For Digital Court Reporters and Transcribers, Check Out Steno!

If you’re somebody in the United States, United Kingdom, or Canada who’s sold on a career as a digital court reporter, or even if you’re just passing through looking for a new career, I’d like to introduce you to stenographic court reporting in a way that you have not been introduced. Just to get this out of the way, in very general terms, court reporting is taking down the legal record and providing an English transcript for judges, lawyers, litigants, and the public. Stenographic “court reporting,” can also be used to caption live shows and events, or transcribe recorded material when needed. The big difference between “steno” and digital is that digital court reporters record testimony or proceedings, usually on multitrack audio equipment, and take guiding notes as the proceedings go on. The stenographic reporter uses a stenotype to take verbatim notes of what’s being said. In our industry today there are a few big companies aggressively marketing to young people looking for work. Those companies insist that digital court reporting is an opportunity for them. There have even been journalists picking up these misconceptions without realizing they’re being misled. It’s time to dispel those myths, tell you a little bit about who we really are, and get you resources you can use to explore a career as a stenographic court reporter.

We Are Digital!
One of the most interesting claims I’ve seen from digital court reporting proponents in the press is that “this world isn’t digitized.” We’re old-fashioned. The implication is that stenographic court reporting is a dying art with very little time left as a viable career. Every time you see a representation of us in the media, you get a stenotype from 1983! The truth is that we’ve been digital for decades. Most working reporters today roll with a stenotype that is more like a minicomputer than a typewriter. There’s software onboard transcribing the machine shorthand stenography as we go. So that’s a big red flag, right? There’s a CEO making a major statement who’s clearly lying or completely ignorant. Don’t bank your future on the words of people who are lying or wrong. Not only are we technologically advanced, we’re extremely adaptable. When the pandemic struck, court reporters were in a jam for a month or so. The field quickly adopted remote reporting and now reporters are talking about having more work than they can handle right from home. If you like tech, steno is for you.

We Are More Efficient!
I know that this can come off as a loaded or insulting statement, so let me just get this out of the way. There’s nothing wrong with believing that technology improves efficiency. What’s often ignored in this discussion is that stenographic technology is evolving right alongside audio capture tech. There have been trials of automatic speech recognition in stenographic software. There have been leaps in text-to-text prediction and some software even attempts to guess what we meant when we mess up a stenographic stroke. Recording a proceeding generally entails the front-end recording and the back-end transcription. Machine shorthand stenography, on the other hand, loads the transcription on while the proceedings are going on. The most skilled stenographic court reporters can walk away from a proceeding and press print. The more average ones, like me, are able to reduce the transcription time so much that one person can do the entire job. You can also see this in the numbers. The average court reporter types (we call it writes) at 225 words per minute with a 1.4 syllabic density, so probably about 200 words per minute. The average transcriber types at about 100 words per minute. The average person hovers around 50 words per minute. So just by the numbers, you can see that stenographic reporting can get a job done twice as fast, four times as fast, or with far less manpower. Machine shorthand stenography is also much easier on your hands. We have the capability of getting down very large words or large groups of words with one movement of our hands. As an example, it took me over 18,000 hand motions to get this post down on a QWERTY keyboard. It would have taken about 3,000 hand movements on the stenotype that I was too lazy to plug in. If you’re a transcriber, imagine reducing the stress on your hands to a sixth of what it currently is.

We Have More Support!
Some of the court reporting or transcription companies I mentioned before are riding on another misconception regarding our stenographer shortage. About 8 years ago there was an industry outlook and forecast by Ducker Worldwide that told us there would be a higher demand for court reporters than supply. That part is absolutely true. A shortage was forecasted. Some companies were having severe coverage issues. We saw the number of applicants for licenses and civil service jobs plummeting to about half the usual levels. This can lead to the implication that there are not many stenographers left. It’s an easy myth to propagate. How many of us have you seen recently? Unless you’ve been stuck in a lawsuit, been prosecuted, or seen me on TV, you haven’t seen a court reporter. The truth is that we knew the shortage was coming. Many initiatives popped up to begin recruiting stenographers or helping people get into the field. Depending on whose numbers you’re looking at, there are 10,000 to 20,000 of us working. That means that if you have a problem or a question, you have potentially thousands of people around to assist you. You have a nonprofit in almost in every state devoted to stenographic court reporters. Those nonprofits pull in cumulatively millions of dollars a year with the objective of promoting the welfare of stenographic court reporters. To put this into perspective, a popular stenotype manufacturer, Stenograph, recently donated $50,000 to Project Steno. Nobody’s dumping millions of dollars on nonprofits in a career that has no future. Why aren’t some of these “employers” telling you about this vast support network? Because if you join it, you will have sharper skills and better bargaining power.

