The major focus of court reporting school is to write faster. As a student, this process becomes ingrained in your psyche. It is your quest. You practice for months on end, pass a test, and the seemingly never-ending cycle continues.
Why does speed matter? For one, it allows you to write comfortably. Nothing is worse on an assignment, or more exhausting mentally and physically, than struggling to get every word and playing catch-up all day. Having speed also allows you to write more cleanly, which will translate into better read-back on the job and less editing time afterward; and when you get more experience under your belt, you will be able to provide clean realtime feeds to counsel, a skill which is becoming more in demand with each passing day. Lastly, speed matters because you will be in a better position to actually listen to the testimony that is unfolding before you and to learn what the lawsuit is about. You will produce a better transcript if you understand the reason for the lawsuit and the parties’ positions on the issues.
Having adequate speed is one thing; having a speed cushion is even better. A cushion will help you hang on during the fast spurts, endure very long-winded technical answers, and accurately record heated arguments between counsel in colloquy.
In a nutshell, having speed puts you in control. You will be able to report all day with less stress and with confidence knowing you are getting the job done. The truth is, and working reporters will tell you, that you can never write fast enough. There are some witnesses that challenge even the most experienced reporters, which is why many continue to practice long after they have graduated from school.
So it may surprise you to learn that, as crucial as speed is, it isn’t everything! What good does it do if you can write at 225 wpm but you don’t know how to punctuate or if you have inadequate word knowledge and choose the wrong word in context? Your work product is being examined by intelligent and discerning people. You wouldn’t want your reputation tarnished by errors, in black and white, for all to see.
Court reporting is part science and part art. The science is the technical aspect of writing the words on your machine. The art is using every tool at your disposal, along with your judgment and experience, to produce a transcript that accurately reflects what transpired. This is your core responsibility. A reporter must be competent in both areas, the science and the art, to be successful.
So while you are pushing for speed, remember not to overlook the other components that will make you a better reporter. All accomplished reporters I know care about every word, its spelling, and usage. They think about, sometimes agonize over, punctuation. They know enough to research what they don’t know. They read newspapers and magazines to improve their word knowledge and to keep abreast of current events and the world around them. They are members of NCRA, and they attend its seminars. They are organized, have excellent time management skills, and pay attention to detail. These attributes are just as important as speed. Being proficient in both areas will make you a reporter in high demand.