The sport of realtime

By Ron Cook

Before I even knew what court reporting was, I majored in physical education in college. It was then that I started to see advertisements for court reporting school, and I began to think, “Hey, I could do that.” Shortly thereafter, I dropped out of the college I was attending and began court reporting school, never to look back.

I have often equated the work that I do at my machine during a deposition with that of an athlete. I’ve always been competitive, and I carried that competitiveness over to my writing. What can I do to make myself faster? What can I do to make myself more efficient? How can I beat this machine? How can I get my computer to work for me instead of me working for it? I’d like to share some of the mental approaches I’ve learned to adapt from sports and life, in general, to reporting.

baseball-680079_960_720First, you may have heard of the expression to slow things down. A batter will try to slow things down as the pitcher begins to pitch. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that the batter has control of the pitcher’s velocity. What it does mean is that the batter, instead of tensing up, stays relaxed and slows things down mentally. When things get going really fast or things start to get heated, that’s when I’ve noticed myself tensing up. That’s when I know it’s time to slow things down mentally.

I can remember back nearly 50 years ago (please don’t do the math!), when I was on the sixth grade track team. I wasn’t a particularly fast runner, but I’ve never forgotten one race over all others. I remember one race where it felt as though I was running above the ground. My touch was so light, and it was absolutely effortless. When things get going really fast these days, I try to liken my fingers to that day when my feet were seemingly floating on air.

I have another analogy that works for me, so I’ll share it here. Picture yourself driving 65 miles an hour down the freeway. As you look directly in front of you, things are relatively calm and slow moving. If you were to look directly to your right or left, it’s amazing how all things are just flying by. Trees go whooshing by. Cars going the opposite direction seemingly are going 150 miles per hour. Relating that to reporting, if you keep your head figuratively looking straight ahead (as in listening out ahead), the words are processed with ease and good rhythm. If you try to get the words as they’re spewing forth (as in looking to the side while driving), it feels as though they’re coming at you at 400 words per minute. I’ve tried to train myself to kind of sit back (as in looking straight ahead) and let the words and phrases flow.

This has been a process for me, as I’d always been the type of writer who tried to write every word as it came out. I’m training myself to sit back just a tad and listen for that next brief or phrase. For about the past 8-10 years, I’ve been working on writing shorter (thus cleaner), and it’s certainly an ongoing process, part of the journey. Try it. You might like it! And it will certainly help with your accuracy in realtime!

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is an agency owner and freelancer based in Seattle, Wash. He can be reached at

You never know where your next tip will come from

By Cathy Busa

Tips and tricks for writing realtime are something all working court reporters could use more of! So, for that reason, I canvassed some of my fellow officials for realtime tips that they swear by for improving their writing and translation rates.

The first response I received was from a coworker at the courthouse (who also is a part-time broadcast captioner). For her, the key to becoming a more expert realtime writer is learning to fingerspell. While it may seem that this activity would slow you down, it actually keeps you from slowing down because instead of hesitating over an outline that you may or may not have in your dictionary, you can rapidly fingerspell the word and ease on down the road. If you aren’t in the habit of it, start when testimony is not too onerous and just fingerspell little words like that and who to get the feel for it. Along this line, she suggests also using the brief suggestions from your software. As an example, after recently fingerspelling the word tonsillectomy, she immediately requested a brief for it so if it was said again, it would be much simpler and ready for her to use instantly.

Another writing tip I received includes being sure to use the number conversion feature that is now found in virtually all of our software programs. This may take some time to go through your dictionary and remove all entries with numbers attached to them, such as in ’97 or $1500 or two or three. But if you are willing to expend a little bit of effort to work on your personal dictionary ahead of time and then tweak the settings within your CAT software to correspond with your number-writing style, you will find that your numbers will translate almost always correctly — and that will save you precious editing/scoping time from now on.

Word boundary issues are the dreaded area that I think realtimers always have to be prepared for. A couple of examples that I have personally encountered were how to figure outweighs to do new things and keep your ion the situation. While I have changed my writing to correct these two particular mistranslates, I now rarely define homophones as I did here, but try to actually write and define homophones differently to eliminate them altogether.

Finally, there are several sources of briefs according to the subject matter and case you are going to be working with, such as legal, medical, asbestos, financial, and so on. Take advantage of your JCR articles and learn and use the briefs others ahead of us have found to be helpful. Join Facebook pages and network with other reporters also for writing tips. A favorite part of our state association’s annual convention is the steno swap session, where people ask for and others assist with shorthand briefs for those pesky phrases and long words that invariably try to trip up even the best realtime writer.

If you really want to accept the challenge to improve your writing and become the best, most professional realtime reporter that you can be, stretch yourself and begin to implement small changes to your dictionary and your writing one step at a time. Perhaps the final and best word of advice is this: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

Cathy Busa, RPR, is an official court reporter from Plantersville, Texas. She can be reached at

A realtime tip that I will never forget

By Felicia Coleman Jordan

One of my favorite realtime tips came about due to a CART assignment at a college in my area. Upon arriving at the classroom, I set up my laptop realtime software and netbook for my student. I taped down my extension cord and cables to make sure that no one would trip while walking around the classroom. After hooking up, I checked my laptop and the student’s netbook to make sure that there was a proper connection on both computers. Initially, both computer screens were connected. A few minutes later, however, I noticed that my student’s screen had gone blank. I went to the student’s netbook to try to troubleshoot the issue and was unable to immediately resolve the problem.

