How Different Exactly is Simplified from Anniversary?

I’m starting a Gregg-learning club with some friends, as a productive quarantine/summer pastime, that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

In the past, I have tried teaching myself Anniversary, and even made a little bit of progress, but I’m hoping that with this accountability, I’ll be able to finally finish the thing. Right now though, I am puzzling over which series to use, with the choice being between Anniversary and Simplified. I have both of the manuals in physical form, and I’ve been working through the simplified manual to see what I can see about it. Here are the pros and cons I have noted thus far:


  • Pros:
    • Incredibly well documented, with a multitude of freely-accessible pdfs and other resources that include extra reading material, drills, and dictionaries. This makes it very conducive to online group learning, which is my goal.
    • Old, classic, and beautiful.
    • Ever so slightly faster (for what are, to me, mysterious reasons–hence this post)
  • Cons:
    • Very… technically written manuals. The Anniversary Series simply throws all of the symbols at you by category at once, which I find to be a little bit challenging for beginners. Sometimes the language in the manual can be a bit abstract or vague.


  • Pros:
    • Very, very well-explained in the manual. Each character is introduced one at a time in some semblance of order of frequency. The explanations are down-to-earth and it just feels easier to learn it this way.
    • Published like new, and available on Amazon for 15 bucks. My copy is absolutely beautiful.
  • Cons:
    • Very, very limited outside resources. I have found virtually none besides the manual itself, which means I’m at a loss for extra drills, reading resources and everything else.
    • Ever so slightly slower (for reasons unknown…)

I read the discussions about the general differences between the various series of Gregg, but I’m hoping for a little more detail and specifics about the kinds of differences between Simplified and its predecessor.

I’m planning on using Anniversary, because I feel we might as well go big or go home, and the easily accessible resources are eminently helpful for learning online and in a group. But I’m wondering if it would be worth using the Simplified manual to learn the basics–the alphabet, the rules for joining characters and whatever else. I’m just not sure how far we’d be able to go straddling them both, and if the differences start right off the bat, or if they don’t appear in earnest till later on.

Regardless of that, can anyone give a quick summary of the technical differences, and what I would hypothetically be learning new or changing if I had started with Anniversary and switched to Simplified?

Thank you!

As an update, we eventually landed on Simplified. We feel that for our purposes as mostly high-schoolers, the return on investment will be highest with Simplified. Also, if we ever feel the need for speed, we can certainly transition to Anniversary (something I am definitely considering for the future).

Thank you everyone for the input!

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  1. I think you really asked various questions here, so I'm going to address them one by one. Since you haven't studied the manual completely, I won't go into a lot of detail of the specific differences between Simplified and Anniversary shorthand theory (you can read about the exact differences here), but here are some of the major ones:

    1. Brief Forms and Other Abbreviated Words: Brief forms are abbreviations of commonly used words in the English language. Not only brief forms are abbreviated, but the Anniversary series contains rules for abbreviating other less frequent words (also to be memorized), which made the total of brief forms and other abbreviations high. In Simplified Gregg, a lot of those words are written in full (spelled out completely). This means that while you now write the same word in full in Simplified, in theory, you shouldn't be losing speed because you will come up with the Simplified outline much quicker than having to think about the equivalent abbreviated outline. Some of these other abbreviated words would not come often in business dictation so they were eliminated. This is probably the biggest difference between the two series — the amount of words to memorize.

    2. Prefixes and Suffixes: Gregg Shorthand uses special abbreviations for commonly used prefixes and suffixes. The number of these was substantially reduced in Simplified Gregg.

    3. Phrasing: In Gregg Shorthand, words can be joined in phrases and be written using one outline without having to lift the pen for each individual word. The number of phrases in Simplified Gregg was also reduced, although some special phrases and phrasing rules were also kept in Simplified.

    4. Other Theory Simplifications: Some miscellaneous rules in Anniversary were either eliminated or modified in Simplified to make them easier to apply. These were (a) the reversing principle for indicating the presence of r between a circle vowel and a straight stroke; (b) a simplification on when to omit r in a word; and (c) a simpler rule for indicating past tenses without exceptions. In addition, some rule exceptions were completely eliminated in Simplified. These theory simplifications were made because in the business office, the Anniversary rules were not deemed necessary (the Anniversary rules are much more important for those who need to be taking verbatim speech, as they are designed to increase your writing speed). To deal with some of the outline modifications in Simplified Gregg, a new character, the "rd blend", was invented and introduced in this series.

    5. Book Content: The material in the Anniversary books is varied: business letters, essays, short stories, etc. In the Simplified books, the material is mostly business letters. That doesn't mean that you can't use Simplified to write anything besides business stuff. It just means that you will be reading about selling shoes, or bills that someone has to pay more often than in the Anniversary series, because the target student was expected to work in a business environment.