We Have Options!
There are freelance, part-time, and full-time positions available dependent on where you are and what you’re looking to do with this wonderful skill. Maybe you’re someone who needs to work from home and “just” do transcription — I know a mom just like that. Maybe you love the law and want to see the process of law firsthand. Maybe you want to caption live events over the TV, internet, or in person, via stenographic CART & captioning. Maybe you want to travel internationally and take work around the world. There are even reporters who have taken the general skill of stenotype stenography and applied it to computer programming, such as Stanley Sakai. The limiting factor is how much time you put into hunting down the type of work you want!

We Are Equality!
If you clicked the link for my TV appearance, you saw that stenographic reporters got some really bad news stories run on them because while our certifications are 95 percent, we only scored about 80 percent in a study where some of us were asked to transcribe a specific English dialect sometimes referred to by linguists as African American English (AAE). VICE News filmed me for about two hours. They cut the part where I talked about the pilot studies. In pilot study 1, everyday people were tested and scored 40 percent. In pilot study 2, lawyers were tested and scored 60 percent. In a completely different study, automatic speech recognition was tested. It got white speech right 80 percent of the time. It got black speech right 65 percent of the time. It did worse when it was tested on AAE! What does this mean? It means that young people that want to ensure equality in the courtroom need to join up and become stenographic court reporters. I’m not gloating about 80 percent. But with no special dialect training, we’re the closest to 100 percent understanding on this dialect, and that was ignored by the media. I am proud to be one of the people fighting to bridge that gap and spread awareness on the issue. Beyond that, in the captioning and CART arena, stenographic court reporters are pushing to bring access to people for live programming and in classrooms. So if you choose this wonderful career you are not “doomed” to sit in legal proceedings for the rest of your life, you can also make a career out of taking down what’s being said and bringing it to the screens of millions of people who need that support. If you’re a person that believes that court records should be 100 percent accurate, someone that believes appeals shouldn’t be thwarted by missing court audio, or someone that believes that deaf people deserve real access, and not “autocraptions,” you’re somebody that needs to join up and be part of the team steno solution.

We Are Waiting For You!
Remember that shortage I mentioned and the resources waiting for you? I have an easy list you can use to get a jumpstart, find the right level of training for your financial situation, and get involved with our field. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you find something online that seems better for you, don’t hesitate to give that a chance. To help you understand some jargon in our line of work, “theory” is a method or system of using the stenotype and its letters to take down English, often phonetically. “Speed” is taking everything you learn in theory and learning to do it fast. Speed is by far the longest and hardest part of training. “Briefs” are stenographic outlines or strokes that do not necessarily resemble English words phonetically in theory, but we use them to get down large words fast. “Phrases” are stenographic strokes or outlines that collapse multiple words into one line of letters. Generally you will “learn theory,” then you will start “building speed,” and then you will use briefs and phrases to reach those very high levels of speed that we work at. It is physically possible to write everything out phonetically, but it will be more stressful on your hands.

Try court reporting for free. NCRA A to Z and Project Steno’s Basic Training are both free ways to try out court reporting and learn basic theory at low or no cost. Both are great ways to jump into the field without blowing $2,000 on a student stenotype only to find out you don’t like steno. On the topic of finding stenotypes to practice with, there are vendors such as StenoWorks, Acculaw, Stenograph, Eclipse, and Neutrino. You can also search on eBay for old Stentura models at a discount, but do not go outside eBay’s buyer protection or you will get scammed.

NCRA-approved schools. There are several NCRA-approved schools across the United States and one in Canada. These are worth looking into if you are serious about making court reporting a career because of the quality of the education. Please note that not all NCRA-approved schools are accredited.

