Nov 242015
 

How do you express numbers in your writing?

Blog pic Most reporters use Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters, 2nd Edition when looking for the correct way to use numbers and digits in their transcript.  But I am sure that someone will tell me that they use something different.  I was taught Morson’s, but I am sure there are other good guides, so we won’t go round and round about who is best.  My question really is:  How do you express numbers in your writing, and are you consistent?

Consistency is the key, I believe, in a good transcript.  If you make an error in a number/digit decision and it never repeats itself ever, I would say that is best.  But if you do make an error and you make it consistently in the transcript, while I am not recommending that, it may never be caught by the reader.  They may not know the rule.  So let’s talk about some of the obvious rules that most of us can agree on.

When do you use figures (digits) and when do you write out the number in words (letters)?  That is, when do you write 9 and when do you write nine?  Numbers under 10 should be spelled out.  I purchased two bananas yesterday at the store, but while I was there, I saw that they had 22 different versions of cookies available!  

  1. Number versus numeral.  First things first, what is the difference between a number and a numeral?  A number is an abstract concept while a numeral is a symbol used to express that number.  “Three,” “3″ and “III” are all symbols used to express the same number (or the concept of “threeness”).  One could say that the difference between a number and its numerals is like the difference between a person and her name.  So in this case, you would say John Paul II versus John Paul the second or John Paul 2.
  2. Spell small numbers out.  The small numbers, such as whole numbers smaller than ten, should be spelled out.  That’s one rule you can count on.  If you don’t spell numbers out it will look like you’re sending an instant message and is not appropriate for the legal transcript.
  3. Using the comma.  In English, the comma is used as a thousand’s separator (and the period as a decimal separator), to make large numbers easier to read.  So write the size of Alaska as 571,951 square miles instead of 571951 square miles.  If the number has a decimal in it like 4.2 percent of the class failed, then use the digits, not spelled out like four point two percent.
  4. Don’t start a sentence with a numeral.  Make it “Fourscore and seven years ago,” not “4 score and 7 years ago.”
  5. Centuries and decades should be spelled out.  Use the Eighties or nineteenth century.
  6. Percentages and recipes.  If this was informal writing or recipes, you can use digits, like “4% of the children” or “Add 2 cups of brown rice.”  In formal writing, however, you should spell the percentage out like “twelve percent of the players.”
  7. If the number is rounded or estimated, spell it out.  Rounded numbers over a million are written as a numeral plus a word.  Use “About 400 million people speak Spanish natively,” instead of “About 400,000,000 people speak Spanish natively.”  If you’re using the exact number, you’d write it out, of course.
  8. Two numbers next to each other.  It can be confusing if you write “7 13-year-olds,” so write one of them as a numeral, like “seven 13-year-olds.”  Pick the number that has the fewest letters.

9. Ordinal numbers and consistency.  Don’t say “He was my 1st true love,” but rather “He was my first true love.”  Be consistent within the same sentence.  If my teacher has 23 beginning students, she also has 18 advanced students, not eighteen advanced students.

Sep 182015
 

 Keeping It Real…Err…Realtime!

By Cynde Gregory

 

beeWhether you’re a “newbee”,  with just a little court reporting experience, a “worker bee” who knows the business from the inside out, or a “king-or-queen bee” who runs an agency, the one-day GCCRA Keeping It Realtime Conference held at the Wyndham Peachtree Hotel and Conference Center in Peachtree City on October 16 is one you don’t want to miss.

 

The conference not only offers 10 CE credits, a chance to network, see old friends and make new ones, it also presents a motherlode of hands-on information any court reporter can use.  Court reporting students are welcome with open arms, and GCCRA makes it easy on those who are learning the trade by offering student pricing. And for our members, early bird registration offers even more savings.  Don’t forget that both the membership fee, conference fee, and all associated expenses are tax deductible!

Click here for more info!

Track 1 & 2 (8-10 a.m.) will tackle realtime skills and the newest software releases with the industry pros.

