top of page

The Power of Quality Realtime

October 4, 2017

Recently, I was witness to and was mildly engaged in quite a discussion regarding "quality" realtime. A lively discussion among a few in our field quickly turned into a debate that, in my opinion, was seemingly getting extremely out of hand! In an effort for reporters to dial in what "quality realtime" meant to them, the answers varied wildly; not only that, diametrically opposed concepts were many times -- repeatedly, in fact -- discussed within the same paragraph(s) by the same speaker(s).

"Realtime isn't about being 100 percent. It's not about being perfect. It's not about being special. It's not a competitive sport. It's about producing a product that your client can use, read, and find helpful on the fly." With that, I agree! However, contained within that same convicted idea was also this thought: "No one should be out there realtiming an unreadable/unusable transcript. But I have a really strong suspicion there are MANY who should be out there but think the expectation is 99%." Whoa! Stop the music. But whaat?? The idea of 99% as a tran rate on the job screen being an absolutely ludicrous (high) number to use as a minumum in order to be able to write quality realtime was thrown out there many times in this discussion, and by more than one person, trying to get their point across about who can and should be out there writing realtime in the field. The "authority" for the underlying reasoning of this statement appears to be NCRA's realtime certification grading system. It is pass/fail. You pass with 96%; that, therefore, a 99% tran rate on a job is more than acceptable by those standards. *sigh* For those who are not making a clear and vast distinction in their own mind and in their statements between a reporter's daily tran rate when writing a proceeding and the Total Accuracy Rate with which certification tests are graded, as was the case throughout the entire discussion that ensued after the quotes above were stated, allow me to please vehemently interject! A 99% for your daily tran rate in a proceeding is NOT even close to the same percentage when graded in a certification test, where that graded tran rate is the Total Accuracy Rate. A 96% Total Accuracy Rate is needed to pass a realtime cert test. In order to be able to write realtime on the job for captioning, most captioning and CART firms will have you pass an in-house test for them at 98.5% Total Accuracy Rate before they will even *start* to train you. That is a baseline for them to even consider training you to go live out in the field as a working captioner under their name. Passing a realtime certification test at 96% is a lofty goal. No one gets there by accident! It takes hard work. But the cold, hard truth is that, just like the RPR means that you're ready to start getting your feet wet in the real world of verbatim reporting, the CRR is entry-level realtime. If you think I'm trying to somehow raise the bar with what the CRR stands for in our field, consider this: The literary certification test used for the CRC (Certified Realtime Captioner) used to also be the very same skills test that CRRs would take in order to become CRR-certified. We now take a Q&A skills test for the CRR, and the literary skills test is now exclusively given for the CRC. Ask any CRC how far that CRC certification has taken them in their career. Did it get them in the door, or was it the end-all, be-all for them? I think you will find, without question, that it merely gets them in the door. It is entry level. It prepares them to start really getting ready to understand the nuts and bolts of the practical application of their skills, as evidenced by their passing of that test. As veteran reporters, there perhaps can be a distinction drawn because of our real-world experiences in writing verbatim for so many years and going to that next step of writing realtime. Point taken. But the CRR is the CRR no matter your background and experience, or lack thereof, prior to taking that test. If you can barely pass, the cold, hard truth is that you are barely realtime-ready. You are ready! But barely. So proceed cautiously. Choose your assignments wisely and responsibly. And by all means, keep learning, learning, learning! A reporter mentioned in that thread that you need all of the solid realtime basics in your writing in order to be able to write the harder stuff. I think that reporter is spot on with that statement. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. No one in this industry just started writing fabulous realtime. If anyone thinks that, they are very mistaken. Speed may have come easy for some reporters, but solid realtime writing takes a lot of working on your theory, your writing style, and your dictionary. And to become more excellent than you were the day before involves more work on a continuous basis. You get out of it what you put into it! To pass a realtime test at 200 wpm, you can miss 40 to have a Total Accuracy rate of 96%. If you were to pass that same realtime test with a Total Accuracy Rate of 99%, that would be 10 errors. In five minutes, the difference between 40 errors and 10 errors is HUGE; and when you're talking about an entire transcript, let's say a mere 200 pages, not even a full day, you're talking about roughly 1,700 to 2,000 errors compared to someone writing a TAR of 99%, where they're going to have 400 to 600 or so. Make sure you're not talking apples and oranges when you start talking about realtime and tran rates! Knowing what your current general Total Accuracy Rate is and also knowing what your current general everyday tran rate is on the screen in a job may be two good numbers for you to know, especially if you want to start doing comparisons and analysis of whether it is "quality realtime" in the way that I see many reporters attempting to do. Within the differences of these two numbers are the considerations for drops and also punctuation/capitalization as well as everything in between those two very important points. Drops are a big deal! Punctuation and capitalization can be the least of your realtime worries; yet, the truth about quality realtime does lie within here somewhere. For me personally, I have practiced and analyzed my writing enough that I know from one number (TAR or general realtime tran rate) what the other number would generally be. Yes, I am that familiar with my writing. The difference in those two numbers really doesn't vary for me much anymore. For someone who is trying out new realtime methods or turning on and off various AI features, dabbling in what certain dictionaried entries might do for them, the difference in those two numbers might not be as consistent from one week to the next because "tran rate" will keep changing while trying to dial in new writing/translation methods. Heck, even TAR may vary when you're messing with writing macros on the fly or learning to define things on the fly. It's all a part of the learning and growing process. When I passed the CRR skills test, it was with a 98.8888% Total Accuracy Rate. I do know what that looks like in my everyday tran rate on the screen in a job. Telling you that number isn't even important, because, first of all, it's so personal to me that saying it out loud for someone else is moot; second of all, with all of the bells and whistles that CAT software allows reporters to avail themselves of, and also when taking drops and punctuation into consideration, a bottom-line everyday tran rate for one reporter could be much higher than mine and be, with all due respect, not a realtime product you'd responsibly want to put in front of an attorney on the job. If I misstroke a semi-colon in one place, for instance, and in other place, I misstroke a five-word phrase, where both show up as one-stroke mistrans, one is a significantly bigger deal than the other in terms of Total Accuracy Rate, yet is exactly the same in everyday tran rate. And in truth, neither of these numbers actually accurately represent the impact of either of those mistrans on the actual "quality" of the realtime transcript. In this instance, the comparison of neither the TAR nor the everyday tran rate is the point at all! So work within your own numbers and your own skill range in order to better yourself. It is somewhere within those personal numbers and the quality of your own product that the real work to be done can be found. If you know what a particular Total Accuracy Rate generally looks like for you as your "tran rate," then whatever that percentage is is a great place for you to start as your goal to work upwards from. Work on getting your tran rate above whatever that looks like for you and keep setting the bar higher and higher each time you write. If you strive for excellence, one bite at a time, you will continue to improve. There is nowhere for you to go but "up"!