Online, self-paced, or programs not approved by NCRA. There are numerous programs for stenographic reporting. There are programs to teach theory like StarTran. There are programs like Simply Steno that focus on building speed after someone has learned the basics of theory, and there are programs like Court Reporting At Home (CRAH). You can also see if the court reporters association of your state has any advice or school listings. All of these things also have a great deal of social media support. There are lots of Facebook groups like Encouraging Court Reporting Students or Studying Court Reporting At Home. There are students and professionals online right now who are there to help with the journey.

Open Steno. I have to put Open Steno in a category by itself because there’s just nothing like it. It is a free, active, and open online community with Google Groups, a free way to learn theory, and its own Discord chat. There are enthusiasts that build stenotype keyboards from scratch. This is the community responsible for Steno Arcade. This is the community responsible for Plover, a free steno-to-English translation software. It was all started by Mirabai Knight, a CART writer in New York. If you’re motivated to teach yourself for free, Open Steno makes it possible in a way that it simply was not a decade ago.

Christopher Day. Chances are high you’re here because you saw an ad on social media. I’ve been a court reporter for almost eleven years. I’ve been funding this blog and keeping it an ad-free experience (with some very appreciated help!) just to help stenographers and people that aspire to be stenographers. I know people that have transitioned from digital (and analogue!) court reporting to stenographic reporting and become real champions of and voices for our field. Every reporter I know is supportive of stenography students and fellow professionals. You’ll rarely hear one of us refer to another one of us as being “low skill.” Compare that to this marketing infographic from Verbit. They said digital solutions do not require a highly-trained workforce. Do you really want to work with people that downplay your work when it’s convenient for them? These folks are setting themselves up to make money off you. I have no such incentive or financial ties. I’m a guy with a squid hat and a blog who fell into this wonderful career by accident, and I’d love for you to be a part of it.

So if you need more guidance, reach out to me at Do yourself the favor of getting involved with stenographic reporting. If sitting there hearing testimony is something you can see yourself doing, you’ve already got a whole lot more in common with us than half the world. Give our profession some consideration. It’s easy to learn, it’s hard to do fast, and though it takes 2 to 4 years of training, it really can be your gateway to an exciting front-row seat to history and a rewarding lifelong career. If that doesn’t sell you, we also have some top-quality memes.

He’s got the hand thing down better than I do.

Beware Commercial Leasing Agreements for Equipment

Commercial leasing, by itself, is not a scam. The idea behind commercial equipment leasing is that you are leasing or renting computer or electronic equipment from a company for a specified time. Some agreements then contain provisions for you to buy the equipment or return it to the company you are leasing from. That said, contract law is pretty serious in the United States and you will generally be expected to abide by the terms of the contract that you sign with a provider or seller if a matter goes to court. This means you have to be absolutely sure you want to be a part of the agreement you’re signing.

Why beware? A few simple reasons:

  1. Complexity. The likelihood that you need a company to help you pick out equipment is low, and the cost of computer equipment for court reporting is low enough that you can probably figure out a way to buy the equipment outright or cheaper using revolving or personal credit. It does not make sense to have a complex contractual agreement for equipment unless there is something generous you are getting from the contract such as generous tech support provisions, replacement parts, or free repairs/replacements. If you can walk into a store and get it, caveat emptor. If you are entering an agreement for someone else to get it for you, be just as careful.
  2. Third-party bait and switch. Some sellers will say they are helping you pick out the right equipment for you. This can be very tempting because not everyone in our field is comfortable buying computers without advice. So you could be talking to your software manufacturer, who refers you to their “computer specialists,” who are actually a third-party commercial leasing company. So one minute you’re talking about buying a computer, the next minute you’re signing a commercial leasing agreement, and if you’re not careful, your signature could end up on an agreement that you don’t fully understand. This is totally legitimate, legal business, but it could cost a reporter a lot of money unnecessarily.
  3. Predatory practices. Beyond the third-party bait and switch, there are general equipment leasing “tricks” that can end up costing consumers. Evergreen clauses are one example of this, where the buyer has the option to buy the equipment, but the seller is allowed to extend the agreement if the buyer does not notify them of their intent to buy the equipment. There are also instances where sellers attempt to alter the text of the contract just before it is signed. If you see a company employing predatory practices or attempting to confuse you, it may be a good idea to avoid doing business with them altogether.

