Grammatical sleuthing: Best resources for searching in print and online

The JCR recently reached out to NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council for recommendations on references for spelling, grammar, and language. Council members shared their favorite print and online resources as well as their best online research tips. The following members shared their responses:

  • Aimee Suhie, RPR, a freelancer in New Fairfield, Conn.
  • Patricia Miller, CRI, CPE, an instructor in Middletown, Del.
  • Francesca Ivy, RPR, a freelancer in Metairie, La.
  • Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in Audubon, N.J.

In addition, Kathy McHugh shared a response from Lisa Inverso, who she uses as a scopist.

  1. Which print books/references do you use or like the most for spelling, grammar, language, etc.?

Aimee Suhie: Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? and her Fairly Familiar Phrases.

Pat Miller: Most use in print and for a spectacular saver of time: Mary Louise Gilman’s One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? I add to, correct, update the book as I go. I may also make a note or two, highlight words I need to see in print over and over again, and put some words on the front inside cover just because. It is way faster to use this book than to use the internet, which is full of just plain wrong information a lot when it comes to spelling that includes punctuation. If, after the five seconds it takes to use this print reference, I don’t find my answer, then I go to the internet.

When I really need print book guidance for grammar and usage, I use a few books. My favorite for a couple of years has been one recommended by an English professor. It’s wonderful and has a summary of MLA and APA style manuals in the back: Rules for Writers, Seventh Edition, by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, published by Bedford/St. Martin’s.

I use Gregg and Morson as appropriate and for inspiration.

Francesca Ivy: Of course, first and foremost would be Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters. I keep a copy of my English book from school that is also useful from time to time by Mary A. Bogle called Rowe College Business English. As a freelance reporter taking depositions, I find that it helps to have some local phone books to consult for surname spellings. I also keep a few really old phone books to search for spellings of closed-down businesses from pre-internet days. Over the years, my print books have been reduced substantially because of the internet, but the ones that I still keep handy tend to be on specific subjects that I don’t know a lot about or find easier to consult than searching online; for example, an electronics dictionary, a chemical dictionary, a world atlas, a medical dictionary, the Illustrated Dictionary of Building Materials and Techniques by Paul Bianchina, and The Barnhart Abbreviations Dictionary. I have purchased some of these over the years by perusing used book sales in the references section.

  1. Which online references do you use or like the most?

PM: The three I use the most are:

I also have regulars, frequents, reliable specialties, and so on.

FI: I use Merriam-Webster a lot, my state bar association for attorneys’ names and email addresses, and the state board of medical examiners for doctors’ names. I like for medication names because they have an index in which you can search by the first letter of the drug and have all the names come up and then choose the best match and check for what it is used for to confirm if it is the right one. LinkedIn is great, and Facebook can be helpful, too.

Lisa Inverso: One reference I would add is using as an online reference source. It gives explanations and the proper usage of many words in the English language that are a sound alike or confusing sometimes.

Also, sometimes I will put the spelling that I think it might be into Google search, which will ask: “Did you mean…” and give me a different spelling of the word. Then I check if Google’s suggestion is the word I want. It saves me time when I don’t know the spelling.

  1. What is your best tip for researching online?

AS: When I Google a drug or proper name, I never take the first spelling but check multiple sources below that first one to be sure I get the correct one. How easy it is today to check spellings at midnight when in “the olden days” I would call the pharmacy (only when open) and the reference desk at the library with a question like, “Can you find the name of a city in Puerto Rico that sounds like x and maybe has a waterfall?” And, of course, that had to be during daytime hours!

PM: Tip 1 is “best” specific: LinkedIn is da bomb for people and companies, with worldwide participants.

Tip 2 is “best” general: Follow a link. Don’t accept the search engine summaries. Check that what appears in the search summary is also in the linked page, article, or reference (or many times not followed through in the link). Check that the source is reliable.

FI: I also do not just trust what comes up first on a Google search page. I check more thoroughly. I definitely don’t trust Wikipedia since what is on there could be written by anyone. I keep a folder in my favorites titled “Research,” and when I stumble upon a good site for researching a particular subject, I add it in that folder so that I can find it again. I also have a binder with A to Z index pages. When I have a hard time finding something online and finally have success, I jot the word down and keep it there for next time so I won’t have to go through the pain again. I also keep frequently occurring words or company names in there that are no longer around; for instance, companies that made asbestos products.