It was important that I get the student’s netbook up and running, so I had to quickly decide how to troubleshoot the issue. I knew if I moved my computer in front of the student, she would be able to read my screen and join the lecture. As my extension cord and cables were currently taped to the floor and class was getting ready to start, I realized that this may not be as simple as I first thought. I had to make sure not to disturb the professor or the rest of the students while troubleshooting the problem. Time was of the essence at this point, as the lecture was only seconds away from starting.

I quietly pulled the tape up from where my cables ran and swiftly moved my laptop over to where the student was seated. I placed my laptop in front of the student so that she was able to read from my screen. She was now up and running. I was so thankful that I was able to resolve the problem before the lecture started — I must admit, my student was, too!

Immediately following the lecture, the professor approached me with a wonderful compliment. He indicated that he was very impressed with how quickly I was able to resolve the issue and that the student was able to continue the lesson with the rest of the class. I was pleased with the professor’s compliment. However, this was something that I was determined to avoid happening in the future.

I was aware that realtime was done with or without cables, so I researched available products to determine which one would work best for me. I also reviewed material that I had gathered from realtime seminars and finally decided to go with a product called ME2U from Stenocast. This piece of equipment allowed me to write realtime in a safe and secure way. Using ME2U at my next CART assignment, I was able to transmit my realtime feed from my computer to the student’s netbook without a problem. Its quick USB connection took away the pain of taping down cables and cords and gave me more time to do other things in preparation of the student’s lectures. I may not choose to write wireless realtime in the courtroom, but for my CART assignments, this was the way to go!

Felicia Coleman Jordan, RPR, is a freelancer based in Detroit, Mich. She can be reached at

10 tips to becoming a star realtimer

By Abby Waller

As the demand grows in the court reporting field for our knowledge and skill in realtime, we must strive to stay ahead of the game when it comes to providing this service that has proven to help keep our profession alive and thriving.

Whether you’re a new reporter or have been working 20 years, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few pointers to be a star realtime reporter:

  1. Get a reliable computer with a serial port and CAT software.
  2. Find out where you will be feeding the realtime. An iPad? Desktop? Notebook? Make sure to have cables for a wire feed. If it’s wireless, you will need a hotspot or router or internet access from another source.
  3. Before any job or proceeding for which you’re planning to provide realtime, educate the user. Whether it be a judge, an attorney, or any number of individuals who are receiving the service, it’s helpful for them to know what they can expect.
  4. Obtain any documents with names, addresses, and specific job terminology to put in your dictionary so your translate rate is the most accurate it can be.
  5. Turn off your automatic running of antivirus software and your screen saver. This can interfere with the realtime feed, sometimes causing your computer to crash, in turn, forcing you to halt the proceedings. Set a more convenient time for your antivirus program to run, such as when you’re asleep.
  6. Use your software to find its “Brief-It” feature. This will enable you to learn and use briefs on the fl y during the proceedings.
  7. Keep your laptop open and follow your own realtime so you are forced to learn where your writing could use fi ne-tuning to enhance your accuracy rate.
  8. At breaks, clean up these “rough” or unreadable spots. Of course, this will save you time later in editing, but it will also make the realtime feed easier to read if the user is going back to refer to a certain part of the testimony throughout the job.
  9. Finally, after the job is over, check in with the realtime user to get feedback. Good or bad, this is always helpful for your next job.
  10. Don’t forget to have fun with this. While this may be a serious part of the future in our profession, it’s an opportunity to learn and become proficient in exciting technology.

Abby Waller, RPR, CRR, is an official court reporter in Sacramento, Calif. She can be reached at

TRAIN: No fear! Getting past realtime roadblocks

What’s preventing you from providing realtime? The Technology Subcommittee asked realtime providers through the TRAIN program for their best tips in getting past the roadblocks and into the groove.

How do you fight the fear of your realtime feed not being perfect? Breathe! After 32 years of reporting, I still get nervous for the first five minutes of any deposition. How in the world am I supposed to make my realtime feed readable when they are speaking at breakneck speeds (and they are often mumbling or their speech is unintelligible)? First, take a deep breath, and know everything will be okay. I promise! Once you administer the oath in a very slow-paced and methodical way, you set the stage for counsel to
continue in a slow-paced and methodical way.

Also, make sure you are prepared. Do your case preparation before the deposition starts. They don’t have a prior transcript? Get the complaint. They don’t have a copy of the complaint? Google the case name/number. There’s so much information out there these days, there’s no reason you can’t prepare (creating brief forms for tricky words you might come across). It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!

Lisa Knight, RDR, CRR
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Littleton, Colo.

When asked what holds reporters back from providing realtime, the nearly universal answer is fear; fear that your writing isn’t completely conflict-free, fear that you aren’t comfortable with the technology, fear that your translation rate isn’t good enough, fear of having someone watching your screen, let alone judging your untrans and mistrans.

