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Proofreading, Scoping, and Transcription
Side Jobs for Court Reporting Students
As a court reporting student, you're going to find yourself short of money.
Chances are good that you're not going to want to go back to whatever jobs you have had in the past ("Do you want fries with that?"). No, you're going to want to use some of the skills you've picked up in court reporting school.
In this article, I'll cover some of those jobs.
So. Lets define our terms a bit.
Proofread (also proof-read) verb (past and past part. -read) [ trans. ] Read (printer's proofs or other written or printed material) and mark any errors.
In short, you'd be reading a reporter's finished transcript and checking it for errors.
Scoping is basically proofreading, except you do it with a special version of your particular flavor of CAT software which only allows you to edit a transcript, as opposed to producing one yourself ... that is, it won't translate your steno strokes for you, but you can edit a reporter's transcript directly ... and you can play their audio, if any, as well.
As a transcriptionist, you would receive an audio file, the names of the parties, the cause information (you know ... "Smith V. Jones, et al."). Your mission would be to write that audio file up with your writer and CAT software, using a program to play the audio for you, as well as a foot-pedal with which to start and stop the audio so as to keep your hands on your writer (though you can do it without the pedal; it's just a bit more difficult).
Proofreading: The Work
Proofreading is something you do every day as a court reporting student. When you take a test, what do you do?
Yes, that's right -- you go over it and mark any errors you find, right?
Well, that's pretty much what's involved in proofreading: you're going through a reporter's transcript and finding the errors -- but instead of marking them for you to fix later, you'll either mark it for the reporter to fix later, or fill out what's called an "errata sheet," which is basically a list of all the errors you find in a transcript. You can see one of mine here:
Notice the Morson citations in there? Sometimes your reporter will prefer that you use other reference sources, but I don't have those right now, so I'm using Morson's.
Also, notice the witness's name at the top of the page? That's part of the header; you'll have to modify that part of the template, as well as adding your name as the proofreader, the date you're doing the job, the name of the witness, and the date of the proceeding.
I have made my errata template available to you here. They are Word 2004 files which you can use to create your own template. In this archive is a .doc file and an .rtf file, so unzip it, open it with your word processor of choice, then do File --> Save As, and select "Template."
After that, when you need to use it, just access your templates through the File menu, and do a "Save As," fill in the information at the top (the witness's name, the date of the proceeding, your name, and the date), then start marking those corrections.
"Dude. I don't have Word. What do I do?"
There are any number of free alternatives available. Make sure that the one you decide to go with is able to read .doc files, and can both make and create templates ... preferably templates (or documents) that can be read by Word.
You can also mark up a .pdf of the transcript, though that's a bit more difficult, but I suppose it depends on which program you're using to do the markup.
Here's a correction from one of mine:
Of course, it helps to be familiar with Morson's, and Court Reporting: Bad Grammar/Good Punctuation ...
... and being familiar with standard proofing marks would be a plus as well:
"Dude. I'm a bit weak on my English rules. Any suggestions?"
Yes -- study your Morson's! And you can find one method here, and another one here.
Here's a good explanation from a woman that used to run a school called scopingcareers.com (unfortunately, she passed away back in 2005, I think it was):
"Scoping" is in-house jargon in court reporting circles for a residence-based enterprise that is still little known among the uninitiated, but which has been offering great rewards, both personal and financial, to enterprising independent contractors for a long time. This term refers to computerized text-editing of legal transcripts, using software which is specialized for this field, and which requires a thorough reading knowledge of machine shorthand (Stenotype), and familiarity with court and deposition procedures, when working with traditional stenographic reporters. And some court reporters are now working with scopists who use Microsoft Word, or Word Perfect, thus avoiding the necessity of investing in CAT software. Although this is not the norm, it sometimes affords a way to get started.
While she's touting her school/training on the above-linked page, if you have been through your Court Reporter English, your medical and legal terminology classes and are pretty familiar with your CAT software, chances are good that you know enough to be a scopist.
Should you not have all of those classes under your belt, there are a few schools you can attend:
Best Scoping Techniques
If you're on Facebook, scopist and
soon-to-be now working court reporter Jennifer Morrow offers lessons at about $30 for each class -- which are recorded -- and you can reach her here.
As I mentioned earlier, scoping is basically proofreading, except you're using a special version of the CAT software which does not translate your strokes from your writer, but otherwise works like the full version of your CAT of Choice.
While prices for these programs vary, they're usually quite a bit cheaper than the full counterparts, so that's something.
Here's all the scoping software I can find:
ProCAT Winner has a scopist version; I just can't find a link to it.
Of the seven programs listed here, the
cheapest -- er, most economical would be digitalCAT, which goes for about $45. Apeiron is next, at $300 ... and everything else is in the area of $1500 or so.
"Wait a minute. Do I have to know how to read steno in order to become a scopist?"
That's a good question!
I believe it is essential for a scopist to be able to read steno, but more experienced court reporters believe otherwise. I think it would come in handy if you find some steno in the reporter's transcript, because you might be able to figure out what it was that the reporter was trying to write ... but if not, that's when it would be nice if you had a copy of the reporter's main dictionary, as well as their job dictionary.
In that hypothetical situation up there, if you had the reporter's dictionaries, all you would have to do to figure out what the reporter was trying to write would be to search through the dictionary for that particular outline, and hopefully you will see something that comes close to what was in the transcript.
As I mentioned before, when you're doing transcription work, you'll probably be given an audio file, and (hopefully) the cause -- or something which will tell you who's who in the case.
You may also be given an index, which will tell you what time things began, who questioned who at what time, etc.
Unfortunately, I don't get those all that often these days! :o)
There are a few players for the various audio files you will run into when you are doing transcription work, but I think most people are using ExpressScribe (and yes, there's a Mac version).
I recently found this rather disturbing post about ExpressScribe and the, shall we say, "extras" that get installed with it, apparently.
Now, to be sure, this was from 2013. Hopefully NCH has had a change of heart on how they market their other programs, making this whole "warning" thing totally unnecessary ... but that doesn't mean I'm going to delete it just yet.
If you read the comments for that article about ExpressScribe, you might run into a rather lengthy post about a program intended for translators called Say More. That link will take you to a bunch of screenshots of the program in operation, and you should see a download link at the top of the page.
Another popular player is the FTR Player.
The Player uses a proprietary format, so the only program that can play an FTR file is the FTR Player.
The FTR Player can also play WMV, MP3, WAV, AVI, MPG, BWF, WMA and ASF, so you're not restricted to just working with files formatted in FTR's format.
On the plus side, the FTR system installed in a courtroom has four microphones, which means that the FTR Player has four channels of audio for you to hear, each one controlled by those four sliders on the right side of the above picture.
Bonus points to them for working on getting a Mac version out there! Hope to see it available soon!
Some of the members of the Facebook group, "Transcriptionists Helping Each Other Out" have had good things to say about the FTW Transcriber.
There's a video on the home page which shows the program in action ... and you might notice a few jabs at the competition -- namely Express Scribe -- in the video ... not to mention what you'd see if you were to Google "FTW Transcriber."
My one negative comment about this program is when you start it up, it "phones home" when you start it, and if you don't have a good Internet connection at the time, it won't work. To get around that, you would have to buy it.
This software is actually meant for musicians who need to transcribe a song:
It runs on the Mac, Windows, and Linux, and will handle video as well. There's also a flyer that's worth a look.
Take a look at this video:
You can use this program for free for one month, but after that, you will have to pay for it. Fortunately, it's only $39 ... and yes, it will work with foot pedals.
I think I'm going to be saying good-bye to Express Scribe soon.
(*To be continued ...*)