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Phoenix Writers
Write Clean!
Every New Year, we make resolutions that we do not keep. As students, we make promises to practice more, pass a certain speed by a certain date, or attend class even when we're writing badly. As reporters, we make promises to increase our speed and clarity, to set aside time to concentrate on realtime, and to improve our time management. We tell ourselves that we're going to meet these goals, and we get excited by the ideas. We might even stick to it for a while, but most of the time the excitement will fade and so will the dedication required to actually meet the goals.

The idea of a goal is to improve in a certain area, and the key is self-motivation. Within your mind, you tell yourself that this time will be better, you're going to work on it every day. When you don't, you fail and then repeat it all from step one. Within your mind, it's just you and the goal. In that way, it’s easier to let it slip a bit.

As simple as it sounds, you need to write your goals down on paper. When you do that, it makes them more real, more concrete. Post it where you can see it every day, so it will be a constant reminder to work towards meeting it. Post it where others can see it as well, and it’s even more of a motivation. No person likes to fail, but failure has a greater sting if it’s public knowledge. Put it on your calendar, litter your house with sticky notes, or put a note on the top of your machine. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself driven.

Another thing to keep in mind when setting a goal is make sure it is realistic. To say that I’m going to take my notes from 95% accuracy up to 99% accuracy in one month isn’t all that reasonable. I’m sure it can be done, but why make it any harder on yourself?

Instead, extend your goals out a little ways beyond what you think is achievable. There will always be things in your life you cannot control: illnesses, sick children or partners, being overloaded at work, swamped with deadlines, etc. You need to make allowances for things like that so in the event of an unachieved goal, you won’t beat yourself up over something you couldn’t help.

Remember, setting goals for yourself is wonderful. It’s working towards them that is the hard part.

Mood: thoughtful thoughtful


Some people like them, some do not. Is one way better than the other? Absolutely not. The use of briefs and phrases is a personal preference. Hard, fast rule?

Only use the ones that:
(1) make sense
(2) allow you to write faster
(3) that you know how to write out the long way.

Why is this important?

First, a brief or phrase should make sense to you in one way or another. It would be harder to commit a stroke to muscle memory that doesn't make sense or doesn't seem logical to you than it would be to learn one that you understand.

Second, the idea of a brief or a phrase is to shorten the amount of time it takes to write something out. When you are first learning one, you will naturally hesitate when you hear it because it is new. You continue to practice it until hesitation is no longer an issue. Ideally, that particular outline should be an automatic response to hearing the word or words. If it just isn't coming to you, disregard it and write it out. Remember, in higher speeds, one second of hesitation can cost you several words. The idea is for your writing to become faster, not slower or arrhythmic.

Third, you should never use a brief or a phrase if you don't know how to write the word out. The reason for this is simple: if you forget the outline, you should be able to continue writing and stroke it out. And it *does* happen like that. For whatever reason, I'll be writing and have a temporary memory lapse and question the correct outline for a brief or phrase. And if I didn't know how to write it out, I would probably sit there for a few seconds, drawing a complete blank, and listen to the testimony flying by.

For example, take the word "reluctant". Let's say you use a brief for the word because you don't know how to write it out or really have to think about it when doing so. Well, since briefs are supposed to make you write faster, there's nothing wrong with using a different outline for a word that makes you hesitate. But if you don't really know how to write the word out, what happens when the word "reluctance" comes up and you don't have a brief for that? You'll sit there and do that head-tilt thing while trying to figure out what the heck to write, all the while missing parts of the testimony.

Hey, I have words that cause me hesitation. I know how to write them out, but for whatever reason, I tend to mis-stroke it. Of course, I'll make a brief for the word. But I always make sure that I can write the word out in case I encounter it during one of my memory lapses or encounter a similar-sounding word.

And don't try to learn too many at one time. Your brain can only compute so much. Learn a few here, a few there, and keep a little book with you to write down words for which you need a new outline.

I'll step down from my soapbox now.

And as always, write clean!

Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

(cross-posted to PhoenixTheory)

A word of caution when it comes to the changing of transcript/notes grading. I know it can seem like a good idea, but it will hurt you in the long run to not have your notes graded to a standard of 95%. Lowering the transcript grade to 95% will also be more detrimental than beneficial. It lowers your own personal standards for what is acceptable and what is not.

In a standard deposition (QA), there are about 150 words per page. If you were taught to write and pass tests at 95%, a standard depo page would have 7 to 8 errors.

7 to 8 errors PER PAGE!!!! That could be drops, writing "left" instead of "right", etc. That is completely unnacceptable in the real world. 97.5% is 3 errors, which is still too many for a professional record.

But it would be a lot easier to write at 97.5% throughout school and then clean up those 3 errors while working than it would be to have to clean up 7 or 8 while working.

Your standard should be very high. Forget passing tests as your priority. Your priority should be clean writing and clean transcripts. 95% is simply unacceptable.

Sure, you might pass some tests a little quicker, but court reporting school is not about instant gratification. It's about working towards perfection or as close as you can get it. It's about your long-term goal. No one wants an inaccurate reporter.

Just think about that before you hand in tests below the 97.5% standard. Don't lower the bar for yourself. Raise it.

Mood: calm calm