Revolutionary Shorthand Systems
Light-Line Phonography

In the evolution of shorthand, three inventors stand above all others as the most pivotal in shaping the profession.


1831 – A Pronouncing Stenography

Little-known Phineas (born Phinehas) Bailey, a minister in Chelsea, Vermont, invented the world’s first completely phonetic shorthand system.  Named A Pronouncing Stenography, Bailey’s presentation to the elite Parliamentary Reporters of London paved the way for two revolutionary systems.

Great Britain is the birthplace of the first practical shorthand systems.   Different from shorthand of the prior 250 years, these shorthand systems were based on phonetics.  Their functionality led to enormous followings, endured for decades, and users of each demonstrated the ability to achieve unparalleled records of speed and accuracy.


1837 – Sound-Hand (Isaac Pitman for The Parliamentary Reporters of London)

Bailey’s invention caused such a stir when presented to England’s Parliamentary elite that they asked Isaac Pitman to combine his emerging concepts with their experiments and publish the results in the diminutive pamphlet Stenographic Sound-Hand.

1840 – Phonography

At the age of 27, in 1840 Pitman published his system as Phonography, or Writing by Sound.  It became widely known simply as Pitman Shorthand.

In 1852, Brother Benn brought the Pitman system to America.  By 1889, about 97 percent of all US stenographers wrote Pitman.  Ultimately, Phonography was adapted to more than 30 other languages.


1888 – Light-Line Phonography (later, Gregg Shorthand)

Nearly fifty years after Pitman’s invention, in 1888 the 21-year-old John Robert Gregg published his system as Light-Line Phonography.

Gregg brought his system to America in 1893, and renamed it Gregg Shorthand.   Gregg Shorthand was considered easier to write than Phonography.  Gregg declared that this more mature version was “rapid enough to reproduce verbatim the fastest oratory.”

In 1895 Gregg moved to Chicago.   Increased demand for stenographers and need for systems that could be learned faster than Pitman made Gregg the predominant US shorthand system.  Gregg Shorthand was adapted to more than 20 languages.