When I started learning about proofreading for court reporters, I had no idea what court reporters actually did. I just knew I liked reading mysteries and watching crime shows and that getting to proofread the inner workings of Law & Order-type cases sounded pretty good to me. (So if that’s you too, then you are in great company!)

Since you’ve probably seen a court case on a TV show before, you’ve also probably seen a person sitting in the front of the courtroom typing away on a little machine. That’s the court reporter, writing down everything said during the trial!

But court reporters aren’t just in courtrooms. Court reporters (CRs) have a very special, very important job of taking down legal proceedings. That includes in court in front of a judge and jury, and CRs also take down private depositions that happen before a case even gets to trial. That’s where attorneys interview witnesses to find out what they know so the attorneys can prepare for a settlement or trial so they can best represent their clients.

CRs are often called the guardians of the record because they are responsible for writing every single spoken word of the on-record legal proceeding…verbatim. The document a CR produces of the verbatim written word is called a transcript. It reads like a play, with the questions and answers and all other discussions recorded in a booklet. This transcript provides an accurate record of exactly what happened in the legal proceeding so it is preserved for attorneys to further review to help them prepare their cases.

That transcript is what you as a proofreader will proofread for the CR to help them make sure it is as accurate and readable as possible before they turn it in. You have no small job!

Some fun facts about CRs:

  • They can write at least 200 words per minute with a high percentage of accuracy (The world’s fastest court reporter can write 360 words per minute!).
  • In order to write so fast, they don’t use a typical QWERTY keyboard. They write in a special shorthand called steno, and they type on a special machine called a stenograph (or steno) machine. It has a unique keyboard that lets them write syllables (and sometimes entire words or phrases) in a single motion. That’s how they can write so fast!
  • A lot of times crime shows will have CRs writing on steno machines that have paper coming out of it. That’s the older way CRs used to take down everything. They’d type away, and the words would come out on a receipt-like paper. Now CRs have digital steno machines with a mini screen where CRs can see the steno they’re writing. The machines translate the steno into English.
  • CRs are also called stenographers because they write in steno.
  • After they are done with the job they are reporting, they or a scopist will scope (or edit) a transcript. After a job is scoped, it’s send to a transcript proofreader to make sure there are no errors.
  • Although it’s not as common as traditional legal work, sometimes companies will hire reporters for important meetings where the companies need an accurate, verbatim record of the proceedings. (I’ve read a few of these types of transcripts but not many.)

Did you know CRs were required to report the spoken word verbatim? Because I sure didn’t before I got into proofing for them! When you think about how fast we can talk, especially as we really get into a conversation, it’s pretty mind-blowing they can take all that down accurately. CRs are amazingly talented people, and it’s rewarding working alongside them!

Want to learn more about transcript proofreading and if it’s a good fit for you?

Tap here to watch my free workshop, Is Transcript Proofreading the Right Money-Making Business for You?

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Meet Elizabeth

Elizabeth Wiegner is a work-from-home proofreader and business coach who teaches other readers and typo fixers how to build a life of freedom as a proofreader. Her energy, love, and personalized support are second to none in the proofreading world.