Glossary

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This glossary will help you with terms that you may come across in the steno community.

Arpeggiate

A Plover feature enabling a standard keyboard to stroke a chord by pressing one key at a time. This feature is reminiscent of Caps Lock or Sticky Keys. When enabled, the default arpeggiate begin/end toggle is <space>. Press <space> to begin arpeggiating, then press the keys which make up the chord, and, finally, press <space> to end arpeggiating and send the chord. The "Arpeggiate" checkbox must be toggled via Configure > Machine (with "Keyboard" selected from the drop-down) in order for this feature to work, as pictured below.

toggle arpeggiating checkbox to enable

The term "arpeggiate" is analogous to individually playing each note of a musical chord. See cheat sheets for pictures of how keyboard keys correspond to steno keys.

Brief

Also known as the "abbreviation", "short form", or "arbitrary". Briefs are simply non-phonetic mappings of steno outlines to English words or phrases. Common words and phrases are often briefed for the purpose of speed. For instance, the phrase "from time to time" would regularly be written out:

FROM/TAOIM/TO/TAOIM (reads: "from/time/to/time" and takes four strokes)

Or, as a simple brief:

FRIMT (reads: "frimt" and takes only one stroke)

Chord

A group of keys representing a certain sound. For example, TPH- is a chord that represents the initial N sound.

Conflict

  1. traditionally: a conflict-based theory uses one stroke for multiple translations. For example, a non-realtime stenographer could use the same stroke for "bare", "bear", and "bar", which is a conflict that the stenographer would have to manually resolve at a later time. Plover is a realtime-only system and does not support conflict-theories.
  2. informal; a.k.a collision: when two dictionaries have the same stroke, the dictionary with the highest priority is favored. For this reason, it is important to understand your dictionary order.

Dragging

Dragging is the term used to describe accidentally dragging another key into your stroke. E.g. if you try to write -F but then drag your finger to the left, you might hit *F instead.

JSON

JSON, in the context of stenography, is a dictionary format which maps steno strokes to translations. You will often see strokes expressed in the JSON format, such as "SKP": "and".

Mandatory

A typically arbitrary brief which is the only correct way to write the word. For example, -T is the only outline for the in the default dictionary, with no written out outline.

Misstroke

A misstroke is like a "chord typo". It's when you mean to write one chord, but stroke another. Often, dictionaries have misstroke entries that are added when a stenographer frequently misstrokes an entry. For example, take the stroke TKPWAOD (meaning GAOD) which translates to good. Sometimes the stenographer may miss a key, so they could have a misstroke entry TKPAOD which would also translate to good. Then they are protected from these typos in regular writing. There are many misstroke entries in the default dictionary, and you must try to make sense of results when you look up words, instead of blindly accepting the shortest stroke.

Outline

One or more strokes that translate to an affix, word, or phrase, such as STPHOG/TPER, one possible outline for stenographer.

Philly Shift

Shifting the right hand one column to the right, typically in order to write the normally not possible -TZ and -SD chords.

RTF/CRE

Plover can read steno dictionaries in JSON and RTF/CRE format. RTF/CRE stands for "rich text format with court reporting extensions". It is a standard format that most proprietary steno software can import from and export to. Plover can read RTF/CRE natively.

Shadowing

Shadowing is when a key registers on the steno paper unintentionally, due to pressing lightly on a key by accident. The term "shadowing" comes from the light ink impression left on the steno paper - it looks like the shadow of a letter. While the use of writing to paper continues to decline, the act of shadowing can be a bigger problem with digital systems as the machine and/or transcription software registers it as off or on - no in-between. Shadowing can be reduced or eliminated by more careful writing and by adjusting key sensitivity.

Stacking

When writing stenography, if you accidentally merge two strokes into one, it is called stacking. For example, you might try to write is okay with S-/OBG but end up with SOBG → sock because you stacked the strokes. To avoid stacking, the stenographer must be sure to release all keys in their chord before stroking the next. Sometimes machines are prone to stacking due to bad debouncing or sticking keys.

