Little things that feed the flame

A Curious Find: Gregg Shorthand Manual


As previously mentioned (here), I have, in the recent years, developed the love for old ‘lived in’ stuff. Furniture, kitchenware, toys, stories… I usually find them at charity shops, on e-bay, or other second-hand sale sites. However, this discovery I am about to share kind of found me. And very unexpectedly, I should say. While at work in a hospital ward that is about to be closed, I came across a well-worn little yellow book that, for some reason, was not packaged and put away along with the heap of other books that used to sit on the shelves there. A shorthand manual, published in 1960.



Up to now, I had never actually seen what shorthand looks like. I just assumed words were somehow shortened to save time. Which, I suppose, they are, technically. Only they look nothing like their original longhand versions, but rather like a meaningless scribble. Or a doctor’s handwriting.


I wonder if anyone uses shorthand nowadays. Does it still have a place in the world where everything is instant as a norm? Is it still practiced by reporters? Court stenographers? Novelists? It would be interesting to know the fate of this style of writing. If you use shorthand or know somebody who does, please share with me. When, why and where did you learn it? Do you use it for personal matters or is it just for work?


 Apart from the sudden curiosity in the subject of shorthand that this book has caused in me, I was also intrigued by the scribbles in pen and pencil on its more-than-50-year-old pages. Some of them are shorthand practice. Others of a more personal nature. Mostly Louise + Niall, Lisa + Paul. In some cases Paul has been crossed out and replaced by David. It would be so interesting to know the story behind these names. Was she a patient in love with a nurse? or another patient maybe? Could it have been a student nurse on placement in the hospital, scribbling out her feelings on the pages of the book? How many years ago was that? What became of those people?

I love old items with stories to tell. The fleeting narratives in time attached to a tangible object passed on into the future. With traces of human life…



3 thoughts on “A Curious Find: Gregg Shorthand Manual

  1. I came across a shorthand book once, too, while waiting at a government office while applying for a kindergarten place for my daughter many years ago.

    That also kindled my interest and I started learning German shorthand.

    I also later acquired some books on Gregg Shorthand Simplified with a view to use it in writing English (since I use both languages), but I haven’t put in very much study on that side yet. Perhaps I’ll resume it one day.

    It’s certainly an interesting hobby!

    (And if you should decide not to keep it, I’d love to take it off you for my Gregg Shorthand Simplified collection, in exchange for postage costs or an Amazon gift certificate or something.)

    All the best,
    Philip Newton
    Hamburg, Germany

    • Thank you for your wholesome comment, Philip. I never gave shorthand much thought until I came upon that little book. It is a pleasant and comforting idea that shorthand and its enthusiasts still exist in our highly digitalized world.

      I would gladly send you the book as you would obviously get much more joy and use out of it than I would. However, I have a feeling that I might have given it away to a charity shop a while ago, during one of my decluttering bouts. As peculiar and interesting as it was, I had no real use for it to justify keeping it. I will check for sure when I get home. If, by any chance, it is still there, I will let you know.


      • Yes, I think it’s still relevant and useful, even if I haven’t made much use of it myself.

        I did join an Internet discussion group for Gregg Shorthand and it’s good to hear from others, some of whom learned it years ago and still use it today!

        Thank you for your offer to check for the book! Though I can understand why you might not wish to keep everything.

        All the best,

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