5 Alarming Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Finger Dexterity!

5 Alarming Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Finger Dexterity!

Cue the sirens and flashing lights, because there might be a finger dexterity emergency right at your fingertips! We’re here to highlight the key signs that you might be throwing cold water on your finger dexterity. You could unintentionally be fanning the flames of frustration, hindering your journey to become a steno superstar. From neglecting essential practice sessions to dismissing the wisdom of veterans, these saboteurs could have you playing with fire. Let’s put out the inferno of self-sabotage and rekindle your path to finger agility. It’s time to stop, drop, and roll into better steno habits!

Sparking Stagnation: The Dangers of Neglecting Practice

We’ve got a blazing hot issue on our hands: lack of practice. If you neglect to put in the time and effort to practice, your fingers won’t magically become agile and ready to tackle those steno challenges. I mean, it’s just common sense! How can you expect your fingers to be steno superheroes without flexing their muscles in practice?

Now, I get it. We all have those days when we’re tempted to hit the snooze button on practice time or come up with excuses. But let me tell you, skipping those practice sessions is like ignoring a fire alarm in a burning building. Your fingers will be left floundering like a fish out of water, desperately trying to keep up with the fast-paced demands of dictation.

Sure, practicing a smidge might offer some improvement, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what consistent practice can do. But let’s be real – not practicing at all is like expecting a cake to bake without even turning on the oven! It’s just not going to happen.

To become a steno wizard, you need to take action and commit to regular, deliberate practice. It’s like having an emergency plan in place – you prepare in advance to handle any word that comes your way. Regular practice is the foundation of developing finger dexterity, and trust me, it’s worth every minute.

Fueling Inefficiency: The Perils of Ignoring Finger Drills

Finger drills can totally feel like a drag compared to dictation practice. But we have got to embrace these exercises as our secret weapons, even when they seem redundant or boring. Think of it as a fire alarm in a burning building – you’d never dream of turning it off and losing the chance to supercharge your muscle memory and gain complete mastery over those agile fingers.

I get it, finger drills might not feel like the most exciting part of your steno life. They can seem like random outlines on a piece of paper that you have to write over and over again, and let’s not forget the dreaded metronome that can drive you crazy! But here’s the thing — these drills will be your saving grace and your ticket to greatness.

Sure, it’s tempting to skip them because they don’t feel like the real deal, right? Dictation might seem more thrilling, but trust me, spending time on finger drills will make dictation way more fun in the long run. Why? Because you’ll be breezing through those speed classes, acing more tests, and spending less time transcribing. With your accuracy soaring high, you’ll be unstoppable!

Blazing Through Lessons: The Risks of Speeding Without Learning

You know that feeling of wanting to sprint through lessons like a fire alarm going off? We’ve all been there – eager to progress quickly, hungry for skill mastery. But hold up, there’s a cautionary tale here.

If we rush through those lessons without paying attention to the details, it’s like missing the pivotal opportunities to fine-tune our finger placements and movements. It’s as if we’re trying to put out a fire without the proper tools – we might end up leaving smoldering embers behind.

We get it, the temptation to rush is real. But trust us, it’s better to tackle each lesson with a steady, determined pace. Let each new concept simmer and sizzle in your mind, allowing your muscle memory to absorb and retain the knowledge.

The secret to success lies in balance – yes, we want to progress, but we also need to give ourselves the space to absorb the essential lessons.

Unheeding Alarms: The Hazard of Disregarding Wisdom

Your instructors and experienced stenographers are like the brave firefighters guiding you through the flames of your dexterity journey. They offer precious insights and technique corrections that can truly transform your skills. But, here’s the frustrating part – sometimes we’re tempted to ignore their pearls of wisdom and venture into uncharted territory.

It’s like having a fire alarm blaring, warning us of potential danger, but instead of heeding the alarm, we go ahead and make changes that have not been proven to work or worse, have been proven to be a no-go! It’s like trying to put out a fire with the wrong extinguisher – not going to get the job done!

When your instructors share the best ways to write on your machine, the ideal height or tilt, or how to move seamlessly from one key to the next, take it seriously! It’s like receiving vital instructions during a fire emergency – you want to follow them to ensure a safe exit.

We understand the desire to experiment, but don’t let it lead you astray. Your instructors and experienced stenographers are like the fire brigade, equipped with tried-and-tested strategies to help you navigate the challenges. They’ve been through it all and know the most efficient paths to success.

So, instead of dismissing their advice, embrace it like a firefighter embracing their trusty hose. Absorb their wisdom, practice their techniques, and let it fuel your progress. With their guidance, you’ll extinguish any unrefined finger movements and soar towards the pinnacle of finger agility.

Smoldering Skills: The Consequences of Neglecting Control Speed Practice

Slow and controlled dictation practice serves as a indispensable building block in honing precise finger movements and muscle memory. When steno students rush through dictation or skip the slow practice, they miss out on essential opportunities to refine their skills.

Just like a firefighter training with caution and precision, slow dictation allows you to focus on each stroke and develop accuracy. It gives you the chance to master finger placements and transitions, ensuring a solid foundation for faster speeds later on.

Without this deliberate practice, it’s like expecting a fire extinguisher to work efficiently without understanding how to use it properly. Neglecting slow and controlled dictation can lead to haphazard finger movements and a lack of control over the steno machine.

Additionally, skipping this foundational practice can hinder your ability to tackle more challenging material. It’s like trying to handle a massive fire without having practiced with smaller flames first. Without controlled speed practice, precision and dexterity suffer.


In the world of stenography, every finger movement counts. Just as a fire alarm alerts us to potential hazards, recognizing the signs of sabotaging our finger dexterity can be the wake-up call we desperately need. Awareness is only the first step; proactive action is the key to true change. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of these five alarming signs, it’s time to extinguish any sabotaging habits and fan the flames of finger flexibility. The rhythm and flow of your steno journey depend heavily on the dexterity of your fingers. So, keep them finely tuned, heed the warning signs, and watch your skills flourish!


Steno Success Science: Leveraging Spaced Repetition for Long-Term Retention

Leveraging Spaced Repetition for Long-Term Retention

As a steno student, you know that consistent practice is essential for developing speed, accuracy, and realtime proficiency. But did you know that how you structure your practice also plays a major role in your progress? Research shows spacing out multiple practice sessions over time leads to better long-term learning and skill retention compared to cramming practice into a single lengthy session.

In this post, we’ll explore the science behind why practicing steno multiple times per day is so advantageous for mastery. You’ll also gain actionable tips on how to effectively incorporate spaced repetition into your daily practice routine.

Enhanced Long-Term Retention

For steno students, the long-term retention of your skills and knowledge is critical. When you’re on the job as a professional stenographer, you can’t afford to forget briefs, phrases, vowels, or any aspect of your theory. Everything you study, practice and absorb in your training needs to stick in your memory for the long haul.

Let’s face it – as a steno student, forgetting stuff is inevitable. It’s a natural part of the learning process when you’re absorbing so much new information. However, spaced repetition is a powerful technique to combat normal forgetfulness.

Reviewing and practicing previously learned material at strategic intervals refreshes your memory and reinforces that knowledge. This repetition mitigates the effects of memory decay over time.

Here’s an actionable tip to leverage spaced repetition in your steno learning:

Maintain an updated hesitation word list. Whenever you stumble upon a word or brief that gives you pause, jot it down along with the date and the specific dictation file where you encountered it. Then, implement the following spaced repetition practice:

  • Review your hesitation list weekly. Make note of words you’ve hesitated on multiple times.
  • Pick 2-3 priority words that need reinforcement. Re-practice the dictation files where you originally hesitated.
  • The next week, review the list again. See if those priority words you reinforced are getting more solid through the spaced repetition.
  • Pick a new set of 2-3 trouble words to revisit in context. Continue the cycle.

This simple process of revisiting problematic words in the original dictation files taps into spaced repetition. You’re strengthening those neural connections by re-exposing yourself to the words in context, boosting retention.

