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Working Hard for Justice

by Darcy A. S. Thornburg 3 months ago in career

How Scoping and Proofreading Can Change the World and Has Changed My Life

Working Hard for Justice
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

I really do love my job. What do I do? Well, my “official” title is owner/scopist/proofreader.

I can hear the questions already. “What’s a scopist?” Well, I’ll tell you.

A scopist is an editor for court reporters. I do freelance editing and proofreading for court reporters.

“What’s so special about that?” You ask? Quite a lot, really.

You see, after the reporter takes down a proceeding in a special short-hand called machine steno, they use a computer program to translate the steno to English. At that point, the transcript may need just a little polish, or it might need a lot of help before it can be given to the reporter’s client. There might be steno that did not get translated, names to verify spellings for, or even words missing or mistranslated. As a scopist, I fix all those issues and more.

When I have my proofreading hat on, I look for anything the scopist (or the reporter, if they scoped the job themselves) missed, like spacing issues, homophone or homonym mistakes, and so on.

Still not sounding special? I’m getting there.

You see, attorneys use these transcripts to make their cases. Even the smallest error can turn a solid case on its head. There was a famous case about a missing comma in some legislation in Portland, Maine, which cost a dairy farm $5 million.

And beside the whole comma issue, these proceedings help bring criminals to justice, and they help aggrieved parties air those grievances and receive compensation.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to read these, especially when harm to children is involved. On days when I have a job involving the molestation, injury, or death of a child, I have to take frequent breaks and remind myself that getting this transcript into the most final, polished form possible will help the attorneys, judge, jury, and so on to better understand what happened.

From the family of the little girl who was killed while playing by a drunk driver to the medical malpractice suits, my work happens behind the scenes but is no less important.

People say you should not play favorites, but I have to admit that I have a favorite client. I’ve been working with her for almost five years now, but we’ve never met in person. We’ve tried, but busy schedules got in the way. Both of us have moved at least once since we started working together, and I even changed my business name!

I used to work jobs for wages or salary, but I would not trade this freelance career for all the stability of scheduling in the world. I make my own hours, and I decide which jobs to take. So I can have a doctor’s appointment one day, take my daughter to an activity the next, meet some friends for coffee, crochet, and the knitting on the third, and still have each of my jobs complete before deadline.

Is the munchkin home sick from daycare? Then I can rearrange my work schedule so I’m only working when she’s either having quiet time in the middle of the day or after she goes to bed at night. If I have a short proofreading job to do, I can even work on it at breakfast or while she is playing in the living room or sitting on the couch watching her favorite show (Peppa Pig) or movie (Frozen).

Unless I’ve had something come up, I can also spend quality time with my husband, who is a professor of political science at one of the universities just across state lines. He is usually appreciative.

Even discounting the fact that the health problems I have developed over the years would probably prevent me from keeping a regular job, I would not want to go back to wage work anyway.


Darcy A. S. Thornburg

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