Court reporters prepare transcripts using their education and experience, but it can be scary when that isn’t enough. Good reporters know when research may be necessary, when a nagging thought or hunch leads them to investigate further; but when a reporter doesn’t even realize that their knowledge is lacking and therefore sees no need to look something up, bad things can happen.
Consider these examples culled from real transcripts:
Nine Next for Nynex
Youth in Asia for euthanasia
City Bank for Citibank
Half Shell for Hatch Shell
What made errors like these especially disturbing is that they occurred multiple times throughout the transcripts, thus bringing unwanted attention to the glaring error over and over again. If I were an attorney reading “Youth in Asia” when it was supposed to be “euthanasia” on almost every page, I think I’d lose my mind. I’d also want my money back.
One reporter once wrote “slacks on a fence” when clearly the attorney meant “slats on a fence.” The reporter insisted the attorney said “slacks.” No, in fact he didn’t. The case was not about pants. The reporter obviously never knew the word “slats” existed so therefore wrote “slacks” because that’s a word she was familiar with. If she had paid attention to context, would she have noticed something odd? Maybe, frighteningly, she didn’t care.
Of course we can’t be expected to know everything. I remember as a young reporter I once wrote “smoke in mirrors” on my job sheet only to have an attorney cross out the word “in” and replace it with “and.” He said it was important. Yikes. I had never heard of that phrase before, but I never made that same mistake again. And that’s the great thing about court reporting: You learn something new every day that you can use to improve your job performance going forward.
You don’t know what you don’t know. So how can this lack of awareness be overcome? Take the time to examine the pleadings and exhibits to pick up terms that will be used. Hire an experienced proofreader. Ask another reporter their opinion if something doesn’t quite fit in context. Check Google wisely. Read something every day that will increase your word knowledge. Look up acronyms. Double-check spellings. Pay attention. If you do these things, you will have a greater chance of preparing transcripts devoid of embarrassing errors and a greater chance of having a career you can be proud of.