How to Transcribe a Voice Tape

Dictaphone (Image: Wikimedia Commons,

Learning to transcribe a voice tape takes time, practice and patience. Whether you need to replicate on paper a recorded interview conducted by you or someone else or transcribe a set of instructions from a specialist such as a medical doctor or lawyer, these time-tested instructions will help you get started.

Things You'll Need

  • Dictaphone or the newer digital voice recorder
  • Batteries
  • Headset
  • PC
  • Internet
  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Associated Press Stylebook
  • Chicago Manuel of Style
  • Dictionary

Follow the user guide that comes along with the equipment. A dictaphone is like a tape recorder with record, play, fast forward and rewind options. For longer, sit-down interviews, place the microphone on a table, as close to the interviewee as possible. For quick comments, you can hold the dictaphone in your hand.

Type the following details before you begin: 1. Names of the interviewee, interviewer and yourself--the person who is transcribing the interview (or) name of the company, person and title if you are transcribing medical or legal information from a voice tape 2. Date, start time and end time of the interview 3. Number of words and characters upon completion

Familiarize yourself with the stylebook. When you transcribe a voice tape, you are expected to write down the content verbatim, word for word. That means you cannot alter the document in any way, shape or form, grammatical errors included. Begin to transcribe, stopping often and rewinding the tape to clearly hear and recognize every word. On average, break sentences into around 10 words and transcribe before proceeding further.

The Transcription Process
The Transcription Process

When completed, listen to the tape again while reading your typed document. Correct errors, if any.

Spell check. No one wants to read a document that says "pubic property" or "hiring manger."

Tips & Warnings

  • Give it a once-over to make sure it's perfect.

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