As an audience member at the 2012 Deposition Reporters Association Annual Convention for the great Mark Kislingbury’s keynote presentation, I found myself (a court reporting veteran of 31 years) in awe of how the “young people” are writing steno. I know I am a really good writer. I am a Certified Realtime Reporter, and I write clean realtime for some of the fastest talking attorneys in San Diego. YET this week, watching my strokes, I became conscious that I write dozens and dozens of words in three strokes. I don’t phrase enough. I am working much too hard banging at the keys.
Kislingbury wrote unfamiliar sustained dictation at the conference at 295 words per minute for 30 seconds with two errors. He stood as he wrote on his Stenovation machine, and I could see he barely moved his fingers. (FYI – A question was asked if a person should practice on the same machine as they use when on a job. His answer was as long as you can adjust your machine to have shallow strokes, it doesn’t matter what machine you use, i.e., Diamante or Passport.) Kislingbury advised everyone we need to warm up with a fast five-minute dictation before every job. Since we are athletes, it makes sense to warm up on something other than an attorney’s admonitions.
As court reporting athletes, we have to warm up, shorten our strokes, and learn new ways of writing. I believe Magnum Steno is a great resource for shifting our writing to learn to write short. Briefing is the key to success. One of the reporters I work with purposely stacks phrases, questions, and answers. If an attorney is speaking 300 – 350 words a minute and is right on top of the witness’ answers, moving the fingers faster becomes physically impossible.
Let’s all choose a phrase family we will work on for the month of March and see what happens. I choose something very basic. I am embarrassed to admit I write “I don’t know” in three strokes and “I know” in two. I need to incorporate the YO. It seems crazy to use Y for I and O for do, but I plan on doing it anyway.
Let’s all stroke less in 2012. Maybe we can work up to competing in the realtime or speed contests. It is incredibly great we have the option to write faster and be even greater than ever. Being a court reporter means being an athlete. As someone that started out as a Herman Miller theory San Diego court reporter, there is plenty of room to grow.