Brett SchatzleReporter Corner

By Donna M. Urlaub –

During a recent three-hour expert doctor deposition in which “degree,” “agree,”
and “disagree” figured prominently in questions, answers, and objections, it got
me thinking: Is anyone still writing “agree” and “degree” in two strokes? Worse
yet, “disagree” in three?

So I took a poll of several reporters, and, sure enough, they were. Some had
gone so far as to define the conflicting outline as “agree,” then change the word
to “degree” when appropriate.

While I understand the logic, this kind of thing causes me to examine my writing
and ask myself what words have I been tolerating/replacing/word grouping/multi-
stroking, instead of making one tiny change that is both freeing and exciting.
Like, wow! And to think I had been doing this for more years than I care to admit.

Roof/radiograph – RAOF. Now I throw a “U” in, RAOUF/roof.

(I understand “radiograph” is a rarely used word anymore, but this conflict was a
holdover from my theory in the ‘60s, and still popped up every time the dreaded
“roof” was mentioned.)

Higher/hire – HAOEUR. Drop the AO for “hire.” HIR.
Bank/bang – BANG. Throw a “U” in for “bank.” BAUNG. And tank, rank, sank.

If I’ve been writing comfortable K-FRBL, why am I still two-stroking
uncomfortable? Why not NUFRBL?

Which leads me to: Why am I writing EN/KOURJ, when I could write NOURJ,
IN/KREBL when I could use NERBL, IN/KORPT instead of NORPT, NORPGS? If
supplement is SPLEMT; why not SPLEL for supplemental?

So what about the degree/agree/disagree, you ask?

Degree GRE/agree GRAE/disagree SGRAE

In phrases:
I agree – IRG                                      if you agree – FURG
you agree – URG                               I don’t agree – YORG
we agree – WERG                             would you agree – WOURG
so I agree – SOIRG                           do you agree – DOURG
so you agree – SOURG                    can you agree – KURG
will you agree – LURG                     I do not agree – DOINT/GRAE

You’re Never Too Old To Practice

Brett SchatzleReporter Corner

By Donna M. Urlaub –

Lately, even I find myself wondering how, at the age of 73, I continue to win speed and realtime contests, most recently having a perfect paper on the 280 wpm Testimony leg of the National contest. I mean, am I not in cognitive decline? (Although I will confess that I was looking for my phone while talking on it last night.) The answer is: I practice. To many things: World News Tonight, podcast interviews of experts, 60 Minutes, Smithsonian channel, How It’s Made. I learn a lot from all of the above, and continue to come across words that are not in my dictionary. I practice not only on my machine, but in my mind. I can’t hear a word without converting it to steno in my brain.

A while ago I tired of having the conflict stain/sustain, so I opted to use STAIN for stain/STAEN for sustain. Listening to the radio the other day, heard “sustainable” “sustainability.” Hmm. I could write sustainable STAEBL, sustainability STAEBLT. At my deposition yesterday, the expert witness (SW-NS) owned a company called Sustainability Solutions. It’s crazy how excited that made me.

Advice from a Steno Speed Champion

Brett SchatzleReporter Corner

Donna Urlaub has had quite a remarkable track record when it comes to competing in national and state speed and realtime contests.  Not only is she the 2021 National Speed Contest Champion, but she also brought home the gold in 2022 as the Illinois Speed and Realtime Champion, topping both national and state wins with perfect papers!

Her practice is the key, and she’s constantly working on her skill.

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview Donna gave for the Illinois Court Reporters Association (ILCRA) newsletter, sharing her advice and insight for, well, just about anyone in this industry.  Feel free to scroll through and check out what she has to say!

GN: Do you have any advice:  

a. for students?  

