Typed transcriptions – pitfalls and how to avoid them

As you all know the NCTJ are now only accepting typed transcriptions for shorthand exams and in the next academic year all registered centres will have to use the Cirrus online assessment system. More information regarding shorthand transcriptions on Cirrus will be shared later in the academic year.

Once you have reached the level to sit a shorthand exam you don’t want to fail it by making mistakes that could be avoided.

Now that all transcriptions are typed it is very important to make sure you read through your work before submitting it. Check very carefully to make sure it makes sense.

Have you put the full stops in? You must put full stops into your transcription. But if you put a full stop in the wrong place and it changes the sense of the piece you will lose a mark.

For example – “There was a fire at the pet shop last night the council met to discuss the road closure that was put in place.”

Where does the full stop go? Is it supposed to go before last night or after last night? It is very important to put full stops into your shorthand note so that you can transcribe accurately. If you put your full stop in the wrong place in the example above you would change the sense of the piece and lose a mark.

If you put a comma where a full stop should be but it doesn’t change the sense then this will be OK. Also, if you put in extra full stops but don’t change the sense of the piece this will be OK. But if you don’t put any full stops in you will lose marks.

Another problem is that you could type a word and not know you have made a mistake. Your fingers may hit the wrong keys. If your typing error actually makes a recognised word this may not be highlighted as a mistake on your screen – make sure any typing errors are picked up and corrected.

Don’t get caught out by homophones. Do you know the difference between mail and male, plain and plane, bass and base, dye and die, weather and whether, principal and principle, practice and practise? The most common mistakes are to and too, there and their, but there are many more. Do you know which word to use in your transcription?

Make sure you know when to use bought or brought, loose or lose, were, wear or where.

Although the NCTJ does not penalise spelling mistakes, you will be marked down for using the wrong word in your transcription. Find a list of homophones and check you know the different meanings. When you go out to work you will be expected to know which word to use so take the time now to double-check.

Have a look at your word count – have you transcribed the correct number of words? If you have too few words have you dropped down a line in your shorthand and missed a sentence out? If you have too many have you repeated a sentence?

We hope this advice helps and good luck with your shorthand exams and your typed transcriptions.

Shorthand marker’s blog: Terrifying without Teeline

I have just finished reading ‘Jeremy Paxman – A Life in Questions’.  It was a present from my youngest son (I hope he didn’t choose it because he thought I might be just as grumpy as Jeremy).

In this long-awaited memoir Jeremy reflects on a career which began as a trainee with the BBC and led him relatively quickly to reporting live on the troubles in Northern Ireland.

As he freely admits reporting Belfast court cases was “a terrifying business, since I had not paid proper attention in shorthand classes.”

Now there are two ways of looking at that admission. Firstly, he went on to become a much-admired television journalist despite his note-taking limitations.

On the other hand, there is more to journalism than asking the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “Why don’t people like you?”

If you need to accurately record interviewees’ answers to your questions. If you need to key in your story to a website, blog or newspaper page before the competition, then shorthand wins hands down against the alternatives. Those battery-dependent and accident-prone electronic recording devices, unlike notes on paper, are a devil to trawl through for the ‘golden quote’.

But that professional skill depends on paying attention in the shorthand class.  Judging from some recent exam scripts that isn’t always the case!

The first thing that caused problems for students in recent exams was those all-important small outlines; ‘those’, ‘this’ and ‘these’ were often confused with each other, although I am sure tutors suggest that the ‘s’ in ‘these’ should always be written on the left of the ‘h’ outline and the ‘h’ outline should be angled in the ‘i’ direction when writing ‘this’.

But does it matter if these words are misquoted a student may ask.  I could see from examining a number of candidates’ notes that it is often the inability to accurately capture simple words that causes a whole sentence to degenerate into a meaningless list of words.

Several candidates in a recent exam convinced themselves that the outline for ‘v’ could only mean ‘have’.  It can also be the outline for the word ‘village’. A lack of lateral thinking led students to imagine sentences which were never spoken in order to make ‘have’ make sense.

If only these students had transcribed what they saw and not been tempted to doubt their other outlines, they might have made one or two errors rather than five or six.

The outline for ‘k’ also sent some candidates down the wrong path.  It is often taught as representing the word ‘know’ and that is how it was sometimes transcribed when it actually represented ‘kind’.  There were a few students who transcribed it as ‘like’, even though it was written above the line.

The simple outline for ‘accident black spot’ has become less used in recent years as the phrase itself has become less common. However, the use of a dot in the phrase ‘hot spot’ would have been useful in a recent exam. It can be used in a few other phrases as well. How about ‘tight spot’, ‘get to the point’, ‘point of order’ and of course to represent ‘pounds’ when recording amounts of money.

‘What’s the evidence’? Identifying ‘facts’ on social media for news stories

Dan Lee will be running the masterclass, ‘User-generated content and social media storytelling’ on 23 February at the NCTJ’s offices. He will teach delegates how to find the best, most accurate information online for their stories, and ‘what to keep and what to bin’.