Wednesday, March 11, 2015


(And it isn't even Talk Like a PirateDay)

Image via Daily Gregg

(warning this post uses a bit of IPA)

I just finished up Unit 8, where we are introduced to the special "R" rules. Unit 8 is only concerned with the "ur/ir/er/ar" sound in relation to the beginning or ending of a straight stroke. For the rest of the Anniversary's method of expressing "R" I'll need to wait until Unit 20.

R is weird - In America, some people say it is a vowel, but that isn't quite right. R is a bully, specifically R doesn't like shwas (ə). To quote one of the phonics books that I used to teach my son to read: when R comes after an I, E or U it likes to squish it down so far that you can hardly hear it at all - all you can hear is "er"(ɚ) (note: "ar" is really "ɑ" plus "ɚ")

So in Anniversary Gregg, R colored shwas are expressed by reversing the circle.*

Like the graphic above states, this special method (reversing the circle) is unique to Anniversary, In simplified and later editions, they just write the R out. I don't have the simplified manual, so I don't know exactly how the rule is stated, and I'm not quite sure why they decided to change it. (Ok, I actually do have an idea: This special rule is one more thing to memorize, and [looking ahead to unit 20] it can probably be a bit difficult to write smoothly without a lot of drilling practice. And it may be a bit more difficult to read fluently.) But it is definitely something to keep in mind when reading old found shorthand notes, or when choosing a method to learn.

On a personal note I usually prefer the way the Anniversary reversed circle words look, but there are a handful of Simplified versions that I think look nicer.  Maybe once I'm all done with Anniversary I'll get a Simplified manual and I'll blend the two versions for a more pleasing to my eye hybrid.

There are exceptions when it would be impossible or really hard to write quickly, like "air"
And since Gregg isn't really a wholly phonetic system, sometimes the rules are bent a bit to to make other words that don't quite fit that description easier/quicker to write.


  1. The R sound(s) of American English is a topic of much debate and research among phoneticists. The sound in "bird, herd, word" is classified as a vowel, or a liquid, or an approximant, depending on who you ask.

    I like Catford's description quoted at but research is ongoing with ultrasound, MRI's, acoustic spectrograms and so forth to find out what these sounds are and how they are made.

    There is some doubt that adequate phonetic symbols exist for the American R sound(s), see the comment from Mark Beadles at stackexchange

    1. Fascinating!
      (I seem to be saying that a lot lately in regards to shorthand)

      thank you for the links, I spent most of Tuesday falling down the wikipedia rabbit hole researching for this post, phonetics is quite the interesting subject.

  2. Here is the section on the omission of R from the Simplified manual.

    1. And here is some context from the authors: