It's a Twitter kinda world, and we just live in it. Honestly, I don't get Twitter. Have we become so lacking in focus that we now have to limit communications to 140 text characters? I'm just guessing that it will only be worse 10 years from now. We'll only be able to absorb 60 text characters. And Twitter will be shortened to Twit. Okay - not really. I'm not really a Twitter hater. I'm just concerned about this sound-bite generation we're becoming. I do take comfort in knowing that in just a few years Twitter will be a footnote in history...only to be taken over by something even worse : )
That said, in this issue of The Steno Life I will embrace my inner Twitter and do some quick jabs, rather than swooping hooks. As always, please don't email me about spelling or punctuation errors. I appreciate it, but I'm writing this for content, not an English class.
1 - Practice does NOT make perfect. Practice makes permanent. That's why practicing correctly is so important. Practice incorrect strokes and you're telling your brain those strokes are acceptable. If when you learned to drive you saw a red light and pressed the brake pedal half the time and the accelerator half the time, you would have mixed muscle response - mixed messages for the brain to decipher. You need one message - one result - one response. Accuracy first.
2 - The 10 most used words in English - the, of, and, a, to, etc... - make up almost 25% of all words spoken! The 100 most used make up over 50%. The 1000 most used words make up about 72% of all words spoken. The top 10,000 make up about 92%. So if you have great muscle memory on the top 10,000 words, you'd always get at least 92% of what's spoken.
3 - NEW CONTEST! - The kind people at StenoTech have offered up an awesome prize - a $300 certificate good for a steno machine overhaul - any kind of steno machine! Here are the details of what they will do - overhaul - and general pricing. To enter this drawing, just drop an email to Marc@StenoLife.com with "StenoTech Contest" in the subject line. You have till June 12th to enter - winner to be announced June 15th!
4 - When NOT transcribing a test is an option, you don't write as well. If you know before you start a test that you can trash it and move on if you're not happy with it, you tend to quit as you write. If you KNOW you MUST transcribe every test you take, you hang on strong and stay in the moment. Make transcription your only option - don't give yourself a reason to quit.
5 - Exactly why are you briefing at 60 words per minute? You have plenty of time to write things out at that speed. Some students at 60 have a brief for "ladies and gentlemen." Why? What if the speaker says "ladies and other guests..." instead? Now you've waited for your chance to use a brief and you're screwed - at least 3 words behind. Don't be so anxious to write more than one word at a time.
6 - Learn the longcuts before you learn the shortcuts.
7 - When you have balance in your life, you do EVERYTHING better, including steno. So find that healthy balance of steno, hobbies, relationships and other things. You'll appreciate them all much more and actually look forward to getting on your steno machine, rather than seeing it as a chore to complete.
9 - It's not how you FEEL about your writing that matters. What you SEE matters. Many students will tell me, "That felt great - I did well on that" only to have a mess. The proof is in the pudding...uh...transcript. Your progress is measured by what you actually wrote - not what you feel you wrote.
10 - Stop comparing yourself to other students. You are unique and steno is a wide-ranging goal. If you MUST compare yourself to those who are moving along faster than you, how about looking at those who are moving slower too?!
11 - Why are you looking at 225? If you're in a lower speed, 225 looks impossible. But 225 is NOT your goal. The next speed on your ladder is your goal - so look at that. Focus on the tiny hill ahead of you rather than Mount Everest in the distance.
12 - Do finger drills! They help with finger dexterity and basic writing patterns. At least 10 minutes a day. If you hate them, that's more proof that you probably need them.
13 - StenoWatchdog Sale Items - We've added a handy link to the items for sale on StenoWatchdog. You can access it from the text navigation on the website as well - the Items For Sale link. 11 items for sale today from students and reporters.
14 - Structure, structure, structure. You can't practice aimlessly and hope you get somewhere. I've said it a million times - you need to practice with a purpose!
15 - A couple campus schools mentioned to their students that NCRA was considering only allowing students from accredited schools take the NCRA tests. Lie! Total fabrication. I emailed NCRA and heard back from NCRA President, Karen Yates. She stated this is "...absolutely not true." Shame on those campus schools who are using scare tactics.
16 - Your theory works. Court reporters have been made using every theory out there. The key is knowing your theory inside and out, then personalizing it, if needed.
17 - Test anxiety goes away as confidence grows. And you only get confidence by knowing you put in all the effort you're capable of.
18 - I grade about 50 tests a day. The top errors I see...
A - it's or its - ONLY use "it's" when you can replace it with "it is." Otherwise it should be "its." This one is hard because "it's" is often tied in with ownership, making us thing we need an apostrophe.
B - Never use OK. It's always okay.
C - NEVER use an exclamation point in a transcript, even if the person screams or is quoting a screaming person.
D - Polite requests require no question mark. Would you state your name please. Can you stand up so the jury can see you. The questioner is not asking for a yes or no answer. They are politely asking for an action from the witness. It's not really a question - it's a request to do something.
E - As a general rule, punctuation always goes INSIDE quotation marks. There are exceptions, but for the most part, keep them inside.
F - then or than - Then indicates time. I did this, then that. Then what did you do? Than indicates a choice. I'd rather do this than that.
G - A dash consists of two hyphens together -- with a space on either side of them. I think it was the same day that -- same day I was thinking of.
20 - Accept that people outside of your steno circle won't get it. They will ask you if you've graduated. They will ask you if it's hard. They will wonder why it is taking so long. Who cares! Accept that they don't know the details and don't hold it against them for asking.
21 - Want to test your nerves? Have someone walk around behind you as you write to some recorded material. They shouldn't be trying to distract you...but shouldn't be trying NOT to either : ) Get used to that and you're in good shape.
23 - Writing hesitations are normal. If you didn't hesitate...you'd be a reporter. That said, even reporters hesitate! That's what speedbuilding is - shrinking hesitations. You're not writing the words faster - you're hesitating less.
24 - Lit is hard! You DON'T have a problem with lit. It's supposed to be harder than jury charge and even 2-voice sometimes. There's a reason it's only tested at 180 on the RPR exam and not 200.
25 - Practice in context. If you think you have a hard time writing the word "cat," writing the word "cat" 100 times will only take you so far. You need to create sentences using the word cat - That cat is the cat I love - and practice it like that. Because when you write it's all about moving your fingers from one place to another in different combinations - not the same thing over and over.
26 - Know your state requirements to work.
27 - Do self evaluations. You are your own best teacher, because no one else can crawl into your head and see what you meant to write - or thought you heard - or know your intentions. And this means you have to be totally honest with yourself as well. Self evaluations are nothing without self honesty.
28 - Shoot a video of yourself writing on your machine. You may think you look like a pro, but till you see the video, you don't know.
29 - Everyone needs to "get out of school as fast as possible." But you can't change the fact that this is a difficult program and will take time to learn properly.
30 - Practicing for 8 hours a day will not get you to your goal twice as fast as compared to practicing 4 hours per day.
31 - KNOW YOUR THEORY.
32 - And finally....smile. You will stumble and you will fall. You will soar and you will succeed. Those are givens. Smile through both.