DU: Join your state and national associations. It’s crazy cheap for students, and you will learn so much/make great connections/maybe even win stuff, get money! Make it easy to practice. Have your machine set up at all times so there’s no obstacle to practice. You’re watching TV, have your machine at the ready. Just write. Don’t waste your practice. Write realtime for yourself, then go through it and define everything. If you didn’t write to a file (your laptop), scroll through your notes, open your dictionary, and add the entries. If you write a poor outline, and it can’t be something else, define it. There’s no harm at all in defining less-than-perfect outlines. Make practice a priority, make practice mindful. Don’t fall prey to the misguided advice of just write something no matter how ugly, and your notes will clear up later.   Strive to write clean and short, and to keep up as long as you can.   Try low, tilted-machine writing for better ergonomics. I can write all day without stress on my arms/wrists.   What I learned from Ed Varallo: practice for the test, meaning no more than 10 wpm over. Another test tip from Ed: strategically drop, meaning better to drop one word and get back on that speeding train, than fall apart and drop 8 to 10, and not be able to read what’s before and after.   My tip for test takers: it counts as one error whether a three-syllable word or one, whether plural and should have been singular or vice versa. That word that you wrote with a shadowy “s” on the end is still an error even though you wrote the root word correctly. That four-syllable word that you got a piece of counts as one error, just as the four one-syllable words that you dropped after that. And proofread your test paper against your notes. This can — and will — be the difference between pass and fail. I’ve seen that many times in students who kept failing and didn’t know why. It’s a heartbreak to fail simply because you didn’t proofread.   The more you read, the more words you’ve encountered and know, which means fewer words to get stopped in puzzlement in your brain, and not come out your fingers. The same with writing steno: the more and varied words you write, the less chance of that pause/ stop when it hits that amazing computer called your brain.


b. for new reporters? 

DU: See above. And seek out a mentor. There are lots of us out there who would be happy to fill this role. Also, wherever you choose to work should have a training program. Realtime to yourself every single job. The time saving is invaluable. Get there early and create the title page, make job defines (or you’ve hopefully done it already), use the recesses or pauses in proceedings to clean up/job define/get clarification on something you flagged as you were writing. Question/check and double check everything. No matter how confident you are, Google it. Put the whole sentence in and see what you get. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll often be surprised when you find out.  Strive for higher certification. Nothing boosts your confidence like knowing that you’ve passed (fill in the blank). Many a time I have consoled myself, after a fasttalking expert witness, with the knowledge that I have proven myself to be a fast writer; in other words, it’s not me, it’s you! And, whether you believe it or not, you are writing faster — even though you feel like you’re getting killed — because you’ve put in the work to earn the certs. Learn your software early and well. Invest in yourself; schedule time with a trainer (Pam Szczecinski for CaseCATalyst). There’s so much she can help you with that will save you editing time which = money, and will help you to not develop bad habits which also cost time which = money. All of this circles back to the value of mindful writing, clean writing, tweaking your dictionary, more job enjoyment.


 c. for people thinking about entering a speed and/or realtime contest? 

DU: Just do it! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. You’d be amazed at how fun it is, the reporters you’ll meet and get to know, the sense of camaraderie, and the surprise and excitement when you turn in that paper and eureka! you qualified! Then you’re hooked. Everything you do to prepare for the contests boosts your confidence, ability to achieve higher certifications, and performance on the job.


d. for seasoned reporters?

DU: Don’t let age/time you’ve been reporting be an excuse for: fill in the blank. “I’ve always written everything out; I’m not going to change now.” “I can’t shorten my writing; I’m too old.” “I don’t need to learn that; I won’t be doing this much longer.” “I’m not going to invest in a writer that will admittedly lessen wear and tear on my body, help me write better, is the single most important tool of my trade, because I’ll be quitting/retiring in five years.” Yes, you can make changes no matter your age. I practice — there’s that word again — what I preach, and believe it keeps me sharp. You might even call it a hedge against — I’ll be kind here — loss of brain power, in whatever form it takes. One can only hope. But I do know that giving in is a lose-lose, so why not give winning a shot?

Speed Competition Interview with Donna Urlaub

Brett SchatzleReporter Corner

Donna is highly regarded in the world of speed competition.  She’s won numerous awards in speed and realtime over the last few years.  The video below highlights the behind the scenes of NCRA’s speed competition back in 2016 and Donna’s take on why she continues to compete.  Check it out!