Kathy McHugh: My best search tip online is putting in some context as well as the word I’m specifically looking for. I’ll put the surrounding words that the attorney or witness used and that generally helps me find what I’m looking for.

2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week resource center open

Celebrating the court reporting and captioning professions: 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 10-17

It’s never too early to start planning how to celebrate the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, set for Feb. 10-17. NCRA has recently updated the event’s resource center on and will continue to add new items designed to help members spotlight the profession.

Resources available include:

  • press release templates that state associations, schools, and individuals can use to help promote the week and the profession
  • media advisories to announce specific events
  • talking points
  • social media messages
  • a guide to making the record
  • information on NCRF’s Oral Histories Project, including the Library of Congress Veterans History Project
  • downloadable artwork, including the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and DiscoverSteno logos
  • brochures about careers in court reporting and captioning
  • and more

In addition, the 2018 resource center will include an updated, customizable PowerPoint presentation. The presentation is geared toward potential court reporting students and the public in general to help increase awareness about the ample opportunities available in the profession.

There are also quick links to NCRA’s DiscoverSteno site, which houses additional recruiting resources, and to information and submission forms for the fourth annual National Committee of State Associations (NCSA) challenge. The challenge is designed to encourage working professionals to reach out through career fairs and other activities to spread the word about what viable career paths court reporting and captioning are. The challenge will culminate during the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, and all entries will be eligible for prizes ranging from free webinars to event registrations.

“Since 2013, Court Reporting & Captioning Week has successfully encouraged and inspired NCRA members to come together and celebrate our profession. If you have participated in the past, make plans now to outdo yourself. If you have not participated in the past, you won’t want to miss the opportunity this year,” said NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Wausau, Wis. “Get creative and get involved! NCRA has developed numerous resources aimed to help anyone who wants to be involved. Let’s join together and show our pride. Let everyone know how great our profession is in an even bigger way in 2018.”

Members, states, and schools are encouraged to check the 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week resource center periodically, as additional updated and new items will be posted as they become available.

The ways to celebrate 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week are unlimited. To learn more about how you can celebrate the week or to find the latest in resources, and see how others celebrated in 2017, visit the Resource Center on or contact the NCRA communications team at And don’t forget to share with NCRA what you plan to do to celebrate.

Finding work-life balance – attorneys and court reporters

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyA blog post by Kramm Court Reporting explores the five spheres of life that experts agree everyone, including attorneys and court reporters, should focus on to help find a work-life balance. The post was published by JDSupra on Oct. 30.

Read more.

REALTIME: Taming your fears

By Kathy Cortopassi

The worst fear, believe it or not, was the first time I ever captioned the Business Meeting for the NCRA Annual Convention. Not captioning the speeches of the President of the United States. Not captioning any live U.S. Senate or House speeches. Not providing CART for hundreds or thousands of people for hundreds of events over these 30+ years I’ve been doing this job.

The NCRA. My peers. Fellow captioners. Fellow realtimers. Fellow CART providers. People who could “read through” my mistakes. People who could understand when I fingerspelled or when I had a phrase pop up (Oh, she must have a brief for that!), people who would be “air steno’g” what I was writing, people who would be able to tell how fast/slow the speakers were speaking.

But I prepped. And prepped. And prepped some more.

I had Pat Graves by my side to help point out people or names or slip me her own brief for something.

So I began writing. Nervous as all get out, but I began. I got into a rhythm.

As I always do, I “zone in” on the speaker at the time. And hence comes my Lesson #1 for others on overcoming their fear. Think of yourself as a camera. “Zoom in” to the speaker. When a camera zooms in, it “blocks out” much of what is in the room, in the area, around the subject and brings the focal point closer into view. Zoom in to the speaker’s mouth. “Focus” (another photography term) on what’s being spoken and “blur out” any extraneous thoughts or movements around you and the subject. Anticipate what will be said next and be ready for it. The phrase, “Do I have a motion?” would probably be followed by “Yes. Motion by ____.”

