The History of Gregg Shorthand

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Gregg shorthand is a method of writing quickly in abbreviated symbols. Instead of writing letters and words out in long-hand using the traditional letters of the alphabet, this technique uses a variety of shortcuts. This technique is based on sounds of words and letters, and is comprised of ellipses and lines that can be scrawled rapidly. Some characteristics of the Gregg version of fast notation are lack of the shading used in other shorthand styles, using the curved motion of regular cursive writing, and staying on the line. Whole words can be captured in shorthand by tiny circles, ovals, and curving lines. This form of stenography was developed in the late 1800s by a man named John Robert Gregg.

Inventor: John Robert Gregg

John Robert Gregg was born in Ireland in 1867 to a Scottish family. During childhood, Gregg suffered a hearing loss during an altercation with a classmate and teacher, which led outsiders to perceive him as slow-witted. This was certainly not the case, as he was quite brilliant and didn’t let his deafness slow his process. He became an inventor, publisher, educator, and humanitarian, and eventually came up with the speedwriting technique of Gregg Shorthand in 1888. Originally, he called his system light-line phonography and introduced it to England. By 1893, he published his book Gregg Shorthand, and this form of rapid writing spread to the United States, and then to other nations. Over time, it was translated into use in Polish, Tagalog, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Early Use of Technique

In the late 1800s, shorthand was a tool for recording others’ conversations, taking quick notes, or writing personal thoughts. It was used discreetly, similar to a pen-and-paper version of a hidden tape recorder. Some famous individuals were avid shorthand users, such as Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and Isaac Newton. Counterculture-movement participants, such as pacifists and anti-tobacconists, had speedwriting enthusiasts in their mix, in order for them to take secretive notes and get messages out fast to their group-mates. These quick-notes were much like the tweets and text messages of today.

Stenography in the 1900s

During the 1900s, Gregg Shorthand was a skill that helped secretaries get hired for jobs. This writing technique is also called stenography. Office workers of the 1900s had to be able to type and take dictation in order to be hired for many positions. In high school, female students took typing and shorthand as a matter of course. During that era, clerical positions were considered desirable ways to make money for single women. Speed and accuracy were requirements for secretarial work, so time tests were given during employment screenings.

  • Shorthand Speeds: Once individuals memorize the symbols of this rapid-notation system, they can continually increase their speeds. A new shorthand writer’s speed may be approximately 80 WPM (words per minute), but an experienced person can reach speeds of 150 WPM. In contests, prize-winners have reached speeds of 350 WPM.
  • Writing and Talking Speeds: The average human writes 22 to 31 WPM, and they speak over one-hundred words per minute. Because people’s speech patterns vary greatly, so does their spoken WPM, which can range from 100 to 160 words per minute. An experienced stenographer can take shorthand and keep up with this level of speech, but some individuals talk at too fast a clip for even the best shorthand-writers to keep up. For example, auctioneers and other rapid-talkers speak as fast as 250 to 400 words per minute.

Modern Times

Gregg shorthand is still being used today, even though the antiquated days of secretaries taking dictation from bosses, then typing their letters on typewriters has mostly gone by the wayside. Students are using this technique to take notes, keep up with their coursework, and businesspersons are using it to take notes in meetings. But there are more tech-savvy ways to use this technique than the old-fashioned steno pad method. Today’s students of shorthand can learn in modern ways:

  • Online courses: There are plenty of online schools that offer courses in this method of speedwriting.
  • Youtubes: Youtube has video clips teaching students how to practice the squiggles and swirls of rapid dictation.
  • iPods and Tablets: Computers have software programs to use Gregg Shorthand on iPods and Tablets.

Gregg shorthand enthusiasts use this technique because it is one of the fastest ways on the planet to record conversations, thoughts, and take notes. Once a person has mastered this abbreviated version of writing language, he or she has a powerful tool literally at his or her fingertips. Whether individuals speak German, English, Hebrew, French, or any other language, they can pen their words more quickly with this version of stenography.

This blog post is intended only to provide information on Gregg Shorthand. Cook and Wiley court reporters are not able to translate any shorthand documents at this time. Thank you!





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