Articles in this issue -
1 - "7 Questions With...Mark Kislingbury"
2 - "Using The Brief Machine"
3 - "Voice Writing - Everything I Know"
4 - "Using the Forum - Get Together!"
5 - "Coming Soon"
7 Questions With...Mark Kislingbury
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you already know that Mark Kislingbury is the fastest writer in the universe. You can check out his website - www.rtexcellence.com for all details of his life, but I can narrow it down to 3 words - He's the Man! And he let us pick his brain a bit.
1 - Is
there such a thing as too much practice?
If there is, I've never seen anyone who engaged in it. But I'm sure there's too much of the "wrong kind" of practice. Any time you're practicing wrong, it's too much. Your next question would be, Then what is "wrong practice"? Well, one example of it is practicing on material that's too slow. You need to be pushed, not pushed just a little, but pushed more than a little. Also, "wrong practice" would be practice where you're not concentrating very hard. Mental effort needs to be put into practicing, striving for perfection, although never achieving it. (I've never achieved it.)
2 - Should you try to get something down for everything that is heard, or is there a proper time to drop?
In judicial reporting, you should do the former. You must train yourself to "get something down" for everything, to the best extent you are able. In broadcast captioning, you have to do the latter; you have to write cleanly and drop where necessary, but write something that conveys the meaning of the words.
3 - Test anxiety. Are there ways to control it?
Here let me just copy from my book, "My System: The Road To Realtime Excellence," Chapter 18, "Preparing for Tests." This chapter is short and sweet, but I believe that it presents the only tried-and-true, works-nearly-every-time method for passing tests or competing in contests. There will be no talk of psyching ourselves up here, no talk of confidence boosters and nerve-calmers, except for one:
Kislingbury rule number 14: Preparation and practice are the only way to have real confidence. If you are not ready to take a test, then most likely you will not pass it. If you are just on the edge of being good enough to pass, then most likely you will not pass. But if you have practiced, and practiced, and put in the hours so that you KNOW that you are capable of performing easily above and beyond the test standard, so much so that it seems almost second nature, then it is almost certain that you WILL pass. Cramming does not work. Usually preparation must take place for many weeks and even months before a test or contest in order to be fully prepared.
[Not in the book: Today I believe that even 50 words per minute can be gained in a week or two, at the higher speeds, at least, if you spend hours each day practicing 50 words a minute higher than your top speed. I personally know that some working reporters have improved from 225 to 260 or 280 in just a few days, days of being pushed hard by too-fast attorneys. But that is another question entirely.]
Now, I do realize that some individuals are poor "test takers" -- that it doesn't matter what the test is, but that just the very thought of a "test" makes them nervous and unable to perform up to usual standards. Again, for those individuals, there is no better confidence builder than knowing beyond a doubt that they are fully prepared and capable of passing the test. The more prepared you are, the less anxious you will be.
4 - What is the number one way to build speed?
This may come as a surprise, but I think the number 1 way, the easiest way, as well as the first way that should be attempted is to shorten your writing.
The second way is to push yourself at higher and higher speeds, even while sacrificing accuracy. Because in the real world, speed comes first, then accuracy. If you want to argue with me on this, I'll be happy to debate the point. (One problem with all kinds of schooling in the world is that schooling sometimes has the shortcoming of not being "in the real world." I'm speaking from real world experience here. Court reporters out in the field who are being pushed beyond their abilities, and have no control over how fast the other people are talking, manage to rise to the occasion within a day or two, write sloppily at first, drop some, but eventually they get better and they soon master the new speeds. Speed came first, then accuracy followed behind. Almost every working reporter has had this happen to them.)
5 - About your recommendation to incorporate endings, for example: HEUGT, not HEUT/-G. I have heard from various sources that endings should always be in a separate stroke to avoid conflicts. Could you please share your thoughts on this?
Ah, one of my favorite subjects. It's such a shame that these various sources propound this, because it does one thing for sure, and that is, it slows down the students. Supposedly for the sake of "realtime." Nothing damages realtime more than forcing you to go slow by adding extra strokes on most words. 30 years ago, before realtime, it was already very difficult to get out of school. But people did it because they had "short" theories with lots of briefs and phrases. Today, students are taking longer to get out of school. One of the reasons is, I'm confident, that the schools are forcing stroke-intensive theories onto the students, and they can't bear the load of having to write so many strokes. I attribute a great deal of my own success (other than God's blessing, of course) to shortening my own writing, without which I couldn't keep up. It is for this reason that I'm publishing my own theory later this year. Watch for it! (smile)
6 - Does the machine you use make a difference?
