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How Does A Court Reporter Type So Fast?

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Todd Olivas Court Reporting

No, We Do Not Have Any Extra Fingers!

Court reporting is quite a skill. Have you ever seen the court reporters on TV or the movies? They sit there in the courtroom or around the deposition table and type away on that funky machine ...

Did you know that the court reporting professional that you see there is actually trained to take down dictation at the incredible speed of 200 words per minute?

Did you know that the court reporting professional can transcribe what you say within 98.5% accuracy?

There are a whole host of skills and studies that go into court reporting - law, medical teriminology, anatomy, English grammar, et cetera. But for the sake of this article, we will be discussing exactly how it is that a court reporting professional can type so darn fast.

The Court Reporting Machine

The secret to the court reporting machine - and the court reporting expert's speed -- is that the keys represent sounds rather than words. The court reporting professional has to learn to divorce themselves from the way words are spelled and think purely phonetically.

The court reporting machine is not your standard QWERTY keyword. There are 22, unmarked keys. The keyboard is split into halves -- one for the left fingers, one for the right fingers. And there is also a second level of keys that the thumbs rest upon.

The left-hand side of a court reporting machine contains initial phonetic sounds like the hard K sound of the word "cat." The right-hand side of the court reporting machine contains final phonetic sounds like the N sound at the end of the word "man."

In the middle where the thumbs rest are the vowels. There are only four vowel keys on the court reporting machine. By using various combinations of the vowel thumb keys, all of the vowel sounds in the English language are represented: long A, short A, long I, short I, ou, oo, et cetera. Click here for an interesting article about the history of the court reporting machine.

The real trick about the court reporting machine is that the court reporting professional does not care or even listen to context, meaning or spelling. The court reporting professional only listens to sounds - the way the words sound translates into finger movements on the keys.

And therein lies the path to the incredible speed that the court reporting professional attains. For example, if you were to hear the words "court reporting" and type them on a standard QWERTY keyboard, you would have to press a key for each letter of the word; right? C-o-u-r-t r-e-p-o-r-t-i-n-g. The word "court reporting" is 14 letters long plus one hit of the space bar makes 15 key presses to type "court reporting."

Now it's the court reporting professional's turn. The court reporting expert only hears sounds not individual words and certainly does not care about spelling. The court reporting professional could type the first word in one keystroke combination: KORT. Then they would come back for a second combination brief: RORT. Then finally end up with the third combination to produce the "ing" sound : G.

That's it. The court reporting professional only takes three strokes to write "court reporting" while the normal QWERTY keyboard typist takes 15. That highly efficient use of sound combinations and briefs is the key to the court reporting professional's skill and the secret behind their amazing speed and accuracy.
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