The following are five areas where mistakes can occur in your transcripts. A court reporter must be cognizant of every area to be successful. It is not enough to write down every word on your machine. Putting a verbatim transcript together takes careful thought and attention and at times can be very challenging. You only get one chance to get it right. Let your transcripts reflect the very best your professional self has to offer!
There is really no excuse for this type of embarrassing error. Utmost care must be taken to ensure that the correct spellings are inputted into your dictionary at the outset so that misspellings do not automatically appear in every transcript going forward. Take the time to look up spellings if you have the slightest doubt. Even if a witness spells a name or word for you, do a little research to confirm the spelling, especially medical or technical terminology.
Tip to improve: For starters, input the list of commonly misspelled words into your dictionary. Here is the link: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/spelling-and-word-lists/misspelled.html
There are so many words that can trip you up: affect/effect, accept/except, compliment/complement, to name a few. You not only need to know the differences in meaning between these words in each pairing but also how to write them differently. Beware of spell-checking software! It wouldn’t flag any of the misused words in this sentence: Ewe due knot no how two sow close.
Tip to improve: Study the 50 most commonly confused homophones in the following link and input them into your dictionary; and at the very least, read a daily newspaper and look up words you are unfamiliar with. http://www.spelling-words-well.com/support-files/50-homophone-sets.pdf
Punctuation helps make sense of the words in a transcript. Attorneys should not have to read and reread your transcript to decipher the meaning of what was said due to poor or incorrect punctuation. When reading your transcript, they should be able to concentrate on content alone. Improper punctuation interrupts reading flow, is distracting, and, in the worst case, can change the meaning of what was intended. My favorite example: “Let’s eat, Grandma” versus “Let’s eat Grandma.”
Tip to improve: Reviewing the types of punctuation on a regular basis and their usage is always time well spent.
These errors will mostly appear on title pages where critical information resides: the caption, civil action number, witness name, day and date, start time, appearances, etc. It only takes one incorrect digit in a ZIP code or phone number or one incorrect letter in an e-mail address to render the information useless. Examples of factual errors in the body of a transcript include misidentifying speakers and incorrectly marking and identifying exhibits.
Tip to improve: When you start working on your transcript, work on the title page first. This will help you remember the assignment and who the participants were. Do not rush when creating this important first page. Then proofread it at least twice. You may also use a checklist to make sure you have covered all the details.
Incorrect capturing of testimony
A mumbled answer can sound like either “I think so” or “could be so.” Which is it? “September” and “December” are often hard to distinguish. I’ve run across attorneys who swallow the first word of a question; for example, did he say “did you” or “do you”? Even the little words, “a” or “the,” can be a huge problem. Do you know the difference between the two? Hint: One is an indefinite article and the other is a definite article.
Tip to improve: While on the job, you should pay attention to the story line and be alert to things that may not make sense. If you are following the testimony, you will be more apt to know when it is appropriate to interrupt and ask for clarification.
Putting together a perfect transcript takes enormous care, even for seasoned reporters. This is not the time to be lazy or complacent. Do the necessary work. Make a commitment to continually educate yourself. Enlist the help of an experienced proofreader who can catch your mistakes before the transcript goes to final print. After all, it is your name and reputation that is on the line.