Protect yourself and your wallet. Always make sure you read, understand, and retain a copy of what you sign or agree to. If you are having trouble understanding the terms of a contract, it may pay to have a lawyer review the contract with you, because monthly payments, fees, or penalties in an agreement can quickly snowball to be several times the cost of the computer equipment you’re leasing — and it’s mostly legal.

Can You Hear Me Now? Computer Parts For Steno Made Simple

If you want to learn about parts for a new system, read the beginning. If you want to troubleshoot your current system, scroll down to “But I want to troubleshoot on my current system.”

TLDR: RAM is extremely important for our work.

Windows users, in today’s world of remote reporting and computing confusion it can help a little bit to have a simple guide on what you’re looking at when you’re buying a computer. If you’ve got a system you’re comfortable with, this one is NOT FOR YOU. For everybody else, let’s break things down into simple. If you’ve got a friend who has trouble with computers, this might help them with their shopping choices.

When you go to buy a computer, you’ll probably end up on a screen like this:

And then you’re probably going to end up clicking one of these and ending up on a screen like this. Remember, when buying a computer, the specifications tab is YOUR FRIEND.

In this particular listing, we luck out, because a lot of the specifications are also posted right at the top. Sometimes this is not the case. In this particular listing, we are also allowed to customize our specifications (specs) a little bit. Please note, this is being given as an example and not an endorsement of any site, product, or company. One of the first things you want to answer: Does the operating system fit the programs I want on the computer? This can include things like your printer. As an example, if a printer has been made to work specifically with Windows and has no Chrome driver, it might be extremely difficult or impossible to make it work with Chrome. In computers, a driver is computer code or software that helps the computer know what to do with hardware. Software is the code, apps, and programs on your computer. Hardware is the physical equipment. This is why you need to install the driver for your steno machine every time you get a new system. The driver is software teaching the computer what to do with the steno machine’s stuff. Some examples: Your steno machine is hardware. Your mouse is hardware. Your keyboard is hardware. Your operating system is software.

For figuring out whether a computer is going to work with the program you want, you should always pull up the program’s minimum specifications. Let’s pull up the minimum specifications for CaseCAT in this example. In this image are a bunch of red arrows and red text. I’m going to repeat everything below the image for easier reading.

Operating System. Also called OS. This is the foundation of the computer and what everything else is running from or on. Some common operating systems are Windows, Linux, Mac, and Chrome. Most stenographic tech is made to run off of Windows. It is possible to partition computers and run two operating systems, but we’re here to keep it simple.

Processor. Also called CPU. How fast your computer figures out stuff. We’re taking down words and that doesn’t require very fast processing speeds normally. If you’re concerned about processing speeds, get a “dual core.” This allows the computer to process multiple things at once. Note that Zoom’s minimum requirement is a dual core 2 GHZ requirement. If you want to run Zoom and stenographic tech on the same system, you probably want a dual core processor with more than 2 GHZ or a quad core processor.

RAM, also referred to as memory. Random Access Memory. This is where the computer stores information about programs you have open. This should not be confused with hard drive “memory.” It is always a smaller number like 2GB, 4GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB. If your computer is freezing, it’s probably because it’s out of RAM! Note that the minimum for Zoom is 4 GB, so if you want to run stenographic tech and Zoom on the same system, you probably want 8GB or 16 GB of RAM.

Hard Drive, sometimes referred to as memory. Almost always a big number like 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB (~1000GB). This is how much stuff your computer can save. Many people believe that having too much stuff saved on the computer slows it down. This is usually not true. People get confused between hard drive memory and RAM memory. Most of the time your computer is slow because it’s having RAM issues. If the hard drive is almost completely full and you continue trying to save things, you might lose data. Try not to let your hard drive get completely full. Please note that despite all I just wrote, hard drives inside the computer (connected by something called SATA, SSD, etc.) are always faster than hard drives that are plugged in by USB. Programs you run often or files you open often should be installed on the hard drive inside your computer and not a USB hard drive or flash drive.

