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The Subtle But Significant Difference Between Typist, Transcriptionist, and Stenographer


Jan 18, 2019

difference between typist, transcriptionist, and stenographer

RevBlogProductivityThe Subtle But Significant Difference Between Typist, Transcriptionist, and Stenographer

What’s actually the difference between a typist, transcriptionist, and stenographer? Great question. With a somewhat lengthy answer. We’ll dive into the differences below, but to start off what they share in common is that all three specialize in some form of typing. From there, the unique skill set of each one varies a great deal. Here’s what you need to know:

A typist’s true skill set is being able to produce typewritten documents with speed and accuracy.

A typist’s work is not limited to, well, typing. But they are exceptionally fast on a computer keyboard. The average words per minute (WPM) for a skilled typist is 65 to 75 WPM, while the average person can type about 30 to 40 WPM. Also called word processors, typists work on a computer to type up documents like email correspondence and meeting minutes. They often have other duties including but not limited to filing, answering phones, or other general office responsibilities. Many companies have replaced the need for a typist by compiling this work with that of an office secretary.

Transcriptionists produce an accurate, written record of a recording.

Rather than typing up meeting minutes, transcriptionists produce a written record of recorded audio. Larger firms might have a full-time transcriptionist in-house, but smaller companies often outsource transcription work. Some transcriptionists use a foot pedal to pause, rewind or speed up the audio file they are working on to match their typing. They also tend to have skill sets related to a particular field. For example, a legal transcriptionist might have been a paralegal or even a lawyer at some point. Other common specializations include medical and academic transcription. When hiring a transcriptionist, make sure they adhere to a set of privacy and security guidelines to protect your information.

Stenographers type accounts of real-time situations, like court hearings.

While transcriptionists produce a document based on audio or visual records, a stenographer types up real-time situations in courtrooms or academic settings. They might be called on, especially in courtrooms, to read back what has transpired, to keep the record straight. Although in the past stenography jobs were location specific, they can now work remotely thanks to improvements in modern technology. In this capacity, they are referred to as a CART service or Communication Access Realtime Translation. Stenographers sometimes use computers, but more often write in shorthand using Steno Machines, that help them work faster.


When your business needs typing services, utilizing a typist, transcriptionist, or stenographer can improve efficiency. Knowing what environment the typing project in your office will need to either be completed in or completed for will determine which kind of professional you hire.

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