Ed's Steno Pro
  Shorthand for the 21st Century
    by Ed Varallo, RMR, CRR

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.

Just $189.00!


Excerpt From Ed's Steno Pro

It’s bad briefs that give briefs a bad name.
How can you instantly remember briefs so that they actually do help you write fast and clean? That topic is the subject of this book. It is the threshold skill that will determine the success or failure of your efforts to become a realtime steno pro.

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.
We write a word like approximately much too often to waste time and effort writing it out; it must be briefed -- if you want to guarantee that you will stroke it accurately every time you write it. To that end, the brief must be as simple as possible. I write P-L for approximately. I doubt I have misstroked that word anytime in the last 30 years, no
matter how fast I had to write it. Why? Because it’s so easy to stroke, it is virtually impossible to misstroke! That’s the beauty of skeletal outlines: they are easy to write and unlikely to be misstroked. If you can reliably write shorthand without misstroking, you will rarely have to hit the asterisk and rewrite. What a huge advantage!

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.
Use only as many keys as necessary to suggest the word, or phrase, you are briefing. Don’t try to incorporate as much of the sound of the complete word as possible. That is what makes briefs complicated and thus difficult to remember -- and harder to write cleanly. The shorter, the better. Here’s a sampling of twenty scandalously brief briefs that don ’t tax my memory or my fingers.

P-L approximately   T-F effective
-BS business   N-RG energy
K-Z characterize   HAZ hazardous
K-FL confidential   IRP irrespective
K-L consolidate   P-RP partnership
KR-B contraband   -RZ recognize
K-LT consultant   R-P relationship
D-F defective   R-BL reliable
D-L detail   R-FP research
D-GS diagnosis   T-LG technology

Ed’s Rule #2: Clip-on briefs.
Design a brief by adding a single letter (or sometimes two) in front of your regular outline for a given word, in order to create another word or phrase. In essence, your brief is clipped onto your standard brief.

RURN return      
TRURN tax return   AFRG average
T-NG tank   WAFRG weighted average
ST-NG storage tank   TWAFRG time-weighted average
T-RB turbine      
ST-RB steam turbine   KWORK kind of work
RAEFT arrest   TWORK type of work
KRAEFT cardiac arrest   SWORK sort of work
GOLGS goggles      
SGOLGS safety goggles   SWAUK sidewalk
N-RG energy   SKRAOIM scene of the crime
SN-RG solar energy   BARTS bachelor of arts
T-FP teacher   SGARD security guard
ST-FP schoolteacher   FRULS federal rules
RORD record   SFAORD straightforward
BRORD back on the record   KW-NS caution the witness
BRORDZ books and records   SPOGS supervisory position
      WROD welding rod
SFAOET square feet   KMIND come to mind
SFAOT square foot   GLAOINS guidelines
SFAOJ square footage   SMAERT subject matter
      TRORGD tape recording
OFS office   KLARGT closing argument
BROFS branch office   DRORT direct report
DROFS doctor’s office      

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.

PUP pick up   STU constitution
PUPT pickup truck   STURT constitutional right
KAURL caller   T-F effective
KAURLD caller ID   T-FD effective date
HAOL high school   RAOU review
HAOLD high school diploma   RAOUP review process
R-FP research   KOFRL cover letter
R-FPT research and development   DRUGT drug test
      HAERP hearing-impaired
      STUFL stuff like that
S-GD something to drink   LAUFM law firm
NIGD anything to drink   THRAOEB three-ring binder
NOGD nothing to drink   OEFRD overhead
      OEFRB over and above
HAOIRP hyper   PAPT Pap test
HAOIRPT hypertension   LOERP lower-back pain
HAOIRPD hyperactivity disorder      
      UPG upgrade
NID any idea   PREFLD previously marked
NOD no idea   VAOPT viewpoint

Of course, it’s ideal when you can clip on a letter before, and after, your standard outline. These briefs are fun to come up with!

FOEN phone      
SFOEN cell phone   BAR bar
SFOENDZ cell phone records   SBAR sidebar
      SBARGS sidebar discussion
AORK organic      
VAORK volatile organic   RAOU review
VAORKD volatile organic compound   PRAOU peer review
      PRAOULT peer-reviewed literature
AURK accurate      
FAURK fair and accurate   HOI highway
FAURKD fair and accurate description   SHOI state highway
      SHOIP State Highway patrol
      SHOIPT state highway department

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.

KRORD criminal record   BRAOEFPT breach of contract
KRORD court of record   BRAOEFPT breach of warranty
KRORD Congressional record   DRORT direct report
      DRORT deficiency report

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.
This is the biggie. By listening to words in context as two-word and three-word phrases (sometimes four-word phrases and, rarely, five-word phrases), not just as unrelated individual words, you will effortlessly identify groupings of words ripe for briefing. With Ed’s Rules in mind -- keep your briefs skeletal; use clip-on briefs -- you will have concepts available to you to deploy in formulating good, skeletal, easy-to-remember and easy-to-write briefs. These three briefing rules become part of your basic theory and soon become no harder to put to use than any other rule of your basic theory. Like your basic theory principles, these rules become integral to the way you write shorthand.

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.)

AUFM all of them   HAEFM ahead of them
BOEFM both of them   LAOFM a lot of them
KP-FM couple of them   SM-FM some of them
NIFM any of them   FAOFM few of them

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.

OFS office   FOFS field office
BOFS back office   GO*FS Governor's office
BROFS branch office   HOFS home office
STROFS central office   SPWROFS interoffice
KLOFS claims office   POEFS post office
KPOFS corporate office   SHO*FS Sheriff's office
KROFS coroner's office   SOFS sales office
DOFS dentist's office   SKOFS Executive Office
DROFS doctor’s office   POFS Patent Office

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 --
because they follow the rules!

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 .

Even if a word or phrase is easy to write out, brief it -- if you hear it frequently in your work. Be on the lookout for words and phrases that occur specifically in your regular work, and brief them. When I do asbestos Q&A, there are many words and phrases that must be briefed because I hear them so often:

MEFM mesothelioma
AEBS asbestos
AEPD asbestos-containing product
K-F contributing factor
SK-F substantial contributing factor
PUFT pulmonary function test

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.