There's Method(s) to My Briefing Madness


Briefing on the fly is a very important skill that any court reporter or steno student needs to learn to be good at. It's essential for keeping up with speech above your current speed level. I think even Mark Kislingbury is a proponent of briefing on the fly. It's how he gets through his 300+ dictations, by briefing "gold bullion" as TKPWOUBL or whatever brilliant nonsense he might come up with.

To start off, what is briefing on the fly? It means you're making up a brief or phrase as you're writing for something that keeps coming up over and over, like a three-word place name or technical term or just a common word that you never thought to shorten before. There's a few methods, I'm sure, but I'm going to spell out a couple for you that I've been noticing I've been doing lately when creating new briefs.

Alpha and omega approach

Say you've got a two-stroker that keeps coming up like "vulnerable." I didn't really have a brief for that one and just wrote it SRUL/TPHERBL prior to my job the other day, and then something clicked that I could take the beginning of the first stroke and add it to the ending of the last stroke, and voila, you've got SRURBL for vulnerable, which doesn't conflict with my "verbal," SRERBL. "Hoyt Park" becomes HOIRK, etc.

The initials method

Now, for instance, you've got a multi-syllabic place name that they keep referring to in this deposition or 5-minute speed take. What are you going to do? Panic? Skip it? No, you will have perfected this technique, so you coolly and calmly start writing "Fort McCoy" as TP-MT, or Ft. M as I'm visualizing it.

The intentional stack

One of my favorite methods is the intentional stack. The possibilities for this technique are endless. Say your fingers are flying a little faster than your brain, and you accidentally depress two strokes without releasing. There, you created a brief. For example, "water ski" would be WAERT/SKAOE if written normally. If stacked, it becomes SKWAOERT. Run with this method.

The brief rip-off or word family approach

Let's say your witness for the day just learned they love the word problematic, and they're excited about it and are showing it off, so they find a way to work it into every sentence. Fear not. You're already a smart briefer and have the word "automatic" in your dictionary as AUPLT, so you start briefing PRAUPLT as "problematic" and continue on blissfully with your deposition.

The dump-the-middle approach, which is only used in dire emergencies

Today's witness is a linguist, and the subject matter is the longest words in the English language. Freak out. I give you permission. Nah, I'm kidding. You'll be fine if you use the dump-the-middle approach. They're blabbing on about "antidisestablishmentarianism," and you calmly come up with the A*EPBT/PWHREUFPL. Or for your DNA expert, "deoxyribonucleic acid" becomes TKOBGS/SEUD. Bada bing, bada boom.