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It’s no secret that court reporters have to write quickly. In order to keep up with quick changes and fast speakers, it’s a wonder how anyone is able to keep up with everything going on. Most people cannot write or type anywhere near as fast as most people speak, so what makes the court reporter’s method of taking down the record different?

First of all, the steno machine that a court reporter uses is specifically made to increase writing efficiency. On a regular QWERTY keyboard, like the one you’re probably using right now to navigate the internet, every individual letter, space, and punctuation mark must be pressed in order to construct a document that is readable and grammatically correct. On a steno machine, words are not written by individual letters at all. In fact, multiple keys of the steno machine are pressed at the same time, much like piano chords, in order to write syllables, whole words, or even multiple words at the same time. In addition, a lot of steno writers also write phonetically. This means that words aren’t necessarily written according to their English spelling but are written according to the way the word sounds. For example, for the word “says”, a steno writer might write something akin to “sez”, even though the word is spelled S-A-Y-S, which corresponds more to the sound of the word rather than the spcleveland court reporterselling.

The keys that the stenographer presses on the steno machine do not immediately translate to English. The stenographer is writing in shorthand. Most people who look at the strokes the steno writer actually produces would be very confused would probably mistake the raw output for gibberish. The steno shorthand that the stenographer writes can be translated in real time to standard English by CAT (Computer-Aided Transcription) software. This not only allows court reporters to save significant amounts of time producing a document, it also allows for realtime transmission of what is being written, making things like writing captions on TV shows, or captioning a live conference possible.

Even though there is a lot of technology involved in a stenographer’s career, it is not just the technology itself that makes court reporters quick writers. Steno students must put in a lot of practice into essentially learning a new language and learning a new instrument at the same time! In order to graduate, most schools require students to pass tests at 225 words per minute (WPM). The Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification offered by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) also requires candidates to pass 225 WPM, 200 WPM, and 180 WPM tests in order to earn the certification. For comparison, the average person writes at around 68 letters per minute (13 WPM), average computer typist is 41 WPM, and the fastest keyboard typing speed recorded is 216 WPM, according to ratatype.com. However, the fastest stenotype writing speed is 360 WPM, held by Mark Kislingbury, according to the Guinness World Records.

Stenography is a very specialized skill that takes a lot of effort and time to learn. In addition, there is a lot of new and unfamiliar technology that a stenographer must become familiar with in order to write well. The next time you see a court reporter writing down everything that is said, appreciate all the training and effort that has gone into being able to perform this skill!

written by Brittaney Byers

Brittaney Byers is a current court reporting student intern at Cady Reporting. She is currently in her final speeds at Cuyahoga Community College and hoping to graduate in May 2018. Brittaney has been featured in the National Court Reporters Association’s student publication Up-To-Speed as the Student Spotlight in October 2017. After graduating, Brittaney hopes to either become a freelance court reporter taking depositions, or an official court reporter working in a courtroom. When she is not practicing or doing homework, she enjoys playing the piano and caring for her cat, Kiara.


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