From Fashionable Realtime and reprinted
in the October/99 NCRA Journal of Court Reporting
only task in upgrading shorthand skills is to learn something new,
life would be great. But the challenge is far greater. It's more
about "unlearning" old skills. Undoing psychomotor skills that have
been firmly cemented in the neuropathways of brains of working court
reporters is likely to be much more difficult than the learning
pursuits of professionals in other fields in need of continuing
education. It's the challenge that must be overcome, but it might
be easier if you first understand why.
writing: What's needed to make the change to realtime?
1. A renewed attitude — mental software
2. The tools — tangible software and hardware
3. Familiarity with your equipment
It's necessary to tackle the upgrading process with proper equipment
and the right frame of mind not necessarily in that order.
Get motivated. To date, thousands of us across North America have
undertaken personal realtime upgrading projects to varying degrees.
Some have done remarkably well. Others have succeeded moderately.
Many, however, despite their best intentions, have come nowhere
close to their dreams of near-perfect translations.
The reasons vary. Suffice to say that if the motivation any of us
had when we first learned stenographic theory equalled the motivation
applied in modifying it today, there would be scores of highly qualified
realtimers and captioners showing the world what this profession's
capable of and reinforcing our indispensability. That of course
is not the case.
Why are some of us are charged with a desire to do this, yet others
see it as a burden? Obviously if the only reason for upgrading is
the threat of becoming obsolete, then the process will seem unusually
difficult and annoying. However, if we embrace the challenge, see
it as fascinating, adventurous, a fun, new way of doing the job,
and a way to increase profits, the chances of mastering it are much
This is no secret. Behavioural experts have known it for years.
Put another way, if you detest your job to begin with, you might
want to reconsider this whole thing. But if you're the language-oriented
type who feels a sense of elation in watching spoken words converted
to text before your very eyes, you'll probably whiz through the
upgrading process at remarkable speed.
Here are your carrots:
Money! Wider vistas for employment by opening new job
markets — and there are many.
2. Indispensability! Your skills will not be replaced
by technology or by other reporters who have it.
3. Longer life! Yes, you read correctly. The intrigue
of pursuing realtime translations is an ongoing process that provides
stimulation necessary for a healthy brain, a happier disposition,
and ultimately, extended longevity.
for a commitment of time One of the most common misconceptions of
people who engage in continuing education to upgrade their shorthand
theory is that if they simply attend classes for X number of nights,
they'll quietly transform into realtime writers. The fact is that
there's usually much more to the transition than showing up and
participating for a few hours each week. If it's impossible to make
time for additional duties; if your life is so utterly full of responsibilities
that you cannot commit to an allotment of hours for the activities
involved, then the reality is that it won't happen.
The learning process is a ritual that's repeated every day of our
lives. And every day, there's a routine physiological occurrence
in the brain: Our neurons grow dendrites. Without this function,
we'd be stagnant and life would lose all meaning. Think of the learning
process as flexing the "brain muscle". And subscribing to the no-pain,
no-gain philosophy is okay, but this is not at all painful. It does,
however, take some time, and you must have some to spend if you
crave the rewards.
Cultivate your mind. We all know that shorthand writing is
a highly familiar, in fact highly intimate presence in the life
of every reporter. And that may be understating it. The unique psychomotor
skill we've each developed is truly a remarkable, individual behavioural
trait that no one understands better than one of our kind. It pales
in comparison to everyday on-the-job learning or what we glean from
television or the newspaper. So any notion that this much evolved
and personal skill can be magically altered without a thorough re-cultivation
of one's innermost mental processes is quite wrong.
Undoubtedly the original skill was learned with a wild dendrite-building
party thrown by your brain in the initial training period. Then
everything changed. The party was over upon graduation and the process
settled into a rate of growth that matched your interest in absorbing
knowledge on the job and elsewhere in life.
To undertake the task of revising intimate shorthand skills in essence
will mean a new party. Don't be surprised if you find the process
a shock at first or if progress is slow. After all, you likely haven't
subjected your brain to such an ordeal in a very long time. Make
your dendrites grow (or "How to Age-Proof Your Mind") It's a fact.
To learn (or unlearn) anything means growing dendrites, and nothing
else provides a feeling of renewal equal to it.
It might be helpful to appreciate the role of dendritic growth to
a long and healthy life. The following is proffered by authorities
on the subject:
1. Do puzzles.
Crossword puzzles are great for you.
2. Try a musical instrument; a new one if you already play.
3. Fix something.
4. Try the arts.
6. Go out with friends or find new playmates. Date provocative people.
(Better yet, marry one.)
7. Turn off the TV.
8. Stock your life with rich experiences of all kinds.
9. Play with toys. Lots of them. Different ones.
10. Skip bingo. Play bridge or chess instead.
11. Learn to roll with the punches.
12. Stay physically healthy.
13. Keep your job. Don't retire, ever.
14. Become an expert in something.
Upgrading to realtime is learning. The academic definition of learning
is a change, more or less, in one's behaviour. Generally speaking,
the temptation not to learn new things, not to grow new dendrites,
is seductive and insidious for all humans as years tick by. But
you have chosen to become a realtime writer. Maybe you're the kind
of person who loves to take courses because you love learning and
you approach life with fascination. Besides increasing longevity,
there are many benefits to these qualities, but quicker learning
is a big one that can't be overlooked.
Software and Hardware: There are almost no working machine-shorthand
reporters on this continent who don't yet use some kind of a computer-assisted
translation (CAT) system. There are scant numbers still using dedicated
computer systems lacking DOS/PC capability. Most of us own more
modern gear, some with the newest and best. In each of these groups
there are reporters who want to change or update their hardware
or software because they recognize that it simply doesn't meet their
Now that we're in the age of 32-bit software and Windows® platforms,
it's unlikely that available CATware products will differ much.
