni).

    Another thing we could do is mark the e in "violence". It's not actually an eh or uh sound, but a schwa. But pronouncing it like eh doesn't harm the meaning of the word, and that sound can also be marked with a diacritic (from Anni and Pre-Anni).

    There's no diacritic in Gregg for marking the s sound in "violence". There's also no diacritic for the short i in "violin", though, unless you follow Louis Leslie's innovation of writing "immigrate" with a subscripted micron under the first i. (A micron is a Webster-style short vowel mark, shaped like the smile on a Smiley Face.)

    These solutions seem awkward to me, though. If anyone has better ideas, please let me know.

  15. Gregg Student wrote above that confusions of the type that this thread is about are rare, and I agree completely. Still, on watching the dialogue, I wondered how I would take it if, say, I were doing it for practice. Of course the misunderstanding of "violence" as "violins" is funny precisely because it's so unlikely to happen in real life. As I said in my original post, this was a nerdy question.

  16. What are your thoughts on combining rarer prefixes with existing prefixes: for example, the word "geomagnetic", how would you write that?  Another one which I have been puzzled on is "epicentres".  I write using 1916 Gregg, but incorporate bits of anniversary into it.

    I have also been confused on the use of the "h" dot. To what extent can this be omitted?

  17. Niten Ichi has posed an interesting question regarding multiple prefixes, and I'm going to hazard a reply, even though I'm not an Anni or Pre-Anni writer.

    I would guess that the prefixes centr- and magn- can be successfully used elsewhere than at the beginning of a word. So for "geomagnetic" I'd recommend g/m/tic, with the m for "magn" written high and the -tic circle written under it at the right, as usual. For "epicenter" I'd recommend e-p/s-n, with the s-n for "centr" written high.

    (In Simplifed and later, things work differently.)

    1. "Epicenters" is correct (e-p-right s-n-left s), written slightly above the line. However, I can see at least three ways of writing "geomagnetic", all acceptable in 1916 Gregg:

      1. disjoined (j-e-o hook-m) – t – e – k, with the disjoined part slightly above the line.

      2. disjoined (j-m) – t – e – k, again with the disjoined part slightly above. This one is a further abbreviation of (1), could be used if you write that word very often.

      3. j – e – o hook – m – a – g. This follows the abbreviating principle, and it is analogous to "geometry/geometric." Notice that even though "metr" is a disjoined prefix, "geometry" in pre-anniversary is not written above the line, but according to the abbreviating principle as j – e – o hook – m.

      At the end, it doesn't really matter which way you pick, as long as it can be transcribed correctly.

      1. Carlos: In your first two suggestions does t-e-k mean those three letters, or does it mean the -tic suffix? At any rate, I like your third suggestion of using the abbreviating principle. I wish I'd thought of it myself.

    2. I thought it best to let Carlos take on that one.

      But as I mentioned further up this threat, when I took Astronomy last semester I wrote "electromagnetic" beginning with the standard disjoined e-l prefix, and just below it I wrote the disjoined prefix for "magn," and below that t-e-k.

      It was like writing the usual Anni outline for "magnetic," but with the electr- prefix above it. So, two disjoined prefixes, and it worked just fine. Not sure how else I would even write it.

      I really like Carlos's outline for geomagnetic.

  18. How would you write "Sahara"?

    In addition, how would you write acronyms like CEO, CFO, COO, UNESCO, BMW?

    In addition, in the reverse dictionary posted on the site, I see a lot of entries marked as "expert"?  What are these entries for, should these be learned, and where can a list of these be found?

    1. "Sahara" is written as "Sarah", but with an h-dot over the first a.

      Acronyms are in general written as they are pronounced, or by copying the acronym in shorthand. CEO: left s – e – o hook, CFO: right s – e – f – o hook, COO: left s – e – o hook – o hook, UNESCO: e – oo hook – n – e – left s – k – o hook, and BMW: b – m – oo hook.

      "Expert" in the reverse dictionary means special reporting shortcuts and expedients used for high speed reporting (150 wpm or higher). I believe these are coming from the Expert Shorthand Speed Course, by Zoubek and Blanchard, hence the "Expert" notation.

  19. Thanks for your helpful replies.  I appreciate all the support you guys have given me in learning Gregg shorthand!

    I have another question, but is less of a word building question, more of a penmanship question: using Gregg shorthand, I often encounter outlines which go far below the line of writing.  In the following line, I often encounter problems when I need to write outlines which go upwards.  Do you tend to avoid outlines which are hanging from the line above or do you just write over them, letting the outlines collide?  If I try and avoid letting outlines collide with those hanging from the line above, I end up leaving quite a lot of space.  Could this problem be because of the proportions between letters that I am using: I let my "b", "j" and "v", "tm" and "td" be one line in height?

    1. I don't let descenders and ascenders collide.  As an example, the word "obviously" is a really tall outline (at least in Notehand), taking up a couple of lines.  I write around it on the next line, giving it enough breathing room so I can read all outlines easily.

    2. When taking dictation, collisions between outlines are not only expected, but sometimes unavoidable. Making a conscious effort to avoid them may cause hesitation and hence decrease your speed.

      Personally, I avoid collisions only if I'm practicing penmanship, or writing the selections for the blog (for legibility reasons). But in normal writing, I don't pay attention to it.

      1. Also:

        Your (Carlos) response to Lisa's question.

        So in summary:

        Carlos does not avoid clashes of outlines.

        Some other people do.

        Some people use every second line or skip lines.  Some people disregard lines entirely or use unlined paper.  The Gregg shorthand manual plates use large line spacing.

        Very fast writers use such short outlines that they never really extend far below the line of writing.  On Charles Swem's sample, they are clashes but they are very few here there appears to be no effort to avoid clashes as the outlines are all evenly spaced.  There appears to be a very tall outline on the second column which clashes with multiple lines.

        One of the last remaining pen court reporters writing sample can be found at:
        and there appears to be no attempt at avoiding clashes, although clashes are very rare because of the short outlines used.  He writes so fast that the shorthand he writes is barely legible, and sometimes above the line of writing.


        1. On collisions: I've been studying from the intermediate Anni books (a half-dozen or so) for the past seven years.

          In these books, collisions are fairly common.  One assignment may have none, the next may have one, two or three.

          In all that time, I've had maybe three cases where a collision tripped me up for a second. The result was, I did a double-take and it was a whole two or three seconds to figure it out. Nothing serious here.

          There are those rare outlines that will do a deep-sea dive, no matter the proficiency of the writer. Take the word "beverage"–it covers three full lines of writing!

  20. Just wondering how to write the name Tanya? I know some words with a y sound in the middle drop that letter. I'm not sure if I'd remember it later when reading it back.

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