Why does this spacing boost long-term retention? It allows your brain more opportunities to solidify and encode the information. Every time you revisit material, you strengthen those neural connections a bit more. Over time, this repetition and reinforcement transfers the knowledge from short-term into long-term memory.

Solidifying Muscle Memory and Accuracy

To excel in manual dexterity skills, such as stenography, you must possess precise coordination and control over fine motor movements. Your fingers need to translate sounds into text with flawless coordination and accuracy. Through spaced repetition, you strengthen the muscle memory associated with these specific movements. By practicing the skill repeatedly, with intervals in between, you allow your muscles to effectively consolidate these movements. With consistent, spaced practice, your speed and accuracy improve dramatically over time. The repetitions build fluency as the finger movements become automatic and natural.

Here is an actionable finger drill routine:

  • Identify 2-5 outlines you want to master.
  • Schedule 3 mini sessions per day to focus just on those outlines. Make each session 5 minutes.
  • In each 5-minute sprint, isolate those 2-3 outlines and drill them intensively. Focus on accuracy and gradually increase speed. Randomize the order of the outlines in each session for maximum benefit. Use a metronome to assess and push your speed without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Space these short, focused sessions throughout the day – morning, afternoon, evening. Allow a few hours between each.
  • After a week of this spaced repetition drill routine, assess your increased fluidity and accuracy on those target stroke combinations.
  • Now expand the routine by identifying 2-5 new outlines to build your finger dexterityy. Repeat the process.

Improving Retention and Long-Term Learning

Spacing out practice sessions allows for better retention of the material. The spacing effect is a psychological phenomenon that suggests information is better retained when learning is spread out over time, rather than cramming in a single session

Practical Tips:

  • Designate set days/times each week for revisiting older video lessons or dictation files. Commit to the routine.
  • Create a study calendar to space out review of content from last week, last month, several months ago, etc.
  • When reviewing, take fresh notes and compare them with your originals. See how your understanding has deepened.
  • Beyond dictation, also include brief/phrase drills and lesson reviews in your repetition schedule.
  • Analyze areas of difficulties and use reviews to specifically reinforce those weak points.
  • Reviewing older material doesn’t always have to be lengthy. Short 15-20 minute refreshers can be very potent.

Consolidating Skills Over Time

To become proficient in stenography, one must focus on developing motor skills, mastering theory, and improving finger dexterity. By practicing multiple times a day and spacing out these practice sessions, you create more chances for your brain and muscles to solidify these skills. Consistent practice not only improves coordination but also strengthens the neural pathways associated with stenographic writing, resulting in smoother and more precise execution.

Here’s a great way to apply spaced repetition for targeted skill improvement:

Practical Tip: use problem-specific dictation files to focus on your weak areas. For example, if you struggle with “-ttle” words, practice files emphasizing those words through spaced repetition.

While not all resources provide such concentrated dictation, look for any files relevant to your skill challenges. You can make your own too! Compile words or outlines causing difficulties into practice audio. Then, work on that targeted file in short, frequent sessions over time. The repetition develops the muscle memory and mental connections. Your problem area transforms into a strength.

At StenoKey, we excel at providing focused dictation files customized to address specific skill gaps. For instance, if “-ttle” words are tricky for you, we ensure multiple files packed with “-ttle” word drills to build that competency through practice spacing. Our files enable you to precisely isolate weaknesses and use repetitive practice to ingrain mastery. Combined with all of StenoKey’s other features, students can gain skills faster than ever before.

So seek out targeted dictation resources to hone problem spots. But consider joining StenoKey if you really want to take your skills to the next level through optimized, personalized practice!

Optimizing Learning Efficiency

Spaced repetition not only improves retention but also optimizes your learning efficiency. Breaking down your steno practice into shorter, spaced sessions allows you to maximize your focus and mental stamina. By studying in shorter bursts at intervals, you can maintain high levels of concentration and engagement. This approach is far more effective than spending long hours in a single session, where fatigue and diminished focus can hinder progress.

Leverage spaced repetition and short bursts for better efficiency:

  • When introducing new briefs, limit each session to 10-15 minutes of intense focus. Resist overloading.
  • Once concentration wavers, STOP. Take a break to refresh your mind.
  • Return to the briefs later when you can dedicate full focus. Even 15 minutes of deep concentration spaced out later is beneficial.
  • Rotate brief study with other activities like dictation or finger drills. Varying tasks helps maintain mental acuity.
  • Always gauge your current energy levels before starting demanding learning. Only study briefs with sharp concentration.

Don’t waste time practicing half-focused. Let your mind fully recharge between brief sessions.

Leveraging Breaks for Self-Analysis

The space between practice sessions provides a pivotal opportunity for self-reflection. By stepping away briefly from your steno work, you gain a fresh perspective for analysis. This self-reflection helps you identify why you may be struggling, refine your technique, and implement adjustments in subsequent practice sessions, leading to continuous progress. You might even come up with a new way to practice something you have been concentrating on.

Here’s how to leverage session spacing for improvement:

  • After each practice block, take 5 minutes for self-assessment before your break.
  • Identify 1-2 areas that felt off or caused difficulties during the session. Zero in on specific root issues.
  • Jot down ways you could adjust your technique or practice approach to address those weak spots.
  • During the break, reflect on your self-analysis. Brainstorm innovative drills or training methods.
  • Apply your adjustments and new ideas in the next practice session. Continuously refine your techniques over time.

The spacing between sessions creates the ideal environment for internal feedback. Dedicate this time to candidly assessing your abilities and tailoring your training for maximal growth.

Managing Fatigue

Steno writing can be mentally and physically demanding, particularly when you’re starting out. Practicing multiple times a day helps you adapt to the mental fatigue associated with prolonged concentration. By taking short breaks between sessions, you allow your mind and body to recover, maintaining optimal focus and stamina throughout the day. Spaced repetition optimizes practice efficiency by making the most of your study time.

Shorter sessions with rest intervals help in these ways:

  • Maximizes focus and intensity. Your concentration stays sharp since sessions are short before a break.
  • Prevents fatigue build-up. Natural mental stamina ebb and flow is accommodated.
  • Optimizes skill development. Learning is greater with total focus for brief bursts rather than fatigue-laden marathons.
  • Reduces injury risk. Regular hand rests prevent tension build-up and strain.
  • Provides reboot between sessions. You return renewed and ready to intensely tackle the next skill.

Fitting in Practice Anywhere, Anytime

As a steno student or professional stenographer juggling other commitments, finding a long unbroken practice stretch can be challenging. This is where spacing repetition provides much-needed flexibility. By practicing multiple times a day, you can optimize your practice sessions, accommodate your commitments, and ensure consistent progress.

Here are some tips to take advantage of spacing for schedule flexibility:

  • Identify small pockets of free time in your daily routine – waiting for coffee to brew, commercial breaks, lunch period, etc.
  • Even 10-15 minutes of focused practice is beneficial. Seize these windows to keep consistency.
  • Have mobile study materials ready to practice on the go. Review briefs or drills during spare minutes.
  • Adjust session type/duration based on the time you have available in a given window.

Remember: Some practice every day is infinitely better than a 6 hour marathon once a week!

Balancing Speed and Accuracy

Becoming a proficient stenographer requires a delicate harmony between speed and accuracy. It’s the fusion of these two elements that defines true mastery. By incorporating multiple practice sessions into your daily routine, you can actively work on enhancing both aspects.

Leverage spaced repetition sessions dedicated to one skill or the other:

  • Speed sessions – Timed sprints pushing velocity in short bursts.
  • Accuracy sessions – Slow, deliberate practice writing cleanly.
  • Integration sessions – Combine speed and accuracy work.

Here’s a practical tip:

Plan your practice sessions in advance to optimize skill integration:

  • Dedicate certain sessions each week just for speed work.
  • Reserve other sessions for accuracy focus, like drills or slow dictation.
  • Increase session duration as your stamina expands.
  • Periodically assess which skill needs more emphasis and adjust session mix accordingly.
  • Be patient in working both skills up steadily over months and years.