Diving deeper finds Track 3 & 4 (10:15-12:15) revealing the depths of your software. For both sessions, remember your computers and voice equipment!

After lunch, Track 5 (1-2 p.m.) collections attorney Richard Parsons explores how to gracefully (or forcefully) convince late-payers to cough up the cash in a timely manner.

Track 6 (2:15-4:15) presents “The Back Story,” an interview with criminal attorney Kirby Clements.  His credits include Court TV, Nancy Grace, CNN, MSNBC, and a host of other news and television programs in which he has been consulted on his legal expertise.

After a quick snack, Track 7A (4:30-6 p.m.) explores the fascinating world of cold case investigations with Sheryl McCallum.

A second workshop offered in the same time slot, Track 7B with Caryn Broome, Angie Matthews, and Vickie Wiechec offers “The Art of Voice Writing,” realtime accuracy from simple craft to elegant art.

Want your money’s worth?  Stick around for the day’s final session, Track 8, from 6-7:30 to learn how tax and accounting guru Debbie Snelling can help students, reporters, and agency owners save hundreds or thousands of dollars by staying on top of deductions and credits.

GCCRA invites all busy bees to attend our fall conference.  Click here to register, and “bee” sure to attend!

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Jun 242015
 

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Newly Certified Reporters: Finding the Right Agency Fit

By Cynde Gregory with Rebecca Rodgers

 

For many newly certified court reporters, the pride of having successfully passed the national examination is balanced by an equal weight of anxiety. Newbies know their ability to accurately take down is strong and they’ve got a better understanding of the legal system than most folks, but the thought of competing for jobs with reporters who have years of experience can be enough to make them fear for their futures.

Fortunately, many of Georgia’s court reporting agencies welcome newly certified reporters. As Julia J. Scarborough of Macon’s Hawthorne & Webb Court Reporting & Video Conferencing points out, “Everybody has to have a starting point.” She has no problem working with reporters who have little or no experience as long as they are certified, professional and willing to accept oversight and guidance along the way. Many other agencies feel the same. After all, there are pluses to new hires who bring enthusiasm and new blood. Reporters with little or no working experience are typically eager to tailor their work to the specific needs and wishes of the agency that welcomes them aboard; not only that, but they also bring a boon of gratitude and loyalty to the firm. “We are happy to give an inexperienced reporter a chance,” says Rich Baker of Janice S. Baker & Associates, which offers services throughout North Georgia. “We will begin slowly with fill-in work and provide enough oversight to ensure the client will be happy with the results.”

Of course, newborn court reporters and those at the toddler stage must understand that while many firms offer training and support as they learn the ropes, the reporters’ successes (as well as the agency’s satisfaction) are ultimately up to them. Newbies need to rapidly absorb the tips and guidance they are offered, because an agency that has given them a chance expects to see steady improvement in the quality of work they produce.  New reporters must also bring their most qualified selves. Professional appearance, good grooming, promptness, and heeding deadlines are all essential because anything less reflects negatively on the firm. Rich Baker explains that his agency expects newly certified candidates to possess the kind of professionalism that is status quo for seasoned reporters. They must have equipment that is in good working order and sufficient to handle a job. Voice writers, for example, must own powerful computers, good masks and the latest software; they must also have logged in enough time with their own equipment to be able to use it with confidence.

Rookie reporters should also understand that training and supervision isn’t free to the firm. The adage “time is money” speaks volumes, and less experienced reporters should expect lower splits to compensate for the additional time firms devote to helping them get up to speed. Joyce Frassrand-Curl of Atlanta Peach Reporters, LLC, puts new reporters through a full year of training; for an exceptionally capable reporter, that time might be reduced.  Gainesville’s North Georgia Court Reporting Pavon Bohanan reports that her company also works with newly certified reporters and like most others, “The split will be lower at first.” Exceptions, such as Hawthorne & Webb Court Reporting & Video Conferencing, which takes 15% from any reporter regardless of experience, are few. Reporters who have completed certification and are ready to get to work really do need to realize that they will encounter all kinds of issues, questions and situations they aren’t ready to fully handle on their own. Continuing support through training and oversight is as valuable and as essential as the hours these new reporters have already spent in the classroom.

