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Secretaries have helped busy office executives for years by using Gregg Shorthand for taking down letters, notes of meetings, reports, and other business material. John Robert Gregg, who was born in Shantonaugh, Ireland, in 1867, invented the system.

Although others also invented shorthand systems, Gregg’s system used the ellipse, on which he based his curved alphabet forms. The system seems more like cursive writing than printer, thereby making it faster and easier to use. Hooks and circles are used for vowels, and strokes are varied to change letters. For example, An F is made by doubling the length of an S.

Sir Issac Pitman also invented a shorthand system that was published in 1837. His system was based on phonics. The characters are a combination of lines, circles, dots and dashes. To use the system, the stenographer must use lined paper. His brother Benn Pitman brought the system to the United States in 1852, and forty years later, more than 95 percent of the shorthand writers were using it.

John Gregg worked as a stenographer, and in 1888 published the book Light-Line Phonography, which gave the basics of his shorthand system. The book was first published in the United States in 1893. As more people began using it, the popularity of it out shadowed Pittman’s systems. High schools began teaching it, and Gregg opened the Gregg Publishing Company and started the Gregg Schools of Shorthand. His system is still used throughout the world, having been translated into many languages, including Hebrew, Tagalog, Thai, Chinese, and others.

John Gregg died in 1948.