Developing Automaticity

Consolidation of learning: Spaced repetition facilitates the consolidation of learning. After practicing a skill, the brain continues to process and integrate the information during rest periods. By spacing out practice sessions, you give your brain ample time to process and integrate the learned material. As students consistently practice with spaced intervals, they become more acquainted with the steno outlines and the underlying theory. Over time, the ability to recognize outlines and produce accurate translations becomes increasingly automatic. This automation enhances the speed and efficiency of machine stenography, enabling students to focus more on the content they’re writing rather than the mechanics of the skill itself. Essentially, it becomes a natural process.

Preventing Skill Regression

Without regular practice, manual dexterity skills can degrade over time. Spaced repetition helps combat this degradation by incorporating regular practice sessions. By revisiting the skill at appropriate intervals, you prevent the skill from fading or becoming rusty. Regular practice ensures that the neural pathways associated with the skill remain active and well-maintained, preserving your proficiency and preventing skill deterioration.

Tip: Even if you have only a few minutes available, dedicate that time to focused practice. Concentrate on specific techniques, strokes, or briefs that require attention. By utilizing your limited practice time effectively, you can prevent skill deterioration.

Implementing spaced repetition may feel less efficient than extended single-session practices. However, the long-term payoff is immense. The spacing approach leads to deeply ingrained mastery that stays with you when it matters most – on the job.

So be patient, trust the science, and leverage spaced repetition to make steno skills second nature. Your future professional self will thank you!


How Steno Students Can Build a Strong Foundation with Pyramid Sentences

How Steno Students Can Build a Strong Foundation with Pyramid Sentences

Pyramid sentences are an excellent strategy that steno students can use to boost their writing skills and eliminate hesitation words. This method reinforces the strokes and cements briefs and phrases in your mind, leading to enhanced accuracy and speed. By breaking down sentences into smaller, more manageable parts, pyramid sentences enable you to write with ease and without mistakes.

You can breakdown most any sentence you have heard in a dictation down into a pyramid sentence. You can also create your own sentence by using power sentences.

When you have found the sentence you want to use, put them in a word processor and do follow the steps:

Building the Pyramid:

  1. To break down the sentence, identify the different parts of the sentence like phrases you want to use, brief forms, multi-stroke words, and challenging words you need more practice with.
    • phrases
    • briefs
    • multi-stroke words.
    • challenging words
  2. If you’re not sure how to write a particular word or phrase, take the time to look up the correct way.
  3. Format your sentence. Underline the phrases, bold the briefs, italicize multi-stroke words, and highlight challenging words.
  4. To build your pyramid, simply copy and paste your formatted sentence several times, pasting it on a new line each time. The number of times you paste it should match the number of words in the original sentence. However, you may paste it fewer times if you want to focus on specific phrases. To build your pyramid, you’ll need to delete words from each line except the last one. It may seem ironic, but that’s how the technique works. To start building your pyramid, the first line should only have the first word of the sentence. The second line, directly below the first one, should have the first two words, and the third line should have the first three words, continuing this pattern until the final line.
  5. Sometimes you might have a sentence that has a string of words that can be written as phrases. You can choose whether to write the whole phrase on one line or break it down into individual words on each line. For example, the sentence “She can do it that way” can be written as “she can” in one stroke, “can do” in one stroke, “can do it” in one stroke, or “do it” in one stroke. Decide beforehand how you will write the sentence and which phrase(s) you will use, so you can practice it that way in your pyramid exercise.

She can do it that way.

She can do it that way.

She can do it that way.

She can do it that way.

Practicing the Pyramid:

  1. Start at the top of your pyramid and write the first line of the sentence. Take your time and write it until you feel extremely comfortable and accurate.
  2. Once you’ve nailed down the first line, move on to the second line and write those words without any errors.
  3. Progress to the third line and continue until you’ve written the entire pyramid.
  4. Once you reach the bottom of the pyramid, challenge yourself to write the full sentence three times without any errors or hesitation.

If you make a mistake on any line, take the time to practice it several times before moving on to the next. It’s important to correct any errors, whether they’re a shadow, stack, or just a moment of hesitation, before continuing. Remember, the goal of this exercise is to complete the pyramid without any mistakes or hesitation. So take your time and practice each line until you feel comfortable before moving on to the next. When using pyramid sentences, focus on the fluidity of your writing. Make sure each part of the sentence flows smoothly into the next. If you find yourself hesitating or stumbling, slow down and focus on the individual parts of the sentence before moving on to the next.

Try adding a pyramid sentence to your daily practice routine! Just pick one sentence to pyramid-ify each day and spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes perfecting it.

Just as the pyramids were built over time, with each layer carefully constructed upon the last, so too does a steno student build their knowledge, stroke by stroke, word by word. And just as the pyramids stand as a lasting symbol of human ingenuity and achievement, so too will a skilled stenographer’s work endure the test of time, capturing the words of the past and the present for generations to come.


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Want to Graduate Sooner? Try These Timer Tricks for Steno Students

Want to Graduate Sooner? Try These Timer Tricks for Steno Students

Time is of the essence when it comes to mastering stenography. We want to reach that graduation speed level requirement as quickly as possible and begin our career. We all know the struggle of trying to improve our shorthand skills in record time. Lucky for us, we’ve got a secret weapon at our fingertips: timers! These bad boys will keep us on track and make sure we don’t waste precious practice time. It’s like having a personal coach who won’t let you slack off. And let’s be real, the thought of taking years to get from one speed level to the next is scarier than a ghost story. But fear not, my friends. By using a timer creatively, you can transform your practice sessions and speed up your learning process. In this article, we’ll show you some of the best timer techniques to up your steno game. Trust us, you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it can make!

Time is on Your Side: The Benefits of Using a Timer for Steno Students

Incorporating a timer into your stenography practice can help you in several ways. Here are a few benefits of using a timer:

Enhances focus

By setting a timer for a designated amount of time, you create a sense of urgency that encourages you to focus solely on the task at hand. When you know you only have a limited amount of time to work on something, you’re more likely to avoid distractions and fully engage with the activity. This heightened focus can lead to greater productivity and better results.

Prevents burnout

Timers can also help prevent burnout by providing regular breaks. Taking short breaks throughout your work or practice session can help recharge your mind, allowing you to return to the task with renewed energy and focus. By using a timer to schedule these breaks, you can ensure that you stay attentive and avoid getting bogged down by mental fatigue.

Breaks tasks into manageable chunks

Dividing your practice time into smaller intervals using a timer makes tasks feel more manageable and less overwhelming. This can lead to increased productivity, as you’re more likely to tackle tasks in a structured manner rather than avoiding them due to their perceived difficulty. By dividing your practice time into manageable intervals, you create a sense of purpose and motivation to stay on task and make the most of each timed session.

Reduces procrastination

A timer creates a sense of urgency, which can help combat procrastination. By setting a timer for specific intervals, you’ll feel more inclined to start working and resist distractions, ultimately increasing your productivity.

Establishes structured routine

Using a timer can help you establish a structured routine, which can improve focus by eliminating uncertainty about when to start, stop, or take breaks. By maintaining a consistent practice schedule with timed intervals, you’ll train your brain to work efficiently and improve your transcription speed, your finger speed and accuracy over time.

Encourages time-consciousness

When you set a timer, you become more aware of how much time you’re spending on a task. This awareness helps you prioritize and allocate time more effectively, ensuring you make the most of each practice session.

Promotes discipline

Consistently using a timer during practice sessions instills discipline by encouraging you to adhere to a schedule. When you establish a routine, you’re more likely to stick to it and make steady progress in your practice.

Tracks progress

Using a timer helps you monitor your progress and set benchmarks for improvement. By tracking the time it takes to complete specific tasks, you can identify areas that need improvement and adjust your practice accordingly. Use a timer to measure and track your transcription speed, scores and translation rate over time. By monitoring your progress, you can set goals for improvement and stay motivated to continue refining your skills.


