What’s the Difference Between a Typist, a Transcriptionist, and a Stenographer?

Frequently businesses require someone to type their documents, notes, correspondence and other materials. Who is suited for such a job? What is the difference between the people who type documents for a living – a typist, stenographer and a transcriptionist? Although all of these professions have similar-sounding jobs, their skills, experience and methods all vary greatly.

Before your business decides to hire, it’s important to distinguish the differences between these roles so you hire the right person for the job. 


The term “typist” is almost outdated – imagine the show Mad Men, with rows of women working away on typewriters. This has gone away as companies became more efficient and increase their use of technology of available technologies and outsourcing options.

In general a typist is an employee of a company who types documents, much like a secretary who types correspondence. They may or may not have other duties at the company, including filing, answering phones and other general office duties. A typist’s main job is to type documents extremely quickly to produce hard copies of letters, reports and more. They might produce documents from recordings, by typing as someone dictates out loud, or by taking notes and typing them up later. Typists are not necessarily skilled in any one field, and can reasonably be compared to a general transcriptionist who provides typing services.


In comparison, a transcriptionist is one who is skilled in a particular field and used to produce reports, correspondence and more for that specialty. Unlike a Stenographer that needs to be present at the event to transcribe, a transcriptionist will get the work done once they receive client files.

Type of transcriptionists include:

  • Medical transcriptionist – Skilled in medical and pharmacology terminology and the many different types of medical reports.
  • Legal transcriptionist – Skilled in legal terminology and formatting for court documents.
  • Academic transcriptionist – Skilled in transcribing interviews done for research.
  • Law enforcement transcriptionist – Skilled in transcribing recorded statements, interviews with witnesses and suspects, jail calls, 911 calls, undercover wires, and more. Their is also an associated terminology that goes along with the law enforcement industry from gang lingo to the actual law enforcement terminology.
  • Financial transcriptionist – Skilled in client relations and financial reports, as well as the terminology that goes along with it.

Quite often, transcriptionists have other work experience in their field of specialty – for instance, many legal transcriptionists are former lawyers or paralegals. A transcriptionist produces a written record from a video or audio recording. They use a regular computer hooked up to a foot pedal to help them stop, start and rewind the recording, increasing their typing speed. Transcriptionists can either be in-house employees or independent contractors. 

While transcriptionists traditionally convert audio to text, they can also help with document to document transcription. An example is old text that has been written in hard to read handwriting or in ancient English language. Think historical handwritten documents during civil wars. The modern world may find it difficult to read old text. A transcriptionist can re-write it in modern language so everyone can understand.


A stenographer is used for real time transcription services, such as in a courtroom, in academic settings, for closed captioning or other events where the transcript must be available immediately. Stenographers can either use regular computers or special machines that allow them to type in shorthand. They are often called on, especially in courtrooms (where they are also called court reporters,) to read back what was said to help clarify dialogue for the listeners. Stenographers can be employees or independent contractors. In the past their work has been limited to their geographic location, as they had to be present to record an event. However, in recent years improvements in technology and internet speed have allowed stenographers to work remotely. If working remotely, the term CART (or Communication Access Realtime Translation) specialist is often used to describe their work.

Do you need a typist, a stenographer, or a transcriptionist?

What you need depends on the needs of your company. If you’re looking for a full-time employee that can type documents fast and do other tasks, you need a typist.

If you need in-person transcription (either physically or through video/audio call) for a court hearing, a conference, or an important meeting, a stenographer will do the job.

A company that wants to convert audio to text needs a transcriptionist.

Now that you know the difference between a typist, stenographer, and a transcriptionist, you may have determined you need a transcriptionist.

Why Hire a Transcriptionist?

Many staff in workplaces like hospitals and law firms get exhausted from spending hours transcribing apart from their regular duties. Outsourcing to a transcription company like us will have many benefits.

1. Better Accuracy

Many companies try to get transcription work done in-house. This can be very challenging for staff who have little experience. It can also be time-consuming.

A professional transcription service has a variety of transcriptionists each highly experienced in their fields. Because of this, your transcription will be extremely accurate and be delivered within an impressive time frame.

2. Your Company Can Save Money

Hiring a transcription company can save you money. If you’re paying staff at your company extra hours to transcribe content, you may end up spending a lot on wages and even over time. The worst part is, regular work may get pushed aside if transcription needs to be done quickly. For a set price, a good transcription service has a fast turnaround and will get your files to you within hours if requested.

3. Greater Security of Confidential Files

A transcription company takes client confidentiality extremely seriously. At Ditto Transcripts, we prioritize confidentiality and properly handle sensitive information. We protect your data from premature or unauthorized disclosure and are compliant with HIPPA, CJIS, and other regulations.

How to Choose a Transcriptionist

There are generally 2 ways to outsource transcription:

  1. Hire a freelancer
  2. Use AI
  3. Hire a transcription company

Hiring a freelance transcriptionist may be the cheapest option. However, there’s no guarantee the freelancer will give you your money’s worth.

Meanwhile, AI transcription is inaccurate and may cause more problems in the long run.

On the other hand, a US-based transcription service like Ditto Transcripts can offer extreme accuracy, a fast turn around time, confidentiality, and personalized customer service. Like Stenographer services, Ditto Transcripts offers on-site transcription services for your most important meetings, calls, or interviews.

What’s Next?

Whether or not a company chooses to outsource their transcription work to a typist, transcriptionist, or stenographer almost always depends on their budget, volume of work and other factors. Knowing what each one is capable is the first place to start.

If you need a transcriptionist, Ditto Transcripts offers great prices and excellent accuracy for all your transcription needs. Send us your project details and we’ll be in touch shortly.

Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate and affordable transcription services for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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