The Power of "Systematically" Editing Your Transcripts
October 9, 2017
For me, tackling the editing of my own transcripts is, and always has been, my very least favorite part of being a court reporter. The amount of work involved in taking that raw transcript and turning it into that perfect verbatim masterpiece can be a daunting process, and sometimes it can be more daunting than at other times! With the exception of the parts of editing where I can use it to build my dictionary and assess my writing style, where I can contemplate the methods I used to define things for the job dictionary on the realtime fly, where I can reflect on any realtime macros I may have used so that I can see how well they were executed and possibly come up with a better plan as to how I could utilize those more efficiently next time -- with the exception of all of that, the editing process is a fairly mundane and boring one for me. "So you need a final transcript; blah, blah, blah." ;-) I'm only half-joking when I say that, because that's not entirely true for me; I do find tremendous satisfaction in making sure that every job that goes out the door is a "job well done." I take great pride in my work, and I work hard in so many ways to make sure that the final product I am sending out the door is my very best work, every single time. It's just that small little problem of the "mundane and boring" piece of it for me that I could do without. However, the part of that that is progress for me is the realization that somehow, over time, I've gone from "daunting" to "mundane." The process that has gotten me from the first overwhelming adjective to the subtly of the second is actually a significant achievement, and the actual realization of how I got there is just gold! When sitting down to edit a transcript, try the method I will outline below and see how it works for you. For me, this is what this method and these steps have done for me:
It has allowed me to edit with a purpose, which relieves some of the boredom and keeps me focused on what portion of the task I need to tackle next, resulting in incredible efficiency in the use of my time
It has allowed me to have specific and clear plans of action when going through that raw transcript that are exciting to me and, therefore, renews my love of writing and the actual results of my writing that I am reviewing
It has allowed me to be able to implement clear dictionary-building methods in order to help resolve whatever issues I had in writing that record so that I will *never* have to deal with those particular issues again in my future writing and editing
It has allowed me to understand better what things I need to be Practicing with Intent so that I can continue to improve my writing and writing style into the future
It has allowed me to organize the editing of all the "useful" stuff that will help me move forward in my writing and writing style and that leaves the extraneous "stuff" that's left after I am done with that initial run-through as the final piece to getting that sucker out the door
It has allowed me to utilize a scopist, if I so choose (and almost 100 percent of time these days, I *do* choose!) to edit the rest of the transcript for me, because other than the actual production of the final transcript, I've done everything I can with that transcript that is "useful" to me as the reporter
It has allowed me to have a cleaner transcript product to be proofread in the end, which also, invariably, results in less errors and more attention to detail in the producing of that final product
It has allowed me to make more money because of each and every one of the bullet points that I have outlined for you above!!!
Here are the steps to the method I have been referring to:
Try to discipline yourself to go through the transcript first to *only* define things for your personal dictionary. Decide what you're going to do with misstrokes -- if you decide you're just going to replace something and not put it in your personal dictionary because it is not even a good misstroked outline for something, then skip over it for the moment, even if you know it's only going to take you that small second to replace. Focus on the "useful" misstrokes (there is such a thing in this context!) and the useful mistrans. If you see mistrans as you're moving through your transcript in this dictionarying process, then assess whether you could group-define them so that you never, ever would have to deal with that issue, were it to come up again. If you can't group-define it, then for the moment, leave it alone, again, even if you know it's only going to take you that small second to replace. Yes, you are going to have to address it later and think about it all over again, but I promise you, if you get used to the idea that you are looking for the gold, you are looking for those "useful" misstrokes and mistrans, then you will get better and better at this -- you still start to recognize the useful from the extraneous in a mere millisecond -- and you will start just flying through the transcript looking for these! A great next step, if you wanted to carry this methodical way of editing a bit farther -- that is, the sorting of the useful from the extraneous parts of the editing -- would be to look at your job sheet for the proper names and job-specific terminology you have written down so that you can make sure you are writing them all consistently throughout the transcript -- whether you are going to hyphenate a term or not, whether something needs to be capped or maybe shouldn't be capped just in certain circumstances, or any of a variety of issues that might be job-specific in these sorts of ways. Do your research on those things and take the time to make some definite decisions as to how you at least are going to initially tackle all of those uniformly. Having a plan like that going into the editing of a job will help you greatly with uniformity and also, therefore, with the time it takes you with those in the end.
