Strategies to Manage “Inappropriate” Mistranslates

The difference between properly written steno strokes for standard, everyday conversational words and steno for certain curse words, slurs/insults, and/or anatomical descriptions that may be inappropriate outside of medical testimony can be a single letter. For example, accidentally drop an initial P from the steno for submit and you get a four-letter word.  Invert the strokes for national advantage and you get an anatomical description. These tiny mistakes may result in snickering at best, and outright indignance and offense at worst.

We are human beings and we make mistakes. Shadows, drops, and other unintentional errors can and will happen. Although the audience may be one where the comic relief of such an error will be welcomed rather than a source of shock and horror, in the cause of accuracy and reduced editing, reporters must have a strategy to either correct them or remove them from view during realtime translation, and/or to prevent them from being missed in proofing and going out uncorrected in a final document.

As your proceedings may legitimately include these words, you obviously can’t simply remove them from your dictionary; however, you can make them harder to write accidentally. Whether or not you provide realtime translation, one way to avoid embarrassing mistranslates is to adjust your steno theory for any curse words or slurs that would be avoided in polite conversation and require the steno for those words to use an easy-to-write but extra stroke (such as /S-D or /S-Z or a double stroke of the same word). By requiring a minimum of two strokes to translate the potentially embarrassing word, you ensure that they are not only unique strokes and not conflicts, they are also less likely to be written by a minor fingering error.

Whether or not that strategy is one you can adopt, accidents can and will still happen, and will need to be edited. When an embarrassing mistranslate occurs, the best way to deal with it permanently is to see if it can be defined as a phrase with a word that appears before or after the mistranslate. It is always best to define away potential errors, rather than fix them for the current job only via Replace, or by deleting and then re-typing text.

However, before you can define away a potentially embarrassing mistranslate, you have to know that it’s there. One way to make sure that you discover them is to add any curse words, slurs and/or awkward anatomical references to the MistranMinderList file (at the User level). That way, before sending out a transcript you can click Tools, Mistran Minder and search for any occurrences of those items in your transcript. If any occur, you can read the word or phrase in context in the Search pane or double click to navigate to the occurrence and read them in the transcript to determine whether the word is a mistranslate or correct for the proceedings.

Another solution that some reporters use is to open the Hotspots Pane, access Hotspot Options and create an Oops category and color specifically for curse words, slurs, etc. For example, you could customize Oops Category 4, assign it the name Potentially Inappropriate, and assign the color as red. Then, you could go to your Personal Dictionary and define each curse word, slur, etc. with the <Oops 4 – Potentially Inappropriate> format symbol. Then, when editing the job, you can simply open up the Hotspots pane, organize by Type and quickly locate all occurrences of any words defined with that <Oops 4 – Potentially Inappropriate> format symbol. Those occurrences will stand out/be easy to find in the pane and as with Mistran Minder, you could either read the context in the Hotspots pane and/or you could double click the entry to locate the potentially inappropriate word in the transcript and determine whether it was said and is appropriate for the specific proceeding, or if it was an accidental mistranslate that required defining or adjusting!

If you provide realtime translation, and you are concerned about inappropriate language appearing during translation, one other advantage of defining all potentially inappropriate language in the Personal Dictionary with an Oops format symbol with a unique category is that you could then also record an AccelerWriter that would search backward for that format symbol to position the cursor before or after the inappropriate word, and then either redact it or restore the steno for it so that it is not (or less) readable by non-court-reporter parties during proceedings.

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