Teaching Gregg Shorthand

Teaching shorthand has been my great passion all my life. Since I retired, I’ve been teaching it on our local high-school’s community education program, off and on, for more than ten years. It has been an ongoing program; however, every time they could not get a sufficient number of students to sign up, they had to cancel the class, which was not infrequent. Now and then, however, they let me teach two students. Occasionally, only one.

At the request of the School District, I submitted for each term my “class description,” which they posted on line as well as in their program catalog. My promo words were:

< We live in a spectacularly advanced high-tech electronics age. Every aspect of this incredible technology benefits our daily lives. But don’t you feel, now and then, that you are somewhat controlled by this same technology? Rather than relying mindlessly on everything you can get from your iPhone apps, how about learning (or re-learning) Gregg Shorthand, so you could write at the speed of 100 words per minute. All you need is a pen and a notebook, and you can learn the shorthand signs. The process of learning this interesting skill is
also an excellent opportunity to exercise your brain. >

Now, since mid-2018, I’ve been exchanging e-mails with a wonderful woman stenographer from Melbourne, Australia; a well-established shorthand instructor in that country, and a true shorthand aficionado. In 2021, she published a book, “With Pencils Poised – A History of Shorthand in Australia – Barnes and Noble.”

In the course of our e-mail exchange starting in 2018, at one point, she called my attention to a medical journal article, appearing in Germany, entitled, “Stenografie Contra Demenz, (Combatting Dementia Through Shorthand).” I then decided to add, at the end of my promo words (= class description) for my School District’s Gregg shorthand class, that German article’s conclusive statement →

“It has been established in medical fields in Europe that shorthand may prevent, or at least delay progress of, dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

In early 2020, just as our coronavirus was starting to cast a dark shadow over us all, socially and individually, I started thinking about approaching certain senior residential homes in our area with my proposal to teach Gregg shorthand to their residents. Too late: they were off-limits, due to COVID-19.

I used to lament the general lack of interest in my Gregg shorthand class to my friends here in the U.S. and also in Tokyo.

Following are the comments I received from them:

(1) “The shorthand class may be in high demand when all the high-tech equipment fails! I wonder about our dependency on all this stuff.” – From my American friend.

(2) “No matter how IT may advance, this kind of technology, similar to languages, will never become obsolete.” – from my friend in Tokyo, a high-school alumnus.

(3) “Embracing technology is fine, but it’s important not to forget how the world once was.” – from our businessman son.

(4) “Is it (shorthand) really a dying technology, I wonder? Phonograph records (gramophone records) are currently being looked at, in a more positive light, by people who are getting tired of the CD’s and YouTube. Some people are also getting tired of digital cameras and the i-Phone photo taking. There are people who want to go back to the good, old Single-lens or the twin-lens reflex cameras, using actual film.” – my high-school alumnus in Tokyo.

What would be the best strategy to acquire serious steno students? Is there any venue where I can hope to assemble a meaningful number of Gregg shorthand students?

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16 comments Add yours
  1. That's a good question.  Ironically, you would probably have to go online to advertise the "pen and paper" shorthand lessons!

    Initially I thought maybe your local college, but my own two children graduated not too long ago, and they recorded all their notes on their laptops in real-time.

    It may well be that you will only ever find a handful of learners at any given time, and I would imagine the drop-off rate would be high given how much time someone would have to spend learning what is essentially a new language (speaking from experience, I have been trying to learn Spanish with Duo Lingo the last three months, and while I did a lesson every day the first month, I'm now down to only two or three times a week).

    I do wish you luck, and hopefully you find lots of students!


  2. I'd like to second what David Ludwig says, and I'd also like to add a comment about how to advertise your class. I notice that you mention being controlled by technology, etc. This suggests that you will be pulling in the anti-tech crowd. But that's not who you really want; you want the pro-stenography crowd. So I would suggest you take a more positive attitude toward technology, if you have to mention it at all, so as not to repel the pro-tech students who might also be pro-stenography. For instance, you could mention this website as a repository of extra practice materials and a place for people interested in Gregg to interact online in a relaxed and friendly way.

  3. Hint: Let's trip the light fantastic.

    Howdy, I've been learning shorthand, so far, spent a few years at it. My level of technical proficiency is slow, but knowledge is deep and broad. I'm excited to say, keep at it because many of us are.

