RESEARCH

Shorthand

Yes, the 19th century technique for writing faster.

My grandmother was a practitioner of the art (I believe she may have done some stenography at NYU in the immediate post-war years).

The only lesson that I retained from her was “Steven, it’s about writing in circles.” She took a needle-sharp pencil and lightly traced the Gregg shorthand ovals that define most of the strokes. Intersecting, they looked like she was drawing the guide-shapes to illustrate a portrait. She then scribbled out a few words and I thought that was incredibly cool.

In honor of her, I decided I wanted to learn this skill too.

lso, honestly, wouldn’t it be easier to make these beautiful sinewy curved shapes on one’s iPhone versus trying to thumb type-up content? It might be worth thinking about. Maybe Palm had been onto something with the Graffiti alphabet.

Resources

Gregg Shorthand lives on at this fan site: http://gregg.angelfishy.net

The materials I’m looking at are:

  1. The HTML version of the “Light-Line Phonograpy”. This is pretty good for reading in a browser or on your phone because the text has been turned to HTML (instead of being an image). Some tables are, obviously, images, but the text is copy and pasteable. Alternatively, use the pdf version.
  2. Fundamental Drills: Given Shorthand, Translate it.
  3. Just as learning about 5 chords will set you up for much success on a guitar, knowing the most commonly used forms will build up your muscle memory and set you up for success in Shorthand. Here are the 5,000 Most Common Forms.
  4. The Scanned version of Gregg Shorthand Dictionary. When I try to make a word, I want to see if I wrote it in the most “facile” (the preferred term of Gregg) form.

Additional Resources (2018-10-03):

I found some additional resources.

  1. Notes on Lessons in Gregg Shorthand - 1922. I really like this book because it breaks things down for teachers. The vocabulary training is really excellent and you see the forms of very common words.
  2. Short form table lookup As I practice more and more, I keep finding myself stymied when trying to write simple and very common words. Here’s a great lookup table that doesn’t involve parsing a huge PDF. For a really cool breakdown of this for even faster lookup, try the short forms text explanation.
  3. Quick Reference Short Forms Table (pdf|wallet-sized) by Lee Holmes. I’m pasting the wallet-sized inside my steno books as I practice.
  4. Initial quick-reference table
  5. Flash card decks table
  6. Anniversary Edition Summary Index: a convenient index for finding some of the major concepts covered in the anniversary edition

Personal Background

When I was a boy, my grandparents lived in Amarillo, Texas. My grandmother, a farm-raised girl from North-Central Tennessee, loved to comb through the goods at garage and estate sales. When she found items that she thought might interest young kids (my sister and I) she’d load them up in a drawer in the guest bathroom.

Us kids knew that when we got to her house, we needed to hit that toy drawer as fast as possible. Brushes, books, dolls, Capsela, film cameras, old office equipment, Radio Shack Armatron, a phone-side message pad. Who knew what you’d find? It was this element of randomness that, I think, really engaged us. You just never knew.

On one trip I found two volumes of Gregg’s Shorthand. I’m not sure which version or edition, but I remember being heartily impressed by her demonstration of this ancient and mysterious art. She might as well have been writing alchemical symbols and brewing gold.

Aside: I realize now, with some laughter, that my father’s mother was a was learned in stenography and shorthand and his father was a Morse operator during the war who had a penchant for typing up helpful notes left and right. Could there have been a more ideal genotype for producing the loquacious programmer symbolic systems meta-thinker?