For a reporter, I'm probably one of the world's worst note-takers. Other editors and participants at meetings I cover have commented on the fact that I seem to take a lot of notes.
What they don't know is I can never keep up with the speaker. I sometimes wonder if the speaker thinks I didn't approve of what he said because I'm still writing when everyone else is applauding as he leaves the podium.
I record a lot of speeches. But, with the deadline pressures we face, I don't always have time to transcribe the tape. So I'm often left trying to puzzle out some arcane scribbling from a speech I covered three or four weeks ago.
I've known editors who learned shorthand. One reporter for a newspaper that I worked for in another life developed the bad habit of coming in from an interview or a meeting and simply typing his short-hand notes into story form on the computer screen.
This reporter, who shall remain nameless, had been in the business so long he never bothered to read his articles when he finished them. One day, he came in a few minutes before deadline and started pounding out a story. When he finished, he hit the send button, which transferred the article electronically to the city desk.
As an assistant city editor, it fell my lot to edit the article. It was about 15 paragraphs of gibberish. I could not make out a single word. After sitting there for what seemed like an eternity, I finally realized he had gotten his fingers on the wrong keys. And, since he never looked at the screen while he was writing, he didn't realize he was one letter off on the whole story.
I've tried abbreviations: P for price; C for cotton, L for legislation, but abbreviations create problems of their own. I've sometimes written BW for boll weevil. But, when I sat down to write, I couldn't remember if the BW stood for boll weevil or bollworm.
It occurred to me while I was covering Cotton Incorporated's Crop Management Seminar in Memphis that farmers have about solved the latter problem for me. I rarely, if ever, write boll weevil in my notes any more. If I do, it's probably not in connection with other cotton insects.
Other changes have complicated my note taking, however. For several years, I've used RR for Roundup Ready. Now I'm not always sure if it's Roundup Ready or Roundup-resistant, as in horseweed or pigweed. Weed scientists have tried to help me out by using the term glyphosate-resistant (GR.)
Others aren't so kind. The National Corn Growers Association or NCGA seems determined to create a new set of abbreviations to worry us. Now, besides having to try to remember what FSA, DP, CCP, LDP, MAL stand for, we may soon have to stop and figure out what BRP, RCCP, PPAT and who knows what else mean.