Typist, Transcriptionist, Stenographer – What’s The Difference?

Posted by Anne Quach on October 04, 2021.

The language services industry has a long list of jargon and terminology that can be very confusing to newbies in the industry or clients. For instance, many people cannot tell the differences between translators and interpreters. Likewise, in media localization, transcriptionists are sometimes mistakenly considered to be the same as typists and stenographers.

Although they share some similarities in the form of typing, typist, transcriptionist, and stenographer are three professions that serve different purposes and require unique sets of skills.

Before deciding who you should hire for your project, let’s walk through the basics and differences between these three roles.

1. Typist

Typists (sometimes referred to as “data entry clerks”) are mainly responsible for entering data into a computer system or producing and converting hard copies into digital documents. They may also take notes during meetings and type down meeting minutes or reports later on. In many offices, typists are replaced by secretaries who fulfil other duties such as answering phones, filing, and other general office duties.

One important note about the job of typists is that they do not have to type down the exact words. Minor changes are allowed as long as the overall meanings are not changed.


Must-have skills of a professional typist:

    • Fast and accurate typing skills – It is quite obvious that having a fast typing skill is the first requirement of a typist. In fact, a skilled typist can type about 65 to 80 words per minute (WPM), compared to 30 to 40 WPM of normal people. But speed is not everything. Accuracy is another important factor that the work of typists have to meet. Other than that, typists should have good computer skills to handle different processing software and the company’s systems.
    • Self-discipline and focus – In order to type at a very high speed while maintaining the accuracy of the documents, typists must fully concentrate on their work. Due to the high number of documents that need to be typed, typists should have organized and disciplined personalities.
    • Ability to maintain confidentiality – Typists work with a wide range of business documents from meeting minutes, memos, proposals, or client lists. Some pieces of information are sensitive and cannot be disclosed.


2. Transcriptionist

Transcriptionists work with recorded audio files instead of typing down real-time meetings or conversations. They listen to the recorded audio sent by clients and write down what they hear. Depending on the transcription services the clients choose, they might have to type exactly what they hear or make some corrections or changes.

Audio Transcription Services - Transcriptionists

Required skillsets for a transcriptionist:

  • Computer skills – Transcriptionists should be able to use different supporting software that helps them pause, rewind or speed up the audio file they are working on to match their typing. In addition, they are required to handle numerous file formats as requested by clients.
  • Understanding of languages and accents – Transcriptionists must be familiar with different accents and have great use of languages to transcribe accurately an audio file, especially when the audio quality of the file is bad.
  • Subject-matter experts – Besides having a good ear, transcriptionists are the ones that are skilled in a particular field. For example, in order to be a medical transcriptionist, one must have a background in medical, healthcare or pharmacology. There are many types of transcriptionists, including medical transcriptionists, academic transcriptionists, legal transcriptionists, law enforcement transcriptionists, financial transcriptionists, etc.
  • Proofreading skills – After converting the audio into written words, transcriptionists are required to review the whole transcript to make sure no errors are left. For clean transcription services, transcriptionists also need to remove grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes in the original audio.
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality – Like typists, transcriptionists also handle important files from clients. Thus, having the ability to keep information secure and confidential is critical. In most cases, signing NDAs beforehand is needed.


3. Stenographer

A stenographer does the transcription work in real-time situations such as in courtrooms, in academic settings, and other situations where the transcripts need displaying immediately. Stenographers can use either a computer with a QWERTY keyboard or a special steno machine to write in shorthand, allowing them to type up to 300 WPM. Court stenographers are sometimes called upon to read back what was transcribed by judges or lawyers.

Steno machine
A steno machine used by court stenographers 

What does it take to become a stenographer?

    • Fast and accurate typing skills – To type as fast as someone speaks, stenographers must be highly skilled at typing and they have to make sure their typing is accurate, especially when the transcript is used for court.
    • Self-discipline and the ability to focus – Stenographers work in a very fast-face environment that does not allow them to lose their concentration. Since they transcribe in real-time and cannot playback what was said, they must completely focus and rely on their memories to type down exactly what they hear.
    • Subject-matter knowledge – Only those with solid subject-matter knowledge can meet the high speed and accuracy levels of stenographer jobs. For example, for court stenographers, being familiar with laws and legal terminology is a must.
    • Ability to maintain confidentiality – Like the two other professions, stenographers must be trustworthy people who do not leak sensitive information of the project to anyone.


4. Do you need a typist, a stenographer, or a transcriptionist?

If you are looking for a full-time employee who can type documents fast and reliably as well as handling some other admin duties, then hiring a typist is a good option.

For real-time transcription (both in-person and online via video/audio calls) in a court hearing, meeting, and conference, we recommend you work with a professional stenographer.

In case your company have some audio files that need converting into text, a transcriptionist will do the job. You can contact a freelance transcriptionist or work with a professional media localization agency like GTE Media. We have a team of native qualified transcriptionists that bring you a wide range of transcription services, from full transcription to clean transcription and summary transcription at the most value-for-money rate. Contact us for a free quotation.

Tags: ,

Tags: ,

Your comment