Choosing the Right Timer for Steno Success

So, what kind of timer should you use? There are plenty of options available, from the free timer on your smartphone to the built-in timer on your computer. For even more specialized features, consider trying a Pomodoro timer or even a fitness timer.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry – the most important thing is to commit to using a timer and then upgrade as needed. One timer app to check out is Complex Timer, available on the Play Store. This app lets you customize your timer plans and even add in breaks between tasks.

How to use a timer

Start by creating a to-do list for what you want to practice, and then set specific time limits for each task.

Things you will want to include are:

  • Finger Drills
  • Hesitation Words
  • Theory Textbook/Video Lesson Review
  • Dictation Practice

If you’re looking to maximize the effectiveness of your traditional dictation practice, we’ve got two great formulas to share with you! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced steno student, these formulas can help you structure your practice sessions and make the most of your time.

Timer Formula for Challenging Dictation Files

If you’re dealing with a dictation file that has a lot of new concepts or a higher speed than you’re used to, here’s a formula that can help you keep up. This formula is especially useful when the untranslate rate is higher than you’re comfortable with. It will give you more time to work through any challenging sections and help you improve your accuracy and understanding.

Let’s start with the formula for transcription time, which is:

Transcription Time = Time of Dictation File X 2

So, if your dictation file is 10 minutes long, your transcription time should be:

Transcription Time = 10 minutes X 2 = 20 minutes

This means that you should spend 20 minutes transcribing the text.


Now let’s move on to the formula for drilling time, which is:

Drilling Time = Time of Dictation File X 3

Using the same example of a 10-minute dictation file, your drilling time would be:

Drilling Time = 10 minutes X 3 = 30 minutes

This means that you should spend 30 minutes drilling any areas of concern so you can improve your skillset and do better on any future attempt.

By using this formula, you can tackle even the most difficult dictation files.


one-minute dictation23
two-minute dictation46
three-minute dictation69
four-minute dictation812
five-minute dictation1015

Timer Formula for Simpler Dictation Files

If you’re working on a dictation file that is easy for you because it doesn’t contain many challenging words or concepts, and is dictated at a speed you can comfortably keep up with without too many untranslates, here’s a formula that can help you structure your practice session:

For transcription time:

Transcription Time = Length of Dictation File + 1

For example, for a two-minute dictation file, the formula would be:

Transcription Time = 2 + 1 = 3 minutes


For drilling time:

Drilling Time = Length of Dictation File + 2

For example, for a two-minute dictation file, the formula would be:

Drilling Time = 2 + 2 = 4 minutes


Using these formulas, you can quickly calculate how much time you should spend on transcription and drilling for any length of dictation file. By using these formulas, you can structure your dictation practice sessions and ensure you’re spending the right amount of time on each task.

one-minute dictation23
two-minute dictation34
three-minute dictation45
four-minute dictation56
five-minute dictation67


Timed Transcription Challenges

Compete against yourself by creating timed transcription challenges. This works especially well for hardcopy practice but can work with any dictation file.

Hard Copy Practice with Timed Challenges

  1. Select a suitable passage: Choose a passage to transcribe that is interesting and challenging.
  2. Determine your goal: Establish a target for how long it should take you to transcribe the entire passage. To do this, divide the word count of the passage by your desired words per minute (WPM). For example, if the passage is 400 words and you aim to write at 100 WPM, your goal is to finish transcribing within four minutes.
  3. Start the timer: As you begin transcribing, race against the clock to finish before time runs out. This added pressure will help you improve your, concentration, reaction time, speed and accuracy over time.
  4. Evaluate your performance: After you have written the entire passage, without scoping your work, except to add any untranslates to your dictionary if need, use a free text comparison tool, like Editpad, to check your work. This tool allows you to compare the original passage with your transcription, providing a score based on accuracy.
  5. Adjust your goals: You should do this exercise at least once more. Modify your goals to either complete the passage within a shorter timeframe or maintain the same timeframe while aiming for fewer errors.
  6. Raise the challenge: As you improve, reduce the allowed time to increase the difficulty and push yourself to reach new heights in your writing skills.

Dictation Practice with Timed Challenges

  1. Choose your dictation: Select a dictation file to transcribe. You can select a file from any category at whatever speed.
  2. Set a transcribing goal: Determine how long it should take you to transcribe the file. This goal should be based on your current skill level and the complexity of the material.
  3. Begin the race against time: Start the timer and work diligently to finish transcribing the material before the timer runs out.
  4. Focus on problem areas: As you transcribe, prioritize addressing untranslates and other obvious issues. If you encounter a particularly difficult section, skip it and move to the next area of concern. Remember, you’re racing against the clock!
  5. Submit for grading: Once the timer is up, submit your transcript for evaluation. Use the feedback to identify areas for improvement.
  6. Drill: Pick what words, concept, and/or sections you want to drill, and set a timer so you can drill for an allotted amount of time.
  7. Push yourself: Practice the dictation at least once more with a new goal. Modify your goal by gradually shortening the allotted time for transcribing. As you improve, challenge yourself to work faster and more efficiently.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to scope according to your steno notes, not your memory, to ensure genuine improvement.

By incorporating a timer into your practice sessions, you’ll develop better time management skills, maintain focus, and improve your overall productivity, ultimately helping you get more done in less time.

The Pomodoro Technique

One of the most popular ways steno students use a timer when practicing is by applying the Pomodoro Technique. This time management method involves breaking your work into short, focused intervals (usually 25 minutes) with brief breaks in between. By breaking your work into short, focused intervals followed by brief breaks, you can maintain concentration and boost productivity. Here’s how to apply the Pomodoro Technique to your stenography practice:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start practicing.
  2. When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
  3. Repeat this process four times, then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

You can easily integrate the Pomodoro Technique with other timer schedules to maximize your practice sessions. For instance, during a 25-minute focused interval, you could work on a four-minute dictation file, transcribe for eight minutes, and drill for 12 minutes, leaving one extra minute to spare. Alternatively, you can adjust your Pomodoro sessions to be 24 minutes long, followed by a six-minute break.

To learn more about combining the Pomodoro Technique with stenography practice, check out our article titled “Slicing Through Steno Challenges: The Pomodoro Technique.”


The ways to use a timer when practicing as a steno student are plentiful and can significantly improve your skills, speed, and focus. By incorporating these techniques into your practice routine, you can make the most of your steno practice sessions.

Experiment with different timer intervals and methods to discover what works best for you. Remember, practice makes perfect, and by consistently using a timer during your stenography practice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient stenographer. Time’s up – it’s time to get practicing!


“Stay focused and disciplined – when the timer goes off, move on to the next task on your list, no matter where you are in the process. Success is about commitment and consistency, so keep pushing forward and don’t let distractions or unfinished business slow you down.”

“I write down what time I start drilling on a piece of paper or set a timer.”

“I set a timer for going over my files. Once the timer goes off no matter where I am I move on.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How often should I use a timer when practicing stenography as a steno student?

A: Use a timer as often as needed to maintain focus and build speed. Many steno students find it helpful to use a timer during every practice session.

Q: Is there an optimal time interval for steno practice?

A: The ideal time interval varies depending on the individual. Experiment with different intervals to find what works best for you.

Q: Can I use a timer to prevent burnout during my steno practice?

A: Yes, a timer can help prevent burnout by providing regular breaks. Taking short breaks throughout your work or practice session can help recharge your mind, allowing you to return to the task with renewed energy and focus. By using a timer to schedule these breaks, you can ensure that you stay attentive and avoid getting bogged down by mental fatigue.

Q: How can using a timer help me improve my stenography skills?

A: Using a timer can help you in several ways. It enhances your focus by creating a sense of urgency, prevents burnout by providing regular breaks, breaks tasks into manageable chunks, reduces procrastination, establishes a structured routine, encourages time-consciousness, promotes discipline, and tracks your progress. By incorporating a timer into your practice sessions, you’ll develop better time management skills, maintain focus, and improve your overall productivity, ultimately helping you get more done in less time.

Q: What kind of timer should I use for stenography practice?

