How Does the Stenograph Work?





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Due to extensive education and training, court reporters are able to type over 200 words a minute– three times faster than the average person. These are incredible speeds that keep up with the speed at which the average person speaks, and it wouldn’t be possible without the stenograph, or shorthand machine.

The stenograph is a laptop-like device, though it isn’t set up like a normal QWERTY keyboard. Instead of the keys representing individual letters, the keys record sounds phonetically. By pressing keys simultaneously (which is called “chording”), court reporters are able to record what was said, how it was said during any legal proceeding. Becoming a certified court reporter, and receiving additional certifications, make these professionals incredibly valuable in the courtroom. But how does the machine work?

The machine is made up with 22 unmarked keys. Each key represents a sound. It is then broken up into three different sections:

  • The initial keys: on the left side of the keyboard, the initial keys record the initial phonetic sounds in a word, such as the hard “K” in “can.”
  • The final keys: on the right side of the keyboard, the final keys record the final phonetic sounds in a word, such as the “N” in the word “can.”
  • The vowel keys: on a second level of the keyboard, four vowel keys can be used to represent any vowel sound.

The final key, an asterisk, is used to mark the occasional error that arises. Thanks to the setup of this machine, court reporters are able to record what was said efficiently and effectively. Once the legal proceedings have come to a close, the court reporter translates their transcript into “real English” and promptly delivers it to the attorney.

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