653: Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified by John Robert Gregg

by Gerard


653.42: Gregg. John Robert. Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956. 315 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 650: Management and public relations
  • 653: Shorthand
  • 653.4: Handwritten systems
  • 653.42: English-language systems


One of the things that has always fascinated me about newspaper reporters is their ability to take handwritten notes of a meeting or an interview in real time, without interfering the flow of the conversation, and then reproduce it word for word in print. You can’t just write down the whole thing verbatim and expect to keep up. Turns out, they use a stenographic method called shorthand, and Gregg shorthand is one of the most used styles in the world.

Gregg shorthand breaks down vocal language into groups of sounds and then seeks to reproduce those sounds by using different elliptical pen strokes. Words are compressed, abbreviated, and mashed together to form a version of text-speak on acid written by a doctor. This manual, written in 1956, is basically a how-to guide on Gregg’s style of stenography (as opposed to the Pitman method which uses more angular strokes and ink thickness to differentiate sounds).

While I didn’t spend a lot of time trying out the lessons taught in the book, I found it more interesting how the author broke down spoken English into its phonemes and tries to capture those sounds in something other than letters. It brings English back to a form of pictographic language. The book takes the user through a multitude of common words and how to construct larger words from the individual pieces. Much of it is geared towards business or newspaper writing, so the more poetic words are left out. However, the book does well in achieving its only goal: to function as an introductory manual to this style of writing. Other than that, there’s not much else here.