When asked what agencies look for in their new hires, the answer is the same across the board. Whether a reporter is seasoned or recently certified, focus, efficiency and careful attention to the myriad details involved in producing quality transcripts are essential traits. Rich Baker notes that “We look for reporters who come highly recommended, and we are likely to be more interested in new reporters who are involved in organizations such as the Georgia Certified Court Reporters Association.”

One question many new reporters have is the business nature of the professional relationship an agency offers. Most agencies work with reporters who are independent contractors. Among other things, the reporter is responsible for paying her own taxes and maintaining functioning equipment, but these expenses and others can be deducted at the end of the year. Working as an independent contractor allows reporters the opportunity to put out feelers to a number of agencies at once in order to keep up steady demand. There is a fine balance, though; while large agencies using dozens of reporters might only offer work on occasion, many firms depend upon their reporters to be fairly reliable. A reporter who turns down several work requests in a row because she has obligations to other agencies will find those offerings will trickle or stop altogether.  Smaller firms, such as Janice S. Baker & Associates, prefer to develop long-lasting relationships with reliable reporters who consistently produce quality work. “Most of our reporters have been with us for five to 20 years,” he says. “We’re really like a family here. We know we can count on our reporters, and they know they can count on us.” Agencies do understand that when less work is available, reporters are more likely to cast wider nets. As a result, some agencies,  such as North Georgia Court Reporting, reward exclusive reporters with preference on jobs and reserve freelancers only for overflow work.

While a few court reporting agencies in Georgia still depend exclusively on machine writers, most agencies today open their doors to both machine and voice reporters. Ultimately, the product must be accurately produced, of course. More traditional clients may prefer to work with machine writers, but fewer agencies are limiting themselves to just one method.

With realtime reporting becoming an increasingly important part of the court reporting conversation, some new reporters wonder if agencies will even consider reporters who are not yet realtime certified. The answer depends upon the agency, and who that agency largely serves.   Reporters with realtime experience and those willing to pursue real time training will find that some agencies see themselves moving in that direction while others are less concerned. North Georgia Court Reporting, for example, would like their reporters to be pursuing realtime certification; they point out that most Georgia State courts request it. Others, such as Hawthorne & Webb, really don’t get client requests for realtime reporters, although those who explore new technology will always be in greater demand.

Working with a mentor or attending classes is an important part of becoming a qualified court reporter, but simply earning national certification is only the beginning. True success depends not only upon finding work, but finding the right kind of work with the right kind of employer: one who understands you can’t possibly know everything, is willing to train, and believes in your future as much as you do.

Mar 242015
 
Change

I was once told, “whenever we think we are good, we can be even better.”  The fun part of this thought is deciding what do you want to be better at?

If you are like most reporters, you want to grow your professional skills.  Find ways to improve yourself and your career.  If this is you, then we have something in common.  I’m very passionate about professional growth, which seems to usually help my personal growth.

Here are some ideas to help you polish the diamond inside you!

Wake up early, okay, just a little bit earlier.  Waking up early improves your productivity and your quality of life.  When you wake up early, take a few minutes to tell yourself that YOU deserve this time YOU are making for YOU!

Write a letter to your future self about a 30-day, 60-day, and 1-year challenge.  What are you going to do for the next 30 days, 60 days, and 1 year that is going to make a difference in your reporting skills?  Where do you see your reporting career in two years, five years?  Will you be the same?  Different?  What specific skills do you want to develop?  Really, sit down and writer that letter and then seal it.  Make a date in your calendar to open it in 30 days, 6 months, and 1 year from now.  Smile when you see how close you are to those goals!

Real growth comes with hard work and sweat.  I have been told numerous times, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”  Pick three things and change your routine up.  Do something different.  Here are some ideas I used.