When I personally am going through my transcript for this type of uniformity, another category that I will tackle is paragraphing and quoting/capping of material. This is something that doesn't have anything to do with the "usefulness" for future transcripts necessarily, with the exception of the possibility that you will start looking at methods of creating uniformity in your transcripts in a whole new way. I actually feel that looking at some of these issues of uniformity make you a stronger transcript producer and also a stronger writer, because you will start to recognize these issues more and more as you are writing future jobs, and you do get better at trying to figure out how you're going to do them all the same from the very beginning! So let's say perhaps the attorneys and the witness were quoting from documents in some portions of the transcript and then having a "he said, she said" conversation in others. Perhaps they were looking at an Excel spreadsheet in "real-time" online, and trying to keep track of what should be quoted or capped, or both, was just sort of a nightmare because you didn't even have an actual document in front of you, or even one for later, to refer to. Developing a bit of a plan for these things, possibly finding some things to search for or just by scanning down the transcript in these areas where they address these, can be extremely helpful in cutting down on the noise and details of some of the extraneous things that will need to be addressed later. You can bring a uniformity and an attention to detail -- a polish, if you will -- to your transcripts in this way that may or may not be able to be brought in the same way in the editing or even the proofreading of the final transcript later.
This may seem like an odd time to run a spellcheck, and it may seem like something that's not a good use of your time. I would agree with both of those statements! However, there is a tool in Eclipse that is a more time-conscious option than spellcheck. In Eclipse, it's called "List errors." By going to the "Production" tab in Eclipse and clicking on "List errors," it will give you a running list, such as is shown below, where you can see every word it will question in a spellcheck. You can click on an entry, and it will take you to that place in the transcript instantaneously. The advantage this may have for you at this point, when you've just worked through the issue of consistent names and terminology throughout, in trying to find some uniformity in a few other things that are job-specific as well, is that you can easily see if you have any inconsistencies in those throughout the entirety of your transcript at a glance! Maybe you have "Tracy" in one place and "Tracey" in another, or maybe you have Bates stamps written "MDO-0333" in one place and "MDO_0334" in another. This is an incredibly easy way to get those sorts of things all working consistently throughout the transcript without having to "think" so hard while editing the extraneous parts that will soon be all that's left! I recently had a transcript where they talked about the witness's boss, Cristina Trenvegstad, and the onsight supervisor on the job, Chris Travinoha. Neither last name was pronounced correctly every time, and when they first started talking about the second person, I thought they were mispronouncing the boss's name until they cleared up the fact that Chris was the onsight job supervisor. Until that moment, I didn't even realize they had been talking about two separate individuals. Cris was the "she" and Chris was the "he." Obviously. Well, it's obvious now. Using that "List errors" tool before either doing the final-editing myself or sending to a scopist ensured I had those details all sewn up right then and there, because, in the "List errors" window in the foreground, you can click on any one of those words in that list, and the place in the transcript where it appears shows up in the background, on your editing screen. It took me a mere minute to check all of those and know that I had them all correct by the time I was done with that short process.
If you do all of these things upfront when opening up that raw transcript file, then when you go back to do your real editing, you not only will have a cleaner transcript, but you will be able to see what your remaining writing issues are as you are knocking out the nitty-gritty of things. If you should end up choosing to send "the rest" to a scopist, then you have eliminated some of the burden that you would have otherwise been placing on that person's shoulder, benefiting you both as well as benefiting that final work product. Tackling your transcripts with the idea that, first and foremost, you are dictionary-building and looking for patterns in your writing that you can improve upon will help you move forward more than editing your transcript just to get the job out EVER will. It will also be a lot more fun and may save you time because of the efficiency of better editing methods. You will not have "wasted" any of the "gold" in that transcript in what you have sent on to a scopist for them to just "edit away" instead of being able to use all of that to your advantage for your future work and writing, but you still have left plenty of the "extraneous" things for them to fix up by going through your transcript word for word in order to finalize your transcript. The two bonuses beyond dictionary-building and skill-building, as well as beyond what editing like this can do for you in helping to get your transcripts out more efficiently and with more polish, are two added future benefits:
You will have learned the basics of what it takes to get out a clean, immediate rough draft and can start working toward that as your next goal
You will begin to see the true benefit of sending your transcripts to a scopist to finish up the raw editing of the final transcript, knowing that it will be able to be accomplished efficiently and with not much room for error, and thus freeing up more of your time for Practicing with Intent, for recreation, or freeing up that time to be available for more job settings.
And finally, maybe the biggest bonus of all is that because you will become a stronger writer and more aware of what your work looks like when you start breaking it all down systematically like this, you will necessarily start MAKING MORE MONEY IN LESS TIME! Now, that's Power!