Tearing it Down and Building it Up

The collective minds at Court Reporting Help don’t have a clue as to the best way to switch our site over to our new hosting.

In a few minutes, we will begin pulling plugs and wires until the present site disappears.

Then we’ll see about plugging in the new stuff.

Odds are that we will succeed in the tearing-down portion of the task.

Nobody is betting on the rebuilding — at least for tonight.

The next time you hear from us, we’ll be on the new site.

Until then, wish us luck.

See ya later, steno babies.

Steve, Barb, Joe, Anna Mae and the rest of the idiots

Court Reporting Help is Moving

New hosting has been purchased.  The Theme (the purty stuff) has been bought.  Court Reporting Help will be moving to a new and more professional site.

For instance, I will be offering more free drills, more articles will be able to be published (and visible without digging through the site), and more pictures of my smiling mug will appear.

They say that this process will be pretty smooth and that I won’t lose touch with my fans.  The new site will be active long before the standard gobbledy goop has been removed or replaced.  But the front page will have my recent posts, older articles, free drills, and the goofy stuff that I love to post like Kennedy and the Jelly Doughnut or which word is the longest that can be typed with the left hand.

If you do stop receiving my posts, just keep in mind that you can always find court reporting help at CourtReportingHelp.com.

Steve Shastay

The Steno Rebel

Free Jury Charge Extended Dictation 100-220 wpm

On the right side at the top of CourtReportingHelp.com are 7 free drills at speeds from 100 to 220 wpm.  They are the first dictations from the Jury Charge Extended Dictation CDs.  Each CD has 3 10-minute drills, 3 7-minute drills and 2 8-minute drills.

You can play these drills to your heart’s content — until we replace them with new free drills.

To find them on Amazon, simply search for Jury Charge Extended Dictation and select your speed.

If you’re lazy, here are the links:

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 100 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 120 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 140 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 160 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 180 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 200 wpm

Jury Charge – Extended Dictation 01 at 220 wpm — available soon.

Have fun!!!

Steve Shastay


When Are You a Professional?

Some would say that the definition of a professional is someone who earns money.  I disagree.

“She an amateur actress.  She hasn’t had a job yet.”

Is that true?  Would she be more professional if she was getting paid?  I don’t think so.  I know plenty of people in Hollywood who earn millions and yet are known to act very unprofessional.

If your definition of a professional depends on a paycheck, then the doctors who fly around the world with Doctors Without Borders are amateurs. They do it for free.  No money expected.  No money paid.

So what is my definition of a professional?  It’s you, right now, whether you are earning money or not.

If you want that big bucks job, act like the people who have secured those jobs.  Be professional.  Act professional.  And you will secure that job.

Note:  I fudged the facts a little.  The doctors in Doctors Without Borders do get paid, but it is a pittance just so they can have a little walking-around money.  The average is 1500 gross salary per month, which is about 1200 after taxes.  That wouldn’t pay for their student loans, and that is why most wait until they are earning huge salaries and have amassed a considerable personal fortune before they can afford to volunteer.

Son of Note:  Pro bono work (donating your time) is a great way to get your feet wet in stenography.  Tell your church that you are willing to write realtime for the parents in the “crying room.”  Find a charity, and let them know that you will transcribe their meetings for free.  Reach out to the non-profits and offer your time and services.  If your only interest is securing a job with a particular firm, let them know that you are willing to be the go-fer or back-office intern.


Barb DeWitt and Test Analysis

The following is an excerpt from an article by Barb DeWitt

There are two ways to pass a test.  One is to raise your level of competence.  Do that, and eventually you will be a professional.  The other way to pass is to wait until an easy test comes along.  Do that, and you will experience frustration every step of the way.

Waiting for the perfect test is self-defeating.  It is true that some tests are harder than others, but you should prepare yourself to pass any test.  If you somehow do make through school and go for your qualification exam, you will not be fully prepared.  You will still be looking for an easy test.  You will have a rough time passing the state or national exam.  Those tests are not cakewalks.  They are designed to admit only qualified students to the ranks of the professionals.  You will wait a long time for an easy certification test to come along.  They are designed to be passed by those who are writing a nice solid 225.

One student came to me recently and showed me her test.  She had come close, but she was a little bit over the amount of errors allowed.  I analyzed the test for her and discovered that she could have passed it.  There were some sloppy strokes that hurt her score.  There was one time that she carried too much.  I also pointed out that she had a few non-steno errors that she could have avoided.  In the end, I told her that she should take that test as a good sign.  She was close.

She looked at me and said, “Yes, but it will be a whole year before you can give that test to our class again.”

She recognized that she let an opportunity slip by, but she was focused on passing tests rather than improving her skills.  She was disheartened because she felt that it would be a long time before she had another opportunity at that test.

I was happy with the results of that test.  It was the best she had done in a while.  On the other hand, I was thoroughly discouraged that she believed that she was only going to make it to the next class if I gave her another easy test.  I spent a good amount of time explaining what I meant, but I don’t think I reached her.  I expect that next week she will again be waiting for a simple test.

