A voice writer provides transcription services by repeating the words of others during a trial, meeting, or other activity into a soundproof mask. The voice writer's words may then be processed by voice-to-text software or may later be transcribed by the voice writer or another typist. Voice writing is one of several different types of court reporting techniques and may also be used in several other contexts. This technique provides an alternative to other methods of court reporting and transcription, such as stenography and the use of stenographic machines.
Unlike other methods of verbatim reporting, a voice writer does not type or write down the words spoken by others. Instead, the transcriptionist must listen to what others are saying and then repeat this information into what is often called a stenomask. The stenomask is designed to completely cover the writer's mouth so that his words cannot be heard by others. During the transcription process, the voice writer may also include information about a speaker's emotional reactions or gestures. After the meeting or proceedings, the writer may then be responsible for preparing transcripts from a recording of his words, though many voice writers now rely on voice-recognition software to do much of the work of preparing a written record.
In many situations, a voice writer will receive training in the method as part of a court reporter education program. It should be noted that simply achieving proficiency in real-time voice transcription will not qualify someone to work as a court reporter. In addition to learning a transcription method, a court reporter must also learn pertinent legal terminology and court procedures. In some jurisdictions, a court reporter must be licensed by a governmental agency or hold certification through a recognized professional organization. In the United States, for example, the National Verbatim Reporters Association offers certification to voice writers that can enable them to work in courtrooms. Advocates of voice writing sometimes assert that it is faster and easier to train someone as a voice writer than it is to train someone in the use of standard stenography equipment.
Like many other stenographers and court reporters, a voice writer may use her skills outside the legal profession. Many voice writers provide closed captioning services to the broadcast industry. In addition, they may also work to transcribe conference calls and business meetings, particularly in situations where having an accurate record of the meeting is important.