Blog chevron right Transcription

Who are Transcriptionists and Stenographers and what is the difference?

Matthew Patel
Matthew Patel
Posted in Zoom Nov 2 · 2 Nov, 2015
Who are Transcriptionists and Stenographers and what is the difference?

Like most other industries, the language service industry also involves a lot of jargon, so it’s easy to get confused. If you’re looking for outside help for your next language project, you may wonder what kind of professional would be the best fit. Stenography and transcription are two words people often mix up: they have something in common and are used for similar reasons.

What Is the Difference Between Transcription and Stenography?

While the question is pretty simple, answering it might not be as easy as you’d assume. Below, we’ll cover what transcription and stenography have in common and what makes them different.

What Is Stenography?

Stenography is a form of shorthand typing done on a purpose-built machine or writing by hand. It makes it possible to produce a simultaneous verbatim transcript of 150 words in a minute (that’s the average number of words people vocalize per minute). Unfortunately, nobody but stenography professionals can read this sort of code. So, to reach a larger group of people, it needs to be “translated” into a common language. 

What is Transcription?

Transcription, however, involves producing a written record of audio or video content. Unlike stenographers, transcribers are often trained in a specific industry or field to produce the most accurate results. For example, medical transcription has to be 100% accurate. Otherwise, it can cause severe issues and even endanger lives, so medical transcriptionists must undergo strict training and certification procedures to deal with this type of content. It’s also worth mentioning that transcription may take some extra time, but the result is definitely much more comprehensible and user-friendly.

What Makes Them Different?

Are your associations for the word “stenography” words like “court,” “parliament,” “secretary,” and the times before World War II? If yes, that’s most likely because it was widely used a long, long time ago. And it became no longer needed once the Allied nations gained access to a new German invention in 1945 – the magnetic tape recording. With time, the new technology became an easy and pragmatic way to capture a speech and transcribe it later while listening to a tape.

By the way, did you know there is a lengthy list of shorthand systems? Let’s revise - all of them utilize various techniques, including simplifying existing letters or characters and using special symbols to represent phonemes, words, and phrases.

We have already covered the most obvious parallels between stenography and transcription:

  1. They are both about converting live speech to text.

  2. They are both about typing/writing words and phrases by putting them down on a paper/digital textual document.

  3. They are both desirably done by professionals (there is still a certain huddle of amateur transcribers, though).

However, we inevitably face two serious issues with shorthand writing:

  1. Please consider some additional time for ‘decoding’ a shorthand record! Otherwise, it would stay closed for use by anyone but its author.

  2. A stenography transcript relies exclusively on human memory. It is not uncommon for a stenographer to get something wrong or skip a particular part of a sentence while working with its coding.

  3. Stenography is very hard to learn, requiring a serious amount of time and effort to master.

The most glaring issue with stenography is the fact that it’s extremely challenging to learn and takes a serious amount of time to master. Many people give up long before they become proficient at it. Becoming a master stenographer requires familiarity with the characters and symbols. Without it, stenographers can be even slower than transcriptionists, negating the only real advantage of stenography.

In Conclusion

Utilizing a transcriptionist or a stenographer can improve efficiency, that’s true. However, the type of project and the environment in a particular case will determine which one would be the right choice for your needs.