Ed's Steno Pro
This is the book you’ve been waiting for! Ed’s Steno Pro, a new book by Ed Varallo, six-time NCRA Speed Contest Champion, teaches you how to shorten up your system and become the best realtime writer you can be. The key is in how you go about designing briefs, and Ed’s (simple) Three Rules for Briefing teach you how to create easy-to-write briefs that you can actually remember! Writing shorter is important; it promotes clean writing. And clean writers are good realtime writers! Ed’s Steno Pro will demonstrate the techniques you need to know to meet the realtime demands of today’s marketplace.
Excerpt From Ed's Steno Pro
It’s bad briefs that give briefs a bad name.
Reporters often shy away from adopting briefs because, they say, briefs are hard to remember and if you fumble around when trying to recall a brief, you’ll do more harm than good. A fair point, and one with which I agree: Briefs you can’t instantly remember are useless to you. But the problem with briefs is not that briefs are bad. The problem is that if briefs are poorly designed, they are difficult (if not impossible) to remember. Reporters who “write out” solve the design problem by simply choosing not to design a short brief but, rather, use a consistent basic theory to write everything. In concept it’s an excellent way to do things -- except it doesn’t work, because it ignores the way our minds process words.
We don’t process each word in a sentence the same way. When you hear at the time, you immediately recognize it as a three-word phrase you’ve heard countless times in the course of your work. If you were to hear rectilinear biphasic waveform, a phrase from a patent case I worked on, you must write it out, because it is clearly not a familiar phrase. But at the time is a three-word phrase your mind has already briefed, as it were, in that you grasp the meaning of those three words instantly, without mental effort -- and your shorthand system needs to write those three words as effortlessly as possible. That means a one-stroke brief, not a three-stroke brief masquerading as “writing it out” in three strokes.
Our minds instantly grasp the meaning of the words and phrases we hear over and over again in our daily work. That is a valuable insight, because it suggests how we should go about writing shorthand. It tells us that words, and phrases, that we hear often should be briefed -- regardless of how easy they may be to write out. That is the only way to have your writing in sync with your mental processing.
Briefs need to be skeletal, i.e., containing as few letters as possible.
Why is it an advantage?
Think of writing shorthand as a mental assembly line. You hear words, they’re being spoken at high speed, you process them mentally, select an outline, dispatch instructions to your fingers to execute the outline -- all the while continuing to field the incoming words and process them. But hitting the asterisk once or twice, then rewriting a misstroked outline, brings the assembly line to a crashing halt. Alas, the incoming words haven’t stopped coming; they are still coming in at high speed. The result is a bottleneck for that split second, or second, where you are fixing a misstroked outline. No matter how quickly you hit the asterisk and restroke your outline, incoming words have started to pile up on your assembly line and now you must rush to catch up. That’s bad, because it increases the chances that you will again make stroking errors in your haste to catch up. Can you afford to hit the asterisk again and correct another misstroking?
The goal is to keep the assembly line running smoothly, without disruptions like hitting the asterisk or falling behind because you have too many strokes to execute. To achieve that goal, you need to write cleanly -- all the time.
This book will teach you how to do that.
Ed’s Rules for Briefing
The way to design briefs you can remember is to be consistent in your approach to briefing. That means following a few rules (guidelines, really) so that the briefs you create all follow the same basic template.
Think of it this way. Basic theory is a set of rules: Use the -G every time you hear ing. Use -GS for the sound of shun. Write KWREU for the suffix y, as in the word dirty. Distinguish between long and short vowels and always write AEU for the long “a.” Those are rules. And they don’t make it harder to write shorthand. On the contrary, they are what makes it possible to write shorthand! Without the rules of basic theory, your shorthand writing would be chaotic -- just like your briefs will be chaotic if you don’t follow rules in formulating them.
For simplicity’s sake, I call my guidelines Ed’s Rules. There are only three of them.
Ed’s Rule #1: Briefs should be skeletal.
Ed’s Rule #2: Clip-on briefs.
Clip-on briefs are really skeletal, because all you are doing is appending one letter (or two) to your standard outline. That’s easy to remember! It is not an entirely new brief to learn. You already know your outline for foot is FAOT. The trick is to recognize square foot as a phrase. Then, with the clip-on principle in mind, your fingers can reliably choose SFAOT for square foot, SFAOET for square feet, and even SFAOJ for square footage if you brief footage.
Clip-on briefs work just as well when applied to the end of a word. Create a brief by appending a single letter (or two) at the end of your regular outline.
Designing clip-on briefs is fun. Listen for the patterns in your work. How you might define KRORD will depend on where you work -- in the courtroom, in Washington D.C., or doing general freelancing. Using the clip-on concept, pick what works for you.
These concepts are powerful. Skeletal briefs and clip-on briefs can make your life as a hardworking court reporter easier. You will find that many outlines in this book jump out as particularly useful to you in the work you do. Glance over all the briefs, though, to grasp fully how to implement the concepts on your own. As with any new briefs, pick just a half dozen at first. Try them out. Listen for them, learn them well, and soon they will be firmly a part of your writing style. Then learn some more of them!
Ed’s Rule #3: The Family of Briefs concept.
Let’s take a look at the all of them family. What makes this a family is that each of the phrases is triggered by the words of them. That is the common theme. The eight phrases below illustrate the idea. (The all of them family is outlined in full on page 66.)
You can create your own family of briefs by choosing a target word and applying Ed’s Rules to brief a large selection of phrases keyed on a single word. Let’s take the word office. By targeting that word and applying Ed’s Rules to your standard outline, you can create a very useful and easy-to-remember series of briefs for these routine phrases.
When devising a family of briefs based on a target word, make sure to
focus on phrases you actually encounter in your work. I write KPOFS for
corporate office, but if compliance office is a phrase you need to write,
you might choose KPOFS for that phrase. Target phrases that are a part
of your workaday world, select briefs that are consistent with Ed’s
Rules, and you will instantly learn the briefs as you create them --
Likewise, you can have a target subject matter where you consciously
set about briefing the words and phrases peculiar to that subject matter.
An example you will find later in this book is the language that lawyers
use when making objections, which would include phrases like: direct
you not to answer, caution the witness, calls for speculation, vague
and ambiguous, outside the scope -- and many more .
Frequency of occurrence is the reason to brief, not the perceived difficulty of writing out a multisyllabic word or phrase. If you encounter a word or phrase in your work often enough, you will soon memorize how you write it -- no matter whether you brief it in one stroke or laboriously write it out in multiple strokes.
And there’s a bonus: Briefing is fun! I love to figure out a new brief, start using it, and feel the stress lessen as the words fly by, yet my hands have slowed down, I’m not pounding, and my realtime screen fills merrily with correctly spelled words, phrases, and proper names. That’s a goal worth striving for, and smart briefing will get you there.
What follows from this point is essentially a book of lists -- lists of briefs organized by families of briefs, target words, and numerous examples of how to create skeletal briefs and Wild Card briefs. My purpose is to demonstrate how to listen for target words and word families, and then how to brief the words and phrases you have identified, using Ed’s Rules.
If you design good briefs, you will remember them.
The rationale for using briefs is to reduce the physical strain of writing machine shorthand day after day, year after year, and to promote the writing of clean notes -- a sine qua non for any good realtime writer. You can think of this book as an extension of your basic theory, where you are adding these concepts to your shorthand arsenal to produce clean, well-written realtime notes. It’s the 21st century, and realtime is the standard.