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What is the Difference between Minute Taking and Stenography Services?

Have you ever wondered whether you require minute taking or stenography services?  Do you have regular meetings which need to be recorded and are not sure which service best meets your needs? 

The two services meet very different purposes, and are practiced by highly trained professionals.  In this blog we explain and compare the differences between the two services, highlight the times in which you may need each service, and through this process, assist you to make the right decision on the type of service you require for recording meetings.

 What is Stenography?

Stenography is the practice of accurately recording the spoken word to produce a written transcript of an event.  Stenography services are used in courts, tribunals, hearings, meetings and top-tier law firms to produce verbatim (word-for-word) transcripts of events.

Stenographers attend events in person to produce a written transcript of all that is said. This is particularly important for highly confidential and delicate events where audio recording is not permitted, for legal purposes.

Friendly Stenographer with Laptop and Stenotype MachineStenographers use various shorthand tools and skills to record the spoken word.  Today many stenographers use a customised stenotype machine, which is pre-programmed with specific word conventions or abbreviations particular to that individual stenographer’s requirements.

Stenographers type in syllables, rather than letters, enabling them to type extremely quickly. A typical stenographer can type 200 -300 words per minute, compared to a typical touch typist, who can type 80 words per minute.  This is important when taking into consideration the speed at which many people speak – an average person speaks 150 – 250 words per minute.

Prior to the event the stenographer requires a full list of attendees, and preferably access to relevant documentation, such as a list of questions that will be asked, an agenda, or a list of specific terms (such as technical terms or acronyms commonly used) relevant to that industry.

What is Minute Taking?

Minute Taking involves the production of a brief and accurate summary of a meeting.  Minute taking services are used by government departments, private companies, clubs and community associations to record key decisions and actions that participants have agreed to.

Minutes include:

  • Who attended,
  • What was discussed (agenda items),
  • What was agreed (decisions), and
  • What actions need to be taken, by whom and by when.

Meeting minutes do not include a record of every discussion.  They are not a verbatim transcript of every conversation; instead, they provide an accurate record of the decisions and actions participants agreed to.

eye glasses with notebook and pen


Meeting minutes are circulated to meeting participants soon after the meeting, and serve as a reminder of the decisions and commitments made by participants during the meeting. Many groups choose to outsource minute taking to free up participants so they can actively participate in and concentrate on contributing to the meeting, rather than stepping back to take accurate notes of meeting decisions and actions.

Minute takers do not always need to be present to take minutes; for example, some of our minute takers Skype in to sit in on meetings.  In some circumstances it is appropriate to make an audio or video recording of the meeting, and provide the audio or video file to a minute taker for transcribing, offsite.  To assist with accuracy, minute takers require a list of attendees, an agenda, and any other documentation which is relevant to the meeting.

As a guideline, for each hour of meeting, a verbatim transcript would comprise approximately 20 pages; whereas minutes would comprise 2-3 pages.

Which Service Best Suits My Needs?

Minute Taking or Stenography – Which Service Best Suits My Needs?

If you need a verbatim transcript of an event, ask for a stenography service.  If you need an accurate record of the decisions and actions of a meeting, without details of each conversation, you require a minute taking service.

For more information on Pacific Transcription’s Minute Taking and Stenography services, please contact our Team.

Posted by Catherine Byrne.

About Catherine Byrne

Catherine's work with Pacific Transcription spans many areas, including writing and design, business development, training, and of course, keeping abreast of emerging trends and new products which enhance transcription and dictation experiences for clients.
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