Feature by feature, most new softwares have the same bells and whistles,
regardless who makes them. It might be fairly stated that the only
important distinction from this point onward will be the quality
of service manufacturers provide.
Even though prices have dropped dramatically over the past decade,
the cost of buying a top-end Pentium® notebook, new software, and
a state-of-the-art writer isn't peanuts. If you're unhappy with
your system, if it's outdated or incomplete, the following are suggestions
to consider before you spend good money:
1. Trust the advice of colleagues who are already experienced
in translating in realtime and who might have explored the fine
points. Ideally you should speak with reporters who have been in
the realtime field by selling "dirty" disks or by providing realtime
translations via litigation support software.
2. Choose your software, then buy hardware to suit it, or
alternatively, buy them together as an integrated set. Don't buy
non-specific hardware and then be forced to settle for software
that purports to work adequately with it. One caution: If you're
buying anew, remember that practically all software is now designed
for 32-bit Pentium®-level or better computers and will not likely
run well on anything less. (Even older software is reported to have
problems running on processors other than Intel®.) By all means,
confirm with your vendor.
3. Consider software that honestly claims artificial intelligence.
This is a feature that enables translation of complex outlines by
Familiarity With Your Equipment: If it's true that we have
distinctive personality traits that define our chosen careers, one
that continually surfaces among many talented shorthand writers
is that of indifference for their computers. So it might come as
a surprise to a layperson to discover that so many of us know so
little about our gear and its capabilities. Of course there are
exceptions. But obviously there's a tendency for some to stop exploring
past the stage of launching the CAT application, seeing translations
occur, and basic editing and printing.
This is not enough!
To be a proficient realtime writer, there are fundamental CAT operating
skills that are critical, and they are:
1. Know how to amend your dictionary. This means knowing
how to enter new outlines and the symbols that make word components
join, and it means knowing how to search and find outlines that
are slated for extermination. (Many of us have thousands on death
row that are enjoying deviant lives of mischief and perpetual reprieve.)
2. Know how to set your software's features for smart endings,
artificial intelligence, homonym resolution, or whatever. This
means knowing how to turn these off as well as on. (If you're really,
really new at this, know how to turn off that incessant beep that
occurs every time you have an untranslate or you risk death at the
hands of your colleagues and clients.)
3. Know how to make new dictionary entries on the fly. This
means being familiar with your software's capability to open windows
or enter dictionary maintenance modes without having to shut down
your current file. The first months of your new life as a realtimer
will be loaded with occasions where you'll want to do this, and
even as a proficient realtimer or captioner, you'll do it every
day. Know something about "special" dictionaries. This means knowing
how to enable/disable a phonetic dictionary and how to add and delete
entries. It also means taking the trouble to read your manual about
features built into your CATware to do special tasks such as putting
the dollar sign ahead of numbers — even though it was written after
— and other nifty things.
4. Besides the ongoing quest to unbloat your dictionary, there's
much to be gained from knowing how to be a meticulous housekeeper.
This means sorting out and off-loading completed note and transcript
files, editing and dispensing with job or temporary files, and all
of the things that muddle your chances of running a clean, efficient
5. Know how to adjust your writer's keys for output to your computer.
This means opening the lid with confidence and fine-tweaking a misbehaved
key to prevent discrepancies between what appears in your notes
and what your computer is receiving for translation. Consider how
many thousands of untranslates or mistranslates some reporters might
tolerate because they don't want to touch these settings. It's absolutely
One final suggestion: If you've been dodging it, get internetting!
Besides the obvious benefits of participating in the global community,
there are new and exciting benefits for court and realtime reporters
who have embraced this communication technology. I won't try to
extol virtues of the internet here, but it's presumed you're at
least aware of the exhaustive information it holds, the networking
advantages it offers, and the prospects for many new markets in
realtime writing right on the net.
Fashionable Realtime certainly must be one of the most
exhaustive works on the subject. It is obvious you have spent an awful
lot of energy, time and effort on it.
Fashionable Realtime for Steno Writers is the best
of all the change-your-theory books I've read, and I think I must
have them all. No other book on the subject is so thorough, so professional,
so well researched. On top of these things, your humorous treatment
of such a frustrating and challenging undertaking makes it seem –
dare I say? – fun.
Your text Fashionable Realtime is a godsend! I have
experienced a distinct improvement in my real-time writing after incorporating
some of the writing suggestions.
Now, this is my kind of book. I've gotten more common sense
from it than I have in five years of trying to fix theory problems
from a variety of other publications.
-MS, New York
devoured Fashionable Realtime the minute I received it and recommend
it to all I see. Again, thanks. I have been realtiming for almost 10
years, and FRT says everything I have ever wanted to say in a marvellously
(Fashionable Realtime) is by far the most concise and
logically fashioned realtime book I've seen so far, and I think I've
seen them all.
-SA, Vancouver Island
a real fan of Fashionable Realtime in fact, it's on the
bookshelf next to my computer for easy reference and have found
the suggestions and word lists to be incredibly helpful, especially
those dealing with technical prefixes and suffixes.
really must tell you again what a wonderful resource this is for us.
Other realtime books on the market don't even come close. Now that I
have mine, you really ought to raise your prices!!
FRT is incredible !! It's more than I expected. Wow !!
Canyon County CA
you have accomplished with respect to realtime writing is admirable,
to say the least. Fashionable Realtime is I am lost for
words. You have accomplished a very great thing!