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How Does the Shorthand Machine Work?

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The shorthand machine resembles a laptop in its structure, but that is where the similarities end. The 22 unmarked keys on a shorthand machine record sounds phonetically instead of letter-by-letter. Court reporters press keys simultaneously (a process called “chording”) to record phonetic sounds quickly and efficiently. The machine is split up into three sections:

  • Initial keys (left): these keys record the initial phonetic sounds of a word, such as the hard “K” in “can.”
  • Final keys (right): these keys record the final phonetic sounds if a word, such as the “N” in the word “can.”
  • The vowel keys: these keys are on a second level of the keyboard. Depressing these four keys allow court reporters to record any sound.

The asterisk key is used to mark the occasional error.

It’s thanks to extensive schooling, training, and the shorthand machine that court reporters can type three times faster than the average person. Learn more below. 

The setup of the shorthand machine is what enables court reporters to type at practically inhuman speeds. These professionals work diligently to be able to provide their clients the reliable, accurate court reporting they need. Once the legal proceedings have concluded, the court reporter translates the transcript into “real English” and delivers it to the attorney in the format of their choice. 

Many of our Houston court reporters have gone back to receive additional certifications. This makes our staff even more valuable to clients, as we can provide them far more resources than they otherwise would have had. Contact us today to learn about what we can do to for your case. 


Hanna & Hanna Reporting is a full-service court reporting firm offering complete legal support services, videoconferencing and deposition suites. We provide a wide variety of services related to the court reporter profession, including realtime, transcription service, closed captioning, litigation support and legal video services.


We offer the professional technical support and legal support that makes your job that much easier.  We are a member of NCRA, STAR, NNRC, TCRA, TEXDRA and HCRA. Hanna & Hanna Reporting is privileged to have an exceptionally dedicated and committed staff of professionals for all your court reporting needs.


Hanna & Hanna Reporting  is headquartered in Houston, Texas and offers worldwide scheduling of depositions, court reporters and videoconferencing. Our Texas locations can provide local services across the region.

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