Scoping experiences
June 5, 2009 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Are there any scopists here?

What has your experience been like? A friend of mine has been doing it for years, and she's made an acceptable living, but I'd like some more perspectives on it - particularly about whether you've found it difficult to build up a client base. My friend has had steady work for most of her career, but I realize that hers might be the best-case outcome.

(For those clicking on from curiosity: scopists work with court transcripts - first translating a reporter's steno to English using special software, and then editing the result. My friend is a freelancer who works directly with reporters, though I'm told that there are more formal paths as well.)
posted by thesmallmachine to Work & Money (6 answers total)
No. But it's likely to not be done that way any more, or soon. I know for a fact that in many state courthouses, the audio is digitally recorded, and only if a transcript is requested will someone listen to the "tape" and create a transcript. With an electronic "steno machine" that automatically converts it into English.
posted by gjc at 6:06 PM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: Well, I wouldn't be doing it for more than a few years -I'm looking for a day job so I can survive a degree and some inevitably unpaid work in my actual field- so I'm more worried about the present than the future of scopism. I should've put that in my question, sorry.

What you describe makes sense. I am sure technology is already in the process of dooming many, many word-related jobs.

Of course, my actual field is librarianship, so maybe I'm not all that astute about it.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:19 PM on June 5, 2009

Best answer: If you want to be a scopist, you need first of all and above anything else to have the most excellent English skills. A reporter won't hire you if you turn in a badly edited transcript.

It's a good profession as there are lots of reporters out there who have such a high volume of work they need good scopists to get them through.

You'll need to be an expert in the various steno softwares out there. The main two are Eclipse (at and Case Catalyst at

A good resource is and it might be worth checking out the National Court Reporters Association website too:

To do the best job, you'll also need to know about court and deposition procedure and how to reflect these in a transcript. I'm not from the States, but I do know that each state in the US has its own way of presenting a transcript and you'll need to be familiar with these.

And you can earn good money if you're professional and dedicated!

As for the "electronic steno machine" comment above, nothing could be further from the truth. Just because a trial is recorded, it doesn't mean the audio can be run through a voice-recognition software and you have a transcript. It doesn't work like that. Who puts in the speaker designations? Who puts in the punctuation? Who works out the layout? A computer is nowhere near that sophisticated.

It's an unfortunate myth that when people see realtime speech to text they assume it's a computer doing it. The reality is that it's a highly skilled and trained individual who spent years perfecting the art, whether it be via a steno machine or via respeaking into a computer as a voice reporter would do.

There will always be a need for transcripts as long as there's paper around, so go and learn how to scope!
posted by stenoboy at 3:18 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW, when I read scopist I thought you meant microscopist. :-P
posted by ian1977 at 5:34 AM on June 6, 2009

I forgot to add that in order to be a scopist, you'll need to be able to read the machine shorthand notes of the reporter. While there is a basic alphabet, if you like, there are wide variations in how an individual reporter will stroke an outline on the machine according to local frequency of a word or the manual dexterity of a reporter. You need to be able to read the steno so you can work out a word the reporter's computer dictionary couldn't find an equivalent match.

More info on how the machine works here:
posted by stenoboy at 6:51 AM on June 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, stenoboy! This is very helpful to hear.
posted by thesmallmachine at 12:27 PM on June 6, 2009

« Older Kitty Filter: Where do you board your cat(s) in LA...   |   Here a cat, there a cat. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.