Could learning Gregg Shorthand become the superpower that helps you take notes faster?
Even better, could learning the Gregg Shorthand symbols serve as your portal into memorizing all of your notes?
It could be just that, including a means of improving your vocabulary and ultimately your thinking skills.
All while you improve your career prospects and learn to save time while taking notes from books, podcasts and video courses.
Ready to start mastering the skill of taking shorthand notes?
Let’s dive in!
Gregg Shorthand Alphabet Explained
Here’s the first principle to understand about Gregg Shorthand:
The Gregg Shorthand alphabet is based on the use frequency of letter and words in writing and speech.
“S,” for example, is one of the most frequently used letters in the English alphabet. And because “Z” is often not much different than “S,” some versions of this shorthand system use the same stroke for both letters.
Sometimes you will reuse the same basic strokes. For example, the stroke for “F” is a touch longer than the one for “S.” The stroke for “V” is a bit longer yet.
When it comes to vowels, “A” is a large circle and “E” is a smaller circle.
This leaves you with patterns to learn. Like this:
The next principle is the omission of silent letters and even some common words.
For example, if you’re writing the word “safe,” the final “E” is silent. It doesn’t need to be represented in your writing.
With this is mind, let’s look at two different words:
Now, this is where context matters a lot in Gregg Shorthand.
Technically, the circle in “save” pictured above is a bit smaller than it should be. But in context, there is no word “seve,” so you will read it correctly when translating your shorthand back into formal writing.
Beyond that, the other core principles aren’t alphabetical. They’re about learning the symbols for the most common words.
In many cases, you won’t write out words like “the” at all. The context will tell you everything you need to know.
But here are some common words you will want to learn in order to preserve context as you write in shorthand.
Notice one of the principles you’ve already learn.
“Have” is the same as the stroke for “V.” When reading your notes back in context, it will be easy to determine that the word should be “have,” because no one says “V.”
(Unless perhaps they are talking about the Pynchon novel V or the TV series V. In that case, you might want to add the name of the author or indicate that you’re referring to a program.)
How to Write Shorthand
Learning how to write in Gregg shorthand comes down to two simple things:
- Memorizing the alphabet and the most common words
- Practicing writing and interpreting your use of the symbols
Let’s look at each of these steps in turn.
Remembering the Symbols
To memorize the symbols, you basically have two options:
Because this form of note taking is naturally going to involve a ton of repetition as you use it, you’ll probably want to memorize the symbols and most common words as quickly as possible.
To give you a quick example of memorizing a simple stroke that has three possible meanings, let’s look at are/our/hour.
The stroke sure looks like the Nike swoosh, doesn’t it?
To remember this, take a wall in your living room. Imagine your cat embracing an hourglass as a Nike Swoosh paints itself on the wall.
Your cat says, “this is our hour and we are happy about it.”
From there, you just need to use the method of loci to determine more locations and place more of the symbols.
To get started, pick a short story or the lyrics of a song you enjoy. Keep it short and simple.
Write out the entire thing using the shorthand symbols you’ve learned. It’s okay if you have to look some of them up (though you want to start memorizing them as soon as possible the same way we memorize details from a textbook).
No matter what you choose, you want to start with words on a page or screen. That way you won’t feel rushed in the same way you might as a podcast or audio lecture will stream by at its own pace.
But as soon as you feel ready, start taking shorthand notes from these formats. And if you want to get in a little extra practice during downtime, practicing writing out the dialog from movies or your favorite series on Netflix.
Choosing the Right Form of Gregg Shorthand
There are quite a few versions to learn, including Pre-Anniversary, Anniversary and Centennial Gregg.
Fortunately, many Gregg Shorthand manuals and Gregg Shorthand phrasebooks are freely available online. There’s even a Gregg Shorthand Dictionary.
Rather than pick one, I suggest you learn the basic concepts. Over time, develop your own version.
Most people wind up adding their own modifications over time anyway. So why stress trying to learn the “right” or “best” form?
The most important thing is that you practice learning how to read Gregg Shorthand exactly as you write it.
And that’s why I showed you one of my own examples above. It’s not exactly correct according to the textbook definition. But in context, it works perfectly for me.
So dive in, start memorizing these shorthand symbols and if you need help with the memorization part, grab my FREE Memory Improvement Kit right here:
I’ve wanted to learn shorthand for a long time. My problem is that every shorthand book or website I’ve looked at doesn’t put the shorthand symbols on lines but a steno pad has lines. How does one know where to put the symbols in relationship to the lines? What part of any one of the symbols is above the line or below the line? I’m assuming (maybe I shouldn’t assume) that not placing the symbols correctly in relationship to the lines would give a different meaning to the symbol. Thank you for your reply.
Thanks for your post about this, Chris.
I believe that part of this particular convention in stenography comes from Pitman shorthand. The idea of the vertical line was that you could write faster by moving downward, rather than constantly bringing your hand back and forth across the entire page.
The horizontal lines can be used to divide certain symbols for reference, but just as in normal handwriting, the extent to which people actually follow cursive conventions once they’ve learned the technique is highly personal.
Some people prefer Steno pads that have much more space between the horizontal lines, but there are stenographers who like to use dotted paper. That’s especially true if they also need to include simple diagrams.
Note too that plenty of people write shorthand on unlined paper.
So although it’s possible to misinterpret your own tachygraphy (swift writing) or brachygraphy (short writing), this is where lots of practice and developing your own style comes in.
If knowing where to place your symbols in space is useful to your learning, I would suggest getting double-ruled paper. This will help create more certainty in your practice because you’ll develop a better sense not only for the lines but the space between the lines. I’ve found this very helpful in learning Chinese characters as well.
Hope this helps!