How Do Transcriptionists Differ From Typists and Stenographers?

May 30, 2018
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How Do Transcriptionists Differ From Typists and Stenographers?

Transcriptionists often get confused with typists or stenographers. Some people even assume that they’re all just the same! While they all convert speech to text documents, there are very distinct differences in the said line of work. This article tackles just that - how transcriptionists differ from typists and stenographers.

First off, what is transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting pre-recorded audio files straight into word documents. Transcriptionists, also known as “audio transcribers”, type down words in reader-friendly transcription formats after the live event. This gives them the ability to listen back to the recording as much as they need to, to ensure transcript accuracy whether they are instructed to follow verbatim or not. Transcriptionists CANNOT tweak, paraphrase or type the dialogues according to their own understanding - this is to retain the original thought of the recording. Generally, learning to become a transcriptionist is easier than becoming a stenographer or a legal transcriptionist.

Companies hire transcriptionists for various purposes, giving them countless opportunities across various industries and niche markets such as market research, academic, film or entertainment, legal, medical, and corporate transcriptions among many others which requires transcriptionists to be great researchers and fast learners in general.

Typists, however, can also be referred to as “data entry clerks”, as they are mostly employed to enter and/or update data into a computer system, or to convert hard copy materials into digital documents. Their services usually include taking down notes during corporate meetings and boardroom sessions, and then write meeting minutes or reports to be disseminated to various departments of a company or organization. Typists do not necessarily need to type down the exact words.

The demand for typists is in administrative office settings where their main responsibilities include typing company documents and materials such as letters, memos, reports, correspondence and policies.

On the other hand, stenographers or “court reporters” type down dialogues during courtroom meetings and oral proceedings. Unlike legal transcriptionists, stenographers are personally present at the time of speech. They work in a very fast-paced environment as audio playbacks are not in their discretion. They basically rely on their memory and type the dialogue as how they think they heard them, which might result to not so accurate transcripts. In terms of the format, stenographers practice shorthand writing where they initially use special characters that are later translated into layman-friendly texts or regular letters.

Extensive training and professional certification or licensure are strictly required before one can start a career in stenography, unlike in general transcription where freelancers can learn transcription on their own. Stenographers can be hired by the court system, court reporting companies, or private businesses.


Typing may be the core principle of the three mentioned careers, but the distinction of their job roles, skill sets and field of employment are immense. One might need a transcriptionist, typist, or stenographer for completely different reasons and business needs.

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