Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You talk a lot about spelling dependence in shorthand theories versus writing more phonetically. Court reporters and captioners HAVE to know how to spell well, so this shouldn't really be such a big deal.
Any work product should reflect perfect spelling, of course. But there’s a big difference between preparing a perfectly-spelled transcript with the aid of an English-language dictionary or a spell checker and making sure your shorthand strokes reflect correct vowel spelling while writing machine shorthand at high speeds. And there can be a huge difference between being a "good" speller—or even an "exceptional" speller—and being a "realtime" speller.
Click here to take the "Are You A Realtime Speller" challenge to see an illustration of this point.
Consider the following when deciding whether it makes sense for realtime shorthand theories to be spelling dependent:
Published reports predict the English language will reach 1 million words by the end of 2006—of which the average adult has a recognition vocabulary of approximately 30-35,000 words and a use vocabulary of only approximately 10,000 words. The fact that you recognize a word because you’ve heard it before doesn’t necessarily mean you can spell it correctly, and the fact that you’ve never seen a word before probably means you can’t spell it—but it shouldn’t mean you can’t write it in shorthand.
Is this a good theory to use if I want to go into captioning instead of court reporting?
Captioning companies want clean, accurate, fast, realtime writers who have well-developed dictionaries. Phoenix Theory places a priority on writing cleanly and accurately throughout the training program and gives the students tools to build up their ability to do so. If you've been reading about the unique Vowel-Omission Principle in Phoenix Theory then you've also seen how it simplifies steno strokes and enables the student to truly "write what you hear." With simplified responses, students have greater potential to live up to their speedbuilding potential.
The translation dictionary, though, is what gives Phoenix Theory writers an edge when it comes to captioning. Containing over 140,000 entries, and the capability to translate thousands of words more due to the many word parts that can be combined together, the translation dictionary places one in the unique position of being able to write nearly every word in Funk & Wagnall's New Collegiate Dictionary and then some. In addition, the translation dictionary contains all the entries necessary to allow the writer to take advantage of the various stroking options presented in the theory. Flexibility with great realtime translation!
Last, but not least, we make an on-going effort to stay current with needs and trends in the captioning industry and provide Phoenix Theory writers with the commands, speaker designations, and other special functions required to provide great realtime translation in this profession.
Does Phoenix Theory incorporate inflected endings onto the preceding strokes or suggest they be executed as separate strokes?
Yes, and yes. Inflected endings are incorporated onto the preceding stroke where a rule can be consistently applied and no conflict is created and we recommend executing them as a separate stroke when incorporation would create numerous potential conflicts that would then require memorization of numerous exceptions to the rule.
Click here to open a document that discusses this more and gives examples.
I hear some theories described as “stroke intensive.” I assume this means they require more strokes to write some words than other theories. Is Phoenix Theory stroke intensive?
Today's realtime theories have been called stroke intensive compared to two things: StenoMaster theory and pre-computer theories.
Over the decades, national speed champions and others have strongly cautioned students and reporters attempting to increase their writing speed against excessive use of memorized briefs (one-stroke abbreviations). Conversely, the goal assigned to students by StenoMaster, as repeated throughout the theory book, is to memorize a one-stroke brief for every common word and proper name and to phrase as much as possible, making StenoMaster uniquely memory-intensive. All other theories may appear to be stroke intensive when compared to a theory so memory intensive. However, a comparison based only on the number of strokes is pretty meaningless. The complexity of the strokes (i.e., the number of keys required in a stroke and the finger positioning) is also an extremely important consideration. A memory-intensive theory with key-intensive strokes begs two questions each individual must answer for herself/himself: (1) Can you memorize briefs (one-stroke abbreviations) for 5,000 to 10,000 common words so thoroughly that you can recall them and accurately execute the correct stroke at graduation speeds of 225 wpm -- or on-the-job speeds which can be even higher? (2) Can you recall and execute one memorized complex stroke as fast as you can write two simpler automatic strokes?
It’s reasonable to assume that some pre-computer theories which were modified to eliminate conflicts in order to become computer compatible are now more stroke intensive than their earlier pre-computer versions. In older theories, inflected endings (-s/-es, -ed, -ing) were always included on the end of a stroke when possible – creating numerous conflicts: e.g., guys/guise, bored/board, winning/wing, etc. In order to avoid myriad conflicts, some realtime theories require all inflected endings to be added in a separate stroke, thus making the stroking of words with inflected endings more “stroke intensive.”
Some theories are also more “key intensive” than the old-time theories. They may require an asterisk to be included in every vowel + consonant word beginning (or-, en-, in-, al-, im-, ex-, etc.) or some portion of those word beginnings to distinguish them from word endings. They may require extensive use of the asterisk to distinguish other word beginnings/endings to avoid conflicts. They may require doubling of consonants, regardless of sound/spelling, in order to avoid conflicts. Some theories even require adding KWR- or SKWR- to every ending stroke beginning with a vowel. These “added” keys make the strokes more complex and increase the average keys-per-stroke ratio.
