Using a Stenotype Machine
Most court reporters use a device called a stenotype machine to produce transcripts of court hearings or depositions. A stenotype is a specialized keyword or writer that allows for the use of shorthand. Shorthand is an abbreviated writing system that improves the speed of writing and grants greater convenience in court reporting.
Good court reporters can use a stenotype to achieve speeds upwards of 225 words per minute at a very high accuracy rate. Some users have been clocked at speeds of over 300 words per minute. School training in court reporting includes many hours of instruction on the stenotype, helping students practice their speed and accuracy through the use of dictation drills.
In order to use the stenotype machine, multiple keys are pressed simultaneously like chords on a piano. These "chords" spell out whole syllables, phrases and words in a single hand motion. Using this system allows stenographers to achieve high rates of speed in court reporting and in other fields, such as closed captioning.
Utilizing the Stenotype Machine Properly
Court reporters type out entire words in one stroke by striking several keys all at once. The left hand spells out the first part of a syllable and the right hand finishes the word. All of the keys are pressed at the same time and the machine produces a version of "machine shorthand" that is illegible to anyone that doesn't have stenotype training. Learning to read the "alphabet soup" that comes out of the stenotype is a big component of court reporting training.
Along with learning how to use the stenotype and how to use it quickly, court reporting school focuses on the teaching of various theories that teach different approaches to coming up with abbreviations or other sorts of "code" that make using the stenotype easier. A lot of these abbreviations are ways of shortening up commonly used phrases, such as "May it please the court" and so on. A good stenographer has many abbreviations for common terms.