Train your Brain for the CRR Test with Organization and Methodology - a Bullet Point List
Written March 17, 2011, edits in 2017 and 2018
Developing a plan for realtime fixes:
“Dictionary maintenance scanning” of all jobs
Train yourself to scan the job you just wrote for dictionary maintenance items only.
Do it for every job, if you can.
Dictionary or group-define those words/phrases that stand out as obvious misstrokes -- strokes that couldn't be anything else or strokes that can be grouped together with the word(s) around it. Leave all other untrans alone; remember that you’re not editing the job.
Create working job dictionaries (special dictionaries) to add these to if you’re hesitant to put them in your main dictionary and then tran your jobs with the job dictionaries. The words will still tran, right or wrong, but if you see a flaw in your method later on, it will be easier to see all the words or phrases you messed up on dictionarying, all in one place, and therefore will be easier to decide what to do about it; i.e., a job dictionary called “mistrokes,” a job dictionary called “stacked strokes,” perhaps a job dictionary for prefixes and suffixes you’re trying on for size.
It’s very important to focus on dictionary maintenance issues when you do these scans. This will help you to discard, for the moment, speed and punctuation issues and will help you to focus solely on realtime dictionary issues. This is a completely different goal than transcription of the file!
Do you know what the untranslated stroke is when you come upon it and without looking at surrounding words and/or context? Then it should be in your dictionary. If you recognize it easily without looking at surrounding words and it can’t be anything else, then it’s likely that you stroke it that way more than you think. Even if you doubt that you stroke it that way more than you think, if it can’t be anything else, what would it hurt to put it in your dictionary?
Can you only figure out that misstroke by looking at surrounding words? If so, then take the thought process further: If it can be group-defined, then do so (this takes practice to think of possible examples of ways this could come up in the future and to know whether it should or shouldn’t be group-defined). If you only know what the misstroke is by context, not by any specific words you can think of that it would need to be surrounded by, then you have to leave it untranned and move on. If you think you want to take a chance on group-defining it but are not sure whether you are on the right track or not, consider putting it in one of those job dictionaries for easy identification and review at another point in time. Another trick I utilized for a while was group-defining it but putting the word at issue in the entry as a "one-word conflict." It flagged it for me just a little more so that if/when it came up again, I would be able to see if I was making progress and/or if my thought processes were on the right track. If, later on, I was sure that I was moving forward in a correct way with that thinking, then I would redefine it without the "one-word conflict" aspect in the entry. Perhaps that method doesn't make sense to you. It was a method of madness that seemed to work for me, so I think it's worth mentioning! :-)
Make your writing follow patterns
No hodgepodge or shotgun approaches in the adding of things to your realtime theory will lead to successful realtime writing. Your brain has to be just as organized as your writing, so give your brain a break!
Patterns will lead to less hesitation and more thoughtful and consistent processes and means and methods. Patterns could include:
That’s right, that’s correct, that’s great, that’s good, that’s fine, that’s okay
Simultaneous, contemporaneous, extemporaneous
Courtroom, jury room, conference room, waiting room, bedroom, living room, bathroom
Capitalizing common words
Perhaps two-stroking the second choice of a conflict that always seems to be an afterthought (Note: This is not recommended as a deliberate first choice over a one-stroke option of some kind, but sometimes it seems that our brains just want to go there and we haven't been able to shake the habit yet. Practice habits are *everything*!)
First, evaluate what theory rules you already have, whether you learned them in school or whether they're part of the theory you've made up for yourself since school.
One of my personal rules is that I put asterisks in words that will be hyphenated or connected to the word before it; e.g., B*AK, BAO*K, NO*ET, and I also put askterisks in common words that are to be capitalized. Thus, I have some words that I two-stroke to make them capitalized so that I don’t have a conflict; e.g., BA*K/BA*K is Back, BAO*K/BAO*K is Book, NO*ET/NO*ET is Note. That may not work for you. This is a consistent set of rules that I am able to wrap my brain around. I have thought it all the way through, and I've been able to make it work in my writing.
(2017 Edit:) In some of the work that I've taken on this last year, their international style of writing has the word "Page" capped when it is followed by a number; e.g., a reference to Page 2. Go figure! This one has been a huge problem for me. PA*EUPBLG is -page for me with a hyphen. PA*EUPBLG/PA*EUPBLG is the name Paige. Even if I define PA*EUPBLG/PA*EUPBLG in my job dictionary for just these jobs as Page capitalized, just hearing it in order to be able to write it has been a nightmare. Now that I am on Eclipse, I can use a number feature to fix that for me when I go back to do that work this fall, but I digress.