You might notice strokes in Plover's default dictionary that map to, for example, "T-S": "{^s it}". These were entered to fix stacking issues on Mirabai's old steno machine, but aren't relevant for most users and can safely be overwritten.

Steno Dictionary

Used by Plover or other stenotype software. Contains all the words and the strokes that produce those words. While generally these are constructed using a steno theory, this can be freely modified by the stenographer. Dictionaries are a collection of entries, which map strokes to translation.

Steno Order

The 22 keys on the steno machine has an explicit "order" that gets read out, top-to-bottom, left to right. The entire steno layout is defined by STKPWHRAO*EUFRPBLGTSDZ.

Stroke

A group of keys that is pressed all at once in order to write a word or a part of a word. For example, the outline STPHOG/TPER for stenographer consists of two strokes, STPHOG and TPER.

Steno Theory

A "system" or way of thinking that determines which steno strokes will match to which words. Theories range generally from being based on spelling ("brief-heavy") to being based on the sound of the word ("stroke-heavy"). The dictionary included with Plover uses a theory based on "NYCI theory", which is descended from StenEd. It offers a hybrid between a brief-heavy and stroke-heavy theory. It is recommended to start learning with Plover theory, and you will likely learn what style you like and you can always switch later. Mirabai uses the Plover dictionary professionally.

Suffix folding or tucking

In some steno theories, when writing a word that ends with a suffix (or starts with a prefix), one may include that suffix or prefix in the same stroke as another part of the word. So rather than writing "seeing" as SAOE/-G, one may write SAOEG in one stroke. Sometimes this will break steno order. For example, when EPBD/-G is turned into EPBGD. This is known as folding in or tucking.

Some commonly tucked one-key suffixes are "-S": "{^s}", "-D": "{^ed}", "-G": "{^ing}" and "-R": "{^er}". A one-key prefix that's often folded in Plover's default theory as well is "K-": "{con^}" (where the N becomes M if the next sound is a P, B or M for historical reasons). Some multi-letter suffixes in that theory are "-PLT": "{^ment}", "-GS": "{^tion}" and "-BGS": "{^ction}".

Untranslate

Also known as an untran. When writing in stenography, your strokes map to translations. E.g. KAT → cat. However, if a stroke is not in your dictionary, the raw form will be outputted instead. This is called an untranslate. For example, if your dictionary doesn't have KAT, Plover will simply output KAT.

Word Boundary

The implicit spacing in between words. Spacing is inserted automatically by Plover or other steno software. As words and phrases will often sound similar to others, a stenographer needs to choose the stroke or brief appropriate for the situation with the correct word boundary.

An illustration of a word boundary error is given by the phrase "cat log". If a stenographer were to write "cat log" with Plover, by default, the system will write "catalog". This happens because "cat log" isn't a very common word-pair in English. The stenographer must explicitly write "cat (space) log". But, there are many more common cases that are handled and the stenographer must be explicit. See below for how some phonetics are differentiated:

Examples (Plover):

  • "in here"; TPH/HAOER vs "insect"; EUPB/SEBGT
  • "on top of"; OPB/TOP/-F vs "onto"; AUPN/TO
  • "it is a live (wire)"; T/S/AEU/HREUF vs "it is alive"; T/S/A/HREUF

Write Out

The opposite of a brief is writing out the word according to your theory. In Plover, this would refer to the fact that you are sounding a word out, rather than using its brief. E.g. writing out O/PEUPB/KWROPB instead of using the brief P-PB for the word "opinion".

Writing

Professional stenographers do not like being referred to as "typists" because it normalizes the complex system that stenography is. On a steno machine, you do not "type". Instead, they call it "writing". Some stenographers are more sensitive to this than others. Generally, you "type" on a keyboard, and "write" on a steno machine. Steno machines were traditionally called "stenotypes", but that usage has died out over time.