That’s too bad.  She is one of the fastest writers in the school.  She is at least two speeds below where she should be.  With her speed, she could be one of the best in our profession.  Her future is bright if she concentrates on the aspects that need improvement.

But I know that she has considered dropping out of school due to her lack of progress.  I hope she won’t.  I hope that she takes my little talk to heart and begins improving.  I hope she turns things around.

I hope.

Barb by the lake

Steno Test Strategy for Court Reporting Students

The title of this post is the title of my latest book.  I try not to do shameless self-promotion, but in this case, because it is the first professional item I have created in many years, I’m breaking my rules.

The book is a true “skinny minny.”  I’ve seen thicker pamphlets.  It comes in at 31 pages.  It has a picture of Faye Crowsen, one of my best friends, on the front, and a picture of me as a child on the back.  It took me two days to write because I know the subject by heart.  Editing and proofing took a week.  And I don’t expect many sales because students generally look for “secrets” rather than down-to-earth advice.

(How am I doing so far with that self-promotion?)

I do, however, think that it is a valuable tool for any student.  I show you how to best use your present skills.  I give examples in and out of stenography.  I set up a framework for how to prepare for your tests, how to beat your test nerves, how to effectively practice your drills, how to stay under control, a little bit about analysis, and hopefully, a lot of humor.

Here are the chapters:

The Nature of the Beast:  An explanation of why students fail for the most frustrating of reasons.  I answer in simple language such questions as “Why do I do so much better at home? Why do I always goof up one minute on the test?  Why do I get a bad start? and as many other topics as I could think of.  The answers are simple.

Drill Like You Test; Test Like You Drill:  A common sense explanation of why most of us are drilling the wrong way.  Here’s a hint:  If you pretend every drill is a test, you’ll do tons better on your tests.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the reasons why you just gotta use your drills to learn briefs, to learn endurance, to build speed, to — well, any of hundreds of reasons.  All of those things are supposed to make you better so you will perform better on your tests, but none of them are really about how to master the art of testing.  And testing is the one and only thing that will get you out of school.

Bad Advice; Bad Strategy:  A compendium of the most commonly given bad advice such as “Use your drills to learn new outlines,”  “Strive for perfect notes,” and my personal favorite “Write as fast as you can; your notes will clear up later.”  Bull hockey.  All bad advice.  After I destroy the logic (or actually, the lack of logic) behind such advice, I offer good solid easy-to-follow advice that works.

The Meat and Potatoes:  This chapter gives you step by step what to do in the days before the test, the day of the test, the hour before the test, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, 30 seconds before the test, when the test starts, during the test, and after the test.  All good advice, and most of it you have probably heard before from your Momma, your coach, your typing instructor, your boss at McWendyKing, etc.  It’s just good stuff about how to do things correctly.

Then I have two chapters on psychology as it affects your mind and your body, and I show you how to relax both.  Again, good advice, but probably stuff that you have heard before.  Those chapters are:

The Psychological Aspect in General:  Really easy stuff like get your butt out of bed, wash your face, put on some clothes, and act like a winner.  Isn’t that what Momma always says?  Isn’t that what they tell the car salesmen to do?  Isn’t that what you should do?

The Psychology of Test Nerves:  This is an explanation of, surprise, why test nerves are your friend.  As I say in the book, you don’t want them to go away.  They warn you of danger.  You just want them to sit down and stop shouting.  I cover visualization, breathing exercises, how to relax your entire body, focused relaxation techniques for the neck/upper back where we all have those sharp pains and a few more topics.

Wrapping It All Up:  Nuttin but a short page and half, but it does have this gem:  “With all the advice I have put in this book, the steps that you take are up to you.  What works best for you?  Do it.  It’s that simple.”

It’s an easy read.  You can scan it in well under an hour.  It’s not a novel.  It’s a reference book.  It’s a blueprint.  It’s the answer to how to use your present skills a lot more effectively than you do.

If you want a novel, don’t buy my “skinny minny.”  You can find plenty of very thick, very complicated and very expensive books on other sites.  Some are hundreds of bucks.

This one is $12.99 on Amazon.

To paraphrase Mad Magazines’ famous saying, it’s suitable for “reading or wrapping fish.”

And finally, let me say that I am glad to be back “kicking steno butt.”  I will be putting my audio drills on Amazon, compiling my past articles into books, writing entirely new books, and generally being a pain in the ah, ah, ah to the Old Guard who insist that stenography is hard.

‘Tain’t true.  Steno is fun.

Momma told me so.

Steve Shastay

Steno Rebel

P.S.  Good golly, you would think I would have put a link in that article somewhere.  I may be a good steno teacher, but as a salesman, I’m a real goober.  Click this link to go to the Amazon listing:  Steno Test Strategy for Court Reporting Students.



Benchmarking your Steno Progress

My score on Angry Zombie Bird Farm is always above 1,250,000 on Level One.

My weight has been 165 since high school.

