Between literary, jury charge, and Q&A dictation, the literary was always my favorite leg in school. I loved the challenge of tackling dense material. And since it was favored by me, I tended to do well on my literary tests.
I remember consciously making an effort to include literary practice from a book. Sometimes taking a break from dictation on tape is a welcomed change. I had a medical textbook put out by NCRA back then which included chapters on each system in the body: skeletal, nervous, respiratory, digestive, muscular, cardiovascular, etc. I would write from each chapter, concentrating on correct fingering, not on speed. If I had trouble with a certain word or group of words, I would practice them until I could write them without error. I would read my notes to see if there were any flaws or mistakes. As time went on, I could write the chapter quite comfortably. Because of this, when I was presented with nontechnical literary for testing purposes, it did not seem as difficult.
If you do not have such a book, there is plenty of material on line for you to use. Just print up a few articles and write away. Besides medical material, choose material in other subjects as well, such as chemical, engineering, or environmental. The supply is endless! If you can concentrate on one full article a month in a different subject area, think of all the new vocabulary words you will be able to add to your dictionary, not to mention the exposure you will have to the many disciplines you will most likely encounter in your court reporting career.
As an example, I found the article “Wiping Out Gut Bugs Stops Obesity” by Kerry Grens in the November 16, 2015, issue of The Scientist from a simple Google search and found this sentence: “Inhibition of this signaling impairs antibiotic-induced subcutaneous-fat browning, and it suppresses the glucose phenotype of the microbiota-depleted mice.” This is obviously a difficult passage. If it is way beyond your abilities, look for material that is less dense and more manageable. The main point is that there is great free practice material out there for whatever level you are at.
To get you started, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you some medical chapters from the NCRA textbook, now sadly out of print, for you to practice. They are not as difficult as the example above, but you will still find them challenging and very interesting.
Another hint: You can also carry the articles with you so that if you have spare time – in a doctor’s waiting room, for example, or on the commuter train – you can practice the fingering without your machine. Though not as effective, it is still a good way to forge new pathways between your brain and fingers, new pathways that will soon become part of your everyday writing arsenal.
Try including this method of practice in your routine and see if it brings you success. In any event, it is far better to test your writing abilities during your quiet study sessions than when you come face to face with an expert witness some day.