Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gregg's Ingenious Shorthand Method

Gregg shorthand is a form of stenography [light-line semi-script alphabetic stenography] that was invented by John Robert Gregg in 1888. Like cursive longhand, it is completely based on elliptical figures and lines that bisect them. Gregg shorthand is the most popular form of pen stenography in the United States; its Spanish adaptation is fairly popular in Latin America. With the invention of dictation machines, shorthand machines, and the practice of executives writing their own letters on their personal computers, the use of shorthand has gradually declined in the business and reporting world. However, Gregg shorthand is still in use today.

There is a reasonable possibility that John Robert Gregg structured his shorthand on the Mnemonic major system based on the previous work of Pierre Hérigone and others following the publication of The Anti-Absurd or Phrenotypic English Pronouncing and Orthographical Dictionary by Major Beniowski in 1845.

Several versions of this system were published. Pre-Anniversary includes the first five editions, the first one published in two small paper-covered pamphlets in 1888, the second published in 1893, the third in book form in 1897, the fourth in 1902, and the fifth in 1916. Anniversary, a revised and simplified form published in 1929, was so called because it was to be published on the fortieth anniversary of the system (1928), but there was some delay in publication. In 1949, Simplified was created, in which many of the principles and memorized forms were removed or simplified due to findings of studies by the publishers and suggestions of many shorthand teachers. Diamond Jubilee was published in 1963, which simplified the Simplified version. Series 90 was published in 1978, which simplified it further. The last version was Centennial, published in 1988, with several similarities to the Diamond Jubilee system earlier. Besides these main editions, which were designed for the dictation speeds expected of any shorthand system of the time, a number of simpler, personal-use editions were published from 1924 to 1968. These included "Greghand" in 1935, and "Notehand" in 1960 and 1968.

Gregg is often contrasted to Pitman shorthand, as the two share huge predominance over other English shorthand systems. Pitman uses line thickness and position to discriminate between two similar sounds, but Gregg shorthand uses the same thickness throughout and discriminates between similar sounds by the length of the stroke. John Robert Gregg was originally a teacher of a Duployan shorthand adaptation to English (Duployan shorthand was the dominant system in France, and also featured uniform thickness and attached vowels). However, he found the angular outlines of Duployan-based systems to be detrimental to speed. Gregg shorthand features cursive strokes which can be naturally blended without obtuse angles. In addition, because the symbols of Gregg shorthand are developed especially for English rather than adapted from a French system, they are a better fit for the language (for example, Gregg has a symbol for th /θ/ whereas the Duployan systems would use a dotted t, which takes longer to write).


Throughout its history, different forms of Gregg shorthand have been published. All the versions use the same alphabet and basic principles, but they differ in degrees of abbreviation and, as a result, speed. The 1916 version is generally the fastest and most abbreviated version. Series 90 Gregg has the smallest degree of abbreviation, but it is also generally the slowest version of Gregg. Though each version differs in its level of abbreviation, most versions have expert and reporting versions for writers who desire more shortcuts.


Gregg shorthand has been adapted to several languages, including Afrikaans, Esperanto, French, German, Hebrew, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Thai and Tagalog. With a few customizations, it can be adapted to nearly any language. The Spanish version, designed by Eduardo Vega, is the most popular adaptation.

The Mandarin Chinese version slightly modified the original system, under the name 'Beifang Suji (Northern Shorthand)'.

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