Technical depositions and court testimony can be challenging for new court reporters and court reporting students. It is the court reporter's responsibility to make sure that every word in the transcript is spelled properly. To do otherwise makes the court reporter look unprofessional, inexperienced or lazy. It may also make the person reading the transcript wonder if a certain word was missed, which else is wrong with the transcript.
Court reporters begin with a basic software translation dictionary for stenotype to English. They start it in school and must build it up word by word as they take more testimony. Each grouping of stenotype strokes equals a word. The word's stroke combination must be defined in the software dictionary before it can come up in English during the translating process. The more words properly defined in the court reporter's dictionary, the faster and easier the transcription process becomes.
Asking for Help
One way to find out the proper spelling is to ask the witness to spell an unfamiliar word. Sometimes the witness does not know. Additionally, some lawyers do not like interruptions during a deposition, even when it improves the quality of their product. Medical doctors will often tell the court reporter to call if they have any questions later on, when they are transcribing the testimony.
One tip given to students is every time they see or hear a new word, they should learn its meaning, the proper spelling for it and what part of speech it is. Many students keep this in a notebook and transfer the words to their dictionary.
Looking It Up
Technical terms abound in expert testimony. Words are sometimes abbreviated or turned into acronyms. These words are not usually included in the basic student's dictionary. Before the word can be defined and added to the dictionary, it should be verified for proper spelling. Finding the right way to spell a word can be a great challenge when someone has never heard it before. The simplest way to do this is to try different letter combinations as a starting spelling for a word. Use an online or hard copy dictionary to find it. Specialized medical or legal dictionaries are reliable resources.
Defining a Word
When adding words to a dictionary, one requirement is to enter the appropriate steno strokes needed to form the word. Sometimes court reporters will stroke a word a slightly different way, depending on how fast the speaker is or whether they recognize the word's syllables as they are being uttered. It does not matter how many different ways a word is stroked, as long as it comes up in the court reporter's dictionary when necessary. As a result, the same word may be in there two different ways, but the transcription will be correct.
Those sounds that are not recognized by the software remain in steno until they are originally changed into English. Of course, this takes longer than allowing the computer to automatically translate the text. The longer it takes to transcribe a job, the less time the court stenographer is available to take other jobs. Shorter transcription times are the key to making more money.