    "The chances of finding out what's really going on in this universe are so remote, the only thing to do is hang a sense of it and keep yourself busy." – Douglas Adams

    Teaching shorthand is as much a marketing issue as is working a classroom of students. If marketing is the issue, i.e. attracting students and increasing enrollment, let's re-consider R&D. When I'm depressed, I grab my towel and listen to the work of Douglas Adams, Jacque Fresco and a host of other good-n-wholesome folk. Yes, I return to story.

    "It's an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem." – Douglas Adams

    "You can't have something for nothing." – Humma Gavula to Zaphod Beeblebrox

    Journey of The Sorcerer by the Eagles


    "Life is too short to not be cool." – Grandpa McCormack

    "Life is too long if too hot." – Grandson McCormack

    "Careful as we will, careful as we go." – Grandpa McCormack

    Feeding Line by Boys & Bears


    Patrick McCormack, MBA-Business Data Analysis & Intelligence, BBA Accounting, BBA Logisitics, AAS Geomatics


    Sine Timore & Take Care


  4. I wonder whether people born later then the 80s know that shorthand exists. I was taking notes at a meeting, when I was asked "what language" was I writing in. They were very surprised when I responded "English", and that I was writing in shorthand. Further to that they were surprised standardized shorthand systems exist – they thought I made my own system by myself.


    Another thing to note – shorthand and technology are not mutually exclusive. I write my notes in shorthand,and read them back into voice recognition software to quickly transcribe my notes. In addition, I can also write my notes on a tablet, with a stylus, although I feel I have less control of the pen.

    1. In the US, the answer to your question is "no".  People have no idea what shorthand is, why it existed, or what anyone would have ever used it for.  

      Shorthand is still taught, although not very well, in the Philippines.  And various European shorthand systems still have users and active groups.  

      But in 2022, shorthand really doesn't have practical value for most people.  Almost no one writes anything by hand any more.  The only time I use a ballpoint pen is to jot down a shopping list.  It's far better to approach it as a personal interest in a nearly forgotten art.  

  5. BTW: As we are tripping the light fantastic, shorthand is a marathon. For me, the art of shorthand is lifelong learning, learning the disciple of communications. I insist that every "communications" professional is required to possess a working knowledge of shorthand. For myself and others, I am working to this end. Why? Answer: Language Is A Virus by Laurie Anderson

    There you go. For this day, I did my community service.

    Sine Timore & Take Care

  6. I'd suggest reaching out to a local homeschooling email list.  I'm a homeschooling parent and several years ago I taught both of my kids Gregg Notehand edition, since it had many notetaking lessons in it and the reading material was more engaging than the other editions of Gregg textbooks, with their business letters.  I started my daughter when she was only 10 years old.  Begin with an age group that is already pretty well established with their basic spelling competency, otherwise learning phonetic shorthand might turn things into a spelling nightmare down the road.  I posted a bunch of teaching resources on this blog several years ago here.  I created a Notehand  Bingo game that you can print off (pdf).  I think if you present shorthand to homeschoolers as a great notetaking and study tool that can help them become college-ready, and mention it as useful because it adds another layer of privacy in this world of diminishing privacy, you could find some interested homeschoolers.  Plus, there's the fun "secret code" aspect to shorthand that kids (and grownups!) find fun.  I hope you'll post your teaching adventures, no matter who you manage to find to teach.  Good luck!!

  7. I think Washbear makes an interesting point about the "secret code" aspect of shorthand.   That's probably part of what drew me to it when I was a kid.

    A few years ago I was taking the minutes at a meeting in shorthand, and the fellow next to me looked over and was fascinated when I told him it was shorthand.  He would point and ask what various symbols meant, and couldn't believe that so few strokes could capture so much information.  If people saw shorthand again, we would probably gain quite a few new students!


  8. I don't think I've posted to this site in a while but here goes.  For those who don't remember and despite being an Anniversary writer, I worked for McGraw-Hill on Series 90 books and correlated tapes in the 1980s and maintain shorthandshorthandshorthand.com.

    I retired in January after almost 34 years with a state university; 30 were good.  But I digress.  

    I would LOVE to teach shorthand.  In contacting the local community colleges, I found people who could say NO faster than I could get the request out.  My own university laughed at the thought of teaching shorthand again.  (It was discontinued before 1990.)  Night school class providers proved equally as closed minded.  The thought of teaching online is something I've avoided.  I really did consider moving to England a few times since they still require a shorthand speed of 100 or more for their reporters (as in newspaper, radio, television).

    Unfortunately, for the most part, I believe shorthand is not something in which people want to invest time and effort, especially for a symbol system.  It's sad since I found shorthand to be incredibly useful in college and throughout my career.  I can say that my site is visited by shorthand students/enthusiasts mostly from India and Great Britain.  There was a shorthand teacher who contacted me a few years back; her class is no longer.