A: There are plenty of options available, from the free timer on your smartphone to the built-in timer on your computer. For even more specialized features, consider trying a Pomodoro timer or even a fitness timer. One timer app to check out is Complex Timer, available on the Play Store. This app lets you customize your timer plans and even add in breaks between tasks.

Q: How do I use a timer when practicing stenography?

A: Start by creating a to-do list for what you want to practice, and then set specific time limits for each task. You can use a formula to calculate how much time you should spend on transcription and drilling for any length of dictation file. Another way to use a timer is to create timed transcription challenges, either with hardcopy practice or dictation practice. You can also apply the Pomodoro Technique by breaking your work into short, focused intervals with brief breaks in between.

Q: How can using a timer help me reach graduation speed level requirements more quickly?

A: By incorporating a timer into your practice sessions, you’ll develop better time management skills, maintain focus, and improve your overall productivity, ultimately helping you get more done in less time. You’ll also be able to track your progress and set benchmarks for improvement, leading to faster progress towards graduation speed level requirements.

Q: How can I measure my progress using a timer?

A: Using a timer helps you monitor your progress and set benchmarks for improvement. By tracking the time it takes to complete specific tasks, you can identify areas that need improvement and adjust your practice accordingly. You can use a timer to measure and track your transcription speed, scores, and translation rate over time. By monitoring your progress, you can set goals for improvement and stay motivated to continue refining your skills.

Q: Will using a timer for my steno practice really help me graduate sooner?

A: While using a timer alone won’t guarantee you’ll graduate sooner, it can certainly help. By using a timer to improve your focus, prevent burnout, break tasks into manageable chunks, reduce procrastination, establish a structured routine, track progress, and promote discipline, you’ll become more efficient in your steno practice. Ultimately, this increased efficiency can help you reach your speed level requirements faster and graduate sooner.


Slicing Through Steno Challenges: The Pomodoro Technique

Slicing Through Steno Challenges: The Pomodoro Technique

Once upon a time in the world of stenography, there was a student who faced the mighty challenges of mastering right-hand phrase enders, honing transcription accuracy, and achieving dizzying speed goals. The journey was demanding, and the student often found their concentration waning, their motivation dwindling, and their progress slowing. Until one day, they stumbled upon a secret weapon—a time management method known as the Pomodoro Technique.

Armed with this new approach, the student began to break their steno practice into focused, manageable intervals, interspersed with refreshing breaks. And soon, a transformation took place. As the timer ticked away, so did their concerns and distractions, replaced by a newfound sense of productivity and progress.

If you, too, are a steno student on a quest to conquer the challenges of stenography, join us as we explore the magical world of the Pomodoro Technique and unlock its potential to help you achieve your goals with ease and finesse.

 What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It involves breaking work into short, focused intervals called “Pomodoros” (from the Italian word for “tomato,” inspired by Cirillo’s kitchen timer), followed by a short break. After completing four Pomodoros, a longer break is taken. This technique aims to increase productivity, reduce procrastination, and maintain focus.

The Steps in the Pomodoro Technique

  1. Set your timer: Grab a timer and set it for 25 minutes. This will be your focused work period, also known as a “Pomodoro.” During this time, you’ll concentrate solely on your steno studies, so get ready to dive in!
  2. Get to work: Start practicing your stenography skills. Whether you’re transcribing a dictation file or working on finger drills, make sure you stay focused and committed during these 25 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you’re fully engaged!
  3. Take a break: When the timer goes off, it’s time for a little break. Set your timer for 5 minutes and step away from your machine, laptop and/or books. Stretch your legs, grab a snack, or just relax for a few minutes. This short break helps refresh your mind and keeps you from getting burned out.
  4. Repeat the process: Once your break is over, reset the timer for another 25 minutes and get back to work. Keep repeating this process until you’ve completed four Pomodoro sessions, or about 2 hours of focused work.
  5. Enjoy a longer break: After completing four Pomodoros, you deserve a longer break. Set your timer for 15-30 minutes and take some time to recharge. This longer break ensures that your brain stays sharp and ready for more practice.

By using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll find that your stenography practice becomes more structured, focused, and enjoyable.

Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique offers several benefits, including:

  • Improved concentration
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Reduced stress and mental fatigue
  • Better work-life balance
  • More efficient time management

How to Implement Pomodoro Technique for Steno Students

Setting Up Your Environment

To get started, make sure your study area is clean, organized, and free from distractions. Gather all necessary materials, including your steno machine.

Choosing the Right Timer

Select a timer to track your Pomodoros. There are many options available, including physical timers, smartphone and computer apps, or browser extensions. Choose the one that works best for you. You can also use a printable to track your progress.

Planning Your Tasks

Before starting a study session, make a list of tasks you want to accomplish during your Pomodoros. This could include practicing specific dictation files, video lessons, theory review exercises, and/or speedbuilding dictations.

Breaking Down Your Tasks

Divide your tasks into smaller, manageable chunks that can be completed within the duration of a single Pomodoro. For example, if you’re reviewing a certain chapter from  your theory book, you could break the task into smaller sections of watching the video lesson, reading the textbook, practicing dictation files from that chapter, during each Pomodoro.

Working in Sprints

Set your timer for 25 minutes and begin your first Pomodoro. During this time, focus solely on the task at hand, and avoid distractions. If an unrelated thought or task comes to mind, jot it down on a piece of paper to address later and continue with your current task.

Taking Breaks

After completing a Pomodoro, take a 5-minute break. Use this time to stand up, stretch, or grab a drink of water. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes to recharge your mental energy.

Customizing the Pomodoro Technique for Steno Students

Adjusting the Duration

While the traditional Pomodoro Technique suggests 25-minute work intervals, feel free to adjust the duration to suit your needs. Some steno students may find shorter or longer intervals more effective, depending on their concentration levels and the nature of the task.

Adding Additional Breaks

If you find yourself struggling to maintain focus, consider adding additional short breaks between Pomodoros. These breaks can help prevent mental fatigue and keep your mind sharp throughout your study session.


And so, the once weary steno student emerged victorious in their battle against the mighty challenges of stenography. The Pomodoro Technique had become their trusted ally, guiding them through focused sessions and rejuvenating breaks, leading them to conquer complex outlines, improve their realtime accuracy, and reach astonishing speed goals.

The student’s journey, once filled with frustration and fatigue, now brimmed with newfound energy and determination. The Pomodoro Technique had not only transformed the way they studied but also instilled in them a profound understanding of the value of time management and balance.

So, fellow steno students, take heart from this tale of triumph and remember that with the powerful tool of the Pomodoro Technique by your side, you too can overcome the challenges of steno school and forge your path to success, one tomato at a time. And as the clock ticks on, may your focus grow stronger, your motivation soar, and your progress be unstoppable.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I use the Pomodoro Technique for other subjects or tasks besides stenography?

A. Absolutely! The Pomodoro Technique is versatile and can be applied to any task or subject that requires concentration and focus.

Q. How can I stay focused during my Pomodoros if I keep getting distracted?

A. Minimize distractions by silencing your phone, closing unnecessary browser tabs, and letting others around you know you’re working. If you’re still struggling, try adjusting the duration of your Pomodoros or incorporating additional breaks.

Q. What if 25 minutes is too long or too short for my study sessions?

A. Feel free to adjust the duration of your Pomodoros to better suit your needs. Experiment with different lengths of time to find the optimal balance of focus and productivity.

Q. Can I combine the Pomodoro Technique with other study techniques?

A. Yes! The Pomodoro Technique can complement other study techniques, such as the Feynman Technique, spaced repetition, or flashcards.

Q. How do I know if the Pomodoro Technique is working for me?

A. Track your progress by noting the tasks you complete during each Pomodoro. If you find you’re accomplishing more in less time and maintaining better focus, the technique is likely working for you.



The Stenographer’s Conundrum: How to Avoid the “Write Perfect and Drop” Trap

The Stenographer’s Conundrum: How to Avoid the “Write Perfect and Drop” Trap

When you’re learning stenography, it’s important to avoid dropping words because it can lead to inaccuracies in your transcripts and ultimately affect your grades. In official settings, like legal proceedings, even a small mistake can cause big problems. It’s essential to pay attention to detail and strive for accuracy in your writing. In this blog article, we’ll be exploring the “write perfect and drop” syndrome in the school setting to help you avoid these mistakes and achieve your best results.

