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What Is Gregg Shorthand?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
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Gregg shorthand is a stenography system designed to help various professionals make transcripts of dictated speech quickly and efficiently. It consists of a series of symbols representing phonetic sounds, rather than the actual spellings of the spoken words. Pen strokes of Gregg shorthand are formed as straight lines, ellipses, or curved lines in varying sizes; each shape is assigned to a specific letter sound. These shapes are then joined together to form whole words according to the same basic principle of writing in cursive longhand. Along with Pitman shorthand, the Gregg method is one of the shorthand types commonly taught in office skills courses at either the high school or college level.

Uses of Gregg shorthand have traditionally included note-taking in lectures and business meetings, as well as in some types of journalism. The speed of normal human speech is too fast for the average person to write out thorough transcriptions in long-hand cursive without missing noticeable parts of the information. Professionals who are proficient in Gregg shorthand usually find they are able to capture spoken presentations with a much higher rate of accuracy and completeness. People with several years of Gregg shorthand experience are often able to transcribe at rates of over 200 words per minute.

This kind of hand-written shorthand also forms the basis for court reporter training. In order to complete accurate transcriptions, a court reporter needs to master the use of a stenotype machine. This type of legal professional uses this apparatus to create typed reports of court proceedings with a keyboard that renders shorthand symbols rather than the letters of the alphabet. Since more than one symbol is needed to create a complete word, the court reporter needs to press more than one of the correct keys simultaneously. Prior to learning the use of a stenotype machine, an aspiring court reporter typically needs to master hand-written shorthand to be able to select the correct symbols to type at a rapid pace.

Another device commonly used in the field of stenography is the stenomask, which is made up of a microphone built into a noise-cancelling mouthpiece. The stenomask is then connected to speech-recognition software that renders text from the user's spoken words. The resulting transcripts are then completed in typed longhand rather than in the symbols of Gregg shorthand. While a stenomask has its advantages of high accuracy rates without the need for repetitive typing, this device is sometimes not as widely adopted in courtroom sessions.

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Discussion Comments
By Speechie — On Sep 16, 2011

I took a note-taking and journalism course in college and I am wondering why they didn't even mention this Gregg shorthand. Granted these were introductory classes, but it would have been nice to at least know the name of the most widely used shorthand method.

This Gregg shorthand seems to be important for every college student to at least be familiar with, considering a lot of class time is usually spent note-taking.

By sweetPeas — On Sep 16, 2011

It's interesting that learning Gregg shorthand is much the same as children learning to read. They both use phonetic sounds. Shorthand translates the sounds of words into symbols that are written to represent words.

Children learn to read phonetically by recognizing sounds and matching alphabetical letters to sounds to form words. But reading and writing words is much slower than reading and writing shorthand.

I remember when I learned shorthand, we learned the symbols gradually and then began working on speed. Soon we were writing full sentences and then paragraphs. We pumped up the speed and measured how many words/minute we could write. It was challenging, but fun too. We used stenographers notebooks that are still around today.

Gregg, the person who put the system together really did a good job. After you learn the whole system, it does make sense.

By Esther11 — On Sep 15, 2011

I took a year of Gregg shorthand when I was in high school. I remember some of the symbols and I use them to this day when taking messages or sometimes taking notes at a meeting. I wish that I remembered more.

I think that they still offer shorthand classes at some business schools. I would think that journalists and reporters would benefit from knowing some shorthand. When they are out in the field, they need to write down important details quickly.

If you just use your own system of abbreviations for words, often it is hard to make heads or tails of what you wrote.

If anyone is interested in being a court reporter. it is a big help to know shorthand first before you go into training for the job. By the way, this profession pays well and there is always a demand for court reporters.

By golf07 — On Sep 15, 2011

I only remember a few shorthand symbols from the classes I took while I was in high school. I don't know when they no longer offered this as a high school course, but it was very popular for young women at one time.

I know there is still transcription work that is involved with being a court reporter, but don't know if they still use Gregg shorthand. The equipment they need to buy for this program can be quite expensive.

Many electronic devices have replaced the need for this type of service.

By John57 — On Sep 14, 2011

I remember taking a couple years of shorthand classes when I was in high school. Gregg shorthand was the standard that was used by everyone.

This came very easy for me and I was able to do quite well at it. At one point I considered becoming a court reporter. There is a local business college who offers degrees in this field, and I even signed up for a couple classes, but never finished.

I don't think they use shorthand today like they used to. That is how my mom took office dictation from her boss when she worked as a secretary years ago.

By Kat919 — On Sep 14, 2011

@MrsWinslow - Well, it certainly isn't used as much. My mom went to secretarial school in the 1970s and they studied shorthand symbols, whereas when I was taking business administration classes, it never even came up. In my experience, as you mentioned, business execs today either type their own letters or perhaps write them out longhand for the administrative assistant to type. The Gregg shorthand manual hasn't even been updated since the 1980s.

But it still has some specialized uses. I have a friend who got a court reporter job because she knew shorthand. Court reporters need to be able to take down everything that's happening as it happens, not only to have a record for later, but also because sometimes they need to refer back to testimony, etc. later on in the same court session. An ongoing videotape wouldn't be much good for that!

By MrsWinslow — On Sep 13, 2011

Is shorthand still used and taught? It seems like various computer tools might have replaced it. Most people do their own typing now rather than speaking into a dictaphone, for instance, and if something is recorded, you can just pause it every so often.

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