digital court reporter practice

Practice Makes Permanent… Not Perfect

The proverb “practice makes perfect” can be traced back to its Latin roots “Use maketh mastery’ in the 1500s and as it first appears in the United States in the Diary of John Adams from 1761.  You may have heard this as a kid when practicing an instrument or when trying to master a sport, but it’s wrong!  See, if you practice the wrong thing over and over again, it will only make you perfect at doing it wrong.  So over time, the moniker changed to “Practice makes permanent” and/or “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  So how does this affect you as a digital court reporter or legal transcriptionist? Habits, good or bad, can affect your job performance and possibly even your income.

Equipment Setup/Breakdown

When setting up or breaking down your equipment as a digital court reporter, it is good to have a routine.  This helps to make sure nothing gets lost but also makes you more efficient over time.  We recommend starting with one end and moving towards the other.  For example, start with the microphones and move in order towards your computer and headphones.  It is good to think about this when choosing a bag or when buying new equipment.  Being able to set up and break down quickly could make you the hero of the proceeding and get you requested for the attorney’s next assignment.

Foot Pedal

Keeping your fingers moving is the primary goal of a legal transcriber.  Anytime your hands leave the keyboard, you are not making money.  And no matter how fast you think you can move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse or touchpad, you are losing time.  So make sure you have a foot pedal and know how to use it.  This tool allows you to keep your fingers typing while your feet control the audio playback.  For many, this is awkward at first; but after a few days of practice, you should see efficiency gains.


As a digital court reporter, you will inevitably write abbreviations when you annotate.  It is important to be consistent.  If you decide to abbreviate something or define a speaker designation, use it every time that word, phrase or speaker appears.  There is nothing worse than spending extra time looking through your notes when asked to perform a playback/readback.  It can make you look less experienced and professional than you really are.  Adopting permanent speaker designations like x = clerk or an abbreviation like dob = date of birth will help you keep it straight and will provide consistency for when the record is transcribed.  For a transcriber the abbreviation can be used to trigger text expansion and/or macros, saving you time and effort.  These tools can write pages of text with only the need for a few keystrokes from the transcriber.


Learning the hotkeys, also called “shortcut keys,” and practicing them can save you time as a digital reporter or a legal transcriptionist.  If it is utilizing the F-keys or a Ctrl+ key combination, these can save you time and make you more efficient at your job.  If you have a client-facing role, this will reduce stress and make the process look smoother.  If you have a more remote or independent role, you will see the benefits in your speed.

Breaking Old Habits

Sometimes breaking old permanent habits and learning new ones is a sacrifice of short-term efficiency for long-term gains.  At first breaking old habits is hard and you will think, “I could do this faster before,” but that is only because you are re-training your brain and breaking those permanent habits you created before.  If it cost you 10% productivity for a month and you gain as little as 1% productivity after a total of 11 months, you would break even and then you can keep that extra efficiency for the rest of your career.  Let’s put that into real-world terms.  Let’s say a legal transcriber gets paid $1.50 a page and averages 120 pages a day or 600 pages a week, earning about $900.  If they gain 1% efficiency, they could be earning an extra $9 a week or $450 a year, which is an extra car payment or two!  Imagine how much more money you can make by adding a few time-saving tricks into your perfect practice.

About the Author

merritt gilbert digital court reporting instructor for blueledge

Merritt Gilbert is the Lead Instructor for BlueLedge

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