Phoenix Theory was created from its beginning as a realtime theory. Its principles allow including the vast majority of plurals on the end of the word. We do write –ed and –ing endings for root words in separate strokes but we can include the –ed and –ing endings on strokes from which the vowel has been omitted without any possibility of creating conflicts: Examples: –ered (-RD), -ering (-RG), -ers (-RZ), -ened (-PBD), -ening (-PBG), -ens (-PBZ), -eled (-LD), -ling (-LG), -les (-LZ), etc. These endings can’t create conflicts and they eliminate the need for adding the inflected ending in a third stroke which may be required by other theories for a substantial number of words.
Additionally, the many shortcutting techniques used for multi-syllable word beginnings and endings actually reduce the overall stroking intensity of Phoenix Theory below that of the old pre-computer Stenograph theory! Plus, the vowel omission principle and other theory principles also reduce the average keys-per-stroke ratio below that of the old pre-computer Stenograph theory. Fewer, simpler strokes reduces likelihood of misstroking and increases potential writing speeds.
Realtime theories must certainly be much more comprehensive, precise, and disciplined than the old standard theories of yesterday. However, Phoenix Theory is proof that realtime electronic shorthand can be written with as few and as simple strokes as those “old standards.”
Click here to open a document that shows the surprising results of a stroke by stroke comparison between Phoenix Theory and what is sometimes called the “baby shorthand” of one of those “old standards.”
Does Phoenix Theory teach lots of briefs and phrases?
Phoenix Theory takes a balanced approach towards briefs and phrases. The theory book itself focuses on select high-frequency briefs and phrases, recommending that students add them to their writing repertoire. The steno that accompanies each exercise and the plated notes reflect the use of the briefs and phrases as we feel the ones emphasized in the theory book are extremely valuable no matter which career path the student takes. The translation dictionary contains approximately 6,000 briefs and phrases, and many of them are enumerated in the Quick Reference Guide.
The Speed Plus books introduce additional briefs and phrases, however, students are cautioned to only adopt shortcuts for words and phrases they hear often and for which they can assimilate the brief or phrase readily. Each student must determine their own personal ability to learn, retain, and use shortcuts and, like all reporters, they will find themselves able to pick up new briefs and shortcuts as needed throughout their careers.
Is Phoenix Theory 100% conflict free?
Our preference is to label Phoenix Theory as virtually conflict free. The English language changes daily and spoken English sometimes brings two unlikely words together making it impossible for any theory to realistically claim that they can write any word in the English language without conflict. The translation dictionary, with over 140,000+ entries, has no conflicts in it. All of the words from Funk & Wagnall's New Collegiate Dictionary that were included in the Reference Dictionary can be written without conflict.
What is the hardest thing for instructors to grasp when they are considering adoption of Phoenix Theory?
Because theory teachers already have knowledge of a steno theory, comparing what is already known to what is being learned about Phoenix Theory is inevitable. The teacher who picks individual outlines or principles apart before reading the entire book and coming to an understanding of how the principles work together as a whole is a teacher who might have trouble understanding, learning, and teaching Phoenix Theory.
There are three main areas where we see questions from instructors and students who already know another theory:
1. Writing vowels phonetically rather than by spelling. Examples: stroking VURS for "verse," or TUPB for "ton."
2. Application of the Vowel-Omission Principle. Most of us are familiar with short vowels, long vowels, and diphthongs. The schwa vowel sound is a new experience for most of us and takes some practice to get used to. Once you get the hang of it, though, it makes writing amazingly simple!
3. Use of the AU combination to represent both the "ah" sound found in words like "hot" and "pot" and the "aw" sound found in words like "saw" and "lawn." Click here to access a thorough explanation and a self-quiz on the question of O or AU?
4. Surprisingly, one of the hardest things we've found for instructors to grasp is the idea that help is as close as an email. We know new (and sometimes experienced) instructors have questions about various outlines and principles, or that sometimes their students pose questions that totally stump them. All you have to do is ask and we will gladly help you with your questions!
When was the translation dictionary last updated?
Version 1.7 of the Phoenix Theory translation dictionary was published in April 2006 and is available from Stenograph, L.L.C. If you already have another version of the translation dictionary, individual updates are available at www.phoenixtheory.com.
Does Phoenix Theory have graduates?
Yes, there are Phoenix Theory graduates working as realtime reporters and captioners. Phoenix Theory was beta tested in 1996 and our first two graduates were produced in 18 and 22 months respectively. Since that time numerous Phoenix Theory graduates have joined the ranks of realtime reporters, and one even captioned a portion of the Olympics in the summer of 2005. The College of Court Reporting in Hobart, Indiana recently announced their first online graduates, who also happen to be Phoenix Theory writers.
Is there any way to see a comparison of Phoenix Theory outlines to other theories?
Click here to see an extensive word list with outlines from Phoenix Theory, Realwrite/Realtime Theory, and conventional theories such as Stenograph Computer-compatible Theory; StenEd; and Roberts, Walsh, Gonzales.