Although the concept of voice writing – also referred to as verbatim or stenomask reporting – has been around since the mid-1940s, this form of court reporting has only gained in popularity in recent years, as voice recognition technology continues to evolve. Voice writing, unlike traditional stenography, which involves using shorthand skills and the use of a stenotype machine, is accomplished through the written word.
Voice writing reporting involves the use of a stenomask, a recording device that also works as a silencing device. The stenomask is placed over the mouth during the verbatim recording process. The voice writer speaks into the stenomask, repeating verbatim all spoken words and sounds during the proceeding. The voice writer must also identify all speakers in the process, as well as emotional reactions and gestures as to ensure an accurate transcript.
Although voice writing is most commonly used in courtroom settings and other judicial procedures, medical transcriptionists and closed captionists have begun implementing this technology, as well.
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How the Stenomask Writing Process Works
The stenomask, because it was first introduced by Horace Webb during WWII, may seem like an antiquated way to record verbatim proceedings. However, with the advent of advanced voice recognition technology and digital recording systems, voice writing reporting has begun to enjoy a renaissance. As such, it is now quite common to find court reporter programs designed specifically for the voice writer.
A stenomask is a rather unique instrument that accomplishes two goals for the voice writer: it muffles the voice writer’s voice through advanced voice-dampening materials, and it records the voice writer’s spoken word through a highly sensitive digital microphone. Today’s stenomasks guarantees near-complete silence from the voice writer, thereby ensuring that courtroom proceedings are not interrupted.
The voice writer, who holds the stenomask over the mouth when speaking, must ensure that everything in the courtroom is repeated as accurately as possible. This means that all spoken words, gestures, emotional reactions, and sounds made by the judge, the witnesses, the attorneys and other parties must be recorded.
Verbatim reporting may involve either realtime feeds of the proceeding or the preparation of a transcript following the proceeding’s conclusion. The stenomask is connected to a laptop computer, which is loaded with the latest speech recognition software, thereby allowing the voice writer’s spoken notes to be translated onto a screen via a realtime feed or into transcript form. An attached foot pedal allows the voice writer to stop and start the recording process, as desired.
A voice writer, once the spoken words are converted through the speech recognition engine, may stream the text to a computer file, the Internet, a television station, or to software that can allow for easy viewing of the transcript.
Unlike traditional stenography, voice writing allows attorneys to collect the day’s proceedings before leaving the courtroom for the day.
Medical transcriptionists and closed captionists who utilize the voice writing technology and work from their home may not even need to use the stenomask; instead, a high-quality headset with an integral microphone, along with voice recognition software and a computer, are all that is needed.
The Job of a Voice Writer
Voice writers enjoy very high accuracy rates, and many are drawn to the naturally effortless appeal of this career. Unlike traditional court reporters who utilize the stenography method of court reporting, voice writers need not learn stenography and shorthand. And, because the act of voice writing is far more streamlined than stenography, these professionals enjoy speeds of up to 350 words per minute.
Individuals seeking careers in voice writing can also expect a shorter period of formal education. Although many court reporting schools offer voice writing certificates or professional diplomas, voice writers do not need to complete a comprehensive court reporting program; instead, a voice writing certificate often takes about 6 to 12 months to complete.
Training in a voice writing program involves learning the techniques of creating an audible recording, learning how to efficiently operate specialized voice writing equipment, and the completion of a number of courses that cover such topics as courtroom procedures and medical and legal terminology.
Although voice writing has taken great leaps in recent years, not all court systems and state judicial systems recognize the voice writing method of court reporting; therefore, career opportunities may not be as plentiful for voice writers as they are for traditional stenographers.