(2023 Edit:) I have been able to resolve most of these by using some sort of a "wildcard" in these strokes instead of double-stroking them. I first started by trying to add the number bar into the strokes (PA#EUPBLG), but I have since realized that it takes more time to reach up like that than it does to use other keys for your wildcards. The -T, for instance. PAEUPBLGT and PA*EUPBLGT are strokes that are not taken and that have me writing two variations of "page" in half the time it takes to double-stroke it and in about a third of the time as it does for me to reach up to the number bar. Moreover, PAEPBLG and PA*EPBLG are also available!
When you create patterns of this magnitude, take some time when you are writing and practicing (with "intent") and make sure you've got your bases covered. Use what you have learned in seminars and in your practical knowledge, and you'll get it figured out.
Anyway . . . my point is that with this set of rules that I have already created, I probably cannot, therefore, use Mark K.’s theory of writing “making” in one stroke as MA*IK, speaking as SPAO*EK. As good as that theory of writing in one stroke may be, I see big problems in that for me. How would I write “backing,” “booking,” “noting” with that theory, combining with the realtime theory that I already have? My head hurts thinking about that! It doesn’t seem like a logical choice for me. The search for a one-stroke “ing” theory to incorporate into my root words for me continues.
(Another 2017 Edit:) A year and a half ago, I actually forgot that I had ever come to this conclusion about Mark's "ing" theory ending for one-strokers. After obtaining a copy of his personal dictionary in RTF (because I had attended one of his seminars years ago and therefore had been invited to email him to ask him for it), I caught a good case of One-Stroke Madness Disease and tried to change this part of my writing (in addition to quite a few others). Everything else that I did to make changes was good and positive and all really great steps forward! This one, once I put it into my head, has just been a nightmare to try and compartmentalize, to try and figure out when I was going to use that theory and when I couldn't at all, and then just to basically try and compartmentalize that whole subject issue to get it *back* out of my brain. And my dictionary. I did put those in a "one-stroke brief" dictionary, so getting them back out of the software after deciding I didn't want them in my brain was doable, but the price I have paid for that mistake in what was best for my overall one-stroke word briefing theory was a very heavy one.
(2018 Edit:) I have found my -ing ending. And it came from Tip #7, "Network with reporters who are smarter than you are." My ending is now -DZ. Yes, -DZ for my -ing ending. Do I use my -DZ for other things? Yes! TPADZ is "fads." But HRABGDZ is now "lacking." I'm sure this won't work for everyone, but it's working for me! The outline HRABGDZ looks *nothing* to me like the word "lacking." However, when I write it on my machine, I do see "lacking"!
Keep in mind your old rules as you make a plan of new rules that fit your writing style and your brain in order to move your realtime writing forward, and STICK TO THEM! Your brain will thank you later.
Figure out which ones of your old rules were just bad theory or bad habits and that need, need, need to be changed. Once you've come to some conclusions, don’t keep those new convictions just in your head -- WRITE THEM DOWN so that you can look at them and see them! Your brain will thank you later.
“Know your dictionary”
It makes sense that you have to know what is in your dictionary in order to be able to write it accurately. Do you write “did you feel” and “duffel” differently? Are you sure? Is “duffel” even in your dictionary as two strokes even if you were to write it that way? The second of hesitation to double-check your brain and/or your realtime screen is a killer! And if you don’t have duffel in your dictionary, then what? You’ve lost a second of hesitation AND the word doesn’t come up tranned. At least if you are pretty sure it’s not in there, you can move on quickly! KNOW your dictionary. Around or over 100,000, 200,000 entries, right? It takes work; I’m not gonna lie.
(2017 Edit:) And *this* just came up today in a FB dictionary group: "seacock." Not in your dictionary? You're kidding me! " Seacock: a valve in an opening through a ship's hull below or near the waterline, especially one connecting a ship's engine-cooling system to the sea." How many ways can *that* word possibly be screwed up with your theory and with your dictionary? If your basic dictionary is in order and IS SOLID, you would at least get this word to tran and spelled correctly in two strokes. Otherwise, you're going to get "satisfy cook" (as did the poster of that word, because she has rewritten KOBG in her dictionary so that "cock" will never accidentally come up) or a number of other nightmare possibilities out of those two strokes if you don't have a good handle on your dictionary. Not a great on-the-fly realtime blunder to have to contend with.
