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Clear Communication During a Deposition is Critical

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Despite the fact that videotaped depositions are growing in popularity, the purpose of a deposition is to create a written record of one witness or expert’s opinion on a topic, generated by the court reporter assigned to memorialize the deposition. Without clear verbal communication from the deponent, the facts or opinions the deponent is attempting to convey won’t be included in the record. Below you’ll find five guidelines for ensuring that a witness communicates clearly, resulting in the creation of a clear record of your conversation.

  1. Avoid nonverbal communication. Many witnesses don’t realize how much of their communication is non-verbal until the court reporter points it out to them during a deposition. Remind the witness that any nonverbal communication, such as nodding or shrugging, should not be relied on to communicate their answers to questions.
  2. Explicitly state that an answer is a guess. Whenever a witness is offering an answer that they do not feel certain is a fact, this is information that should be reflected in the record. If the witness is guessing, make sure they state that fact clearly while answering.
  3. Keep questions as straightforward as possible. The deponent isn’t the only person who can help ensure that the record is clear. The attorney taking the deposition also has a duty to make sure that their contributions are clear and easily memorialized in the court reporter’s transcript. When questioning the witness, use short, direct questions that can be easily followed.
  4. Use words rather than verbal utterances. “Uh-uh” and “uh-huh” may be clear enough when you’re speaking casually, but not only are they difficult to accurately record in writing, they could also lead to ambiguity as to whether the witness meant to imply “yes” or “no” with their answer. Encourage witnesses to use those words instead.
  5. Make sure the record will show which question the witness was answering. There may come a time when a witness’ recollection regarding an earlier question is triggered while speaking on a topic later in their deposition. Should a witness circle back to a prior topic, instruct them to state clearly which question they are answering before offering that information.

For skilled and experienced court reporting services in Arizona, contact the Phoenix offices of Ottmar & Associates at 602-485-1488.