Newbie question: Not always sure which way to loop vowels

Early days for me in Notehand, still learning new alphabetic characters. Most the reading and writing is going smoothly and is a pleasure to learn. However, while doing the writing tests, I sometimes get stuck trying to decide whether to place the vowel (in this case, “e”) above or below its neighboring consonants.

For example, in the word, “read”, the “e” is written as a small loop above the continuous line formed by the “r” and “d” forms. It’s a counterclockwise loop. But in the word, “meter”, the “e” is written below the angle formed by the “m” and “t” forms as a clockwise loop.

Each approach makes total sense to me. It’s the easiest and fastest way to write each word, no question. But in such cases, I often have to pause in my writing and check the key to see which way it goes. Does this eventually come naturally, or is there a specific rule I’ve overlooked?


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  1. Unfortunately, the rules of inserting circles between strokes are not listed in the Notehand book, but you can find them in the Anniversary manual, Unit 2, paragraphs 14-17 (

    1. If an angle or a point is formed at the junction of consonants, the circle goes outside the angle. For example, in the word "meter" (m-e-t-r) , an angle is formed between the m and the t, so the e circle goes outside. In the word "tail" (t-a-l), there is a point formed between the t and the l, so the a goes outside.

    2. If a straight stroke (t, d, n, m, sh, ch, j) and a curve (l, r, g, k, p, b, f, v) join without an angle, or if two similar motion curves join without an angle, the circle is placed inside the curve. For example, in the word "read" (r-e-d), the r and the d join without an angle, so the circle goes inside that curve. In the word "cave" (k-a-v), the k and the v join without an angle, so the a goes inside.

    3. Between straight strokes in the same direction, the circle is written with a right motion (clockwise). For example, in "man", both the m and the n are going in the same direction, so the circle is written clockwise. Same with "dad."

    4. Between opposite curves, the circle is written on the back of the first curve. As an example, the word "rag", the r and the g are opposite to each other, so the a is written on the back of the r.

    I hope this helps.

  2. That's fantastic, Carlos, thank you for sharing that. It makes a huge difference.

    In fact, when I receive the Functional Method Part 1 book in the mail that I ordered from eBay, I'm going to switch to that and set aside the Notehand book. I'll also use the link you shared to read through and study the Anniversary manual enough to get the ground rules which I feel should have been included in the Notehand book.

  3. Carlos is correct.  The so-called rule relative to circle vowels is "inside curves, outside angles."

    The theory book for Gregg Simplified and Gregg Diamond Jubilee was available in both the functional method and the traditional (or scientific) method.  The order of presentation of theory principles, writing practice in each lesson, introduction to punctuation, etc., is the same in each book.  The difference is that the functional method did not emphasize rules, as such.  By reading (and later writing) well-formed shorthand outlines, students would "know" (in this case) where the circle goes.  In the "true" functional method approach, developed by Louis Leslie, writing was not introduced until Lesson 19–up until that point, students would only read shorthand.  A great deal of research was conducted (doctoral dissertations, master's theses) comparing and contrasting these two methods of instruction.  Most of this research concluded that the traditional (or scientific) method of teaching Gregg shorthand was superior to the functional method.  There was a great deal of discussion among shorthand teachers at teachers' conferences, workshops, and in the professional literature on this topic at one time.

    1. I've always wondered how often the Functional Method materials were actually used in schools.  Gregg and McGraw-Hill certainly had a commitment to the method, since it appeared as an alternative text all the way through Series 90.   

      There's a lot of value in reading shorthand material.  But whether there's any advantage in reading for a while before starting to write is probably still an open question today.  

  4. The so-called functional method of teaching Gregg Shorthand was introduced by Louis Leslie in 1935.  He authored a book THE TEACHING OF GREGG SHORTHAND BY THE FUNCTIONAL METHOD.  Sometimes the functional method was referred to as the language arts approach.   It was a very widely used method through the 1960s and by some teachers even after that.  In the 1960s and 1970s there was considerable research contrasting the functional method with the science-type method, also referred to as the traditional method or manual method.  This research clearly showed that the functional method was not the superior method for many reasons.  The functional method does not advocate the use of theory tests, in other words shorthand outline accuracy, which was one of the major flaws of this method.  Another major flaw was that writing was supposed to be deferred until Lesson 20.

    I was using the traditional (manual) method in my beginning shorthand classes but about 1977 I decided to use the functional approach since my colleague shorthand teachers claimed it was the best way to go!  Clearly for me it was not.  Students are highly motivate to WRITE shorthand from day 1 and to hold off writing for four or more weeks violates one of the basic principles of educational psychology–student motivation.  Thus, I abandoned the functional method and had the students write shorthand!

    Research also showed that a theoretically correct shorthand outline will more than likely be transcribed correctly which is not the case with outlines that are not theoretically correct.  Therefore, theory tests become important in the shorthand skill acquisition process, something that was a "no-no" in the functional method.

    Many teachers used a combination of the traditional method with the functional method; i.e., giving theory tests, introducing writing earlier, etc.  Gregg/McGraw-Hill supported both method of instruction.  In their monthly publication, Business Teacher, there was always a 100-word comprehensive theory test teachers could administer for the OGA.  Then, there were other method that were advocated such as the analytical method, indirect method, etc.

    1. I'm really liking the Functional approach so far. But as the book's introduction says, and as you mention, I'm also using the Manual as a supplement for learning the "how" and "why" behind some of the forms. 

      For me, the argument for favoring the Functional approach is that it throws me into the swim of how the overall system works. I begin to see, there's a logic behind the system that didn't become evident to me when I was just looking at the Manual online, or at the Notehand book, both of which present the material more as a myriad of little separate things to memorize. The Functional approach quickly gets me to become acquainted with how it all works together almost as a language. It's a bit like reading elementary French instead of just memorizing word lists and rules.

      But these are only my initial impressions. I very much agree with you that it's been great to take frequent peeks at the Manual while mainlining on the Functional approach. 

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