Voice Writing & Court Reporting?

by Amy Nutt

Court reporting is a career that involves recording the information, testimony, and proceedings of a court case. Since no video cameras are allowed in a courtroom, the court reporter provides the only official record of the proceedings, making this a very important profession, and often one that is paid quite well.

Methods of Court Reporting

Court reporting is not an easy profession, because court reporters must be able to somehow record the information presented in court quickly and accurately, turning it into written transcripts after the day in court is over. In the past, this required professional court reporters to learn the skill of stenotyping. This involved typing using a special typewriter that used symbols to represent spoken sounds, thus reducing the number of keystrokes required to record the information presented in court. This was effective, but took a tremendous amount of training to perfect. The need for this specialized skill is part of the reason that court reporters are paid so well.

What Is Voice Writing?

While stenotyping is still used today, modern court reporters have another option, and that is voice writing. Voice writing involves taking down the information through the spoken word, rather than the typed word. It has been used for a while in conferences and non-court purposes, but is gaining a following in the world of court reporting as well.

Voice writing involves speaking into a silencer that is connected to a laptop computer. The computer has voice recognition software on it, allowing everything the speaker says to be recorded. The silencer keeps the words from being audible to people in the courtroom. The court reporter can then repeat everything that is said, describe people’s reactions, and speak any other details that need to be recorded, and the laptop will translate that into written words. The reporter can then return to the document after the proceedings are over to clean it up and make a presentable copy to deliver to his client. Some voice writing setups also allow the laptop to copy the words spoken by the people in the courtroom along with the commentary from the court reporter.

Is Voice Writing Better?

Voice writing may be a better solution for courtroom records. It tends to deliver a more accurate transcription of the events, particularly when set up to record the actual words spoken in the courtroom. Since people can speak faster than they can type, even with the aid of a stenotyping machine, court reporters using voice writing can record more of the proceedings and their observations than those using traditional methods. It also produces a clearer transcript, so court reporters spend less time editing their final product. This means they can take on more assignments and increase their profits. It also eliminates the possibility of stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel, which are common with professional stenotypists who use their hands repeatedly to earn a living.

One potential downside to voice writing is the fact that it requires highly specialized equipment. Training court reporters about this new way of recording information can be a challenge for some courtrooms. Seasoned court reporters may feel uncomfortable learning a new technology after years of doing things one way. In spite of these downsides, voice writing looks like a promising option for the future of court reporting as a career.

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