What is a Stenographer?

I recently attended a holiday party and was asked, “What is a stenographer?”  It was an interesting discussion because the attorney asking me thought a court reporter was the person who is an employee in the courthouse, whereas a “stenographer” worked in deposition settings.  Considering we do exactly the same thing – use a steno machine to make a verbatim record of the proceedings – I thought it was interesting that he thought the court employee wasn’t also technically a stenographer.

A stenographer (a/k/a a court reporter) is a person who writes down the spoken words by using a special type of writing called machine shorthand. Stenographers have been around courtrooms and in deposition settings for the last few centuries. Due to their ability to produce verbatim records of legal proceedings, they have played (and continue to play) a vital role in the legal process.

The Use of Shorthand and the Stenotype Machine

While transcribing, stenographers use an abbreviated, phonetic writing technique. Shorthand helps increase the speed at which a stenographer can write his or her notes. In the past, handwritten shorthand was conducted mainly in courtrooms. Now, stenographers use the stenotype machine to record the dialogue and actions of a variety of proceedings, from arbitrations to public meetings to focus groups.

A stenotype machine is a specialized, chorded keyboard and has 22 keys. Stenographers use a variety of multiple keystrokes at once to spell out syllables, words, or phrases. This allows stenographers to type over 225 words per minute. This is much faster than typing on a standard QWERTY, or typewriter, keyboard on which the average typing speed is around 41 words per minute. It is crucial for stenographers to type fast, because they must accurately capture every word spoken during a proceeding.

Most stenotype machines are now connected to a computer with special software that can instantly translate the shorthand notes into readable text. This is called realtime reporting. The transcript’s text can then be displayed in real time on computer monitors, iPads, or projection screens. This form of stenography is becoming more and more advantageous for attorneys for marking notes and to search the transcript in real time while a deposition or trial is ongoing.

Becoming Certified

Stenographers go through an extensive two- to three-year training program to become certified court reporters.  Even after certification, continuing education courses are required to maintain licensure. Since obtaining an accurate and verbatim record is crucial to the legal process, it is important to hire a court reporter that is certified and well-trained.

Hiring a Court Reporter

When searching for a court reporter for your next deposition or legal proceeding, you can be assured that our team of professional reporters are certified and credentialed so you can have the confidence that you’ll be working with a qualified stenographer.  If you are searching for a court reporter in Denver or throughout Colorado or Wyoming, we offer superior court reporting services that cover everything you need.