So, back to the NCRA Business Meeting. Lesson #2. Imagine yourself in a war zone. You are a soldier with a rifle. You are in your “zone.” Call that zone your “groove,” a safe spot where you are comfortable, sheltered, protected from attack. Soldiers may be in a trench. Prepare that trench ahead of time. Align yourself where you can see and hear the best and see all parties necessary. Get as comfortable a chair as possible and set your prep and gear where you need it. For me, I’m blind in my right eye, so all prep is to my left. All liquids are in cups — with lids — to my left. I think we can all relate to the reason for the lids! But pens, markers, and protein snacks would be to my right since I’m right-handed. When you’re comfortable and prepared, it is easier to get into your groove and out of the Fear Zone, to relax and do the job you are trained for and that you prepped for.

Was I still scared? Of course! But how did I overcome this, my greatest fear? NCRA members themselves. When they started shouting from the audience, “Slow down! You’re going too fast!”, I knew they had my back. They were helping me. They were encouraging me. They wanted me to do a good job and to have an easier time doing it!

The funny thing is it seemed fast to them, but I was not struggling at all or felt they were going fast at all. Captioners can attest to this. We write at such high speeds for such long periods of time that it becomes natural for us. We don’t even notice that it’s 280 or 300 words per minute. We just do our job. We listen. We write what we hear. Rinse, repeat.

When I knew they “had my back”, I could feel the stress level go down. I had been tensing my neck, shoulders, and jaw. I was able to take a deep, cleansing breath and smile, inwardly and outwardly. Knowing me, I probably teared up (like I’m doing now as I write this) knowing that they cared about me.

So, I survived it and evn went on to caption/CART other NCRA events. Do they still scare me to that same level? No. Now I go into them knowing that my audience – my peers, my friends, my cheerleaders! – will have my back again. But it doesn’t mean I don’t prep like crazy, make lists and briefs, prepare my trench, get into my groove, zoom in on my speakers and focus on the words and their mouths, and blur out the distractions. It doesn’t mean I don’t tense up and need to remind myself to relax and breathe. But my NCRA peeps helped me through my most fear-filled captioning event ever, and this is only one of the thousands of reasons I love NCRA and my NCRA peeps. So if I get asked again to caption anything for NCRA, if I’m still alive and able to, my answer will be yes!

Kathy A. Cortopassi, RPR, RMR, CRR, CCP, CBC, who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator, is president of Voice to Print Captioning and QualCap. She is based in Crown Point, Ind., and can be reached at

2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference keynote to focus on achieving business excellence

John Spence will present the keynote at the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference

Participants in the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference will gain an inside track into the thinking of John Spence, one of the top 100 business thought leaders in the nation. Spence will take the podium as keynote speaker and share his insights into achieving business excellence.

The 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference takes place Jan. 28-30 at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Fla. Members are urged to register for the conference soon to take advantage of a discounted rate being offered through Dec. 15. Rates for the conference registration will increase by $100 beginning Dec. 16. Special hotel rates for the event will expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

In addition to the keynote, Spence will present his most intensive business improvement workshop. This workshop is specifically created to help management teams take a hard, honest look at their business to determine exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are and then create a focused plan for how to succeed at a higher level in the marketplace. Participants will leave his session with a much improved understanding of their business as well as a plan of specific action steps that address what needs to be done immediately to improve their organization’s revenues, market share, and profitability.

Key elements Spence will address include:

  • an understanding of the importance of creating a clear vision and a focused strategy
  • numerous benchmarking audits against top companies
  • an understanding of the four primary and four secondary drivers of business excellence
  • an examination of the importance of mastering the organization’s “moments of truth”
  • the discovery of why it is critical to own the customer’s voice
  • an in-depth look at how organizations create effective strategies
  • an examination of the nine steps to effective execution
  • the discovery of how to greatly increase accountability across the organization

For more than 22 years, Spence has traveled worldwide to help people and businesses be more successful. He is the author of five books and co-author of several more, a business consultant, workshop facilitator, and executive coach with a client list that includes numerous Fortune 500 firms, small to medium-sized businesses, professional associations, and other organizations. His areas of expertise include leadership, high-performance teams, managing change, organizational culture, consultative selling, strategic planning, strategy execution, and the future of business.