    So sad. . . .

    1. Journalism in England seems to have been dominated by Teeline in recent decades.  But I haven't been able to find any information that the shorthand requirement is still in place for journalism programs.  I had a friend who taught journalism in the UK until his retirement a few years ago, and even though he was a Pitman writer it wasn't a part of his university's curriculum.  

      I've always thought that McGraw-Hill missed an opportunity by not marketing Gregg in the "self help" category.  After Notehand was developed, it would have been an easy step to make a "teach yourself" style book and get it into bookstores.  I think they were too focused on shorthand as a commercial subject taught in school, and couldn't see any other possibility.  

      We're also handicapped today by the fact that people really don't write very much of anything by hand.  Myself included.  I use a pen to write shopping lists and mark appointments on the calendar, and that's about it.  So asking people to learn a pen-based skill is a stretch.  

      Congratulations on your retirement.  I know the experience of "the first X years were good, the last ones not so much."  


      1. Thanks Lee!  

        I agree, the self-help field may have saved shorthand from relative extinction for McGraw-Hill.  Having worked there, I'll keep the rest of my thoughts on that topic to myself.  O:-)


      2. The shorthand requirement still exists for journalism students/ people trying to get licensed in journalism in the UK.  This is because courts in the UK still do not allow visitors to take in electronic recording devices, cell phones, etc. 

  9. Have you thought of creating a course online somewhere, such as, Skill Share ( https://www.skillshare.com/ )?

    Also, a thought on your class description. I wouldn't draw anyone's attention the fact that their, likely, new and very expensive laptop or tablet which they just got and are very proud of could fail them. It may alienates a potential student. Instead, steal some ideas from this NCTJ Shorthand video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9_5Q1QrjeE ). Though it does mention electronic equipment failure emphasise the portability of a notepad and pen, the cheapness of the material (you care less about a lost notepad or pen than an expensive computer), it can go places you can't take bulky electronic devices, and appeal to they intelligence – I assume they are smart if they intend to go to or got into uni. Sell the positives of using short hand rather than the short comings of what they currently do. They may take it personally!

    1. An on-line course is probably the only realistic option in today's world.  And even so, it's going to be hard to find participants.  

      I notice that the NCTJ video is from 2013.  I wonder what their perspective is now, ten years later.  But it's a fascinating video!  Thanks for sharing.  I hadn't seen it before.  A lot of it seems to be "people say it's old-fashioned, but it's really not", and I suspect that battle has been lost.  

      (Teeline makes me a little crazy, because it's alphabetic rather than phonetic.  As a Gregg writer, that has never made sense to me.  But it's interesting to see people actually making notes with it.)  

      My sense today is that people in general don't use paper and pen for much of anything.  In our son's family, for instance (both parents are physicians, all three kids are in school) it's nearly impossible to find a piece of paper to write a note on.  They speak notes to their phones and iPads and watches . . . and when I go to the grocery store, I almost never see someone like me, with a paper shopping list and pen in hand.  

      Shorthand isn't alone.  Interest in calligraphy, which was very high in the middle part of the 20th century, has almost completely disappeared.  That includes both the "Italic" style of broad pen calligraphy and italic handwriting, and the "ornamental penmanship" of the Spencer, Palmer, and Zaner-Bloser type.  

      So, like many things in the world today, it's a matter of trying to figure out how to market to a small niche group.  


      1. I did come across a more recent (2020) series of videos on You Tube where an English lad was detailing his learning of Teeline for journalism. The playlist was called "My Journey into Journalism" which I can't seem to locate. Circa the same production time I found this one when I went to look for that one by a lass in second year at Sheffield ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsSWJLEtDSw ). She discusses short hand a bit in the first five minute saying you'll find it tough without it. Promising to return to it later she discusses other subjects at uni and almost forgets until around 12:40 were she says it's used for court reporting. So, it seems that it's still alive and well in the UK.

        There must be people still using writing for shopping lists besides myself as every now and then I see someone's discarded list on the pavement or in the bins outside the shops. Though I do agree that the use of writing is waning.

        As to niche markets for shorthand. Besides journalism. One that occurred to me after I recalled a conversation I had with someone is the military. He was in the military himself and said that he was in meetings were all electronic devices were banned. You had to put those in a lock box outside in the hallway or something and the old things you were allowed to take in were a pen/pencil and a writing pad.

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