A stenographer or stenographer typist is a highly trained professional who uses a stenotype, or shorthand machine, to provide real-time transcriptions. Her services are most often used during court hearings, academic conferences, or to provide closed captioning or subtitling on video or for broadcast for the hearing-impaired. The shorthand machine enables her to keep up with the pace of most normal speech, around 180 words per minute, according to the BBC, which would be impossible for anyone transcribing longhand or using manual shorthand. Typical employers of stenographer typists are court reporting agencies, local, state and national government agencies and television companies.
A stenographer typist goes through a rigorous training process in which she learns how to use the stenotype machine and gets training in legal proceedings and general writing skills. Depending on the areas in which she works, she must also master a specialized vocabulary, such as legal or medical terms. After completing training, a stenographer typist is certified by the National Court Reporters Association and licensed to practice stenography.
A stenographer typist must be an expert in using shorthand on the steno machine in order to take down the proceedings word-for-word. She must pay close attention to details and remain alert to exactly what is being said in order to identify possible errors. The machine uses computer technology to translate the shorthand into English, or another language, and there are occasionally inaccuracies. In court, a judge may ask the stenographer to read out something that she has recorded in order to clarify ambiguities.
A stenographer typist working in a courtroom or taking a deposition outside a courtroom must carefully review the documents that have been produced on the stenotype and make sure that they are accurate and that the report is objective. A particularly important responsibility is accurate punctuation, because even a misplaced comma can change the meaning of what someone said.
A stenograph typist working in court has a position of great responsibility and trust. She must remain objective and accurate at all times, as she produces legal documents that could, in some cases, be a matter of life or death. If taking a deposition outside a courtroom, she is responsible for administering the witness's oath and for taking proper custody of the resulting statement.
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