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Why enter the speed contest? The answer really can be reframed as: Why do we want more speed?
In our everyday work as court reporters, we are constantly thinking, evaluating what we hear and how to render it on our realtime screens. Was that word in or and, imminent or eminent, cost or costs? We want our realtime to be as close to perfect as possible, even if no one else is seeing it, because every mistranslate or untranslate represents time that we have to spend making corrections after our session is over. Time is money; the more time I have to spend working on a transcript after the session is over, the less money I am making per hour worked and the less time I have for other activities in my life.
Of course, if we are taking speakers whose velocity of speech is at the outer limits of our capabilities, then we can’t afford to be thinking about those niceties of writing of homonyms and word boundaries, of punctuation, or even of understanding what we are hearing. All we can do is hold onto our hats and try to keep from being bucked off the speedy horse. Our guiding principle becomes just getting something down and figuring it out later!
So back to that first question: Why more speed? The more speed we have, the less often we have to spend effort just to keep up and the more we can focus on excellent realtime — and the more money per total hours worked we can make. Speed matters because it makes our realtime better, makes our work easier and less stressful, and earns us more money.
It was great to win the speed contest twice (in 2003 and 2011), but its greatest benefits came just because I was practicing for it, especially in those first years of entering, when I was thrilled just to qualify. My everyday writing became cleaner. I could focus on detailed realtime punctuation. I had time to make notes to myself. My work became far more enjoyable. In short, the most important rewards of gaining more speed have been the results that show up every day in my writing. Preparing for the contest, no matter how well or not I did in any year, has been a game-changer for my everyday work!
Alan H. Brock, RDR, CRR, is a freelance reporter from Boston, Mass.
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