Video Card. Often referred to as GPU or graphics processing unit. Stenographic tech works on very old video cards. This is probably low on your priority list. Same for audio and your monitor. If you intend to use a computer for gaming or rendering graphics, you want a good video card.

When you’re looking at getting a new system, your biggest considerations are the operating system, the RAM, and the hard drive space. If you are going to be using the computer to run Zoom, you also want to check those minimum requirements. If you are going to be running Zoom and your stenographic software on the same computer, you want to be better than minimum requirements.

To wrap things up, this $399 desktop computer in this example appears to be a great work computer. Correct operating system, 8 GB RAM, good processor, lots of hard drive space. When you buy a laptop it’s often more expensive because you’re paying for the convenience of mobility. If you are looking for value and do most of your work from one location a desktop is usually superior value; you will often get better computer parts for a lower price as compared to a laptop. Be cautious with regard to netbooks. Some of them have very low RAM or processing power, and may or may not be suitable for our work.

My personal feelings? Brand hardly matters. It’s all about those numbers. You want lots of RAM and a dual or quad core processor.

But I want to troubleshoot problems on my current system.

I’ve got something for you. In Windows there are a few ways to check what’s going on in your computer. You can pull your system information by using your search bar. Using everything we just talked about, let’s see if we can identify the important parts.

Remember, Operating System, Processor, RAM. By knowing what system you’re running on today, you can figure out where your problem is. This computer has 32 GB of RAM. That means I can have a lot of stuff open before it freezes on me. If you’re having freezing problems, what can you do?

First, open your task manager. You can do this by using CTRL + ALT + DELETE and opening the task manager, or going to “run” and opening taskmgr.



Whatever you do, you end up at a screen that looks kind of like this:

This screen is very important because it can tell you what is taking up all your RAM or Memory. Remember, this computer is running 32 GB RAM and 20 percent of it is in use while I’m working on Microsoft Teams without CaseCAT open. That’s almost 7 GB of RAM. If I had an 8 GB RAM computer, it would be incredibly close to freezing!

What can we learn from this? If you are working and you have Chrome or an internet browser open, you might be using RAM that your computer needs to run CaseCAT, Zoom, etc.

Facebooking taking up your RAM? Right click and end task! Don’t let online shopping bust your zepo/depo/court/CART/comp!

Final note. Computers, printers, and other devices generally work by running electricity through the parts on and off to produce the result we want. If you are having a problem with your computer or another device and cannot figure out the reason, power it down completely. Unplug it if you have to. Sometimes these electrical charges get caught in a “bad loop” and cause glitches or errors that simply cannot be troubleshooted. When you power down your device, you stop the electricity running through it, and break the “bad loop.” This is why the first line of tech support is always “did you try turning it off and then on again?”

Nobody is born knowing about computers, so if you don’t know something, ask. It’s a lot better than buying something that doesn’t work for you.

PS. Stenonymous runs ad free to keep your reading experience pleasurable. If you find the articles here helpful or informational, please consider donating. With over 8,000 visitors and 13,000 views a year, this site could run ad free for over a decade if everyone contributed just one dollar. I could also afford more ad campaigns for articles and/or hire guest writers and investigators for better article quality. If you don’t want to donate to my blog, then at least shoot over some suggestions for my Resource Page. You can contact me at, assuming I didn’t break that again. If you haven’t been to my resource page, check it out. It’s one of the few ways I have of platforming others’ work.

Stenovate, Workspace Consolidation

Lauren Lawrence from Stenovate had reached out to me some time ago to alert me to the new platform she was working on. It’s received funding and seems ready to launch by 2019.

The concept seems to be a simple one. We have so many different apps and services we use to track work, send work, find work, handle bills — wouldn’t it be so nice if all of that was contained in one central repository or platform? I think it would it would, and I’m pretty sure that’s the dream behind this.

My advice? If you’re the type of person that wants or needs this kind of service, jump in early. On the one hand, you’ll be showing there’s a serious market for what’s being sold. On the other hand, younger companies, in my experience, are more responsive to their customers’ thoughts and feelings. Your usage of the product and feedback may go into making the product even better.

