No proofreading software can detect all the grammar and punctuation errors that a good human proofreader can, at least not according to Dean Evans of Good Content Co., who ran a snippet of text through the most popular proofreading programs marketed today, and discovered that his wife, a copy editor, found each and every error, while each of the software programs failed to even come close to her proof.
So how does one go about ensuring that work product goes out perfectly both in context and form? For the best results, text should be sent to an additional reader, because any piece of text viewed with a new set of eyes is better than one that is simply re-read by its originator.
Since so much of the work we do as court reporters must be turned around within days – or less – oftentimes we’re left with having to proof our own work. If that’s the case, the first rule of thumb a reporter should follow is to print out your initial edit as you work your way through it, so that as soon as you’ve completed that first run-through, a hard copy is sitting in your print tray ready to be proofed. This may sound a bit outdated and a waste of time and money, but study after study indicates that we “take in” more of what we read on paper versus a VDU (video display unit), that we process it more efficiently, and are thus more readily able to detect grammar and punctuation errors.
Now that you have that transcript sitting on your desk, walk away. Get a cup of coffee or tea. Read your child a short story or walk your dog. Whatever you do, don’t begin proofreading immediately. You need to be able to proofread the text with a bright red pen/pencil, a fresh set of eyes, and without fatigue.
Finally, sit down at a desk in a comfortable chair, in a quiet spot in your home, and using whatever set of proofreading marks you are most comfortable with, read your transcript out loud, handwriting your corrections. If you have problems determining how to properly punctuate a passage, listen back to the audio so that you can hear the speaker’s cadence. That may in and of itself clarify whether a period, semi-colon or a dash is the best route. If you’re still unsure, use online punctuation guides.
Any terms that are unfamiliar or that you had to ask the witness or counsel to spell should be double-checked. They may think they know how to spell a word, when, in fact, they’ve been misspelling it for years.
Words that may be one word in some situations and two in others should be given close scrutiny. Remember, your reputation lies within each and every transcript, so give it the time and attention it deserves. Your clients will thank you and will ask for you time and again because of your conscientiousness and attention to detail.