At 26 years old, Spence was the CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation, overseeing projects in 20 countries. Just two years later, Inc. Magazine named him one of America’s Up and Coming Young Business Leaders. He has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America, and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In addition, the American Management Association named him one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch. He has been a guest lecturer at more than 90 colleges and universities, including MIT, Stanford, Cornell, and the Wharton School of Business.

“The Firm Owners Executive Conference is designed to help you grow your business. The topics this year address the new challenges we’re all facing with a head-on approach with frank discussion on how to embrace the changes so that we are not left behind. By the end of the conference, you will return home with a renewed strength and business strategy for 2018. You will be more aware of the changes in technology and how they will impact law firms, corporations, insurance companies, and legal support services, with an emphasis on court reporters,” said Christa Walton, CMRS, CEO of Florida-based Orange Legal, who has attended numerous Firm Owner events.

“When our firm was smaller, the benefit was attending the classes and learning from the speakers. Now that our firm has grown and we know more, the biggest benefit of attending is getting the opportunity to network and spend time with great friends. Most of the time, at one point during the event, the owner and I will look at each other and say, ‘That just paid for the entire conference,’ whether it be getting the opportunity to speak with a firm owner who needs help in our area or just hearing how another agency does something we’ve been struggling with,” she added.

In addition to enjoying ample networking receptions and opportunities, participants in the 2018 event can expect to connect, learn, and get energized through a number of insightful educational sessions.

Among the guest speakers on the bill this year will be Steve Scott, SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy. Scott will lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the Web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Since August 2006, Scott has worked with individuals and corporate clients to use internet-marketing strategies like SEO, local search, social media, pay-per-click, and more. His clients have included IBM, American Express, Reader’s Digest, and Revlon.

“During my career, I’ve developed websites and search engine optimization programs for clients, both large and small. Helping business owners worldwide create a powerful online presence for their brands is my life’s work,” Scott said. “As an SEO industry veteran with a history in computer training dating back to 1990, I’ve trained and consulted with Fortune 1000 companies and have logged nearly 4,000+ hours in a hands-on training environment.”

For more information and to register for the host hotel and conference, visit

A freelancer’s new perspective of court: Lessons on deposition transcripts

Gavel on a folder filler with papers

Photo by: wp paarz

By Tricia Rosate

In California, freelancers often cover civil trials, and I’ve been reporting more trials lately. I consider myself a pretty good writer, but this pace is phenomenal. No shuffling through exhibits, no 10-minute lulls where the witness is taking their sweet time reading every page of a lengthy email exchange. This is theater.

More specifically, seeing deposition transcripts blown up on the big screen for the entire courtroom to see has really given me a new perspective. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not necessary to capitalize things that don’t need to be (i.e., “I work in the Finance Department” vs. “I work in the finance department”). It’s distracting and looks strange. When in doubt and there’s no rule or reason to cap it, leave it alone.

Secondly, please use a proofreader. There were times in my career that I thought, “Who even reads this?” Well, one day it could be a judge, two counsel tables filled with attorneys, the clerk, bailiff, 14 jurors, the official (pro tem) reporter, and anyone observing.

On the subject of verbatim: When reporting video depositions, there is no need to include every single stutter, i.e., “It’s — it’s — it’s — it’s the third one down.” One set of dashes is just fine. All the dashes look so awful on the big screen and make it almost unreadable. I know we’re verbatim and the parties make their own record, but a little best judgment goes a long way. I guarantee that the jurors are not counting the stutters and thinking the reporter dropped the ball if they’re not all in there.

Then there’s another verbatim thing that I know has been a hot topic: the 2000s. The attorney says, “So it happened in two ten?” The reporter knows the attorney means 2010 but writes “2’10.” I’m not saying this is wrong. However, please picture it blown up on a screen in a courtroom during a trial, with 14 jurors looking at the transcript — and, yes, they do — and the attorney telling the jurors to please disregard the typo.

“But it’s not a typo! He said two ten, not 2010,” you might say. If someone doesn’t say two thousand and ten, it’s the reporter’s call on how to format it. But not one of these jurors understands or cares why the reporter formatted it that way. It looks weird and disjointed.

