Vocabulary Studies for Stenographers

I stumbled upon a very interesting book published in 1922 by The Gregg Publishing Company. Titled “Vocabulary Studies for Stenographers”, it was authored by Enoch Newton Miner. The book contains the pronunciation, definition, and shorthand outlines of “words in most common use among educated people which frequently are, in different ways, most perplexing to the student.” Hence, the book is intended not only as a reference publication, but also as a way to improve shorthand vocabulary.

The book is 250 pages long and it is divided into 4 parts. The first part of the book is the main compilation of words. Here is a sample of two pages from the first part. As you can see, each word is tabulated with its pronunciation, usage, and shorthand outline. Interestingly, in addition to the pronunciation, usage, and shorthand forms, he also includes derivatives, synonyms/antonyms, and other words with similar shorthand outlines. The space under “Other Shorthand Forms” is intended for the student to write the shorthand outlines of other words that are related to the word in question. Notice that each word has a number (printed on the right side). The number restarts at 1 for each letter, so for example “persuade” is the 31st word under P (P-31). This numbering will come handy in the index.

The second part of the book contains additional words (“Other Ordinary Words”) that were added to “meet the requirements of all grades of students in commercial schools, as well as of the English departments of public and parochial schools and colleges.” The arrangement is similar to the first part of the book, except that derivatives, synonyms/antonyms are not included.

The third part of the book contains a list of “Special Terms, Abbreviations, and Phrases Used in Business.” For example, terms such as “A.D.”, “apropos”, “per capita” (even “Mr.” and “Mrs.”) are defined and explained how they are used in business.

Lastly, the book presents an index on how these words should be practiced. He indexed the words by shorthand principle. For example, for the -ble ending, he lists A-21, 24, etc. That means to go to letter A and choose words #21, 24, etc. Hence, the book goes beyond the typical shorthand dictionaries. It not only gives outlines, but it also groups words by principle, allowing the student to practice related outlines so that the writing becomes automatic. The idea is to complete the study of the book in one semester.

He writes “Remember that only constant, persistent practice can bring success.” He’s absolutely right.

After examining this book, I really wished it would have been updated with each subsequent series of Gregg. It is a remarkable publication that serves as a great way to study the system and increase shorthand proficiency at the same time.

Mr. Miner had a very interesting professional life. He was a Pitman writer who in his youth started a journal titled “The Phonetic Educator.” The journal itself was short lived, but it propelled his career as an editor and founder of “The Phonographic World”, which he published and edited for 27 years. In his last public appearance in December 1921 at the National Commercial Teachers’ Federation convention (which he was president), he told the story about his conversion to Gregg. In that speech, his endorsement of Gregg Shorthand over other shorthand systems was unequivocal and enthusiastic. In addition to his editorial career, he taught Gregg in various schools over the country. Unfortunately, he died in the same year this book was published. In the dedication of the book, he wrote

To That Man, Who,
Through his tireless and determined efforts for shorthand
and typewriting during the past twenty-eight years,
has done more to advance and elevate the twin
arts in the United States of America than
all other agencies combined,
To John Robert Gregg,
This volume is respectfully inscribed, with
the admiration, esteem and love of

The Author.

June, 1922.

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  1. I have my own program which takes takes word frequency data from the Google Trillion Word Corpus – more data than Gregg could ever process by hand – and combines it with information from the CMU pronouncing dictionary to filter the words by principle.

    One of the advantages of this is that you get Parts Per Million (PPM) information – how often a word occurs per million words. Suprisingly a lot of things which a PITA don't come up very often.  An example is in 1916 Gregg "-ness" is the joined suffix "n". But there are really four cases to this rule

    – After single letter briefs write "-nes"

    – After a vowel write "/n".

    – After certain vowels, you can join the "n" back on again: "happiness" = "a-p-e-n (e anticlockwise)"

    – In many exceptions darkness vs darken write in full.


    What you find is that the word with "-ness" used the most is "business" – which is a word sign. All other "-ness" words are only something like 2-3 PPM. So I don't really use the "-ness" word ending unless I'm taking down something which uses a certain word with "-ness" unusually frequently.

    1. That's one of the reasons -ness was removed from the list of endings in Anniversary and later series. The other reason was outline legibility.

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