Backstory on Birth of Simplified?

I learned on this blog the basics of how Simplified was created and how Leslie was responsible.

Here’s a snippet by way of summary by Carlos from a 8/11/2017 post:

(…At the time of his death in 1948, he [J.R. Gregg] was working with Mr. Clyde Blanchard on a revised new manual, because he really was never satisfied with the presentation of the Anniversary manual — he had been working on a new manual off and on starting a few years after the publication of the Anniversary manual, but had put off this project because of the war. Shortly after Dr. Gregg’s death, McGraw-Hill acquired the Gregg Publishing Company, and Dr. Gregg’s wife Janet became the President for a short while. The revised new manual was then completed by Mrs. Gregg and Mr. Blanchard, and a galley proof was produced. At the same time, Mr. Louis Leslie, who at the time was one of Dr. Gregg’s assistants, was preparing a separate manual of his own (this effort was unbeknownst to Mrs. Gregg, as he was working on it in his spare time). When the new Gregg manual was about to be sent to press, the powers that be at McGraw-Hill decided to publish Leslie’s manual instead, and that’s how the Simplified series was born.)

I can’t help but wonder that there must be a story here. For instance whether there were others at the time that wanted a different approach to the new edition or discussions about it at the time (or possibly serious disagreement or side-taking). It seems unlikely and impractical that Leslie should’ve been working alone. Maybe there was some drama!

Likewise, I’m curious about Simplified’s reception at the time and whether reactions to it made it into writing– for instance in any of the Gregg magazines or the news media in general. I don’t know if the Gregg magazines had Letters to the Editor and opinion pieces etc. And at that time since Gregg was nearer its height there must’ve been a lot of interest (maybe more so than at the relatively minor “tweaks” of the publications following Simplified as shorthand was waning).

It’s such a significant step the history would be nice to have. I wonder if there’s anyone still alive who has direct experience or knowledge of the events.



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    1. One more thing… ask your local inter-library loan to request articles like these.  That way you can see them for free.  I found a bunch for Gregg Notehand a couple years ago.

  1. I could probably write a book about this, but trying to be somewhat brief, from the information that I have been able to gather, the appearance of Leslie's Simplified manual has more to do with McGraw-Hill's acquisition of the Gregg Publishing Company, than the actual writing of a new shorthand manual. As with any business merger/acquisition, in addition of management changes, reassignment of work duties, and relocation and dismissal of employees, naturally there was a clash of cultures between the two companies: the big corporate management style vs. the more personal familiar style of Dr. Gregg's management. So you can expect that all of this this had an effect on the decision of which manual to publish. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found out why was Leslie’s manual chosen, but I wouldn’t doubt that some clever “marketing” by Leslie to the new corporate heads was also part of it.

    Leslie delivered a manual that was classroom ready, and in my opinion, that was the biggest selling point, as he basically delivered something that teacher's could use right away without much lesson planning. However, many people were not happy about the Simplified series itself, especially those in the reporting profession, as they felt the series went too far in simplifications.

    Another group that appeared not very pleased with Leslie's manuals in general was the UK office of the Gregg Publishing Company. They had rejected the use of Leslie's Anniversary Functional Method manual in their Gregg schools, since they considered it unusually long. This was one of the reasons a "New Rapid Course" was developed for Anniversary Gregg by Ernest Crockett and Mrs. Gregg. Even with the publication of the US Simplified manual, separate manuals were published in the UK with a reduced number of lessons (48 lessons instead of 80). This same approach was followed in other UK-only publications, such as a Simplified version of Gregg Speed Practice, Gregg Transcription Practice (which were intended as a second shorthand course), and the Gregg Advanced Speed Course, these last ones presenting material in a much reduced number of lessons.

    During Dr. Gregg's tenure he encouraged the publication of several shorthand books; after Simplified Gregg, the publication of alternative shorthand manuals or courses by McGraw-Hill was drastically reduced, as the demand for shorthand publications started to diminish. Even when Simplified was being taught, Anniversary manuals were still being printed. From that, you can infer that they felt that the amount of shorthand publications available during that time was fine, and that additional resources could be spent in other areas.