In somewhat the same vein, I recently Googled myself to see if there were any privacy concerns I should address, and I came across several excerpts of my transcripts posted online, which again goes to my point. People do read your transcripts! Sometimes many more people than you ever imagined!

Tricia Rosate, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer in San Diego, Calif. This article is revised from a post she wrote in the “Guardians of the Record” Facebook discussion group. Tricia Rosate can be reached at

Paying it forward

Stack of hands as if doing a team cheerBy Allison Kimmel

Do you remember the day you learned that you passed your RPR certification exam? I distinctly remember when I found out — Christmas Eve. I had taken the test in November of 1989. Every day I would come home from work and ask my husband, Bob, if I had gotten the results. Each time the answer was no. Unbeknownst to me, he had placed the results — unopened — in a wrapped box under the Christmas tree. It could have ended very badly had I not received positive news. He is a very blessed man.

Passing the RPR meant I passed muster and might be able to succeed in court reporting after all. Those credentials represented a lot to me then, and they still do to this day. The other professionals in my national association had given me their imprimatur, and I gleefully joined their ranks as a professional registered member.

Several years have passed since those early days, and I know that I would not be where I am today without the help of mentors and reporters sharing their experiences along the way. Those mentors and reporters began giving advice and encouragement from day one, and it has not stopped. I am lucky to have been surrounded by such a fantastic group of dedicated professionals.

We all have anecdotes of the valuable knowledge that others have passed along to us. To illustrate one such story and the long-term impact of a simple act, when I was a newly graduated reporter in 1987, Jean Long, RPR, graciously shared with me a medical term. She had spent some time looking for the proper spelling at one point in her career; the term was bruit. It is pronounced BREW-EE. She walked me over to the dictionary to point it out. I never forgot her short one-minute lesson.

A couple of years later, at a different court reporting agency, another reporter was struggling to find that exact word. I knew it immediately — not from school days, but from Jean’s lesson. It was time to pay it forward, and I proudly did.

After gaining some real-life experience and much-needed confidence, I came to the realization that it was not enough to be a contented dues-paying member in my professional associations. I wanted to do more. I had observed others volunteering and felt that I could offer perhaps a slightly different approach. It was time — time to repay all those gifts of knowledge and information that were so readily shared with me. I had received so many over the years.

I started out small. Volunteering was out of my comfort zone, and I truly wanted to be brave and emulate some of the best professionals in our business. The first time I volunteered for my state association was in 2002. We had a need to represent the court reporting profession at the All-Ohio High School Counselors Conference in Columbus. With another reporter, Lori Jay, RPR, CMRS, we were responsible for promoting the court reporting and captioning career choices to the school counselors who approached our table of brochures and equipment. Donna Karoscik, RDR, CRR, CRC, provided a demonstration of realtime to the group by captioning the keynote speaker. We were enthusiastic, and we worked hard that day to advocate for our profession.

After that experience, I began helping my state association with administering the national certification exams, first as someone to assist and then as a chief examiner for the CRR tests. I tried to be the voice of calm for test candidates, and I enjoyed seeing the test candidates succeed. I also began assisting my state association at the Ohio Judicial Conference’s Court Technology Conference. With many vendors present touting their “technology,” it was an eye-opening experience. I now know just how crucial it is for court reporting associations to be represented at such events — and displaying the best we have to offer in court reporting and realtime technology. My state association members attend this event year after year without fail.

Fast forward a few years. Our state association needed members willing to serve on the board. After some persuasive discussion by Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, and a multitude of excuses on my end, I agreed to serve on the Board of Directors of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA). I came in as vice president and moved my way up the ladder. It was at that point that I began to understand the intricacies of leading, the minefields — some of which cannot be avoided — and the heavy lifting that volunteering involved. My prior volunteer experiences were rewarding but nowhere near as challenging. The successes were amazing; the failures devastating.

I was working as an official court reporter in state court during this time. My court administration seemed enamored with digital recording technology and eagerly proclaimed the cost savings to be realized to any who would listen. It appeared to be an uphill and frustrating battle.