    6. Theory Presentation: In the Anniversary series, the theory is presented in 12 chapters of 3 units each for a total of 36 units, with very little practice material present in the manual itself, so you need to rely on other books to supplement your practice and learning. On the other hand, the Simplified Manual contains 10 chapters for a total of 70 lessons: 9 of the chapters (54 lessons) contain all the theory, while the last 15 lessons are presented as a theory review. The lessons in the Simplified Manual were designed for a 40-minute class period, so principles were diluted, so to speak, in those 54 lessons. Lastly, all the practice material is contained within the Simplified manual.

    After reading about the differences, you may think that Anniversary is impossible to learn because there's too much to memorize. Quite the contrary. Anniversary was taught in high schools for a long time, and even after the Simplified series came in 1949, schools were still teaching Anniversary and McGraw-Hill was still publishing Anniversary materials in the 1960s because these were still in demand. This explains in part why you see so many Anniversary materials available for study and for purchase in online booksellers nowadays. However, if you decide to learn Anniversary, be aware that although the Anniversary manual is online and it gives you an explanation of the rules, it doesn't have enough reading and writing material and it doesn't have a key. It would be better to learn from a book with a lot of practice material and with a key available. The Gregg Publishing Company published many alternate manuals that covered the same theory, but presented the material in a slightly different format so that the student would be able to learn Anniversary in a more manageable fashion. One of these manuals is the two-volume set titled Gregg Shorthand – Manual for the Functional Method, by Louis Leslie. The Functional Method manual (FMM) correlates with the chapters and units of the regular Anniversary manual, but it divides the material into 80 short assignments designed to be completed in classroom in a 40-minute period (just as the lessons of the Simplified manual were). This has the advantage of learning Anniversary in small increments, and in that way, it wouldn't seem so overwhelming. The FMM also contains the key in the back. The FMM does not state rules per se — one is supposed to deduce the rule from the examples that are presented — but you can use the regular manual which presents the rule in case you need additional explanations. Lastly, with the FMM, you won't be writing any shorthand until Assignment 21. That is because this method relies on the student reading a lot of well-written shorthand before putting pen to paper, so that you become familiar with how the strokes are supposed to look like. I recommend these two-volume set because of the amount of material available for practice and because of the presence of a key. It is important that if you decide to go through the FMM route, be sure you get both parts (1 and 2). This book set is not available online, but I see both volumes sold all the time for cheap on eBay.

    Another option for Anniversary is to use the regular manual (or the FMM), but consider two additional books. The first one is Gregg Speed Studies, Third Edition (GSS). This book is also correlated with the manual and it provides even more examples and additional practice. The first edition of GSS is for the 1916 manual, and the second and third editions are for Anniversary. The third edition is better than the second edition because it is correlated unit by unit with the manual (you don't need to get both). Unfortunately, like the FMM, this book is not available online because of copyright, but you can get it cheaply on eBay, Amazon, etc. Lastly, there's a small softcover book titled 5000 Most-Used Shorthand Forms, which provides additional examples of vocabulary. The idea is that once you study a particular rule, you can check out the 5000 forms book for additional examples. This last one is available online.

    The important thing, whether you learn Anniversary or Simplified, is to be steady in the learning, and dedicate time. If you don't do this, you won't progress. Learning shorthand is like learning a foreign language. Beginning shorthand classes used to meet for one hour five times a week, so if you can at least take 40 minutes of your time every day to study, you will progress rapidly. Start substituting shorthand for longhand in your own writing for the words you study. And most importantly, do not advance to the following lesson until you can read all the shorthand in the current lesson like you read a book: mastery before speed.

    About the Simplified manual that you purchased, you noticed that McGraw-Hill is still publishing it. The manual is supposed to be self-contained, that is, all the material that you need to learn Simplified is present in the book (perhaps a reason for not finding many other additional supporting books). The book itself was written by Louis Leslie, the same author as the Anniversary FMM and it follows the short lesson format that I described above. Unfortunately, McGraw-Hill is not providing the key for sale (which seems strange to me).

    I think that learning shorthand in a club setting is an awesome thing, and either Simplified or Anniversary would be good choices. The biggest advantage of Anniversary over the later Gregg series is speed and the writer being able to read virtually any Gregg Shorthand text (including the earlier texts) without much difficulty. On the other hand, the changes in Simplified Gregg were made to have students writing shorthand at an earlier time in their studies. Once you make a decision of which series you want to learn, don't change midstream! Finish the chosen series, and later on, you can always adapt your writing to your own needs.

    I hope this is helpful.

    1. Wow, thank you so much for the detailed analysis! I really appreciate it–that is tremendously helpful. I'll make a decision and let you know what we ended up doing. I found a book called "Word and Sentence Drills" for Anniversary that someone here scanned onto Would that be a useful resource?

      1. The Word and Sentence drill book is good for additional practice material. The disadvantage of the book is that the material is not written in shorthand, so although it tells you, for example, that you can write a certain word following a certain principle, it doesn't show you the shorthand outline.