Video Conference Tips

Rachel SzymanskiReporter Corner

As the local and national response to the COVID-19 emergency has continued to develop, many of our clients have been considering how they might continue working while responsibly abiding by shelter-in-place orders. Video conferencing is a way to work around — or work with — the need to be remote from each other.

Attending depositions when all parties are in separate locations is a new challenge for many legal professionals including court reporters. At Urlaub Bowen & Associates, we have been using Zoom for our video conferences for several years. We find it to be user-friendly and familiar to many of our clients.

If you have rarely or never taken depositions via Zoom video conference, you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable before your first Zoom video conference job. Here are some tips to make sure the experience goes smoothly.

Make sure you have the strongest internet signal possible — Sit close to your wireless router. If your wi-fi signal is not particularly strong, you may want to plug into your router with an ethernet cable.

Consider how you will sound — Check your audio feed. Feel free to speak at a normal volume. The mics on a laptop or tablet are designed to pick up the sound of your voice from a couple of feet away. They will also pick up any other sound in the room and some even pick up background noise from other rooms, so make sure you are muted when you are not speaking. Inform everyone else in the area that you will be on a live video.

Consider how you will appear on screen — Be mindful of the sources of light in the room. Consider taking a lamp from another space if you need better light or closing the shades to reduce glare or shadows from light from outside. Have a blank wall or other neutral background if possible. Sit up straight and make sure you stay in the frame. Dress as you would for any other deposition.

Arrive early — Think of the time needed to prepare for an in-person deposition. You need time to make sure that you have everything you would carry with you, have time to arrive at the virtual destination, and greet people before you go on the record. Don’t forget to bring water or coffee to your workspace.

Ask for information from attorneys in advance — Since you won’t be able to ask for business cards, request each attorney’s information before the deposition. Ask that they send information in an email or on a notice. Let the attorneys and their assistants know that if the court reporter has this information in advance, it will save time for all attendees.

Determine what you will say before administering the oath — We are using the following script for our Zoom video conferences before swearing in each witness. “Before we proceed, I will ask counsel to agree on the record that under the current National Emergency, pursuant to Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, there is no objection to this deposition officer administering a binding oath to the witness by videoconference. Please state your agreement on the record.”

Special considerations if using a tablet or smartphone for your camera and microphone — To be sure you have enough battery life, keep your device plugged in if possible. Turn off all notifications. If you have one, use a stand for the device so you don’t have to prop it up or hold it.

Before the deposition begins, don’t hesitate to ask your support staff for help, particularly your tech support staff. Many attorneys may be new to this format for a deposition as well. Strive to be the best prepared, most poised person in the room. Your clients will appreciate it.


Cindy SobolewskiReporter Corner

We’re sorry for the delay in making Donna’s ILCRA presentation notes available to you, but we think these briefs are definitely worth the wait.



7-23-18 Donna’s Word-A-Day Facebook Briefs

Cindy SobolewskiReporter Corner

Reporters Corner brought to you by the expert court reporters at Urlaub Bowen & Associates

Here is an updated list of Donna’s Word-A-Day Facebook Briefs available for download in .pdf format.  You can download the list in either alphabetical or date order.  A list of reporter suggestions is also available.  Please come back and revisit, as the lists will be updated periodically.

Available Word-A-Day Briefs

July 23rd, 2018

Donna’s Word-a-Day FB Briefs Date Order 072318

Reporter Suggestions 072318

Donna’s Word-a-Day FB Briefs Alphabetical Order 072318

5-25-18 Donna’s Facebook Word-A-Day Briefs

Cindy SobolewskiReporter Corner

Reporters Corner brought to you by the expert court reporters at Urlaub Bowen & Associates

Here are Donna’s Facebook Word-A-Day Briefs available for download in .pdf format.  You can download the list in either alphabetical or date order.  A list of reporter suggestions is also available.  Please come back and revisit, as the lists will be updated periodically.

Available Word-A-Day Briefs

May 25th, 2018

Donna’s brief a day in alphabetical order 0525

Donna’s brief a day in date order 0525

Donna’s brief a day Reporter Suggestions 0525