Why I Chose Scoping Over Proofreading

Them: “What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a scopist.”

Them: (Blank stare.)

Me: “I help court reporters finalize their legal transcripts.”

Them: “Oh, so you’re like a proofreader.”

Me: (Sigh.) “Not exactly.”

Scoping vs. Proofreading

My profession constantly gets confused with proofreading because most people have no clue what a scopist does, let alone why I chose scoping as my career.

I’ve proofread on occasion, but I always come back to scoping.

But before I share why I chose scoping over proofreading, here’s a quick breakdown of the two:

Scopists receive the audio file/transcript first, and proofreaders are the last eyes on the transcript before returning it to the court reporter. Yes, scopists proofread, but proofreaders never scope.

Scopists use what’s called a CAT (computer-aided transcription) system for technical things such as adding words to a reporter’s dictionary, and they listen to the audio to ensure the transcript matches what the court reporter wrote originally.

A proofreader’s job is to read the transcript using proofreading software like iAnnotate and then catch anything a scopist missed. This could include things like spelling or spacing errors, incorrect punctuation, a missed word, etc. While proofreaders don’t listen to word-for-word audio, sometimes they’re asked to check trouble spots with audio.

The scopist and proofreader are a dynamic duo who work in harmony to produce a high-quality transcript for the court reporter to finalize before it gets sent into the legal system.

Now that we’ve covered that, here are the reasons I like scoping more than proofreading:


Learning how to read machine shorthand was my favorite part of court reporting school. A language that has 21 consonants and 4 vowels seemed crazy at first, but I loved learning the steno machine keyboard. And once I learned it, I was typing syllable by syllable and increasing my speed each time. It felt like sorcery, and I was hooked. While I never became a court reporter, as a scopist, I love having the ability to read the steno notes and translate them to English. It’s especially helpful in cases where the audio drops.

Fun fact: Back in the day, scoping services were done using computers with green video screens that felt like you were reading by periscope. So the word “scopist” comes from combining the words “periscope” and “typist.”

Thankfully, technology has evolved quite a bit since then, and scoping is no longer hazardous to your eyesight.

Scoping is More Engaging

Earlier I mentioned that scopists proofread, but in addition to that, our job duties include translating untranslated steno (shorthand language), correcting formatting issues, correcting homophone blunders (affect/effect), and researching industry-specific terms and spellings. If I’m not listening to the audio for context, I’m either marking steno notes/translating them to English to help my reporter build her dictionary or I’m googling some obscure word/phrase and learning how to use it in a sentence. My brain is constantly engaged, which keeps me from feeling bored. The few times I proofread, I found myself wanting to listen to the audio, and I missed using my hyperkeys to skillfully navigate through my CAT software. Personally, I found proofreading to be less engaging than scoping.

Listening to the Audio

I prefer listening to audio because it keeps me laser-focused and makes me feel like I’m in the room with the parties. In the past, some reporters asked me to spot-check, but I never stayed with them long because I didn’t want to put my name on something I hadn’t checked with the utmost precision.

Sometimes, though, having the audio can backfire if it’s a particularly emotional case, but for the most part, I find having the audio is more of a pro than a con because it allows me to feel like I have a front-row seat to the action, which is anything but tedious. I learn something new on every job I scope, and I love being a part of the justice system from the comfort of my home, especially in 2020.

As you can see, there is some overlap between scoping and proofreading, but when I’m asked to explain it, I’m never able to describe it in less than a thousand words. (That was sarcasm, but because you didn’t have audio of me saying it, you probably weren’t sure if I was serious.)

Both are fine choices

Whether you’re considering scoping or proofreading, you can’t go wrong. Here are some benefits you’ll get no matter which one you choose:

  • More time with your loved ones
  • Work from home without a degree
  • Be your own boss
  • Save money
  • Skip the traffic
  • Be a part of the justice system

Are you shaking your head, confused as to why you’d want to do everything it takes to be a scopist? Maybe proofreading could be the job for you.

If you want to explore proofreading as a career, check out this awesome webinar from Caitlin Pyle at Proofread Anywhere. It’s a free introduction to creating a profitable freelance business as a proofreader.

But if you nodded along to the reasons I love scoping, maybe scoping is more your speed. Check out Linda Evenson’s top-notch online scoping course for more information.

You can also check out my previous article that dives into more detail on what it takes to be a scopist.

Best of luck on your journey!