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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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.