Through the efforts of the late Jerry Kelley and other volunteers across the country, I quietly began to amass a database of current electronic and digital recording failures. It was an informal, unsanctioned effort, but the group saw a need. The database effort seemed a tad futile at times, but I can attest that the information gathered was useful at a key moment during my tenure on the OCRA board, particularly when the Cleveland Plain Dealer came calling for commentary on an article regarding the court reporter versus electronic and digital recording debate. That volunteer effort provided relevant, documented cases to cite, not just hearsay or conjecture. It was a small victory.

Coincidentally, it was around this point that Stephen Zinone, RPR, reached out to me about serving on the NCRA Cost Comparison Task Force. Our task was to do a complete analysis of the cost of digital recording technology versus a court reporter — using best practices for each. To say this was right up my alley is an understatement. Steve was a thoughtful, smart leader who asked for input from all of us. The entire group worked hard to make the Task Force’s white paper bulletproof. We accomplished our goal, though it took many emails, conference calls, an in-person meeting in Nashville, and a couple of years of persistence. To this day, when OCRA members attend the Ohio Judicial Conference’s Court Technology Conference, we have the white paper there to discuss with attendees.

That first experience serving as a task force volunteer at the national level gave me a huge sense of fulfillment. I was proud of our work, and I was hooked. I knew I could make a difference — if not for myself, perhaps for others.

Working with students as an adjunct faculty member for Clark State Community College is something I enjoy immensely, so signing up to work on the Item Writing Committee seemed a natural fit. Brenda Fauber, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CPE, served as the chairperson of the committee. The group met in the Washington, D.C., area. We spent time training with a professional consultant, and we discussed at length what is involved in writing proper written knowledge test questions using approved authoritative sources. (Yes, there is a question involving bruit — in case you were wondering. I’m paying it forward.) I continue to serve on the committee; along the way, I have begun serving on the Skills Test Writing Committee.

What an education I have received! I have gained a deeper appreciation of our national certification tests and the incredible vision of those who saw the necessity of certification. I have learned why, as a professional association, we must continually strive to ensure that the certifications are valid and fair measures of both the entry-level reporter and the seasoned reporter. Those who pass the NCRA certification tests can be confident that they, too, pass muster and have indeed earned a worthwhile achievement.

Comedian Lily Tomlin once stated, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” This applies to each one of us. Let me ask: Who is better than those of us who are in the trenches to represent and understand the issues we, as a profession, face? Who is going to do the heavy lifting and advocating for our profession if we are not willing to step up and do it for ourselves?

Together, we can make a difference. The value of volunteer work benefits your professional associations and you. I could enumerate a variety of reasons to volunteer, but you know many of them already. Think about this: You make time for what matters to you. My profession matters to me. I sincerely hope it matters to you. We need you. We need more than your dues. We need your participation. We need your voice. We need your input and ideas. We need you at all levels, whether it is state or national. I urge you to be brave. Volunteer.

Why do I volunteer?

I volunteer to give back to a profession that I love. I volunteer to pay it forward and to thank those along the way who reached out a helping hand, gave me a word of advice, offered reassurance, and sometimes provided a swift kick in the rear or a shoulder to cry on. Volunteering is my way of saying thanks for making sure I passed muster, to thank those who came before me and those who will continue long after me. Thank you for being there.


Allison A. Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CRC, works as a reporter in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, and as an adjunct faculty member for the court reporting and captioning program at Clark State Community College.

CART CORNER: CART captioning en français


By Jean Whalen

« Le fou se rue là où le sage n’ose mettre le pied » . . .

(“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread . . .”)

In January 2014, I accepted a gig at a local university, providing CART captioning for a student in a French immersion class. When the disability services coordinator and I first communicated about the possibility of my covering this class, our conversation went something like this (or at least this is how I remember it):

Me: “Well, I might be interested in providing CART for the Fren-” –

Her: “That’s great! Thanks so much! We’ll be in touch shortly with all the details.”

Gloup. (Gulp.) What just happened? And why am I left with the distinct impression that I was the only CART captioner who expressed an interest in covering this class?

First of all, you must understand that I had no background in French. So to say this was a bit of a challenge would be an understatement. I was exposed to the French language when I worked for the United Nations at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but just being semi-aware that French was being spoken in the same courtroom in which I was working was as close as I had come to French at that time, aside from saying “Bonjour” to the French court reporters as we passed each other in the hallway.

