Is shorthand difficult?


in shorthand-related boards, I often see someone who is asking advices to choose a shorthand and, among other criteria, there is always a shorthand that is easy. Each time, I’m surprised because, for me, shorthand is not the kind of thing that can be considered as difficult: there are rules and you apply these rules. There may be a lot of abbreviations but, as they concern words that come back rather often, they are quickly learned and your writing gains in comfort and clarity.

To really master a shorthand, it may take time but unless it’s a career goal, it seems to me there’s no reason to feel under pressure to quickly learn.

So, what do you think, has the shorthand you’re currently using been difficult to learn? 🙂

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  1. It's not terribly hard — but it's harder than many people (myself included) expect.

    Most of those who find it hard do so at the same points:

    – number of brief forms (memorization)

    – reading back with incomplete information (vowels!) (confidence, trust the system, practice, English skill)

    – penmanship and speed building (dexterity, speed of thought, practice)


    1. I’m thinking about all the books, documents we have been reading during our life, thousands of words we have met and know … it’s a process that is certainly underestimated. Having an equivalent in shorthand takes a lot of time.

      Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  2. It's not hard, but you do need to be consistent with reading and writing.  I had one semester of Diamond Jubilee edition in high school during the 80's… I didn't do great at it because I didn't practice it enough (I recall I had a really heavy class load at that time– 3 foreign languages– so I didn't keep up very well with Gregg).  I enjoyed it enough, however, that I took it up again in my late 40's (several years ago), this time it was Notehand edition (a scaled-back version that I thought my kids could easily master).  I remember it took me from May to September to complete the textbook, which has 70 lessons in it.  I usually worked at it 6 days a week.  I carried that book with me everywhere– any time I had to wait in line or had downtime, I read Notehand or practiced writing it.  I began keeping a journal in Notehand very early on in my studies, too.  I was highly motivated and determined… I'm guessing 4-5 months or so would be the fastest anyone could complete their Gregg textbook and still master the material well enough, but tenacity is key.  When I taught my kids, we went much slower.


    To contrast, I've been dabbling with Deseret alphabet this summer, but because I only play with it sporadically, I'm not mastering it.  I forget the characters too soon and have to start all over again.

    1. So, did you find Notehand really easier than Diamond Jubilee edition? Did you like it better?

      Thank you for your comment. 🙂 (Nice looking, this Deseret…)

      1. I wouldn't really say Diamond Jubilee is harder than Notehand.  I can pretty much read Diamond Jubilee, too, and I do borrow some of its brief forms for convenience.  I wasn't as concerned about speed, so Notehand was a good fit (plus it taught note-taking skills, which I wanted for my kids– we homeschool). The reading material in the Notehand book was more interesting than the Diamond Jubilee one (the latter has mostly business letters).  But I have the Diamond Jubilee books and text kits, too.  Notehand is not as abbreviated as the other editions.  Though I like the privacy Notehand offers, I didn't want my journal so heavily abbreviated that it would be even more difficult for descendants to read it one day.  So those were some of my decisions in going with Notehand over any of the other Gregg editions, not so much because of difficulty.

      2. Oh, and as for Deseret… it's too clunky as a shorthand system, but it has the advantage of having free fonts you can download for it.  And classic public domain books are being published in it all the time, so there is plenty of interesting reading material available to keep in practice.  That's the only disadvantage of Gregg— no literature is being published in it, except perhaps what you find by Carlos on this blog (which I soooo appreciate!)

        1. The problem with publishing Gregg literature is that it has to be handwritten, since the couple of attempts at Gregg fonts have been pretty clumsy. I think that's due to the many ways in which joinings can occur in Gregg. (Just look at all the shapes the letter a can take depending on the surrounding consonants.) So I too really appreciate what Carlos does for us.

  3. Whether shorthand is hard, I think, depends on your perception of what is hard and what is easy. That in turn depends on your interests and your life experiences with learning. If you've learned some difficult subjects to a reasonable level, you know what to expect of them, and you know how to work hard and be patient in learning them. If you haven't, I think you can find such subjects frustrating.

    1. It’s the impression I have, too. For me, learning is a pleasant experience, it’s a discovery, not something to be afraid of.

      And, probably, in the case of shorthand, it depends on your ease in handwriting and drawing.
      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

    1. At this point, I would take any new reading… 🙂

      But yes, pleasant reading is a motivation and you make efforts without realizing it.

  4. I think the "hard" behind it is that it takes quite a while to be able to use shorthand as shorthand. At first you go through the phase of stringing together outlines character by character, and have large problems reading back. Only after a lot of practice do you begin to outpace your longhand.

    1. I begin to feel too that the request for “an easy shorthand” means, in fact, “a shorthand that wont’t take too long to master”… (I personally didn’t go through the phase of stringing together outlines character by character; I wrote word by word or rather form by form).

      I suppose that it’s easy to feel conscious about your own handwriting when you see examples of “old shorthand”. There is a formal beauty in them that it’s difficult to match. But, back then, beautiful handwriting was more common, like in this “Business Journal” where lies this romantic bird:

      I will probably never quite outpace my longhand: there is regularly a word that makes me stop and I’m thinking “What is the best way to write this one?”. 🙂

      1. You might be surprised by how fast you will outpace your longhand, actually.  You wouldn't believe what a difference even just brief forms can make on your speed.

        1. Maybe, a little bit faster, yes (if I choose not to be perfectionist…) 🙂

          However, what remains nice with longhand, it’s I can focus on what I say, while with shorthand, my attention is divided between “what” and “how”. I suppose children could benefit from learning shorthand at early age and writing shorthand could become completely unconscious…

          1. I used to think only professional writers got enough practice to compose while typing. It took me 1 year of school, once I got a computer. The same thing happened when I got a tablet. I can't touch type on it. Looking at the keyboard and watching the result for typos as I go — too much! Now I reach for the tablet or even my phone instead of paper half the time.

            Shorthand is taking longer because I don't use it as often, and I still can't read it as fast.

  5. I agree with Washbear. Here's my personal example: I can hardly write cursive at 25 wpm without my hand cramping up after a couple of minutes. But when I write shorthand extremely slowly, I'm going at about 35 wpm (distinctly slower than one second per syllable). With that very slow shorthand, I could have about 17 seconds every minute to think about how to form outlines, before those pauses slow me down to my fastest cursive speed.

    1. Yes, exactly.  Even Notehand, which is not speed-oriented really at all, outpaces my longhand, easily.  One of the great benefits of Gregg is that the hand doesn't tire as easily.  Gregg really flows and it's so logical in its construction.

      Soon you will find your mind will "flip" easily between Gregg and longhand.  It's much like speaking a foreign language and reaching a point where you forget which language you're speaking in for a moment.  When I'm writing in Gregg shorthand and then go back to writing in longhand, it takes a few seconds for my brain to switch back.  It's a strange mental sensation.  Soon you'll find you're "thinking" in Gregg as automatically as your longhand.



      1. My opinion is that Gregg shorthand is great to make drafts to organize ideas before giving a definitive form to a text, like making a sketch before making a drawing… The order, the hierarchy of ideas can change easily.

        For me, it’s less about speed than having another way to tackle writing. And longhand is not disqualified: its lack of speed and the years of experience give another quality to writing…

        1. I developed a workflow where I write my drafts in Shorthand, and read it back into voice recognition software. During this phase I usually do some redrafting.

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