Charles Dickens allegedly referred to Stenography as a “noble art and a mystery”. Stenography (or Court Reporting as it is also referred to in Ireland) in short, is the act of recording and reducing spoken words through shorthand typing on a stenotype machine into an accurate verbatim transcript. While Stenographers are most regularly associated with judicial proceedings in a court of law, the work of a stenographer or court reporter in Ireland has expanded into an array of different venues, settings, and proceedings where there is a need to create and maintain an accurate impartial record of the spoken word. With considerable employment and salary potential, many people are now interested in careers in court reporting and stenography. At GMSS, we are currently recruiting candidates for the GMSS Stenography Internship program. (More information can be found here)
One of the first things people notice about a stenotype machine is that it lacks the number of keys of a standard keyboard. A stenotype machine, which dates as far back as the early19th century, is a form of phonetic transcription that allows the court reporter to type in stenographic shorthand. A standard stenotype machine has just 22 keys that are used to key out coded numbers, phrases, words, and sounds, which means that court reporters can ensure that all activity in the courtroom, down to a witness’s sobs, can be accurately memorialized. Although a key set of phrases, words, numbers, and sounds are used across the board, it is also common for stenographers to develop their own dictionaries for their work, which includes coded letter combinations that stand for common phrases.
Stenographers are generally capable of typing up to 300 words per minute (wpm) using a stenotype machine, thereby allowing them to accurately record even the most heated or fast-paced conversations.
Because the stenotype machine has just 22 keys, the stenographer often hits multiple keys at once. This process, which is called chording, may appear to be downright jumbled to an ordinary observer, but to the stenographer, it actually makes perfect sense.
Traditional stenotype machines print the shorthand being produced by the court reporter onto a paper transcript. Although these machines are still used today, many of the more modern stenotype machines now use internal memory storage (usually in the form of flash drives), which allows the court reporter to run the recorded shorthand through a computer program, which then translates the shorthand and generates a transcript.
Further, stenotype machines are often directly connected to a laptop, thereby generating real-time transcription as the court reporter is typing. This type of technology is commonly used for real-time and broadcast captioning. Many of the newest types of stenotype machines have attached screens that allow court reporters to view the transcribed shorthand as they are typing.
The stenotype machine’s keyboard is designed to be used phonetically, with the stenographer typing from left to right. The left side of the keyboard is called the “initial” side, and the right side of the keyboard is called the “final” side.