  2. What most surprises me is that it appears they were working on two new manuals simultaneously – the new anniversary and Simplified.

    Maybe Leslie wasn't acting alone but with approval of new management. If Leslie produced a complete, ready to go book it doesn't seem he could have done it only alone in his free time but with the help of many on the Gregg/McGraw Hill staff. If so it would've been hard to keep a project that big a secret. Maybe everyone knew about it all along.

    1. Yes, both were being written more or less at the same time, although I believe the new manual (new series, more similar to Anniversary, but with simplifications in theory and presentation) started earlier than Leslie's Simplified (who had Zoubek as a coauthor). I don’t know when Leslie started working on his new series, but he could have started to outline the Simplified principles at the same time Gregg and Blanchard were working on the new manual. Dr. Gregg didn't have any input on the Simplified series or manual whatsoever. Remember, the appearance of Leslie's Simplified happened after Dr. Gregg's death: even though Dr. Gregg had already contributed to the new manual and his wife took over the project as president of the company, Leslie was also doing his own thing (more than likely with approval of McGraw-Hill's new management!). I'm not clear yet what was his reporting relationship while Mrs. Gregg was president. More than likely, he reported directly to the new management, bypassing Mrs. Gregg.

      Lastly, I don't really think he needed a big staff to write a book — only him and a plate writer (Zoubek or Rader) is all that was needed.

      (By the way, Mrs. Gregg was not at all pleased when Dr. Gregg’s name was added as a Simplified manual author. She was very adamant about not associating Dr. Gregg with Leslie’s writing style. After Dr. Gregg’s death, the regular manual in Simplified, DJS, and S90, and the first edition of the Simplified college Vol. 1 book are the only ones with Dr. Gregg’s name listed as an author — maybe a copyright issue or a seliing point, but for sure, going against Mrs. Gregg’s wishes. The other manuals — functional method, subsequent college books, etc. — do not list Dr. Gregg as an author.)

  3. My first experience with shorthand was Gregg Simplified, but my teacher, an elderly gentleman who had been a congressional court reporter, still clung to the earlier versions of Gregg. 

    While he agreed that Simplified was easier to teach and easier for students to learn because of the modified memory load, he defended the older versions of Pre-Anny and Anny as more efficient and faster to write.  He even suggested that those serious about speed go back and learn them.  I did and never regretted it. 

    Pre-anny is my favorite, and I have used it many years, still even in retirement, for taking meeting notes and notes at church.  True, it was an effort to learn, but once learned, it's like riding a bike — you never forget it.

    1. Excellent Wordsmith. I love reading stories like yours. I know quite a few people that have done exactly the same thing: start with Simplified and then switch to a faster series, because they like Gregg so much, or because they want to really improve their speed. It seems that you had a very good teacher. You were very lucky he motivated you to learn the older series to improve your speed.

  4. I wonder if there is a still a copy of that other manual lying around somewhere. I would love to see how it compares to Simplified!

    From what I've seen in discussions about the death of Gregg and the introduction of Simplified, it's not hard to read between the lines that there is a certain sentiment that Simplified is a version that Dr. Gregg would not have approved of. This is also implied by the actions of his wife and her relation to Leslie and McGraw Hill.

    However, I'd like to argue that Simplified is actually a natural progression of Gregg that Gregg not only would have approved of, but already foresaw after Anniversary was published. Two points that are sometimes cited as detractions in Simplified are longer outlines and reduced word beginnings and endings (obviously these are related to some extent). However, I've seen quotes from Gregg where he stated that the many word beginnings and endings were only superficially short: they required hesitation and lifting the pen, which led to less speed. He admitted that they looked good because of their compactness, and that seemed to be "in" at the time. But he further stated that in a future version, these prefixes and suffixes would be relegated to an appendix, only to be considered optional. The reduction in hesitation also meant that speed could be gained even if the overall outline were longer. This seems to be the tack that Leslie took when working on Simplified, and I wonder if this was also proposed in the draft that Mrs. Gregg had worked on.

    Interestingly, I think one could easily solve the "longer outlines" issue cited in the article and elsewhere by one easy change to Simplified: add the Abbreviating Principle back. I think that would automatically cut down the length of outlines without changing any of the other principles.

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