Gregg vs Pitman “font” size


I am a member of a Facebook shorthand group dominated by Indian and Pakistani Pitman practitioners. They often post Pitman texts and their longhand equivalent in two columns side by side on the same page, and I am always struck by how condensed Pitman looks, taking up less than half of the space needed for the longhand transcription.

I’d be interested in other people’s experience on this. It generally looks like Gregg uses a lot of space, more so than English longhand (at least based on the Gregg material I’ve come across so far). Is this an artistic decision/tradition? do some users write much smaller than this? Do Gregg shapes curve in such a way that it is difficult to maintain legibility at smaller sizes whereas Pitman shapes are more readily distinguishable even when written small? Doesn’t this have an impact on speed (I would assume the more space you take, the slower you become and vice-versa ?).

Thanks for your comments!

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5 comments Add yours
  1. Martin Dupraw wrote Gregg at 280 wpm, and his notes are very big (some may say huge). So no, in my opinion, speed and note size are unrelated. Pitman uses positioning and shading while Gregg uses proportions: two different approaches. That explains why Pitman notes look more compact, because two strokes of the same size can mean two different things depending on the shading and position, whereas in Gregg the same is achieved by the relative length of the characters.

  2. I find writing Gregg too small slows me down, because there's not enough room for error. If a 1mm and 2mm line mean different things, then being 0.5mm too long or short is a problem. If they're 2mm and 4mm, I don't have to be as accurate.

    On wide ruled paper, my Gregg and longhand take similar space. Gregg letters are wider, but there are fewer of them. Many letters are left out. On 7mm paper I prefer to double-space Gregg to make it easier to follow lines when reading and avoid problems with tall and short words.

    Gregg looks very open, but there's a lot of information in a small space.

    Also, Pitman is usually written on 1/2" lines (12.5mm). Gregg is usually around 1/3" (8mm) [see footnote]. That's an extra Gregg line for every two Pitman lines. 

    Footnote: There was a big discussion last month, and some verified references, but I don't remember the conclusion. 11/32", 1/3", 8.73mm, 8.47mm, 8.00mm.

  3. I think reading The Basic Principles of Shorthand by John R. Gregg (a PDF easy to find) will give all the answers you're looking for about the differences between Gregg and the other shorthands.

    It's really very interesting stuff. One of the reasons why I prefer Gregg to the other shorthands, as it is explained, is that the movement of the wrist while writing is close to the one in longhand which is more natural and less tiring…

  4. I'll add a few other reasons why I think Gregg seems to sprawl more than Pitman.

    One is that Gregg can be written big, if the writer so desires, and many writers do so desire. But Pitman must fit the lines because of its position writing.

    Another reason is that Gregg blends are in fact what their name implies: blends of two letters. So pr is essentially a p followed by an r, and nt is an n followed by a t, but with the join curved. In Pitman there are other, graphically shorter methods to do these things. For instance, pr is p with a preceding hook and nt is a shortened n. Pitman's lengthened strokes are for much rarer things, like the elongated n for -nther.

    A third reason is the average descending slopes of the systems. Regular longhand is written strictly horizontally, but words in shorthand tend not to stay on the line, but to descend on average. Most Gregg words don't descend very far, and that makes Gregg a relatively horizontal system. But Pitman has a steep average descent, so words don't sprawl from left to right so much. (I remember reading somewhere in the past that Gregg has an average downward slope of about 30 degrees, while Pitman descends on average at roughly 60 degrees.)

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