Don’t worry if you find yourself hesitating while writing – it’s a common challenge for many steno students (and even professionals)! The real issue arises when hesitation leads to drops in your writing. Even if you hesitate, remember to keep going and write something for what was said, even if it’s not perfect, that way you can stay on the speaker  and be ready to tackle the next word with confidence

It’s better to write more words with some errors than to write fewer words with no mistakes.

While striving for perfection can be a positive trait in many areas of life, it can actually hold a stenographer (whether student or professional) back in their work. The pursuit of the perfect stroke can create a mindset where any errors are seen as failures, which can be discouraging and hinder progress. Additionally, the focus on achieving the perfect stroke can lead to a hesitancy to write and a fear of making mistakes. This hesitancy can slow down a stenographer’s writing speed and make it difficult to keep up with the spoken words.

To achieve success in steno, it’s important to strike a balance between aiming for accuracy and efficiency while also allowing for a degree of flexibility and recognizing that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.

What is a “write perfect and drop” reporter?

A “write perfect and drop” reporter is a stenographer who strives for absolute perfection in their writing, to the point where they hesitate or drop words if they are unsure of the correct stroke or spelling. They may become fixated on achieving the perfect stroke or outline, which can slow down their writing speed and cause them to fall behind the speaker. In some cases, the “write perfect and drop” mindset can lead to a fear of making mistakes, which can further hinder a stenographer’s performance.

Getting a Stroke for Everything

The opposite of this syndrome can be phrased as “get a stroke for everything” or “write something for everything that is said.”

  • In the best-case scenario, “something” is a perfectly clean and accurate stroke.
  • Other times that “something” might be a misstroke or a portion of the correct word.
  • And in the worst-case scenario that “something” is undecipherable.

Ideally, the “something” you write is either correct or something you can figure out so you can transcribe the correct word. Getting a stroke for everything is a technique used by stenographers to ensure they capture as much of the spoken content as possible, even if they may not be able to write out every single word in full.  It is better to stay on the speaker and write something that later can be transcribed. You can always clean up your incorrect translations when you are transcribing. You cannot make up and fill in words that you have dropped.

It’s great to aim for perfection in writing and staying on the speaker! While we may not always achieve it, we can definitely work towards getting as close to that goal as possible.

Here are some tips to help you minimize drops:

Focus On Writing For Speed

This can be achieved by incorporating finger drills that target your weak spots, and gradually increasing your speed over time using a metronome. The key is to challenge yourself just enough to reach the next level without overwhelming yourself. By practicing finger drills with a metronome, you’ll not only increase your reaction time, but also build speed and confidence in writing complex outlines that require more dexterity.

You can also practice speed the traditional way by writing dictation files 10-35% faster than your immediate goal speed.

By completing each file three times and adjusting their speed for each attempt based on their performance, StenoKey students are able to challenge themselves and achieve rapid progress in their steno skills.  This tailored approach to practice ensures that students are working at a pace that maximizes their learning potential while maintaining engagement with the material.

Develop Great Writing Habits

Dedicate some of your practice time to developing great writing habits. This entails addressing weak spots in your writing theories and practicing words that cause you to hesitate, until they no longer pose a challenge to you. As you get stronger as a writer, you’ll find that you hesitate less and less when writing at your goal speed. Whenever you grade your work, keep an eye out for those pesky weak spots and tricky words that cause hesitation. By deliberately practicing these concepts and words, you’ll be able to write them automatically and confidently, so you can stay on top of the speaker during future dictations.

It’s important to understand that there are times to focus on speed and times to focus on accuracy, and those times don’t always line up. Before starting any dictation, take a moment to ask yourself what your goal is for that particular session. Are you practicing to learn a new concept? Or maybe you’re working on increasing your general speed? Whatever your goal may be, it’s important to have a clear understanding of it before starting, so that you can focus your energy and practice effectively.

As a steno student, your objective is to be able to transcribe your work with as few drops as possible. Many students become trapped at certain speeds for longer than necessary, not because they don’t know how to write the 95%+ words on the test at their goal speed, but because they drop too much. Excessive dropping is a serious hindrance to steno progress. By focusing on minimizing your drops and mastering your theory, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your speed and accuracy.

You will learn to trust your writing the more often you transcribe. You will also learn to decipher your misstrokes the more you transcribe.  Taking the approach of getting a stroke for everything, is not simply a change in mindset, but it requires modifications to how you approach your daily steno practice.

Drop Words Strategically

Remember, it’s normal to encounter challenges and have difficulty getting a stroke for everything, no matter how hard you try. You know those times when you find yourself struggling to keep up with the speaker, feeling like your accuracy and confidence are slipping away? It’s a frustrating experience that can quickly lead to dropping words or even giving up altogether. But before you reach that point, there’s a strategy you can use to regain control: strategic dropping. By making intentional decisions about which words to drop, you can stay in sync with the speaker and maintain your focus and accuracy.

In steno school, errors are counted on a per-word basis, meaning that a five-syllable word and a one-syllable word both count as a single error if dropped. When faced with a challenging word, it’s often better to simply drop it and focus on capturing the following words to stay on pace with the speaker. Unfortunately, some students may become fixated on a single difficult word, causing them to lose focus and drop multiple words as a result. Once you grade your file, you can identify which words were dropped and focus on mastering them in future practice sessions.

Avoid Looking At Screens

Looking at your realtime screen, machine screen, or hands while writing steno can be tempting (I mean, how could it not – it’s like so cool!), but it’s important for students to avoid this habit. Doing so can negatively impact your writing speed and disrupt your concentration.

There are a few reasons why looking at your screens can affect your performance, but the most significant one is the distraction it creates. If you happen to notice an error on the screen, the temptation to immediately fix it or mistakenly believe that you can recall the correct word can divert your attention and cause you to fall behind the speaker and lose overall momentum.

To avoid this, try strategies such as closing your eyes, focusing on a spot on the ground or wall, or zoning out by staring into space.

Practicing Writing In A Foreign Language

One effective way to break free from the “write perfect and drop” syndrome is to practice writing in various accents and dialects. This exercise can help you prepare for real-world scenarios where speakers may not use perfect English or speak in the same style as your typical practice material.

For stenographers severely struggling with the “write perfect and drop” syndrome, here’s a technique that can take your practice to the next level: writing in a foreign language. This exercise can help you develop a more acute sense of sound and improve your reaction time when writing challenging speech patterns.

Writing in a foreign language also requires you to forego the use of your CAT system’s translation capabilities, as these foreign words are not defined or familiar to you. Instead, you’ll need to rely on your ability to write what you hear, no matter how unfamiliar the words may be. Strive to capture the sound as accurately as possible, rather than worrying about the output on your realtime screen. While this approach may seem daunting at first, it can be a valuable tool for overcoming the “write perfect and drop” syndrome and achieving greater proficiency in stenography This exercise will help you develop the fundamental skill of writing what is said, enabling you to produce accurate transcriptions with minimal drops.

Stay Relaxed

Stress and anxiety can cause you to tense up, which can slow down your writing speed and make it harder to keep up with the spoken word. Many steno students will notice they hold their breath when the speed or content becomes a bit overwhelming. Holding your breath is a natural response to stress and anxiety, but it can actually make the situation worse. When you hold your breath, your body tenses up, which can slow down your writing speed and make it harder to keep up with the spoken word. Additionally, when you hold your breath, your brain may not be getting enough oxygen, which can impair your cognitive function and make it more difficult to think clearly and accurately write the dictation.

It’s important for steno students to practice relaxation techniques and focus on their breathing to reduce stress and tension and improve their writing speed and accuracy. If you catch yourself holding your breath, simply think “breathe” and take a breath in and out. Similarly, if you notice your shoulders creeping up towards your ears, consciously relax them and let them drop down while thinking “relax.” These small adjustments can help you stay relaxed and focused, even in high-pressure situations. Stress doesn’t have to control your writing; with practice and dedication, you can learn to manage it and excel.