Little did I know then that my voyage français would last for four semesters! It was a wild ride. It was by far the hardest work-related assignment I’ve ever undertaken, but I don’t regret it for a second.

Here are some of the challenges in providing CART dans une classe étrangère (in a foreign-language class):

  1. There is a language barrier! (Rire.) (Laughter.) If you ever are “courageous” (a.k.a. naïf) (a.k.a. naïve) enough to take on an assignment like this, be prepared to shift your obsessive-compulsive disorder into overdrive! The reason your OCD will be an asset rather than a liability is because when you’re not in class, you’ll be either: a) studying the foreign language in print format; b) listening to the oral language and trying to “get your ear on”; c) trying to think in the new language; or d) creating entries in your steno dictionary, imagining how that word will sound when somebody who actually speaks the language couramment (fluently) enunciates the word — and chances are, it won’t be pronounced the way you’ve been pronouncing it dans votre tête (in your head). I can’t speak for other languages, but the French oral and written languages are two different types of animal. And the way a French word is pronounced is dependent on the words that come before and after it in any given sentence, so its pronunciation changes like a caméléon.
  2. Accent marks are not a luxury in foreign-language classes, they’re a necessity. In English transcripts, no one really puts up a fuss if you leave off the accent mark in words like café or résumé. But in French, if you don’t use the accent mark correctly, it’s just plain wrong. One *must* distinguish, for example, between e and é and è and figure out a way to finger-spell them differently.
  3. I figured out how to use the U.S. International keyboard on my computer and would activate it when I was providing French CART. Most of the letters are the same, so it really wasn’t that difficult to adjust to.
  4. Homophones! If you’re providing French CART, you had better get used to them, because French is full of them. Just as one example, the words parler, parlé, parlais, parlait, and parlaient are all pronounced the same way (PAR-LAY), but one must know which mot (word) is correct for the particular context. And it’s like that for almost every verb you can think of en français. Luckily, Eclipse software, which I use, has a French version. I was able to import the French Eclipse settings into my English version of Eclipse and use the software in a franglais (think Spanglish) sort of way so that some of the verbs and adjectives would auto-conjugate for me.
  5. Reference materials! My BFFs during these classes were:
    1. an electronic French-English dictionary, complete with audio pronunciations and conjugations.
    2. Google Translate – even though Google Translate sometimes gives an “icky” translation that I know is not quite right, it at least gave me a springboard from which to start researching a word or phrase.
    3. an app called Speak & Translate – it can be a real time and finger saver if you have an approximate idea of what you’re looking for. It uses voice recognition and often saves having to physically type in the word or phrase. However, my French accent was not yet good enough for the software to understand my spoken French and translate it into English; it only understood my English and translated it into French (although my accent seems to be getting a little better!). One time, the French teacher was talking about breakfast foods and said what distinctly sounded like “NUTE-eh-yah.” I became obsessed, when preparing the transcript after class, with figuring out what that word was. I repeated it, with the best French accent I could muster, over and over and over into the Speak & Translate app: “NUTE-eh-yah! NUTE-eh-yah! NUUUUTE-EHHHH-YAHHH!!!” I burst into laughter when the software finally understood me and spit back the answer: Nutella! Miam! (Yum!)

Speaking of transcripts, I was required to prepare and email a transcript to the student within two days after each class. This is where the rubber met the rue. Although the transcripts didn’t have to be verbatim, I did my best to give the student a very useable, correct transcript. If I had a question, I would email the instructor. I really tried to restrict the number of emails I sent to the instructors, though, respecting how busy they all were and the limited amount of time I had within which to complete the transcripts.

The different instructors I worked with over the course of the two years would switch back and forth between English and French at the drop of a chapeau, so, with the help of Jeremy Thorne, chief programmer at Advantage Software (Advantage is the parent company of Eclipse), we were able to come up with a one-stroke steno macro that would allow me to flip my French dictionary off and on. This helped tremendously. It also made me realize how far I’d come when I’d glance over at my screen from time to time and realize, Mon Dieu! J’ai oublié (I forgot) to hit my macro! C’est chaos! I am so glad the student I worked with was patient with me and had a sens de l’humour! I would hear her chuckling softly to herself.