  • Maybe turn off the TV for two nights a week and practice your dictation.
  • Maybe hire a scopist or proofer to open up another three to five hours a week that you can correct your user.
  • Maybe cut back on some luxury that enables you to afford to not work as much so you can add another 2 hours a week to make briefs, analyze documents, and add words to Dragon after you practice taking down the nightly news.

Put yourself up to a challenge against a colleague.  Competition is one of the best ways to grow.  Compete against a friend to see who achieves the target first.  Through the process, both of you will gain more than if you were to set off on the target alone.

Ask for feedback and seek out a mentor.  As much as we try to improve, we will always have blind spots.  Asking for feedback gives us an additional perspective.  Mentors can be friends, family, colleagues, or even your boss.  Ask for and receive their feedback objectively.

Stay focused with to-do lists.  I start my looking at Google Calendar – how did I live without it?  I even schedule a time to walk my dogs as it keeps me focused on the other 3 million things I need to do.  But seeing it on the calendar helps ensure I still to my plan.

Dream BIG – really BIG — Set yourself a Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  A really BHAGs will stretch you beyond your normal dreams since they are BIG and AUDACIOUS – you wouldn’t think of attempting them normally.  And set yourself a Big Hairy Audacious Reward.  Life is too short not to reward yourself for a job well done!

Finally, get into action.  How can you take action on this BHAG immediately?  Waiting doesn’t get anything done.  Remember, nothing changes if nothing changes!

Good luck and I hope you will share your success stories with GCCRA – we would love to post them!

Dec 172014
 

Christmas BlogLast month, as I wrote about being thankful and ways to “pay it forward” and give others a “thank you”, I’ve observed a couple things.

First, we are a blessed and fortunate industry.  To have people like you working every day to keep the record, whether a depostion, motion, or trial, and turn out that transcript in the cleansest way and quickest way possible overall shapes not only each of us individualy, but all of us and our state, and that is incredible and explains a lot about why court reporting is still a phenomenally successful industry to be in.

Second, we are not really told “thank you” enough for what we do.  In the spirit of “pay it forward,” if ever you have the chance to say something nice about someone, take it.  “Everybody is under-encouraged,” said my friend, Vickie, the other day.  I’ve hardly heard anything so true.  And it has struck me over the past few months how, when someone dies, we write and say incredibly flattering things about them.  Maybe we should say those things while they’re still here.  Maybe we should encourage and build people up, and recognize them for the good they’ve accomplished.  So let me be the first to tell all of the reporters in Georgia that YOU ARE AWESOME!  Without you, our judicial system would grind to a halt.  You work tirelessly capturing every spoken word and nonspoken gesture and then accurately put that on paper in order to maintain the rights of both the plaintiff and the defendant.

Some of you go even further for your industry and teach and mentor and serve on association boards so that other reporters may become the best they can be.

And for that, my hat is off to you, and from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the GCCRA board, I thank you for your service.  We are proud of your accomplishments and our accomplishments over the past year and are excited for an even more ambitious 2015 as we move further down the realtime road.

To our dear members, thank you all for your support as we continue to build our organization into an even more robust association welcoming all methods of takedown.  We look forward to seeing you all at the 2015 Keeping It Realtime Conference for Court Reporters.  (Details coming soon!)  If you aren’t currently a member, please visit us at www.gccra.org and join us.  We are working hard to help you continue to be the best you reporter can be!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year’s to all who celebrate!  And for those of you who aren’t celebrating, for God’s sake, step away from the transcript and go enjoy yourself!

 

Nov 252014
 
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The months of November and December are always full of heartfelt articles of gratitude, the latest blog, Facebook challenges, and year-end appeals. Yes, definitely, the focus on gratitude throughout this time is important to all of us. It helps people think about regular people serving the homeless on Thanksgiving, women baking cookies for the firemen and police officers, and maybe being that person who volunteers at a local toy drive.

It puts a priority on thanking our loyal association members and volunteers for their role in supporting our organization. It helps remind each of us individually that while the year goes by so quickly, we need to take time to be grateful in all aspects of our life.