Don’t get discouraged if there are times when you can’t get a stroke for everything — it’s a natural part of the learning process! The key is to keep practicing and building your skills, even if it means making mistakes along the way.


Stop Making the Same Mistakes: How Grading Your Dictation Can Improve Your Accuracy

Stop Making the Same Mistakes: How Grading Your Dictation Can Improve Your Accuracy

Grading every dictation you write is an essential step towards improving your stenography skills. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced stenographer, grading your dictation is a critical part of the practice process.

Why Grading Your Dictation is Essential

Grading Helps Identify Mistakes

The most obvious thing grading your dictation does is help you identify your mistakes. This allows you to focus on those specific areas during practice and improve your accuracy.

If you don’t grade your work, you could be making mistakes without even realizing it. This can be a serious problem because you won’t know what areas you need to work on. You might think you have mastered a certain concept, when in fact your grade will reveal that you haven’t. On the other hand, you may be struggling with something you think is easy, like words starting with “comp-“, but only through grading can you discover that you are actually stroking them incorrectly and/or dropping words shortly after writing comp- words.

By grading your work and identifying areas of weakness, you can make the most out of each practice session and achieve your goals faster. This means you can better plan what to practice in your practice sessions. As a StenoKey participant, if you identify a weakness in your writing, simply request a customized practice plan, dictation as well as comprehensive worksheets tailored to your needs.  A StenoKey participant can also schedule one-on-one sessions for help with any area. If you are a StenoKey participant and you prefer working with a group, you can even propose a live class so our community can help you turn any area of weakness into a strength.

Grading Helps Track Progress

Grading also helps you track your progress. By grading every dictation, you can see how much you’ve improved over time, especially when working on the same dictation multiple times. Keep track of the number of words you drop on each attempt, so you can see how much progress you’re making! When you are doing a dictation multiple times, make a note of where your drops occurred and aim to write every single word on the next attempt so you won’t have drops in the same place (or at all). With each attempt, you have the opportunity to improve your skills and overcome your weak spots. Remember, you have already listened to the dictation file and graded it at least once, so you are better prepared for the next attempt. Embrace the challenge and keep pushing yourself to write better and more accurately with each try.

Keep in mind that for many, drops in your dictation may not always be caused by a word that was dropped. Often, drops are caused by a word earlier in the sentence or even the prior sentence that causes the writer to hesitate and fall behind the speaker.

Grading Helps Develop Your Ear

Another benefit of grading is that it helps you develop your ear. Stenography is all about listening and transcribing quickly and accurately. By regularly grading your dictation, you are training your ear to pick up on the nuances of speech and improve your ability to transcribe what you hear. This is a valuable skill in the real world, where you cannot always ask someone to repeat what they said. Grading can also enhance your comprehension and listening skills.

Tips for Grading Your Work

Learn from each dictation! Drilling your weak spots before attempting the file again is also crucial. This is how you can practice writing cleanly and improve any areas of concern. Each dictation is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Remember, grading is not just about achieving a passing score, but it’s also about identifying areas where you can improve and tracking your progress. With each dictation, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and become a better realtime reporter or closed-captioning provider.

A grade on a dictation file does not define your worth as a stenographer or as a person. However, it can provide valuable feedback on areas where you can improve and help you take the necessary steps to level up your skills. So, don’t let a low grade discourage you. Instead, use it as an opportunity to identify areas where you need to focus your efforts and keep working towards your goals.

Writing to the Best of Your Ability

Grading your work is just one crucial step towards improving your skillset, but it’s not the only one. Writing to the best of your ability is equally important. Knowing that you will grade your work should make you want to write your best so you can get an accurate assessment of your performance. If you’re determined to become a professional reporter or focused on improving your speedbuilding skills, then transcribing to the best of your ability is crucial. It’s necessary not just in the professional world, but also when getting certified to work. This means make a valiant effort in the transcription process so you can get an accurate reflection of how you performed. Treat every dictation file as if it were a test and put in your best effort to get an accurate reflection of your performance. With this mindset, you can continue to improve and achieve your goals as a stenographer.

What if you are not using an automated-grading platform?

Even if you do not have an automated-grading platform, you can still grade your work and identify areas for improvement. You can do this by listening to the dictation and comparing it to your transcript.  By doing so, you can identify errors such as dropped words, incorrect translations, added or transposed words, and misspellings.

Certification tests will deduct points for certain grammatical errors. If you want a better assessment of your performance with punctuation, capitalization, spacing, formatting, and compound words, you can use a free online grammar checker like Grammarly. However, keep in mind that these online checkers may not hold the same standards as court reporters and closed-caption providers.

If you are unsure about any grammar issue you are facing in a transcript, you can always post about it in the punctuation groups for court reporters found on Facebook or ask your mentor for guidance.  Are you unsure if something is an error? Download a copy of the NCRA grading guidelines for the RSR, RPR and RMR skills tests. This two-page document is available for download on their website.

What about those professionals seeking to become realtime reporters or closed-captions providers?

Are you a professional seeking to become a realtime reporter or closed-captions provider? It can be a daunting task to make the transition, but there are ways to make the process smoother. One important step is to grade everything, and using an auto-grading platform can make this task easier.

Using an auto-grader makes your journey to saleable realtime quicker because you can quickly identify areas you need to improve on and focus on them. Since you are not required to transcribe or scope any of the dictation you work on, you will have additional time to concentrate on improving your weaker areas. Don’t be afraid to take that next step in your career as a professional realtime reporter or closed-captions provider – with the right tools and mindset, you can make it happen!

For those seeking to transition into closed captioning or providing realtime, it’s essential to look for untranslates in your feed and add them to the dictionary. I suggest you do this before grading any dictation file. This will help you improve your accuracy and provide better captions or realtime reporting.


Make grading every dictation you write a regular part of your practice routine and watch your skills improve. In the real world, your work will be graded by your clients or employers. By practicing the habit of grading your own work, you’re preparing yourself for the high standards that come with being a professional stenographer.

At StenoKey, we take grading seriously. We believe that grading every single dictation file is essential for our participants’ development and mastery of their theory. All of our dictation files are located on our private domain within the Realtime Coach network and can quickly be graded within this system. No matter how many times a student has completed a dictation file, they are required to grade it. By doing so, they can better understand how they are writing, and our instructors can provide personalized assistance. This process helps participants to practice writing at their best, which is crucial for success on certification tests. Moreover, grading allows students and instructors to identify areas that need improvement and determine if they should move on to new concepts or review previous ones.


Q: Why is grading your dictation essential for improving stenography skills?

A: Grading your dictation helps identify mistakes, allowing you to focus on specific areas during practice and improve your accuracy. It also helps track progress over time, develop your listening skills, and assists in planning more effective practice sessions.

Q: How does grading help with tracking progress in stenography?

A: By grading every dictation, you can see how much you’ve improved over time, especially when working on the same dictation multiple times. Keeping track of the number of dropped words on each attempt allows you to visualize your progress.

Q: What benefits can grading provide in terms of developing listening skills?

A: Grading helps develop your ear for stenography, as it trains you to pick up on the nuances of speech and improve your ability to transcribe what you hear. This is valuable for real-world situations where you cannot always ask someone to repeat what they said.

Q: How can you grade your work if you don’t have an automated-grading platform?

A: You can grade your work by listening to the dictation and comparing it to your transcript. This process helps you identify errors such as dropped words, incorrect translations, added or transposed words, and misspellings. For a better assessment of punctuation, capitalization, and other grammatical aspects, you can use a free online grammar checker like Grammarly.

Q: How can auto-grading platforms help professionals seeking to become realtime reporters or closed-caption providers?

A: Auto-grading platforms allow you to quickly identify areas for improvement and focus on them. Since you’re not required to transcribe or scope any of the dictation you work on, you’ll have more time to concentrate on improving weaker areas, making the transition to realtime reporting or closed-caption providing smoother and quicker.

