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Attach Those Vowels Now!

From Fashionable Realtime, but adapted below for the May/2000 edition of NCRA Journal of Court Reporting

What's the first thing you did to upgrade your writing skills for realtime? Differentiate between no and know? Most of us tackle homonyms because they' re the most visible component of non-realtime translations.

But wait. It's probably not the best place to start. Before you begin a grand-scale consideration of several thousand homonyms, you need to first make some simple choices on how to finger spell. Yes, you heard right.

If you' re not already proficient at alphabets, then I'm not suggesting that it's the way to start your realtime writing quest. However, deciding how you'll attach vowels before and after words is the same as finger spelling, and this is a highly important first decision. Why? It paves the road for you. It means you won't be forced into a hodge-podge of conflict resolutions that make realtime writing slow and memory intensive.

Consonants, too, need solutions, but for now, decide at least on a method for the vowels. It means that you no longer need to remember — or dictionary define — such words as abloom and over 400 other a- words with conflict potential. While this article couldn't begin to list all of them (Fashionable Realtime does), here are just a few in the front-attaching vowel group to illustrate the point:

     A  aboil, allure, atoxic
     E  educe, elude, eversion
     I   icon, ideal, ion
     O  obit, omen, opal
     U  uni, unite, util
     Y  yegg, Yvette, Yvonne

I threw in the word yegg, meaning a safecracker, to demonstrate the versatility of a front-attaching y- stroke with the others. It's impossible to estimate how many words are implicated in this discussion, but let me guess that many, many of them are globalled incorrectly into CAT dictionaries around the world. And when you least expect it, they disappoint you by translating something other than what you intended.

Now let's look at the end-attaching vowels. The technique of attaching -a and other vowels is becoming more widespread as writers shift away from including prior consonants. This works so well for creating perfectly spelled outlines, and also where it creates outlines that simply can't mistranslate (such as grilla rather than grill will a, and grilla is then redefined as intended: gorilla). Depending on your theory, many are okay to write with the consonant, but all should be scrutinized for revision.

Wary writers realize that dictionaries have hundreds of these defined with inherent conflicts, especially for those who phrase about a, are a, can a, did a, had a, have a, if a, in a, is a, will a, and who also write TA, THA, and YA as briefs. Cultural briefs may exist for some writers, such as PA for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Pennsylvania might then be globalled as papa, when in fact PAP/-a requires the same number of strokes and no dictionary entry. Words with these built-in conflicts should be sought out and eliminated when you feel ready to recognize them at speed. Any that don't auto-translate should be replaced with new outlines that include -a, especially those whose segments have no untranslates, such as ban Dan in a when you've innocently stroked bandanna.

Thousands of conflicts are curable by back-attaching vowels. For now, decide only on those important to you, but in time you'll likely attach the -a and the others to everything possible without a trace of hesitation.

     A  era, mensa, tuba
     E  educatee, obligee, vaccinee
     I   anti, deli, rooti
     O  chromo, fatso, pesto
     U  fondu, impromptu, in situ
     Y  baby, gory, rosy

The three -e words above were selected because they work perfectly with an attaching -e stroke, but in fact there are very few like this, and maybe they're not worth worrying about. Far more important is a distinctive -ee stroke for more than 600 words that do not build automatically with a lone -e, so while you're at it, devise an ~ee stroke that isn't easily confused with your vowel spelling alphabets.

Just when you think you' re having fun with this, it's important that you also consider how you'll deal with the ~ed, ~ing, and ~s endings. Many people simply add them to the same outlines for each of the rear-attaching vowels.

One of the commonest questions from mature writers who are new to vowel attachment is: "Do I only attach vowels when a perfectly spelled word is created?" The answer is simple: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Attach them anywhere and everywhere. Good software will correct most misspellings, and this is a feature you should be very clear about when negotiating the purchase of a software product. Thus tubea becomes tuba and skiny becomes skinny, but don't expect miracles with canoe or other anomalously spelled words you choose to write with attached vowels. These need to be globally defined as before, but their totality will never exceed the number of old globals now eligible for extermination.

So why learn attaching vowels before anything else? Because now you can resolve yew/you/ewe and other common homonyms without stealing from your future repertoire of matching strokes for finger spelling. When you solve the dilemma of he/e~/~e/~ee and others like it in the early stages of upgrading, you know that you'll never be returning to make changes when you eventually come head to head with alphabets.


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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.

-WM, London

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.

-TW, Vancouver

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.

-JA, Burlington

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

I 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 structured way.

-LL, Perth

(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

Logical Seminars link

I'm 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.

-CK, New York

I 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!!

-CF, Edmonton, AB

FRT is incredible !! It's more than I expected. Wow !!

-MM, Canyon County CA

What 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!

-BL, Alberta, Canada