The question came up in the Facebook Gregg shorthand group about how not all homophones are written the same, with reference to brief forms.  For example, g-r = great, but not grate.  B-t = but, but not butt.  B = by, but not buy, etc.

I think this happens when the words are spelled differently (morning/mourning), but not when they are spelled the same (“wellspring” uses the l brief form, for instance).

Is there an explanation about this anywhere in the Gregg theory materials?


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  1. Brief forms (wordsigns in series before Anniversary) are assigned to high frequency words (HFW), not to the sound. So if a HFW has the same sound as another word that is not a HFW, the brief form is assigned to the HFW by definition, while the non-HFW has its normal outline. For example, “be” and “bee” have different outlines, because very little would be gained in speed by assigning “bee” to the brief form (it’s not a HFW).

    In Series 90, the powers that be at MGH decided that since students were confusing “great” (which was written g-r in DJS) and “grate” (which was written in full), they dropped the brief form and “great” would be written in full. However, I haven’t seen any case of the contrary, that is, assigning the non-HFW to the brief form.

    See question 125 of The Q’s and A’s of Shorthand Theory where this point is addressed.

    1. Thanks for articulating that!

      It seems like the dictionary entries for “welled”, “wellhead”, “wellhole” and “wellspring” are an exception, doesn’t it? (They’re in the DJS and Series 90 dictionaries).


      1. You’re welcome!

        All forms of “well”, whether adjective, adverb, noun, verb, or interjection, have the same spelling, so the likelihood of a transcription error by using the same outline in this case is very low. Hence, there is no need to have a separate outline for each meaning of the word.

        1. That makes sense.

          I guess “general”, “order”, “state”, “subject”, and “well” are all in this category where spelling is the same, with different possible meanings.

          This is kind of a fascinating “hidden rule” of Gregg shorthand!


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