You’ve heard of general proofreading and now transcript proofreading is on your radar! What’s the difference between the two? Can you be a transcript proofreader if you’re already a general proofreader?
These are great questions! Let’s dive into the differences between transcript proofreading and general proofreading.
How transcript proofreading is different from general proofreading
As a general proofreader for blogs, books, emails, etc., you’re the final step in the writing process. You find and fix grammar errors and typos, watch for formatting issues, maybe make a few minor word changes, correct subject/verb agreement issues — you know the list! Essentially, you make everything grammatically correct.
As a transcript proofreader for court reporters, you are also the final step before your client (a court reporter) sends their transcript to their client. Beyond that similarity of being the final step in the writing process, things change a bit!
Transcripts are the verbatim record of the spoken word. The court reporter has to write down exactly what was said during a legal proceeding.
That means you aren’t proofreading a well-written blog post or book. You’re proofreading how someone talks — and we all know that nobody has perfect grammar when they speak, especially attorneys and witnesses when they’re doing an all-day trial or deposition! Inside transcripts, people from all walks of life with different speech patterns, dialects, and grammar knowledge are speaking. Perfect grammar is impossible in a transcript.
So your job as a transcript proofreader is to make sure the transcript is as readable, accurate, and consistent as possible, all while following your court reporter’s preferences.
I’m not saying everything you know about grammar goes out the window. Not at all! The first letter of a sentence is still capitalized, sentences end with a punctuation mark, commas go after dates — the basic rules you’re used to in general proofreading stay the same.
But when you’re working with the way someone talks and you can’t change what they said, your goal is to use grammar to make the spoken word as readable as possible so when attorneys review the transcript, they can easily understand what was said.
(Court reporters even have their own grammar books they go by to help manage how the spoken word should be punctuated! I cover those resources with you inside Learn How to Be a Transcript Proofreader, including my own Grammar Masterclass I put together for transcript proofreaders.)
Beyond proofreading the spoken word, you also keep a sharp lookout for dropped, switched around, or incorrect words and phrases.
See, when court reporters are writing, it is in steno. The software attached from the court reporter’s special stenograph machine to their computer translates the steno into English so anyone can read it. A scopist will follow afterward and edit the transcript to fix any untranslates (words that stayed in steno), update punctuation, and otherwise edit the transcript. Just like in the process of writing a book or a college paper, after something is written and then edited, it needs to be proofread to catch any dropped/wrong words, typos, fix punctuation the scopist overlooked, and make sure everything is consistent.
You also have to learn and maintain your court reporter’s preferences. Each court reporter has their own grammatical preferences, and it’s your job to make sure you follow those, even if it’s not necessarily the most grammatically correct way to punctuate a sentence. What’s correct is what the court reporter perfers!
As a transcript proofreader, you are proofreading for
- Dropped, swapped, or incorrect words
Each bullet point is crucial for you to master so you are a confident and successful transcript proofreader who court reporters love to work with — and are happy to refer you to other court reporters for a job done exceptionally well.
Proofreading for court reporters is the most unique type of proofreading. After being a general proofreader for years, it took a lot of practice to get used to with the differences. Now I love it so much it’s the main type of proofreading I do.
Whew! I know that was a lot to digest and it seems like it’s a lot to learn. But don’t stress! It’s not something you have to (or should) figure out on your own. I cover every single aspect of transcript proofreading inside my comprehensive course, Learn How to Be a Transcript Proofreader. Plus, inside, we look at, discuss, and practice plenty of transcripts so you’ll be very familiar with them before you start working with court reporters. You’ll feel like the pro you are when you’ve completed the intensive training!
Do you need general proofreading experience first?
Another common question I get about transcript proofreading and general proofreading is, Do I need to be a general proofreader before I can be a transcript proofreader?
Nope! You sure don’t! Because of the differences between transcript proofreading and general proofreading, you still need training, practice, and experience to transition from one type of proofreading to the other. A few of my graduates were general proofreaders before getting into transcripts, but others weren’t — and both backgrounds have done extremely well as transcript proofreaders.
If you’ve never proofread a day in your life before, don’t let that hold you back from learning how to be a transcript proofreader!
Do you think transcript proofreading is something you would have fun doing? Or does it seem too odd compared to general proofreading? There’s no right or wrong answer — everyone has their own preferences! Let me know in the comments!