The thing though about a season so focused on gratitude, is that often, those feelings of gratitude are quieter or fewer and farther between during the other months of the year. Yes, you may send your required thank you letter after receiving a check from a local attorney, but other activities of gratitude may then wait on the back burner until November and December when gratitude is the focus for all. However, in all fairness to this season, I ask you to instead think about how to spread your gratitude and expressions of sincere gratitude for your business clients and the independent contractors across the entire next year (and every year).
Everyone always appreciates heartfelt gratitude at any time, so absolutely, continue on with your current plans for Thanksgiving, but I encourage you to use this holiday season as a springboard for challenging yourself over the next 12 months to expand your expressions of gratitude to everyone.
Consider some of these other methods of expressing gratitude to clients and independent contractors throughout the year and how you can adapt them to your own firm, whether large or small:

  • Write a handwritten note to a client or judge thanking them for placing their trust in you for all of their transcription needs. Maybe use the blank notecards that you can decorate yourself, if you are feeling very creative.
  • Write a handwritten note to a legal secretary that took time to offer the “prep material” you needed for their deposition, enabling you to give them a fabulous realtime feed or at least make your 400-page deposition a bit easier to complete.
  • Write a handwritten note to all of the reporters, scopists, proofreaders who work for you, whether full time, part-time, or just filling in on those days when you are scrambling to get that 8:00 a.m. depo covered or a 1000-page transcript completed and out the door.
  • My personal favorite it to “Say it with flowers.” Reward top employees by bringing in flowers from your garden (or neighbors’ garden once you ask) and arranging them in a spectacular crystal vase on the employee’s desks or take them to their home for an even more spectacular THANK YOU! Whether an office environment or your business website, recognition of having the custody of the flowers meant that person did an outstanding job, and you might find surprisingly, even the men will compete fiercely for custody of the flowers. In the winter, substitute a showpiece glass display of your favorite flower.
  • Publicize your employees and your IC’s successes. Recognize them so that everyone can share in their accomplishments. Did someone get a 500-page transcript out in 24 hours? Did you get a compliment on the professionalism of your reporter when you sent them to the “hard-to-handle” client you have?  Create an “award” for quarterly recognition. Even the nominations on a “wall of fame,” even a Facebook “wall of fame” are a way to recognize your professional staff members who have come through for you in supporting your firm. When you share your appreciation, be specific about what you really liked, so they not only feel appreciated, but also can do it again.
  • Offer a continuing education class to your employees or IC’s that encourages them to perfect their realtime. Nothing says how much you value your staff as furthering their education. Ultimately they will be able to produce the transcript in a fraction of the time they are spending now and that gives them something very valuable these days, TIME…

Now as a fellow reporter and for the record, I am not encouraging anyone to purchase a costly gift for their legal clients (lawyers, insurance companies, etc.), as even the look of impropriety is not recommended. But a hand written thank you note is valuable in the fact that you took the time to write it and it truly came from your heart.  I also believe that if you have other work for you in any fashion, reporters, scopists, proofreaders, they are the ones you should focus on. They are the ones who make you a success and because of them, you have those clients.

I hope this season finds you with many things for which you are thankful. I know I am thankful to have met you, working with and for you, in person at a seminar, as a student at Brown College, or just chatting with you on Facebook. Truly, the chance to serve you makes my work all the more pleasurable. I must also personally thank Lynette Mueller of Omega Reporting for this beautiful turkey that she painted with watercolor. Court reporters are indeed multitalented, and I so appreciate her allowing GCCRA to use it on our website and in this letter to our members.  I also want to give my heartfelt thanks to our Virtual Assistant, Robin Hill. She is a wonderful addition to our team a FANTABULOUSLY great admin! (Yes, I did say that, GCCRA members; good reason to make a brief – one never knows what will be said).

Here’s wishing you and yours a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving. We could go on all day with this, but you have turkey to prepare and eat and family and friends to enjoy. Enjoy this special holiday season and be thankful.

 

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