Graph going up

I’m going up, up, up.

My checking account low-balance alarm goes off if the balance drops below $500.

As long as my weight doesn’t rise above 165, my score doesn’t drop below 1.25 million and my checking account remains above $500, I am doing fine.

Those three things are examples of benchmarks.  We can adapt and use them effectively in our stenographic journey to court reporting success.

How?  Well, brown cow, I’ll show you how — now.

Take any drill.  Do it.  Count the errors.  Do it again.

Did your score improve?  If not, why not.  There will rarely be a dramatic increase, but there should be an improvement.

Try something different with the drill.  Do it slower.  Do it faster.  Create a list of terms from the drill and practice them.  Do a different drill to regain clarity, speed, etc.

Then do the first drill once again.  Did your score improve?  Hooray, if it did.  If it did not, then you still have adjustments to make.

Your drills should be helping you.  If you aren’t seeing improvement, then you should adjust the way you practice.

In coming posts, I’ll present different ways to benchmark or assess your progress.

Steve Shastay

The Steno Rebel


Words that end in LK

I called her Ms. Klim.  She was a transfer student from another court reporting school.  Instead of doing two strokes for the word “milk,” she would stroke the outline backwards in one stroke.  Her outline of KLIM solved a small, but irritating, problem.  I have no idea where she got this outline.   I admire whoever came up with this unique solution.

I imagine that all reporters chafe at using two strokes for any one syllable word, such as “Gwen,” “golf,” and the aforementioned “milk.”

“Milk” doesn’t show up very much.  In fact, there are comparatively few words that end in LK in the English language.   A few of them are very popular; so we definitely need easy solutions for them.  Many of the others can be briefed the same way as the popular ones.  The few remaining words are unpopular and probably should be stroked out to avoid any ambiguity as to whether the speaker really used such an unpopular word.

Let’s break it down.

There are only three really popular words:  “walk,” “talk,” and “folk.”  Luckily, these words can be easily one-stroked with WAUK, TAUK, and FOEK.  If you use different strokes, that’s fine, but your strokes should be extremely easy.

Here is the entire list of one-syllable words that end in LK:  baulk, caulk, chalk, sculk, skulk, stalk, whelk, balk, bilk, bulk, calk, folk, holk, hulk, milk, silk, sulk, talk, walk, yelk, yolk.  Many of these words are variant spellings or are very unpopular words.

Many of the one-syllable words can be briefed by using the same patterns that are used to brief “walk,” “talk,” and “folk.”  Of the ones that are left,  I would like a brief form for “milk,” “silk,” “sulk,” and “bilk.”  If I can find an easy outline (easy to remember, easy to write), then I will adopt it.  If not, then I will use a Job Brief if such terms are popular in a particular job, and otherwise, I’ll use my two-stroke outlines for the occasional occurrence.

Remember Ms. Klim?  She could write all of these words with her backward pattern:  Milk KLIM; silk KLIS, sulk KLUS and bilk KLIB.  That pattern does not work for me.  It is easy to stroke, but it is not easy to remember.  She has her solution; I have mine.

All two-syllable words that end in LK are built off of the one-syllable words.  The only two-syllable word that is popular is “sidewalk.”  That word can be easily briefed by taking your “walk” outline and putting an S in front of it.  My outline is SWAUK.

Here is the list of two-syllable words: beanstalk, boardwalk, cornstalk, crosstalk, footstalk, leafstalk, rootstalk, sleepwalk, spacewalk, townsfolk, womenfolk, cakewalk, duckwalk, eyestalk, foremilk, kinsfolk, moonwalk, overmilk, overtalk, racewalk, ropewalk, shoptalk, sidewalk, townfolk, workfolk, menfolk, catwalk, jaywalk, kinfolk, outbulk, outsulk, outtalk, outwalk, skywalk, bytalk, uptalk.

Some of these words are very rare and may not be in a normal dictionary.  An eyestalk is the part of the stalk that contains the actual eye for certain sea critters.  Foremilk is the first milk taken.  A rootstalk is a type of plant.  A duckwalk is when you, well, walk like a duck.

Learn easy outlines for “walk,” “talk,” and “folk.”  Use similar outlines for some of the less popular words.  Learn a good basic pattern to write the rest when they occasionally show up.  Learn to use a job brief when they are popular in a particular case.

And then fuggedaboutit.

Combat Stenography — Sacrificing a Pawn

Situation:  You are in danger of dropping a ton of words.  You are behind, and you must catch up Toot!immediately.  The next words spoken are “At that exact time, I didn’t really have a lot of options.”

Solution:  Drop “exact,” “really,” and “options.”  This leaves you with the three easy phrases “at that time,” “I didn’t have” and “a lot of.”

Result:  You lose three points instead of a large amount.  You gain nine points with three easy strokes.  You are no longer behind.

It would be wonderful if these exact circumstances showed up each time we fall behind.  Sadly, they won’t.  But if we keep our eyes open, we can minimize the damage caused by falling behind.