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Mastering Machine Shorthand Series

Questions from Students:

From Jennifer in Pennsylvania

I haven't passed my 80's tests yet, I missed the last one by about 12 errors.  Oh well, at least I'm getting closer.


Okay.  You missed it by 12 errors?!  That’s getting close.  If you found that some of those errors where In your Notes And you just didn’t transcribe correctly, here is a Great tip.  This was my favorite tip in school.  It takes time, but I saved at least 1-5 errors on nearly EVERY test with this!


As you type up your notes, draw a vertical line down the notes as you transcribe each section…like from the STKPWHR to the FRPBLGTS or every few strokes…marking your place every few words, typing, then drawing the line down every few words again and typing… Now for the part that always helps.

Once finished.  Start from the Back of your notes and read them backwards.  Go up about 3-5 words, drawing a line upwards in your notes to mark the section, then check your paper.  Go up a few more words, drawing a line as go, and check your paper.  It is amazing what you will find reading it backwards that you mind just didn’t see forward…or saw it but because your mind “knew” what was correct, it misses a word or something.

  If you don’t think your mind can play tricks on you, read the following paragraph:


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.


Isn’t that wacky!  Your brain will fill in holes and make some sense of trashed and good notes.  So doublecheck yourself by going backwards if you have time and your mind won’t make sense of what it thinks or knows is right, You’ll actually type what is in your notes!



From Debi in California


I am currently in 120. So, I would like the CD2.  Also, I would like the retention CD when it become available. I am really struggling to gain speed. I practice a lot, but I hesitate a lot. I can't seem to just flow from word to word. I actually feel myself hesitating on each word to make sure to stroke it correctly. I really have to get past this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



120s is one of the toughest speeds overall. You're not alone in your struggles. I got an email from a student in Sacramento, CA who was stuck and 120s. She recently emailed me to let me know she's out! But she sounded just like you a couple months ago.

The hesitation on each word is very common around that speed. Your mind can no longer keep up with keeping track of hearing, thinking, stroking, verifying, etc.....at the slower speeds your fingers and familiarity with the keyboard can hold you up...but now, because of the higher speed, you can't have "control" over everything you hear and stroke...you just have to do it.

You probably can't tell me quickly where the W or final B is on the machine without thinking about it or mentally stroking it - because it's just natural now, you "know" where they are. It would take you longer to tell someone where it is than to just stroke it.

Soon you won't be able to "tell" anyone, mainly yourself, how you stroked the dictation...you'll just write it...and, as an afterthought, you'll know that you stoked it correctly - just like you know you'll stroke a final G correctly anytime and every time someone asks.

It's the switching over to autopilot that's causing the hesitation. You probably still want control over what you're stroking and aren't able or willing to move on without the "verification" from your mind that you did it correctly.

Unfortunately, there's no way to just say, "Ok. I won't think; I'll just write." Because that normally requires extra thinking to continually process that thought, which may put you behind again. You are, however, doing the absolute right thing, practice a lot.

Try switching up how you practice (tapes, books, TV, metronome, etc.) and what materials you practice (tapes, books, drills, adding briefs, etc.). Just keep writing stuff until you're so familiar with writing that you'll finally relax and get to autopilot-type writing.

120s is fast enough to start adding some extra briefs, especially if you're stuck. I'm only a big believer in briefs if they work for you. It's not worth trying to add the brief if it causes more hesitation - give it a few tries...if it doesn't flow, disregard it. If you like it still, try it at a later speed. You might find some things you hesitate over can be cleaned up with a brief. Or it's not the word your hesitating on that is the real problem, it may be that you desperately needed to use a brief before. Example:

   Q    Is that your signature?

   A    No. As a matter of fact, I don't recognize it.

While you may still be stroking "No. As...", a person using briefs may already be done:

   Q    [STHAG]

   A    [TPHO] / [SPHABGT] / [KWRORZ] / [T]

5 Strokes. Not everything can be condensed as much, but "every little bit helps"


So try picking up some briefs that you feel come naturally at first...just start using those, and it will give you more time and confidence.


One other thing to try is the "modified-metronome." If you're can't seem to flow from word to word, try this: get out some paper material, like, um, Mastering Machine Shorthand, for instance ;-), put on your favorite music. Listen to the music ahead of time and listen to the beats (rather than using a metronome!). The music is much more fun and is has a beat you can follow. Pick a song that is below your speed...its a bit hard to try to count 1 & 3. Really find something slow. Slow is okay because this is an accuracy not a speed drill. Show tunes work the best.

Put the song on, get the beat and start stroking...one stroke per beat - And Do Not miss a beat, no matter what Do Not miss a beat. Stoke garbage, stoke the same stroke twice, five times if need be until you can find a spot and get going again. Just stroke something for every beat. This will force you Not to hesitate. Don't allow yourself to miss a beat "hesitate." Corrections are fine. Just make your correction stroke(s) on the beat.

I do hope you get through quickly and this will help. It is a long email, but I've been there, and it can be so frustrating. I just want to help if I can. Everyone is different so one thing may not work for you that did for others...just keep practicing and you'll find that you pass 3 tests in a couple days. That's what normally happens. You're completely stuck and boom! There it is, you're out.

From Caroline in Sacramento

Hi, Todd:

Thanks for the nice email.  I am going to school at Argonaut Court Reporting School in Sacramento, California.  I am currently (stuck) in 120's.  I'm hoping that your book will help me get into 140's, and so on, and so on, etc.! 

Are you a reporter?  Is stenopractice.com some type of organization for court reporters specifically? 

Again, thanks a bunch. 


Hi Caroline,

            Thank you for your email.  ListenUp News Publications is the name of the company that publishes the Mastering Machine Shorthand Series books.  Mainly, it just publishes that series.  It is my own company.  About 1995 I made some practice pages for myself and was practicing them at school.  Many students kept asking what I was practicing and wanted it too…that’s when the books were created.  The first book, Mastering Machine Shorthand, has been through three revisions and includes multiple theory briefs.

            I am one of the students in school who made it to 180s and didn’t finished!  I got married and started my Videography business for stable income…and never made it back to school.  My wife is a reporter and contributed a lot to your book too. 

            Most people that order the book seem to be around 120, like you; and many of them are stuck as well.  Sometimes a change in practice habits, a speed tape, a new semester, or practice books is what it takes to break through.  You should find that some briefs in the book will help and just the practice of accurate writing (or writing to music or a metronome) helps.  Don’t get too caught up on the briefs, just use the ones that are quick and easy to use…and pick up more later in 140s!

             I hope things go well and quickly for you.  Keep in touch, and any feedback is greatly welcomed.




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Last modified: 08/27/12