Merilee’s Tips & Tricks for Reporters: Writing Shorter
By Merilee S. Johnson – RDR, CRR, CRC, RSA
Even in a leap year, February is the shortest month of the year and is sure to speed by. And when you’re talking speed, there’s no one better to provide us with some tips on writing shorter to keep up with fast-paced speakers than two of the fastest writers in the country.
Speed champions and multi-time finalists Donna Urlaub and Karen Tyler shared some of their tips to start writing shorter and resources to refer to if you’re needing inspiration and/or support.
I want to start writing shorter. How do I get started?
There are a number of resources available. Karen Tyler joined Mark Kislingbury’s Magnum Steno Club and the 100-day practice group, where you commit to practicing 15 minutes a day for 100 days. Both of these have been instrumental tools in shortening her writing and providing her the support she needs.
If you are looking for a more independent way to do this, Karen said you can start by filtering your dictionary. Begin by filtering your dictionary for two-stroke outlines. Look at those entries and create a stroke that makes sense to you and write them in one stroke. Then repeat this process for three- and four-stroke entries.
How do I start briefing?
“Insurance” family of briefs
HRAOURPBS life insurance
HAOURPBS health insurance
PHAOURPBS medical insurance
KAOURPBS car insurance
PAOURNS property insurance
PAO*URNS property and casualty insurance
“Trying” family of briefs
TRAO try to
TRAOG try to go
TRAOD try to do
TRAOZ try to see
TRAOB try to be
TKRAO tried to
TKPWRAO trying to
Drop the “A” for words starting with “A”
If you’re into creating your own family of briefs, Donna Urlaub has a simple writing convention where you add the asterisk for the word outline and the outline for the phrase.
KUT/can you tell K*UT/ cut
KUTS/can you tell us K*UTS/cuts
Another trick Donna recommends is tucking the “R” to turn two-stroke words into one-stroke words:
Then throw on the initial “S” for variations or use the initial “S” as a wild card:
WOERK/worker SWOERK/social worker
FOEN/phone SFOEN/cell phone
WNS/witness SWNS/expert witness
OJ/oxygen SOJ/oxygen saturation
I asked them about an old saying that many of us were taught in school, “When in Doubt, Stroke it Out.” I asked Karen if she follows this rule, and she said, “I absolutely agree — the first time you hear it. After that, use the first syllable with an asterisk or think about how to write in one stroke using the beginning and ending of the word.”