Like many other skills, pen stenography today has been largely superseded by mechanical and digital technological advances. For many, this includes the twentieth century’s most popular and efficient shorthand system. Gregg Shorthand, invented by John Robert Gregg in the late nineteenth century, is considered a valuable tool by the waning number of reporters still using it.
The outstanding efficiency of Gregg Shorthand derives from its basic principles, all of which are aimed at streamlining the writing and reading process as much as possible. This focus has resulted in creating a shorthand system that is uniquely adapted for high-speed note taking.
Writing Mechanics Are Optimized for Speed
One of the unique features of the Gregg system is the degree to which it has analyzed the mechanics of handwriting and pared them down to the bone. Ordinary longhand letter forms are simplified to a basic array of four shapes. Shallow curves or straight lines denote consonants; vowels are written with small hooks or loops. All letters lean to the right, following the way most people would write in longform.
This shorthand method also eliminates ligatures between letters, saving additional time. In fact, the Gregg system incorporates a technique called blending, where pairs of letters that often occur together are blended into one character, again cutting down on the number of strokes.
Its phonetic base gives Gregg shorthand another speed boost, deleting phonetically superfluous or redundant letters from its alphabet. “C” and “Q” are not used, since the sounds they produce are signified by “K” and “S”. Phonemes that use a combination of several letters, such as “th,” are represented by a single character. Silent letters such as the “gh” in “thorough” are not taken down at all; nor are unstressed vowels.
System of Abbreviations Is Easy to Learn and Read
The greatest time-saver in the Gregg system is its use of abbreviations for some of the most commonly used words. A single character can be used to denote several words at a time. An impressive example is the word “bring:” consisting of five letters in longform, in Gregg shorthand it is shortened to “b-r,” which has its own combination symbol. Thus, the whole word can be taken down instantly with a quick stroke of the pen. This convention is known in the Gregg terminology as a brief form. When mastered and used efficiently, it can amp up writing speeds to over 200 words per minute.
Another time-saving feature is the use of a set of standard abbreviations for common prefixes and suffixes, consisting of a single designated letter that can also vary its meaning depending on its position relative to the word. This can be especially valuable for court reporters, who often have to take down lengthy legal, medical and scientific terms.
Phrasing is another technique that promotes speed. Frequently used blocks of language, or phrases, are combined into highly simplified forms. Typically, each word in the phrase is represented by a letter; the letters are then joined into a continuous form for maximum writing speed.
Gregg shorthand achieves its extreme efficiency both by eliminating superfluous writing and by creating a streamlined alphabet where each letter can have multiple meanings that are disambiguated by the letter’s relative position. It is easy to learn because the system of abbreviation is intuitive and based on the way that people naturally process written and spoken language, rather than being a list of arbitrarily assigned codes. The phonetic base allows the reporter to forget about spelling and focus on transcribing sound. The fact that Gregg works with, rather than against, normal human language processing, facilitates both learning the shorthand system and the ease with which shorthand notes can be read.
In addition to streamlining the mental processes of shorthand note taking, the Gregg system is also geared to optimize the physical mechanics of handwriting. It eliminates closed loops and other redundancies, reducing letter shapes to basic components that can be formed at high writing speeds.
How Today’s Court Reporters Can Benefit From Gregg
The work of a court reporter includes transcription of many types of speech, by different people who speak at variable speeds. Some of them may have accents or speech impairment, making them harder to understand. Many will use lengthy professional terms. At the same time, transcription must be speedy and highly accurate.
While many reporters today prefer to use mechanical means of transcription in conjunction with specialized software, the few who use Gregg shorthand do it for good reason. The system is optimized to combine a high degree of accuracy with lightning-fast writing speed. Familiarity with Gregg shorthand can be helpful even for reporters who typically do not use it, as over-reliance on technology can otherwise lead to a lack of skill and understanding. Gregg can also be used with digital handwriting recognition programs to assure both data storage and high speeds.
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!
- “About Gregg Shorthand,” http://gregg.angelfishy.net/anaboutg.shtml
- “Some Federal Court Reporters Still Use Shorthand,” http://www.courtreporteredu.org/2015/08/some-federal-court-reporters-still-use-shorthand/