9 questions to ask yourself to improve your steno skills

9 Questions To Ask Yourself To Improve Your Steno Skills

9 questions to ask yourself to improve your steno skills


Here are a few questions to ask yourself at the end of each dictation or when you find yourself struggling in a chapter.


  1. Are you analyzing your steno notes? Look for shadowing, stacking. Look for misstrokes. Reading through your mess and knowing the kind of misstrokes you make will help you a ton in testing situations, but also it shows you exactly what you need to work on to master the concepts in the dictation file.
  2. Are you keeping a list of errors? Use the hesitation list worksheet. Be sure to date it at the top. It also helps to group from which dictation you pulled these words/phrases.
  3. Are you noting what is wrong due to dexterity vs memory? You will treat these errors differently. Dexterity issues require finger drills. What part of the outline causes you trouble? Now work on the “right side” of that outline and then work on the “left side” of the outline, by going back and forth between either STPH/SKWR or -FPLT/-RBGS.
  4. Are there certain conflicts giving you issues? If so, use the blank keyboard worksheet. Draw the proper outlines. Now try to explain the difference and why that makes sense to you. Teaching is the highest form of learning. If you can explain it, you can retain it.
  5. Are you reading back your notes? This helps cement the outlines into your brain. This is similar to flashcards.
  6. Are you transcribing every dictation you write? Transcribe it and then grade it.
  7. Are you practicing the sentence before an error and the sentence after an error? Practice it until you can write all three sentences smoothly, with little to zero hesitation.
  8. Are you adding the entries properly to your dictionary? Yes, it happens. If you have “this” translating to “that,” you will have a ton of errors and not even understand because the improper word made sense.
  9. Are you writing in one stroke all the phrases taught? If not, which ones are you writing out? Sort them by common denominator. With this information you can make drills to address your needs. Now put them in random.org/lists and mix them up if you think drilling the words will help you with or without a metronome.
Economic Impact of COVID-19

Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Court Reporting Industry

Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Court Reporting Industry

Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Court Reporting Industry

With all that’s happened in 2020 with the pandemic and millions of people around the world losing their jobs, it’s hard to imagine many bright spots coming out of it. However, the dramatic effect that the Coronavirus caused the economy will result in more demand for court reporters. Mortgage defaults, bankruptcy, lawsuits, you name it. Although the result of the pandemic will hurt most of the population, court reporters are going to enjoy the uptick in demand. Here are seven reasons why court reporters will be in higher demand in 2021 and 2022.

#1: Foreclosures 

Due to the pandemic wiping out the jobs of millions of hardworking Americans, it makes it harder for them to keep up with their mortgage payments. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is still plaguing us in 2021, overall delinquency rates in every state has experienced an annual uptick.

Missed Payments By Moth April 2020 to September 2020
Missed Payments By Moth April 2020 to September 2020

Even with temporary foreclosure bans and stimulus, we are still going to see many foreclosures, especially on commercial real estate that features many small businesses and brick-and-mortar shops. Highly dense metropolitan areas, such as New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C., are also expected to see an uptick in delinquency rates and future foreclosures. This means that court reporters currently already working in any of those cities are going to see a lot more opportunity to produce transcripts for these types of disputes. It also gives court reporters that aren’t currently living in the city another reason to move.


#2: Commercial Bankruptcies

Commercial Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filings
Commercial Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filings

Due to the huge decreases in consumer demand coupled with lockdown restrictions, many large companies were forced into bankruptcy. Many of these companies were already struggling before the virus, but now are forced to downsize and pay back their debts. Hundreds of companies in the United States were forced to file for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t even include the mom and pop shops forced into permanent closure. Many of the small businesses are being propped up by government aid right now, but with the stimulus to come to an eventual end as the federal reserve takes inflation into account, expect to see many more small business bankruptcies in the near future.

Similar to the situation with foreclosures, the government can only delay the effects of the pandemic for so long before people start filing into the courts. As a court reporter, this means that you can expect a whole lot more work come 2022.

I'm going to do whatever I can to be a court reporter in 2021! Share on X

#3: Coronavirus Fraud

With the US government giving out stimulus checks to increase consumer demands, many different scams have popped up in order to steal your checks. Fake e-mails, websites, and companies are targeting millions of Americans and some even pose as being government officials. Even worse, there’s been more and more companies that claim to sell the cure to Coronavirus. Get-rich-quick schemes have also been on the rise with the hope of enticing the millions of people who have lost their jobs. Both types of scams are sure to be put under more scrutiny as time passes, and you can be sure to expect many of the individuals behind these schemes at your local courthouse.

#4: Workplace Controversy

While the majority of the population is allowed to stay at home, some essential workers are still forced to go to work each day. Although most companies provide their workers with the essential protection and safety needed during times like this, not all are perfect. Lack of personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE,” poor sanitization, and overcrowded rooms are leading workers to become unhappy with their working conditions and in turn protest their company’s treatment. Because of incidents like this, many companies have elected to lawyer up and create a legal forcefield so that complaints are kept at a minimum and things don’t get too intense.

 However, there’s still been an overall increase in the amount of businesses taken to court because of worker treatment and ethical disputes, leading to more court cases and, of course, increased demand for court reporters. Although workplace controversy won’t have a lasting impact on demand, it’s definitely an issue that could persist for the rest of 2021 and maybe even stretch until 2023, as workers may choose to hold off their accusations in order to keep their jobs for the time being.

#5: Wills and Estate Planning

Covid Cases and Death For Every Month in 2020 and 2021 in the United States
Covid Cases and Death For Every Month in 2020 and 2021 in the United States

The sad reality of the pandemic has been that many Americans have died of the virus, and with that they leave their will and estate to their family members. However, the Coronavirus happened so suddenly, and many Americans didn’t exactly see such a terrible thing happening so soon. This means that older citizens might’ve died prematurely and never officially signed off their will and estates to someone. This means that the family members and close friends of those taken by the Coronavirus will be forced to dispute their positions in court. Until a cure is found, more Americans will fall victim to the virus, leaving their wills to be argued in court. As a court reporter, this means more work available for you and opportunity to build up your own estate. 

#6: General Crime

With the loss of jobs resulting from the pandemic, some people have lost their only source of income, and so they’ve elected to turn to crime in order to put food on the table. Although official data suggests that crimes such as burglaries have gone down, the government can’t track the exact amount of people that have turned to selling guns and drugs in order to survive. People have also been forced to counterfeit checks and such in order to buy necessities. Sadly, the virus will turn some individuals to a life of crime and their actions now will surely result in a court case.

#7: Family Disputes

The pandemic lockdowns have also shown some couples that they aren’t exactly made for each other. The aftermath of the pandemic resulted in skyrocketing divorce rates in China and the same could happen in the US. As couples start seeing each other 24/7 and start getting really agitated by each other, daily arguments could turn to bigger fights, ultimately resulting in a divorce. Couples can also get ensued in a custody battle if they happened to have kids. This means that you can expect the divorce rates and custody disputes to increase for the next little while, meaning more work for the court reporter in family court.

Divorce Rate Before and During Covid-19 Quarantine
Divorce Rate Before and During Covid-19 Quarantine

The pandemic has affected the income of many individuals. If this is true for a person who was receiving or paying alimony or child support, you can expect a court hearing to have the amount of support modified. Even if the state doesn’t have automatic transcript orders, these transcripts typically get ordered. This means more work and money for court reporters.

In the most serious cases, tensions can lead to violence, and 2020 saw a 9% increase in outreach to the National Domestic Violence Hotline compared to the same period last year.


Overall, 2020 hasn’t exactly had the best moments. Many negatives can be said about last year, but the aftereffects of the pandemic could have some positives for court reporters. Whether you’re deciding as to whether or not to become a court reporter or already in steno school, in the near future demand for court reporters will spike and you don’t want to be the one that misses out on all the opportunities. Graduate from stenography school now and become a part of the minority that benefit from the Coronavirus pandemic.