Rough Draft Boot Camp was developed by me and has been designed to help firm owners help their reporters with these issues. It starts with introducing the goal of producing rough drafts, but inherent in all that is your basic realtime writing style. I will show any reporter who is interested how to individualize a curriculum that works for *you*. This website,, has some blogs to help with giving you some ideas of where to start. Rough Draft Boot Camp introduces the idea to individual reporters that you can create an entire road map tailored to the theory you learned in school, coupled with all of the things that you have attempted to incorporate into that over the years in order to make your theory more solid and work for you, and figure out how you can make successful realtime writing (and immediate rough drafts) a realistic goal for you. If you are wanting to improve your realtime writing, start with the goal of providing rough drafts to attorneys with quicker and quicker turnaround times. There is nothing that shows a reporter more clearly what things they need to work on in writing solid realtime than looking at what things they need to clean up to get out an immediate rough draft. Any reporter interested in nonjudgmental help, feel free to retran three jobs for me and export to RTF: One job that went well for you and is representative of the sort of realtime you can write on a good day and when given fair material and that shows off what you're capable of; one job that just kicked your butt, drops and misstrokes slapped at in an attempt to keep up, etc.; and one more job of your choosing, doesn't matter what it is. If you label them for me before sending so I know which is which, it will save me some time when diving in. The longer the jobs are, the better, but what is the most representative for me to see is definitely the most important. If you send me jobs that are retranned, then it's your "raw" work minus anything you would have dictionaried during the cleanup in editing of those jobs, so it's a very fair representation of what you have left to work on. That's what I want to see, and that is going to be our starting point! Sending it in RTF will let me import it into my CAT software and be able to see your raw steno behind the strokes. I won't have synched audio, and that's perfectly okay. I don't need it for this. I will coach anyone who wants to be coached, for as long as you want the help, for $75 an hour. Send your files to me here. Firm owners, go to and click on the "Keep Calm and Send Them to Boot Camp" icon in the lower right-hand corner, where I have a firm flyer. (I have a slightly revamped version of this that I still need to proofread and will be uploading very shortly, but the one already uploaded gets the basic message across.) I am presenting a hands-on Rough Draft Boot Camp this Saturday, October 7, 2017, in Breckenridge, Colorado, for any reporter who is able to make the trip! Bring your steno machine and laptop. I will go anywhere in the country to present; ask your local firm owner to consider hosting for the benefit of those reporters in your area, and I will come. We are in this together. I KNOW we can make it happen for anyone who wants to give it their all. The power of quality realtime is within reach. It absolutely is! If you start analyzing your theory, working on becoming more familiar with and tweaking your dictionary, and as you become stronger in your writing style, you won't need to be involved in discussions about what "quality realtime" is or is not in order for that to be defined for you in your own writing. You will know at that point what your writing is and is not and will know whether you have a product you are wanting to put out there for attorneys and under what circumstances it is responsible for you to be doing that. Power on, my fellow reporters!

Please email me with any questions!


#1 Continuous perfecting of your theory



#2 Continuous dictionary management

#3 Continuous perfecting of your writing style
#4 Continuous realtime practice and analysis
#5 Continuous speed practice and analysis
#6 Continuous education and continuous search for growth opportunities
#7 Network with reporters who are smarter than you are! :-)




bottom of page