I’ve been following it for a while and it seems like the kind of thing conceptually that I might’ve wanted as a freelancer. Will it be a success? I think so. If Stenovate is successful in getting people to try it out and addressing concerns of its consumers, it’s got a solid shot at becoming a standard court reporting program and luring stenographers off alternatives like Dropbox. That’s a tall order, but when you’ve got a determined businesswoman and a vision, anything’s possible, a posse ad esse!

Practice, Finger Drill, WKT, Dictation Marker Update

I don’t have a lot of volunteers helping me test the things I put out, and I had inadvertently put out the wrong link to my three programs. I have updated the links at the top of all of these pages to go to a .zip download. You unzip the folder, double click the .exe inside, and it will run the program without installation. Note that most computers will pop up with something saying this program may harm your computer. The code to these programs is public, you can read it for yourself and ask your computer people, it will not harm your computer.

Transcript Marker  – This will take a .txt transcript and mark it for speed. Note that it has been updated so that it will not count Q., A., COURT:, or WITNESS: as a word.

Finger Drill Generator – This program can create finger drills for you. You can also save and load custom lists of words. Note that if you share your saved lists with me, I can include them with future versions. Also note that you should not ask the generator to make files larger than 500 WPM for 300 minutes. That’s 150,000 words. It’s more than enough. I am cautioning you because if you tell it to do 1 million words for 1 million minutes, it’ll happily sit there and generate a text file that large, take a long time to do that, and possibly eat all the space on your computer.

WKT Randomizer – Creates a random written knowledge test. Note that there are small errors in this program and additions that will be made when I finish the Stenonymous Suite.

Also know that I am continuing to try to provide quality dictation on my Youtube. The QA Mario dictation is a little slower than the marked speed because of a previous error where the program counted the Q and A as a word. All future dictations should not have this problem. If you’d like to contribute dictation, I am budgeting about $5 to $10 a month to pay for guest dictators right now, and we should talk. Think along the lines of $5 for a five-minute take.

Computer Coding Fun

Breaking from the traditional unending talk about stenography for a little bit of fun.

If you have Python on a Windows computer, you can download some simple text programs I made. I did not make Python, and you can get it from Python’s site. My programs won’t run without Python unfortunately.

When I initially made this post, I had 3 programs linked. What I decided to do was make a master program called Blade 2018. Blade is our little computer program buddy, and inside Blade 2018 is a calculator, two guessing games, a magic 8-ball, three lucky number generators, a dice roller, and a machine that says 100 nice things about you. From time to time, I may update Blade so that he can do more stuff, or to fix errors in his code.

Because of the way Dropbox works, you can see the coding of the files when you click these links. If you want to be surprised, it’s much better to just quietly download it and see what happens.

Honestly, I had written to Joshua Edwards some weeks ago when I was first reading about the bare basics of computer code. It can reteach us a valuable lesson. Garbage in, garbage out. If you do bad work, you get bad results. That reminder was worthwhile for me, and hopefully is for all reading.

Computer Lagging? Check This

Copied directly from a recent Facebook post I made because I am lazy. Also, the night is dark and full of computer problems.

“PSA: If your computer is acting slow recently (Windows): CTRL+ALT+DELETE, Task Manager. Is the “DISK” column running unbelievably high numbers? (94%+) Yes? Does Super Fetch seem to be the biggest “Disk” thing? Yes? Top left of the task manager, Run, Msconfig.exe, find Super Fetch (a Microsoft Service. You cannot see it if you click hide all Microsoft services.) Disable the damn thing. Restart the computer.
Super Fetch is apparently a Microsoft Service meant to increase your computer speed by preloading programs (based on my Google-Fu.) Well, unfortunately, on both my work and home systems, my home system being a gaming desktop with pretty damn good parts, Super Fetch was running out of control and using up all the computer’s resources, creating a full system freeze and making my CaseCAT type at the speed of snail.
All the usual disclaimers, I’m not responsible if you destroy your computer following my instructions, but if you’re having this Super Fetch problem, your computer is probably already making you feel like replacing it.”