Random Questions from a Newcomer

I’ve long had an interest in shorthand, because it seemed like a magical power to write quickly in (to other people) gibberish squiggles. But nothing ever came of it (because I’ve long had interests in dozens of other things). Hopefully, I can learn it now. I’m starting the Functional manual for Anniversary (from archive.org). I have some mostly unrelated questions about it (of varying importance). In no particular order:

  • What would be the negative impact of using the shorthand I learn when I write (before Assignment 22)? The point of the functional method, as I understand it, is to learn how to write it correctly before trying to write it. How much would I spoil that?
  • What is appropriate use of the answer key? It says in the “Talk with the Beginner”, “As soon as you hesitate on an outline, refer immediately to the printed transcript. Reread the lists and the connected matter with the aid of the key until you can read them fairly easily without the use of the key.” Even though I know there are no rules, this feels like cheating. Don’t you learn better by focusing until you sound out the letters than by looking at the answer sheet? When you reread it, won’t you be artificially aided by short-term memory of what it said? And should I put a sheet of paper over the key so I only see what I’m looking for? What is the best use of the key?
  • How quickly can one typically write starting at Assignment 22? Assuming I complete one assignment a day, this would be after 3-4 weeks. What’s a reasonable speed expectation at this point? Don’t try to overestimate to encourage or motivate me; I just want a reasonable expectation.
  • How quickly can one typically write at the end of Part 1 (Assignment 39)? Ditto.
  • How would you write my name in Gregg? Ariella, pronounced are-ee-EL-a. I would guess a-r-e-l-a, as introduced in Assignment 1.
  • What do the superscripts in the key mean? They would seem to indicate footnotes (they go in numerical order), but I’m not sure where the footnotes are.
  • How long do you have to study shorthand for it to “stick”? Since I’ve only done a few lessons, if I stopped working through the book at this point and just used shorthand as I had need of it, I would probably forget a lot of it quickly. If I stopped after practicing reading and writing daily for two years, I would probably not forget it for a long time. How long does it take for shorthand to be anchored in your mind enough for it to “stick”?

Don’t be afraid to tell me what would be a better way of doing something or “bad news”; it probably won’t deter me. Once I decide on something, setbacks don’t usually change my mind.


I’m looking forward to writing shorthand.

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5 comments Add yours
  1. Hello, Ariella,

    first, I would write “Ariella” in the same way as you did… The purpose of shorthand is being able for you to read back, not doing complicated things…
    Secondly, it’s hard to answer questions like “how typically…”, “how generally…”… I only have my own experience and your experience will depend on how much you will dedicate to this hobby, how much time you will spend on it…

    Personally, during a long time, I didn’t have the keys of the manual I used and once I finished it, I wasn’t able to read the texts that were inside it. It puzzled me… And little by little, I realized it was less complicated than I thought. The answers were in the manual, just not obvious… I succeeded to understand almost everything. I’m convinced that not knowing the keys has done to me a great service because it stimulated my curiosity…

    Welcome, anyway… 🙂

  2. Hi Ariella,

    Welcome to a most useful hobby.

    Since you’re new to Gregg, may I suggest you look into “Simplified” which (as the name implies) is a simpler version with fewer brief forms. Anniversary came out in 1929 while Simplified was published in 1949. Also, I’ve found more Simplified publications available.

    If you pick up a copy of “Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified – Second Edition” you will find a very good self-study book. The first 9 chapters have 6 lessons each. The 10th chapter is a review of everything you’ve learned in the first 9. At the end of each lesson is a “reading practice.” After you find you can read it, take pen/pencil with paper and write it out in shorthand. This will solidify what you’ve learned.

    If you can find someone to correspond with, this will greatly enhance your learning. If you get into a regular exchange, you will learn both by reading their shorthand and writing your own. Sharing critiques of each other’s writing will help both of you. Write your shorthand, take a picture, then text/email it to your friend.

    Once you start corresponding with someone, you’ll probably find yourself making the transition to using shorthand instead of text in your usual note-taking.

    Have fun with it.

  3. I also learned using the functional books for Anniversary, and I did write a little from the beginning.  I didn’t do much writing though, just a little to play around with it.  But I did start writing as the book suggests after Assignment 22.  So I don’t think you’re spoiling anything to write before before Assignment 22 at all, but still it’s best to keep your focus on reading at first.  The method really works, and you’ll be writing just fine when the time comes, no doubt.

