Skip to Main Content

Court Reporters


To record legal proceedings, court reporters use shorthand, a system of abbreviated writing that has its beginnings in script forms developed more than 2,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans used symbols and letters to record poems, speeches, and political meetings.

Europeans, such as the Englishman Timothy Bright, began to develop systems of shorthand in the 15th and 16th centuries. These systems were refined throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Shorthand was used primarily in personal correspondence and for copying or creating literary works.

Shorthand was applied to business communications after the invention of the typewriter. The stenotype, the first shorthand machine, was invented by an American court reporter in 1910. Before the introduction of Dictaphones, tape recorders, and other electronic recording devices, shorthand was the fastest and most accurate way for a secretary or reporter to copy down what was being said at a business meeting or other event. Court reporters today still use stenotype machines, but they use computer-aided transcription (CAT) to translate the stenographic symbols into English text. CAT saves the court reporter time that can be better used editing and refining the text.

In real-time court reporting, the stenotype machine is linked to a computer, and the court reporter's captions can be seen on television programs. Court reporters also use computers to offer more services to lawyers and judges, such as condensed transcripts (an extra transcript that fits several pages of testimony on one page), concordant indexes (indexes of each word in a transcript by page and line number), and keyword indexes (indexes that feature important terms that are requested by the lawyer). Court reporters also use the Internet for research, advertising, and connecting with clients.