This feeling also applies to other areas of your life. Trying something new always causes some sort of anxiety, but if it’s something you want to do, excitement overrides that fear. Realtime is no different.

Take it one step at a time, and don’t expect perfection in the first week, month, or year, but go ahead and take your first step. Start by setting up realtime for yourself and get used to seeing your writing on your screen. Slowly address your untrans and mistrans, and watch for trends in your writing that you can improve upon. Once you’re comfortable with that, set up a second screen next to you so you get used to the
technology. Eventually, slide that screen in front of someone. Before you know
it, realtime will become your new norm, and you will be encouraging others to get started as well.

Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC
Realtime Systems Administrator
Co-chair of the TRAIN Subcommittee
Eden Prairie, Minn.

Do you remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? When you knew the training
wheels were off or your mom or dad had let go of you, did you panic and fall to the ground? Many of us did, but we got up again, dusted ourselves off, and tried and tried again until we were sailing down the street on our own power. That’s how it is with writing realtime.

Nothing that is good, challenging, or worthwhile comes easily. It takes practice. It takes
perseverance. It takes endurance. It takes grit. Don’t be consumed by your fear. Embrace the challenge just like you did when you overcame the fear of riding your bicycle without the training wheels. Don’t let a less-than-perfect translation defeat you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try, try again.

You can do it! It might not be easy, but it will be rewarding. As you see the translation
percentage on your screen getting better and better, you will be saying to yourself, yes, I
knew I could do it!

Mary Bader, RPR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Medford, Wis.

I think this affects us all in individual ways. Some are afraid of making an error; others get nervous when they know their work is on display and they have to be kept on their toes at all times; some might feel intimidated walking into a medmal or a pharmaceutical case and are hoping the words come out right. Whatever the case may be, I have learned that fear can be a good thing.

I watched a TED talk once about stress and how you can make it your friend, and that put realtime into a whole new perspective for me. Instead of seeing stress as this horrible anxiety taking over your writing, you have to be the one to conquer your stress and fear and turn it into adrenaline.

As an adrenaline junkie, I can tell you that I absolutely love everything about realtime. I
love the way I get a little nervous, I love the way it keeps me sharp throughout the day, and I love that my writing is even better because I am editing on the fly, trying to make my transcript as flawless as possible for less editing time later. Grab ahold of your fear and don’t let it conquer you. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it and simply believe in yourself and know that you are competent and capable of doing a stellar job.

In order to provide excellent realtime, you need to couple control of your fear with preparation. As good as you may be, you will be even better if you are well-prepared. Try to get a list of anything and everything that will be used during the deposition — names, esoteric terms, countries, etc. You won’t always have this luxury, but in most cases, if you are providing realtime, attorneys will be willing to inform you of the content and spellings of words that might come up.

Another way to prepare is to insert all of this information into your software the night
before instead of waiting until the day of. If you can make your caption page and even appearance page beforehand and a list of J-defines ready to go, you can spend your time before the depo making sure your connections are properly hooked up and less time inputting all of this time-consuming information before being bombarded with business cards.

Sharon Lengel, RPR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Woodmere, N.Y.

If the fear is ever completely gone, then you’re probably being unrealistic about what you’re providing. Everyone runs into issues that are overwhelming. You lower your fear when you train to address those issues competently with the best effect that you can provide. Then that fear channels into energy to solve the problems that crop up.

Write realtime for yourself first, and practice on the methods that produce the best results on your screen. Mastery of your software and writing methods will reduce your fear.

Talk to other reporters who provide realtime. Expect mistakes to happen. Don’t discount them when they happen, and work to remedy and overcome them, but they will happen. And once you’re providing realtime, constantly work to better yourself with your knowledge, your skills, and your technical know-how, and always with the knowledge that what your clients are seeing is better than what they’d have if you were not there.

Jason Meadors, RPR, CRR, CRC
Fort Collins, Colo.

After more than 30 years of reporting, I still have that uncontrollable fear of providing
realtime. I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach before each job — even though I set up the night before, have my job dictionary built, my EZ Speakers defined, input case-specific terminology, and have Googled industry terms on the case.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime.

Some reasons cited by other reporters for not taking the leap to realtime:

• My writing isn’t good enough.
• I don’t want anyone to see.
• Hookups scare me.
• I don’t know where to start.
• The realtime feed is not perfect.
• I don’t know how to handle overlapping voices.
• I worry about how to control the environment.

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation — and these are simple steps that you can take too:

1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can.
I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job
well done!

In an article on, Geoffrey James says: “Fear is the enemy of success. Large rewards only result from taking comparably large risks. If you’re ruled by fear, you’ll never take enough risks and never achieve success you deserve.”

The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many.

• improved skills
• less editing time
• improved translation delivery
• quicker transcript turnaround
• job satisfaction
• name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
• increased income
• phenomenal readback

Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

Lynette L. Mueller, RDR, CRR
TRAIN Subcommittee member
Johns Creek, Ga.

Additional materials from TRAIN for developing realtime skills can be found at