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Sleuthing Realtime Caption Errors

Human Realtime Captioners very often score 100% when writing every word spoken -- did you know that? As a captioner myself and owner of a captioning company and a steno school (HRI-CART, Hardeman School), I have taught, vetted, mentored, or observed over a thousand realtime writers in my career thus far. I regularly watch captions on TV and spot errors and know why the error has happened. Readers of captions might like to know what some of the errors are that one sees on TV. Long-time consumers of captions for communication access realtime (CART) have their favorite humorous "bloopers"

Since we captioners write not only by sound but by shortcuts called "briefs," we can keep up with human speech (maybe not auctioneers) and render accurate text. With auctioneers, we can deliver the communication in understandable summary form. But when we err, what form do errors take?

With just 23 keys -- 8 initial consonant keys, 4 vowel keys, 10 final consonant keys, and 1 number bar -- how in heaven's name do we do this?

We "play chords" of keys, like a piano. The initial consonant single keys are S, T, K, P, W, H, and R. But where's, like, the G? The G is written by pressing T and K at the same time with the ring finger and P and W at the same time with the middle finger. So "go" is written TKPWO -- a chord of two sounds struck with three fingers of the left hand.

The "I" is written by hitting E and U at the same time with the right thumb. TKPW EU G is "gig." It's really FUN to write on the steno machine.

So knowing a little steno and the layout of the machine, you can see how a tiny shift by the finger can render a different word. Accuracy is paramount to the captioner!

You can learn the rest of the steno keyboard (and find out if you love it) by signing up for either of two free introductory courses: or .

So the "missed notes" of captioners are generally fingering errors and can be remedied with practice drills. For example, this morning on a national news station:

"POLICY OBJECTIVE OF HISS" - should have been "POLICY OBJECTIVE OF HIS." (the little finger hit the S and Z at the same time instead of just the S with the right pinkie.)

"THE RIK OF PERICARDITIS" - should be "THE RISK OF PERICARDITIS" (the forefinger didn't hit the final F, just the final K, and FK stands for the "SK" sound.

See if you can be sleuths as you watch captions on TV and spot the fingering (or it could be voice misrecognition) errors. There should not be many. If there are confusing or garbled captions, then take a picture with your camera, note the station call sign and time on the picture, and click to find your area's contact for reporting problems with captioning. As an example, when I typed in 85001 for the Phoenix area, I got this information:


- Gayl Hardeman

Search results for Video Programming Distributors looked up in zip code 85001

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