Many times I’ve been asked by attorneys why transcription costs so much. “Don’t you just push a button and the computer program generates the transcript?” If only.
Producing a readable, useful transcript is a skill that reporters continue to perfect every day. Figuring out how to punctuate the spoken word so that it is understandable in written form takes patience, comprehension of the subject matter, and excellent grammar skills.
I’ve seen transcripts where court reporters have taken the easy way out. The deponent paused to take a breath, and the reporter inserted a period or a comma. When preparing the transcript, that initial punctuation was left alone and you end up with run-on sentences that confound the reader or incomplete sentences that are choppy and misleading. Good court reporters take the time to read through the transcript and use all the tools at their disposal to make sure that the meaning is clear.
Proofreaders help court reporters avoid the pitfalls of on-the-fly punctuation. Oftentimes I will punctuate based on how I heard the question or answer only to have my proofreader flag that section with a large, red “Huh?” If the proofreader doesn’t understand what is being said, I know I need to spend more time punctuating. After all, at the time the deposition was taken the words made sense to everyone in the room. Translating that oral experience to the written one is the court reporter’s job.
What else makes a transcript useful? Consistent use of numbering conventions. At our agency we use numerals for measurements, money, and ages. Words are used for descriptors like “She had two left feet.” This makes searching for particular information in the transcript more successful. The same goes for consistent naming conventions for exhibits (Exhibit No. 1 versus exhibit number 1) and names of documents (Employee Performance Review versus employee Performance Review).
Taking the time to make sure names are spelled correctly also makes a difference. If you are searching for references to Sandy but the reporter has spelled the name Sandi, that just adds to the confusion. And there are times when different people in a case will have the same name, but it will be spelled differently. It is critical that the court reporter understand the difference and double-check each and every occurrence so that the transcript accurately reflects what the parties intended.
Some transcripts take longer to prepare than others. Good court reporters will take the time because they understand that that is what sets our transcripts apart from a record generated solely by speech recognition software or “pushing a button.”
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