Also, at times the instructors would challenge the students by speaking above their heads, which of course was also above my tête. When that happened, I would once again rely upon the student’s sense of humor. (Are we detecting a pattern here?)

Some of my best bloopers during this French odyssey were: phlegmish (Flemish) (I loved that one and still do), and that perennial French classic, The Petite Principal. (Yes, he was a very small principal indeed).

There were times during class when I would literally just be writing sounds I’d hear when the instructor was speaking French (I always wrote what I heard, even if I knew it was coming up as gobbledygook), and I would look at my screen and realize the words were miraculously coming up correctly because I had already programmed them in during a prior class. That was fun.

Numbers were also kind of a riot. Because Eclipse has automatic number conversion, and because I had imported the French settings into my software, when the teacher would say in English, for example, “Turn to page one hundred twenty-seven,” and I would steno “127” on the number bar, it would translate as “un cent vingt-sept,” which is French for 127. I’d think, Oh, so that’s how you spell out 127 in French. So, yes, there were more times than I care to admit when the software was smarter than me.

As a result of providing CART for this class, I am now on my way to becoming a francophone – I still have a long way to go, because it takes about eight years to become fluent in a language. But for two years, instead of paying to take French classes, I got paid to take French classes! And that was fantastique! I have to confess, I placed a giant carotte (carrot) in front of my eyes, and just out of my grasp, to help coax me along when the going got tough (which was often): I booked a two-week trip to France a year ahead of time, complete with a home stay in Nice that included a week of tutoring. And since learning French had already been on my semi-serious bucket list of “things to do when I retire someday” anyway, I am ahead of the game. I continue to study French, and I’m currently participating in a French book club. Ironically, we just finished reading Le Petit Prince. And a principal of small stature wasn’t mentioned in this book, not even once. How very disappointing.

If you ever have the opportunity to caption in a foreign language, I would definitely suggest giving it a whirl, as long as it’s a beginning level class and the people you’re working with understand that it’s not a perfect process. You will need to make a serious commitment, both to yourself and to the student, to stick with it, because you’ll be developing a very unique skill set. There won’t be another CART captioner who will be able to pinch-write for you if you’re sick or want to take some time off. One must plan one’s life around the class schedule.

If you have the desire to learn a new language and are willing to spend the time it takes, give it a try, and bonne chance (good luck)!

Jean Whalen, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner based in Apple Valley, Minn. She can be reached at

Alfred State court reporting program ranked No. 1

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyOn Oct. 27, Alfred State College, Alfred, N.Y., announced that its court reporting program has been ranked number one by U.S. News and World Report. Alfred State is an NCRA-approved court reporting program.

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Nominations for Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters now open

The 2017 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters was recognized at the 2017 Convention & Expo. Nominations for 2018 Fellows are due Dec. 31.

NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR) is currently seeking nominations for its Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. Nominations are due Dec. 31. Fellows represent the pinnacle of excellence among NCRA members. They are individuals who are a credit to the reporting and captioning professions and embody the highest level of professional ethics.

“When I was awarded the Fellow designation, I felt a combination of pride and humility. It is such an honor to have my peers understand and appreciate the efforts I have given to the court reporting and captioning professions,” said Patricia Graves, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner in Monument, Colo. Graves was part of the 2014 class of Fellows.

Established in 1972, NCRA’s Academy of Professional Reporters recognizes a nominee’s outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience in the field of shorthand reporting. Candidates are required to have been in the active practice of reporting for at least 10 years and to have attained distinction as measured by performance, which includes publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

“I consider being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters the highest honor of my career. It’s recognition from top reporters in the field for your contribution to the profession,” said Mary Cox Daniel, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer in Las Vegas, Nev. Daniel was part of the 2011 class of Fellows.

A Fellow’s support of the profession can be seen in his or her activity in professional associations at the state or national level or through a number of other venues. If you know of such a person who has not been named to the Academy, now is your chance to recognize his or her contributions to the profession. View the full criteria and download a nomination form at For more information, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews at