Proofreading Transcripts Helps Court Reporters and Lawyers Alike
Mr. K: “When you hire a court reporter you except that she’ll be able to acurately record audio onto a readable trans crypt without any arrows?”
Mr. E: “Of coarse I do. Afterall, how hard can it bee to type exactly what you hear. Even a Macaw pirate can repeat words back to you! Sew it can’t be that hard to right down whats going on. Ham I write!”
Mr. K: “Yes you are and that’s exactly the point I wax tying to make.”
So…how frustrated were you when you read that dialogue? Probably more than just a little, but why? All of the words were there. Okay, there was one misspelled word that should have been caught by spell check, but besides that, what’s the big deal? Everything that was said was written down.
The big deal is that it should have been proofread. A paragraph like that should never have been seen by the public. In addition to the mind-numbing grammatical errors, the conversation had no meaning…no substance. Everything it may have been trying to say was completely lost.
Unfortunately, these types of errors are not uncommon when transcribing audio to paper. Which is exactly why having a proofreader analyze and edit your transcripts is always a good idea.
Benefits of a Proofreader
As with any profession, the more experience a transcriptionist gathers in the real world, the greater her skills have the opportunity to grow. In order for a court reporter to become certified she must pass several grammar tests in addition to transcription training. Once certified, she can then build her experience and hone her skills with every job she takes. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t necessarily prevent mistakes—nor does lack of experience cause mistakes. The truth of the matter is that accurately transcribing spoken words to the page can be more difficult than you may imagine.
Transcribing depositions, interviews, and meetings not only requires keen listening skills but also the ability to hear the meaning behind each word. It may be easy to methodically record spoken words but, if you don’t understand the meaning—or why the speaker chose those words, his pauses, or his inflections—then your transcript is going to be meaningless. It’ll just be a bunch of garbled words and run-on sentences. This is where a keen sense of grammar and punctuation come into play.
Punctuation and voice inflections can drastically set the tone and meaning of a sentence. Consider this:
- She’s crazy in love with him. It’s completely unbelievable!
However, a slight shift of nuance and emphasis—as shown by changes in punctuation—means that the same words send a completely different message:
- She’s crazy! In love with him? It’s completely unbelievable!
Unfortunately, since everyone has his or her own way of speaking, punctuation can quickly become confusing. One speaker may invariably pause mid-sentence, suggesting a period is needed when it isn’t. Another may always raise his voice slightly at the end of a sentence, suggesting he asked a question instead of giving a statement. Court reporters are trained to detect these irregularities, but sometimes they are missed during transcription. Although these may be perfectly honest mistakes, they’re mistakes that can’t be afforded. One error could be the deciding factor in a case. This is why proofreading is so important to court reporters.
Other common errors that can be avoided through proofreading are:
- Homophone errors. Words that sound alike can be misinterpreted by the court reporter. Examples include: there, they’re, and their; around and a round; then and than; tocsin and toxin; and many, many others.
- Misheard or mispronounced words. When a speaker is quiet or mumbles, it can be difficult for the reporter to accurately catch every syllable of a word. “Innocent” could become “cent” or even “sent,” or “scent.” “Thecal sac” (part of the human spine) could be heard as “fecal sac” (a mucus membrane that covers bird poop). Hearing the wrong word isn’t just a mistake, it’s essentially putting words into the witness’s mouth. That’s why proofreading is one of the most important stages of transcript production
- Overlooked nuance. Passion, sarcasm, sorrow…these are all tones that shape a sentence. If the court reporter is merely copying words without showing the nuance of tone, than the speaker’s answers become disconnected. “I am…truly sad. (pause) He was…a dear friend” comes off as robotic, non-remorseful, and suspicious. However, “(Through heavy sobbing) “I am (sob) truly sad. (Sob) He was (sob) a dear friend,” shows the emotion and remorse behind the statement. A proofreader will be able to correct these statements or at least point them out to the reporter for possible changes.
- Quality control. A transcription isn’t only a reflection of an interview, it’s a reflection of the court reporter’s skills. If the transcript is poorly written, has grammatical errors, or appears to be sloppy, then it’s highly probable that the court reporter’s services will not be used again. A proofreader can ensure all transcripts are 100% accurate for both the court’s satisfaction as well as the court reporter’s reputation
Whether you’re an attorney or a court reporter, we’d like to know how you feel about the importance of transcription proofreading. Should court reporters send their transcripts to be proofed? Do a few errors in the transcript really matter? Could a poorly transcribed deposition negatively affect a case?
In the comment section provided on this page, please share your thoughts, concerns, and opinions on the necessity of court reporter proofreading.
As court reporters at Casamo and Associates, we pride ourselves in transcribing the most accurate, impartial, and trustworthy depositions possible. As such, our court reporters pay special attention to grammar and inflections within their work and make sure every transcription is accurately proofread before submitting. Ensure that your next transcription is flawless by contacting us today.