The definition of "seacock" above actually brings up another area of writing you want to think of, another "family" of sorts: waterline/water line, freshwater/fresh water, etc. For me, putting an asterisk in "line" and "water" in those instances make them two words. So I actually have "water line" and "fresh water" in my dictionary as entries when they're two words! Having a really good command of the English language on the fly is necessary in order to pull those off. Being prepared, if they're talking about pipes, to be able to write "water line" with an asterisk is, of course, essential to making my dictionary actually work for me. I also had to think long and hard about how I was going to do words like that, because LAO*EUPB by itself is dictionaried as -line, and WA*URT by itself is dictionaried as Water. But I know this and I am prepared for most situations now with how I have my theory framed, so for the most part, I'm good! And while I'm on the subject, did you know that "onetime" as an adjective is one word? No? I write it WUPB/TAO*EUPL. My theory would have that hyphenated. Taking the time to contemplate ALL of these things makes you that much more of a solid writer!
Knowing your dictionary *without hesitation* is equally as important
Speed is lack of hesitation. Knowing what is in your dictionary and not hesitating when you write is key. Make a list of words that make you hesitate and write them often. The list should be the words ONLY IN STENO; you should already know the English. Make your brain see and know them IN STENO without hesitation.
(2017 Edit:) Creating short audio files of these words on your phone and appropriately naming them is an excellent way to work on these words in short two-minute or five-minute drills that you can practice with your headphones right before the attorneys start showing up at the job site.
Utilizing briefs is important
Briefs lead to less strokes per minute. Less strokes per minute increases your speed.
The difference between 3 strokes per second and 5 strokes per second?
3x60 seconds = 180 wpm 5x60 seconds = 300 wpm
How many words per minute do you think Mark Kislingbury is writing when he writes a 300-wpm take? NOT 300 words per minute! Words per minute versus strokes per minute become an interesting issue when you start breaking this down.
Briefs lead to less strokes and, therefore, more speed. Speed will help you go from being good at realtime to being great at realtime. Says Mark! I agree with him that I would rather have a 180 day than a 300 day in court any day of the week!
Briefs can lead to more consistency. Consistency leads to a better translate rate and a better “total accuracy rate. ” (We know from practicing for the CRR that our translate rate is NOT the same as our “total accuracy rate,” which is the guideline for grading the CRR!) My goal for briefs right now is NOT court words and phrases. My goal for briefs right now are literary words and phrases that will be on that realtime test. My brain can only do so much; how about yours? Focus on what your short-term goal is and cut out everything else as much as is reasonable, and make it happen.
(2017 Edit:) Writing those RPR, CRR, CRC, and RMR tests over and over again when you are creating these new briefs is just a tremendous help to working any bugs out of your new theory. These tests are all sentences framed in basic ways and using a ton of very common words in the English language. Writing them and analyzing your writing after you've written them will help you identify any possible new surprises in word-boundary issues you are creating with your new one-stroke theory briefs, etc. Once you start finding a few of these surprises, you can use them to go back over everything you have written down about what you have been changing in your writing and evaluate whether you have created any other problems that you have not practically run into yet and then get them changed as well. Reworking new theories sometimes is, unfortunately, something that has to happen. Better to figure them out in practice, sitting at your desk, than in the middle of a realtime job or even in the middle of editing. If you think it's a waste of time to practice and take care of these things in your off time, how much of a waste of time is it to try and deal with it when you're on the clock and trying to make some money?
You'll be surprised that, sometimes, some of the issues your new briefs and theory create are not even issues *in theory* but only a problem when you misstroke them. Unfortunately, again, sometimes these things are just an unforeseen part of the process that must be dealt with. Better to get a heads up on the fact that some of these things might be a problem for you and start figuring out how you're going to tackle those with some misstroking in speed practice rather than on that beast of a job, where your fingers just can't seem to find the right keys!
Creating and learning briefs
Keep two separate lists:
1) Keep a list of words or phrases you’d eventually like to brief (list in English and possibly a steno outline if you have been presented with one but it’s just too much to wrap your brain around at the moment). Get these out of your head and onto a piece of paper and then forget about them for now. Your brain -- as I've said before -- will thank you.
Don’t include words or phrases or specific steno outlines that you feel will never make sense to you. This is but one way to keep your steno brain clear and focused. That’s really, really important! Information overload is not good; intrusion of unneeded information, however, is even worse!
2) Keep a list of words you’ve added to your dictionary or have trouble remembering even though they’ve been in your dictionary for a while. These could include words that make you hesitate. (List these words in STENO only). Write them on your machine daily. Delete them off the list only when you’re positive they’re a permanent part of your “mental” dictionary and you’re writing them this way without hesitation!
Pat yourself on the back when you delete one off the list because you’ve just decreased your hesitation and increased your speed, and you are one step closer to passing the CRR and writing every day in a more solid way.