    Don’t hesitate to use the answer key whenever you need to.  I only give myself a minute to try to get a word I can’t decipher, then I look it up in the key.  I think waiting and making yourself puzzle it out could end up being discouraging, and that’s no good.  It’s better to use the key and keep yourself in the flow of reading, and I’ve experienced no problems from relying on the key whenever I need to.  It’s totally not cheating – in fact it’s an important part of the learning process.  I do try not seeing what’s ahead of where I’m reading in the key, but if I do see something I haven’t read yet on my own, it’s usually no big deal.  Once you get past the beginning, most of the words you’ll encounter in the exercises are fairly easy, and seeing them by accident isn’t going to hurt your learning.  I do sometimes use a piece of paper to block out what comes ahead, and that can be helpful as well.

    One good use of the key though is that when you start writing, you can use it to write out your shorthand, then the shorthand in the assignments become the key to your writing exercises.  When you get to this point, don’t worry about how quickly you write.  Speed shouldn’t be much of a consideration until you’ve finished learning your theory.  It’s ok to do some speed work, but only try for at most 40-50 wpm.  Whether you decide to work on speed or not though, don’t worry about how fast you go when you first write out the assignments.  Take your time, look things up as you need, and don’t feel pressured about it.  Learning the theory is the most important part at this point, then later speed will come into higher focus.

    I don’t know what the footnote numbers refer to.  I’ve had that question myself in fact.  There might be some answers in the teacher’s manual, which I have on my website where I have a good deal of Gregg materials available for download.  I recommend you also download the Anni dictionary, the phrasebook, the main manual and its key.  Another good resource is the online Gregg dictionary which you can consult on your phone



    I’m not sure how long it will take exactly for your shorthand to stick, but I think finishing learning Anniversary theory will certainly be a decisive factor.  Also, the more you do shorthand, the more the method will be impressed on your mind.  Think of it like learning a foreign language.  If you take a year of Spanish in high school, a few years later you’ll remember a little, but a decade later it will be mostly gone.  If you take four years of high school Spanish, even a decade later you’ll remember quite a bit.

    I disagree with Garyf about switching to Simplified.  I think it’s best you stick with what you’re doing, and if you find Anniversary is too much for you, then later you can consider switching.  I was wondering myself before I started the functional manuals whether I would be able to do Anniversary or not, but as I got further and further into the assignments, I realized that despite the challenge of so many briefs, I was doing fine with them.  After you finish with the functional manuals, you’ll probably want to do some review to make sure it all sticks, and there are plenty of books and pdfs out there to help you with that when that time comes.

    Good luck on your Gregg journey!

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with Sean’s advice about sticking with one version while learning — in that way you have a base. Later on, you can adapt your shorthand to your own writing.

      The superscripts in the key are markers for dictation. The subscripts appear at the end of 20 standard words, so by the third subscript you will have 60 standard words — if you can write the passage up to that point in one minute, you are writing at 60 words a minute. My answer in this post explains what a standard word is.

      There is no fast and hard rule as to how fast will a student be writing before learning theory — it wouldn’t make any sense because you wouldn’t know all the rules. So your mileage may vary when you get to Assignment 22 in terms of speed. Don’t despair. You’re just starting! Do you expect to be swimming a mile 22 days after your first swimming lesson?

      How long does it take for it to stick? Once you have finished the basic manual, you have seen enough shorthand to at least be able to read and write. Fluency, as referring to speed, will come with practice.

      1. I too agree fully with Sean’s excellent advice. Pick a version, and learn it well. The basic alphabet and structure of Gregg has been consistent. The changes from version to version generally relate to brief forms, abbreviating principles, and some details of writing (like the reversed r).

        One of the advantages of Anniversary is the amount of non-textbook material that’s available. There’s some material for Simplified, but from Diamond Jubilee on it’s all just business letters for the most part.

        The question about how long it takes to learn shorthand is an interesting one. When shorthand was a marketable skill, both in business and in court reporting, people went to specialized schools and spent hours in class and hours outside of class learning how to write fast. With that investment of time, people mastered shorthand pretty quickly. If you read early issues of The Gregg Writer, it seems like lots of people reached high speed ability in a year or so.

        When I learned Diamond Jubilee in the 1960s, the “standard course” was 4 high school semesters. Volume 1, Volume 2, Transcription, and Speed Building. 5 days a week, with homework. But even then the goal wasn’t “court reporting”, but taking dictation in a business setting.

        Since shorthand isn’t a commercial skill any more, and specialized business schools don’t exist, and in the US at least Gregg isn’t in the curriculum for high schools or colleges . . . today it’s a personal hobby. So how fast you learn is going to depend on how much time you want to invest.

        It’s a lot like foreign language learning today. English is pervasive, there are tools for automatic translation, and very few people are willing to spend hundreds of hours mastering a second language.

        Regarding your question about starting to write shorthand, I think you should start using it right away. If you know how to write common words like of, the, and, etc. start using them in your notes or shopping lists, or your personal journal.


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