Not so much the machine, but rather the depth of your stroke, and how heavy the resistance when a key is pushed down. Amazingly, another handicap students work under is older machines that have very, very deep strokes. It makes sense that the deeper the stroke, the slower you are forced to go, just based on physics alone. I strongly recommend that schools invest in paying a steno technician to come to the school and "shim" every machine there to a very short stroke. This will give the students a leg up. I'm on the élan Mira, and I have my stroke as light and as short as possible. And believe me, it helps. I was previously on a Stentura, and I had a steno technician "shim" that machine, make the stroke shorter -- as a matter of fact, very short -- and it definitely makes a difference. It's about like the difference between an electric typewriter and a manual typewriter.
7 - Is it true you have bionic fingers?
Using the Brief Machine
Adding the Brief Machine to the StenoLife.com site was a last-minute
idea, but I knew it would be the most popular feature of the site. It is.
Students pop in, enter a word, get a brief, then pop out. That's great, but
I want to make sure everyone's getting the most out of it, so here are some
1 - Spell the word correctly! I get to see all the brief requests and I can't believe how many are misspelled. Take a second and make sure you're entering it correctly. If you don't, I can't help.
2 - Don't use commas or end punctuation. I know it may be incorrect not to use a comma, but because of the way the program was developed, commas throw it off. So if you're looking for "yes, sir" - type in "yes sir." Also, don't add final punctuation. If you're looking for "do you recall," don't add a question mark at the end.
3 - Only look for words you're going to actually use. How often is the word "gelatin"going to come up for you in your writing career. Once? Twice? Maybe three times during that big Jello case you're the reporter on? Yet, I got a request for a brief the other day for this word. Let's be honest, you will never use a brief for the word "gelatin" enough to remember it if it ever comes up. And I get requests like this every single day. Let's try to keep the words relevant, huh?
4 - Help others out! When a brief request comes through that I think is worth adding to our database, I submit it to the "Briefs" section of our Board. So try to check it every now and then to see if you have any briefs you can share.
Voice Writing - Everything I Know
Every few weeks or so I come across another post of some kind related to voice writing (stenomasking). Are they replacing us? Is it easy? How does it work? Why do I hate voice writers so much?
As the number of machine writers decreases, we need to find viable ways to fill that void. That's not a question, that's a fact. There just aren't enough reporters to go around. I'm not going to start pointing fingers as to why - although I have my thoughts - let's just agree that that's the case. So it's not question of if some other method is going to be working alongside of you, it's a questions of when. Believe it. Accept it. Embrace it.
Stenomaskers seem like the obvious choice to step forward. They can produce a transcript on the spot. They have the accuracy (despite what you've heard). And a majority of the students who start voice writing can finish school in less than 2 years.
How does voice writing work? Pretty simple and similar to the way machine writing works. It uses voice recognition software and word commands to make a transcript. I tested a few different pieces of software and found it to be pretty amazing. I could write 160 words per minute within minutes, with over 95% accuracy. Once you input your verbal dictionary and practice on speed, that only gets better. So the technology is there. It can be done.
Several programs are popping up, preparing for when voice writing is welcomed (and certified) into the rest of the states. But when will that be? And will attorneys welcome them? Tough call. The bottom line is that attorneys are paying for a transcript. If that means writing on a machine, stenomasking or using a hammer and chisel, a transcript is a transcript. Can having someone in the room talking into a mask be unnerving at first, a little. But the attorneys will get over it.
I can understand how machine writers feel. "I've put 6 years into learning this incredibly difficult skill, and they're going to come along and go through some 16-month course, then steal my job!" I've heard about 46 variations of this statement from my students. My answer, there are so many outlets now for machine and voice writers - there are plenty of jobs to go around. Machine writers NEED someone to step up and fill the void. It will make your job easier in the long run.
You are not being replaced, so focus on getting through school. You don't need the distraction. Voice writers are our friends. Spread the love!
Okay, this isn't everything I know about voice writing, but it's enough to put the topic to sleep. Nighty-night.
Using the Forum - Get Together!
I thought that one of the coolest features of the StenoLife.com site would be the chance for groups of students to get together and chat in a room. Cool idea - poor execution. There are rarely more than 5 or 6 people on the site at any given time, which means you (the students) have to set up times to meet. The room is there to use - go for it!
And finally, I am announcing my retirement. Not really. Well...sort of. I am now working on my last 2 court reporting sites. I'll be opening them within the next 4 months. Then, I believe I will have completely saturated the market and placed myself on the edge of annoying.
What are the sites? One is huge - the other is fun. That's all I can say right now, so keep checking!