Proofreading versus Scoping versus Transcribing
What is the Difference?
I am often asked, “What is the difference between scoping, proofreading, and transcribing?” Here is the answer in a nutshell.
A transcriptionist gets an audio file from the reporter and has to type in every word that is heard on the audio. They must also research spellings, punctuate, paragraph, and produce a professional transcript. They have to create the file in the format that the reporter wants, and this format is highly varied. Transcribing is obviously very typing-intensive. Typing speed and accuracy are important to do this job.
When a scopist gets a file, it has been translated from steno notes into English, so we don’t have to type in every word like a transcriptionist does, thank goodness! Scoping basically is proofreading, but since the file has not yet been read word for word, there is more to fix. So we carefully read every word, punctuating, paragraphing, deciphering mistranslated/untranslated steno notes (machine shorthand), fixing formatting issues, and researching spellings as we go. I like the fact that there is lots to do; I don’t get bored!
So a scopist reads a little, listens a little, makes a correction; reads a little, listens a little, inserts missing words. It does not require a ton of typing, so keyboarding speed is not such an issue. Some reporters only want a spot-check with the audio as the scopist edits. More often these days, reporters want the scopist to listen to the whole audio so they are sure that the transcript is verbatim. Some want every repeat, false start, and hiccup. Some don’t want all the extraneous “stuff” put in because they want a cleaned-up version that reads better. It is the reporter’s name that goes on the transcript, so it is their call.
From the scopist, the file goes to a proofreader who is looking for typos, wrong words (e.g., discrete, discreet), formatting issues, punctuation — anything that might have been missed in the edit. A proofreader should have an excellent vocabulary and know how to distinguish homophones. The file should have no steno, should be well-researched and very clean. Occasionally, a reporter may want the proofreader to proof the file with the audio. For this service, proofreaders charge double or more their normal rate.
The consensus among folks who do both proofreading and scoping is that they tend to make more money scoping, even though it’s slower going. Since the proofreader can read many more pages per hour than the scopist, their page rate is roughly half that of the scopist. Some people enjoy doing both, and indeed, it isn’t a bad idea because if one is slow, maybe the other is busy. Proofreaders certainly have a very important job because they are the last person to read the entire file. If the proofreader misses a mistake, it goes out that way to the attorneys. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Once the file is proofread, it goes back to the reporter who looks at any questions the proofreader has marked, makes corrections, and the file is printed/emailed to the parties. Producing a transcript is an intensive process with all of the parties seeking to put out a perfect transcript. And by the time we’re done, it’s usually pretty darn good! I really like having a part in it.