I am learning a new profession, that of being a “court reporter,” or “realtime reporter.” The machine I use is a student machine. It has 22 black, unlabeled keys.

What’s the difference between a court reporter and a real-time reporter? Court reporters take down everything that is said in a court of law. A lot of times they have to read back what they’ve written, even if it looks like hieroglyphics. Real-time reporters do the captioning on live TV programs, for movies, and for deaf people. What they type is usually read instantaneously.

School? It is not necessary to go to school to learn how to do this. A person can learn everything he needs to know by studying books and practicing on this machine at home.

Certification? In order to be certified, a court reporter must take a test and be able to type 225 words a minute with 95% accuracy. A real-time reporter must be able to type at least 225 words a minute with 97% accuracy.

How fast are we looking at? The record for the most words typed in one minute on a machine like this is 375 words a minute, but a lot of people get stuck at 180 words a minute.

How can a person even do this? “Easy! (Not!)” – it takes an extraordinary amount of dedication, commitment,  practice, and memorization to achieve, and can take years to accomplish.

How many do this? There are about 14,000 court reporters in America.

How many students? I’m not sure. There are many people enrolled in court reporting schools, but not many people actually finish. Dropout rates for brick-and-mortar court reporting schools are 80%.

Court reporters aren’t needed as much as real-time reporters.

Is it worth it to try? Yes. The rewards are great if you can stick it out and see it through to the end. An excellent real-time reporter has a 100% chance of getting a job. He can be any age, can make a 6-figure salary, can set his own hours, and can live almost anywhere he wants (even work from home in Hawaii!) to do his job.

When are you done? You’re technically done when you pass your certification tests, but most people in this profession don’t ever consider themselves “done.” They are constantly learning new words and new ways to shorten the words they type.

About the machine:

The court reporting machine is basically a shorthand typing machine. The idea is to shorten everything so that as many words and phrases as possible can be typed in the least amount of time, although sometimes the word ends up being a lot longer.

The keys are used in many different combinations to make syllables, words, and phrases.

The keys on the left side are used in the first syllable of a word.

The Keys on the right side are the final consonants in words.

VOWELS                                                                                                                                    The four keys at the bottom are vowels.

ASTERISK                                                                                                                                     There’s a large key in the middle, which is the asterisk key (*).
It is used in many different ways to help shorten words.

Reading from the left, the keys are:

S T P H * F P L T D
S K W R * R B G S Z

You’ll notice that some of the letters in the alphabet are missing. They aren’t needed. You just use different combinations of keys to make up these missing letters.

Letters are used in these combinations:

B = PW-
C = K- or KR-
D = TK-
F = TP-
H = H-
K = K-
L = HR-
M = PH-
N = TPH-
P = P-
Q = KW-
R = R-
S = S-
T = T-
V = SR-
W = W-
X = KP-
Y = KWR-


B = -B
D = -D
F = -F
G = -G
K = -BG
L = -L
M = -PL
N = -PB
P = -P
R = -R
S = -S
T = -T
V = -*F
X = -BGS
Z = -Z


Short A = A

Long A = AEU

Short O = O

Long O = OE

Short E = E

Long E = AOE

Short U = U

Long U = AOU

Short I = EU

Long I = AOEU

These are the building blocks with which all the sounds, words and phrases are created.

As you type the letters from left to right, they come out in order, from left to right, on the paper coming out of the machine. Each line is a syllable.

You press the asterisk key for every syllable you want erased.

Here is how a word is written.

BRIGETTE = 2 syllables
Each syllable gets one “stroke” (a stroke is a letter, or a combination of letters, that is pushed at the same time).

You can write BRIGETTE in any of these ways (the syllables are divided by slash marks). :

B = PW-
R = R-
I = EU (short I sound)
G = SKWR (it has a J sound, so use the J key)
I = EU (short I sound)
T = -T

You press each COMBINATION of letters at the same time.

Even with all these combinations you may find that some sounds are missing. Never fear. There’s a way to write every sound you can imagine.

For example:

“Trish” = “Trirb”
“Mitch” = “Mifp”

A court reporter has to practice and be able to read all of these letter combinations very quickly, especially if he’s working in the court system.

Many, many shortcuts are used in court reporting. Some of the shortcuts used are pretty easy to remember, such as these letters used for various words:

About = B

Accident = X

Am = M

Approximate = P

Are = R

Can = K

Had = D

Of = F

See  = Z

Will  = L

Then it gets slightly harder, but this is still easy, because it makes sense:

Does = DZ

Ever = VR

Machine = MN

Remember = RM

Some words are lopped off in the front:

Above = bov

Some are lopped off at the end:

Purpose = purp

Some are compressed:

Abraham = bram

Some words/phrases are funny:

Burden of proof = burp

(And everything ending in -sh becomes -rb. So, fish = firb, delish = delirb, mush = murb).

Some are pretty much unrecognizable:

Automobile = aobl

Courtroom = korm

Hospice = hops

Pittsburgh = Purg

Vehicle = vek

Some are just plain ridiculous:

Enzyme = stkpwhraoeupl

Jeep = skwraoep

What he told them = whaefpbgtsdz

There are tons of other tricks which are used to shorten words and phrases, but this gives you an idea of how a court reporting machine is used.