Captioning Changes and Conflicts
By Kevin W. Daniel and Mary Cox Daniel
To change and to change for the better
Sometimes it's apparent that an outline has to be changed to resolve a conflict, but you can't decide which word or word part to change. Here are some guidelines we apply that help us select the best method of conflict resolution.
are two different things.
Change the word, not the prefix or suffix.
For instance, if you write the word go and your ing suffix using the final g, you should change the way you write the word go. If instead you change the way you write the ing suffix, it will require you to remove every word in your dictionary that is defined with the final g as the ing suffix in order to prevent word-boundary problems, and you may have to re-enter some words that your software's artificial intelligence spells incorrectly. In the alternative, if you change the way you write go, you only have to change the entry for the word, and you may have to sacrifice some phrases in the bargain. It's almost universally the case that the better course is to change the way you write the single word.
Change the way you write both words or word parts.
There were several conflicts I had that continually presented me with the dilemma of remembering which of the words I changed. The first pair was PLIGHT/POLITE. I used to write both words PHRAOEUT. I chose an easy resolution and added the asterisk - but the question was always to which word? I could never remember, and neither word came up frequently enough to become ingrained in my writing. So I finally solved the problem by writing polite out as POE/HRAOEUT and plight as PHRAO*EUT. This method also worked for my conflict PARADE/ PREYED/PRAYED and for PEER/PIER. I now two-stroke both peer and pier. I write peer as PAOE/ER and pier as PAOEU/ER.
Rely on the English spelling when possible.
A large portion of conflicts can be resolved by deviating from our phonetics training and relying to some degree on the spelling of the word. Take the conflict BORN/BORNE. We write the word born PWORPB. We write borne exactly as it is spelled, PWOERPB, and we only have to transpose the e, but at least we are basing the outline on the spelling. In addition to solving the conflict, it is also an easy principle to remember.
Fingerspell words with three or fewer letters.
Sometimes short words present conflict resolution problems because there are so few letter combinations possible. Take the word era. It not only conflicts phonetically with ear a, but it could also cause a great many word-boundary problems where words end in er and the word following is a. Consider the following short list of words:
In some cases, we could come up with a two-stroke brief, but overall we prefer to eliminate hesitation and fingerspell the more exotic words.
Where possible, add a character to an outline to resolve conflicts.
It may seem like we're stating the obvious here. Of course it's easier to remember a new outline if it's just one character different, but there is another advantage that shouldn't be overlooked. Whenever you change an outline, there is always a period of time to become familiar with the new stroke. Often you will find that when you hear a word you are attempting to change, you will already be in the downstroke, starting to write the word the old way. If your new stroke is only an additional character different, you can continue with the downstroke, adding the differentiating character without having to write a correction stroke, which requires you to write the entire outline again. If the word consists of two or more strokes, you can insert the added character in the second or subsequent strokes, thereby giving yourself even more time to recognize the need for the additional character.
If you can't remember how you resolved a conflict, develop a mental picture to associate with the conflict.
For example, here's a mental picture that can help you remember how to differentiate CAPITAL/CAPITOL. First, you need to know which word is appropriate in context. Since capitol always refers to a building, you can visualize the o in capitol as representing the dome in the capitol building. Once you know the proper word to use, you can then use the same o to differentiate your steno outline. Another example is MADE/MAID. You could write the word maid with an asterisk and imagine that the asterisk looks like a feather duster a maid might use in her work.
When you find yourself stumped for a way to remember how you resolved a conflict, try using the mental picture method. Sometimes the more bizarre the association, the more vivid the picture and the easier it is to remember how you write the brief. Don't underestimate this incredible tool. It's as useful as your imagination can make it.
Accept involuntary phrasing and use it to your benefit.
By involuntary phrasing we are referring to what some people call stacking or piling, when two separate strokes are so close together in time that the computer sees them occurring as a single stroke. Common examples are ing or er suffixes on the same line with the word following it: TKPWOE/TOG (going to); AOEG/TOER (eager to).
It's only marginally helpful to understand the reason for this kind of problem. It most often occurs when the final portion of the stroke is entirely on one hand or the other. In our examples above, the word to is written using only the left hand. The problem seems to occur much less frequently when both hands are involved in writing the stroke. Since the stenotype machine manufacturers are unable or unwilling to solve the problem, you should be prepared to work around it.
There are two methods we use to minimize piling and its impact. First, you can change your steno so that you use both hands to write a problem stroke. For instance, if you wrote the word to as TO*, using the right index finger to drag the asterisk, you would find a dramatic decrease in piling with the word to. In the alternative, you could define the piled suffixes as part of a phrase. TOG would be defined as ~ing to and TOER would be defined as ~er to.
In the first year I captioned, I realized I had a problem with my outline for the period. I wrote the period FPLT, my suffix ~ment PLT and the word meant PHEPBT. I was frequently missing the F on my period. The result was the attachment of the suffix ~ment to any word in my dictionary. Of course, that was unacceptable and had to be rectified immediately. My solution was this:
Step one was to change the way I wrote the word meant. That had the least impact on my writing.
Step two, once I was comfortable with the new way of writing meant, was to redefine my suffix ~ment, using the outline previously reserved for the word meant.
Step three was the easiest. In this case, I only had to redefine PLT as a period. I didn't change the way I write the period, but I could now accommodate my most common misstroke of the period.
That's one way to live with stacking.
On another occasion, I encountered stacking after I started writing out the word will. Previously I had written will as -L, and I decided for several reasons (including stacking and phrasing problems) that I would write will out as WEUL. Within the first week of writing the new way, I realized I had a stacking problem when will was followed by the word be, a common occurrence. My solution in that situation was to define the stacked stroke WEUBL as the phrase will be.
This method of adapting to your writing imperfections and the shortcomings of the current generation of stenotype machines has a corollary in the computer industry. There's an axiom, If you can't fix it, feature it. And that's what I recommend for your stacking problems. Feature them as a part of your writing theory, incorporating them as part and parcel of your realtime writing. That's not an error; that's advanced realtime theory. (Follow that sentence with a disdainful look and snicker whenever possible.) Here are a few more examples of words I defined when I noticed how often I was stacking the strokes:
glory = TKPWHROEUR
story = STOEUR
county = KOEUPBT
sorry = SOEUR
worry = WOEUR
yellow = KWROEL
About the Authors
Kevin W. Daniel, RDR, CRR, and Mary Cox Daniel, RDR, CRR, from Henderson, Nev., are the authors of Writing Naked: Principles of Writing for Realtime and Captioning. This article is an excerpt from the book, which is available through NCRA by calling 800-272-6272 or visiting the NCRA Store.