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Gregg shorthand is a phonetic writing system, which means it records the sounds of the speaker, not the English spelling. It uses the f stroke for the IPA: /f/ sound in funnel, telephone, and laugh. All silent letters are omitted. The image on the right shows the strokes of Gregg Shorthand Simplified. The system is written from left to right and the letters are joined. Sh (= IPA: /ʃ/) (and zh = IPA: /ʒ/), Ch (= IPA: /ʧ/), and J (or Dzh, = IPA: /ʤ/) are written downward, while t and d are written upward. X (IPA: /ks/) is expressed by putting a slight backward slant on the s symbol, though a word beginning ex is just written as if spelt es (and, according to Pre-Anniversary, ox is written as if os). W when in the middle of a word, is notated with a short dash under the next vowel. Therefore, the letter Q (= IPA: /kw/) is usually written as k with a dash underneath the next vowel. In Anniversary and before, if z need be distinguished from s, a small tick drawn at a right angle from the s may be written to make this distinction.
Many of the letters shown are also what are called "brief forms". For instance, instead of writing hwech (The dot for the h in wh is practiced in all systems before Diamond Jubilee) for "which" (= IPA: /hwɪʧ/), the Gregg stenographer just writes ch. These brief forms are shown on the image to the right. There are several others not shown, however. For instance, "please" is written in Simplified and back as simply pl, and "govern" as gv. These brief forms can make Gregg shorthand much faster.
Another mechanism for increasing the speed of shorthand is phrasing. Based on the calculation that lifting the pen between words has a speed cost equivalent to one stroke, phrasing is the combination of several smaller distinct forms into one outline, for example "it may be that the" could be written in one outline, "(tm)ab(th)a(th)". "I have not been able" would be written, "avnba" (Note that to the eye of the reader this phrase written in shorthand looks like "I-have-not-been-able", and so phrasing is far more legible than a longhand explanation of the principle may lead one to believe).
The vowels in Gregg shorthand are divided into three main groups that very rarely require further notation. The a is a large circle, and can stand for the a in "apple" (IPA: /æ/), "father" (IPA: /ɑ/), and "ache" (IPA: /eɪ/). The e is a small circle, and can stand for the e in feed (IPA: /iː/) and help (IPA: /ɛ/), the i in trim (IPA: /ɪ/) and marine (IPA: /iː/), and the obscure vowel in her and learn (IPA: /ɜ/ or IPA: /ɝ/). The ī represents the i in fine (IPA: /ɑɪ/). The o is a small hook that represents the al in talk (IPA: /ɔː/), the o in cone (IPA: /əʊ/ or IPA: /oʊ/), jot (IPA: /ɒ/ or IPA: /ɑ/ or IPA: /ɔ/), and order (IPA: /ɔ(ɹ)/). The u is a tiny hook that expresses the three vowel sounds heard in the words who (IPA: /uː/), up (IPA: /ʌ/), and foot (IPA: /ʊ/). It also expresses a w at the beginning of a word. In "Anniversary," short and long vowel sounds for e, a, o and u may be distinguished by a mark under the vowel, a dot for short and a small downward tick for long sounds.
There are special vowel markings for certain diphthongs. The ow in how (IPA: /aʊ/) is just an a circle followed by an u hook. The io in lion (IPA: /ɑɪə/) is written with a small circle inside a large circle. The ia in piano (IPA: /iæ/) and repudiate (IPA: /ieɪ/) is notated as a large circle with a dot in its center (In Anniversary and back, if ea need be distinguished from ia, it is notated with a small downward tick inside the circle instead of the dot). The u in united (IPA: /juː/) is notated with a small circle followed by an u hook above it.
Due to the very simple alphabet, Gregg shorthand is very fast in writing. It takes a great deal of practice, however, to master it. Speeds of 280 WPM (where a word is 1.4 syllables) have been reached with this simple system before, and those notes are still legible to anyone else who knows the system.
Some left-handed shorthand writers have found it more comfortable to write Gregg shorthand from right to left. This is called "mirrored shorthand" and was in practice by a few people throughout the life of Gregg shorthand. However, left-handed writers can still write Gregg shorthand from left to right with considerable ease.
 Versions of Gregg shorthand
Throughout the history of Gregg shorthand, numerous different forms of Gregg have been created. All the systems are similar and use the same alphabet, but they differ in memory load and speed. Pre-Anniversary is the fastest, and most condensed version, but it also has the largest memory load. Series 90 Gregg has the smallest memory load, but it is also the slowest version of Gregg.
 Pre-Anniversary Gregg shorthand
Pre-Anniversary Gregg was first published in 1888 by John Robert Gregg himself. However, it was in a very primal stage, and therefore did not gain much success. Five years later, a much better version was published. This version was published in a book entitled "Gregg Shorthand" in 1897. This version of Gregg has been deemed the hardest due to its large number of brief forms and phrases. This version is known for its large number of "common" affixes, brief forms and phrases, such as a prefix for "patri-".
 Anniversary Gregg shorthand
In 1929 another version of Gregg shorthand was published. This system reduced the memory load on its learners by decreasing the number of brief forms to 318, and removing uncommon prefixes. Regardless of the deletions, this system was still incredibly efficient. Most Gregg literature uses this series.
 Simplified Gregg shorthand
Simplified Gregg shorthand was published in 1949. The manual for this version of Gregg was still available to be purchased through McGraw-Hill until recently. It is now available under the ISBN 0077072502. This system reduced the number of brief forms that needed to be memorized drastically to only 181. Even with this reduction in the number of brief forms, one could still reach speeds upward of 150 WPM. Many people find this system has the best balance in terms of memory load without sacrificing speed.