        1. I found the "5,000 most used shorthand forms" book to be the most under-rated book ever. You can use the index at the back to find words, like a dictionary, then it links you to the shorthand form and what rules were applied to get it.

  2. I used the Simplified manual (2nd. ed) and even the Notehand manual to learn the characters – I do 1916 Gregg which is even more intense than Anniversary. And the manual is less user-friendly

    You do have to be aware of the changes – in Simplified and later they use the rd blend. So don't bother to learn that when you get to that. Also Simplified tend to write out their "r"s a lot. The abbreviating principle is almost non-existent in simplified.

    Keep comparing and contrasting as you go along. In general, there a lot more briefs, and some of the briefs have changed (a-f for after Anni vs. a-f-t in Simplified, f-t for future vs. f-t-r).

    After that I found it's helpful to do lots of practice by translating printed text to shorthand at your own pace – it's a matter reviewing the dictionary, then working out why things are written that way. I find the book 5,000 most used shorthand forms to be useful. Look up the word in the index at the back, then it links you back to the shorthand form and what rules apply.



      1. You can download the Anniversary copy over at Andrew Owen's site. I've found it very useful to print it out and index it as a supplement to the Anniversary Dictionary. I also printed out The Vocabulary of the Gregg Shorthand Manual as an index of the vocab that is found in the Manual, but ommited from the dictionary under the logic "It's already in the Manual (but totally unsearchable)."

        Even though it's regrettable to have to search three different indexes for a word, between the three you get a more comprehensive dictionary. There's also specialized vocab sheets floating around the blog and Andre Owen's site, like food, mining, and chemistry.

  3. I have bookmarked the comment above by Carlos. It is excellent.

    I would also add that the higher memory load of Anniversary means that it also has a higher maintenance requirement. In other words I think Simplified is easier to fall back into after a time away.

    Shorthand is only useful when it is fast and clear. Nothing breaks that usability more than not having the outline readily in mind. The more exceptions and rules, the more there is to review and brush up on and I agree with the old advice that once you learn Anniversary, you should work through the manual at least once a year for the rest of your life to keep the skill useful. I have many periods when I don't actively set aside time for shorthand, and then my speed drops off considerably as I fall back on longer outlines while the back of my head says "I know there is a better way to write this, but I don't have time to remember it."

    With Simplified, on the other hand,I think you can maintain higher speeds as you use it less and lapse a little in regular study.

    Personally, I use and love Anni. I like the FMM, love the old literature and there is an amazing elegence of the system when it is firing on all cylinders for me. But I have to admit that Simplified is tuned for practicality among non-professional stenographers.

    If you want to bite the study bullet to posses a powerful writing skill for your toolkit in life, I recommend Simplified. But you fall in love with the art form of Shorthand and enjoy the practice and the learning of it for its own sake, I recommend Anniversary.

    Now go and re-read Carlos' post.

    1. Wow, thank you for the insight. I'm really drawn to the practicality of Simplified. But it's just so hard to do it when everyone would have to buy the manual. Since the accountability is so important to me, it's hard to justify striking out on my own just to learn simplified. 

    2. Strangely, I find the need for constant theory review why Preanniversary is so engaging. I like to explore why the theory wasn't extended further and I realise that there was a lot of thinking behind Gregg shorthand – it's a crowdsourced theory, created with the help of thousands of students, teachers and professionals.

      For example, say I wanted to explore why "astro-" isn't a prefix. Word frequency data (the iweb corpus, that looks at almost a trillion words on the internet) says that words beginning with astro- occur in only 4 parts per million words or less. In addition, using a-s disjoined would clash with anti-super.

      1. I find the crowdsourcing element interesting, too. It's a stark contrast to DEK, which is "amtlich" or officially standardized by the German government. When I've explained the organic way Gregg developed to German relatives, they've gotten this confused look on their faces (lots of things are "amtlich" in German culture. Everything must be in order!).

        On the one hand, I like the idea that Gregg was adaptable to the needs and wisdom of it's users, and wasn't just influenced by its inventor or a core group of developers. On the other hand DEK is still in official use, while Gregg is not… Correlation isn't causality, but I do wonder if the different approaches were partially responsible for the different outcomes.

        Of course, other elements came into play, too, including technological (steno machines, audio recorders) and the cultures' relationships to those technologies. I see US culture, even in the long term, as being very "Adopt the new technology immediately because it's shiny and therefore better! Abandon the old technology as outdated without really examining if it's actually no longer useful!" I speculate that that probably had a role in the loss of shorthand as a relatively common skill.

        1. I don't think that "crowdsourced" is the right word in the case of Gregg Shorthand. Dr. Gregg definitely had feedback from teachers and users regarding suggestions (and the Gregg Publishing Company did research as well), but in the end, Dr. Gregg created the system himself, and was the ultimate arbiter on what went into the manuals: he ran a tight ship while he was alive, even so that he had exclusivity pretty much in regards to Gregg Shorthand publications.

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