Transcription Tips

Some transcriptionists use typewriters to prepare transcripts.
Some transcriptionists use typewriters to prepare transcripts. (Image: working typewriter image by timur1970 from

Transcription refers to turning recorded events or handwritten notes into a typed script. The most important goal for a professional transcriptionist is accuracy. Your client will need as many details as possible of a recorded conversation. Increase your accuracy through the use of industry-standard techniques. You can also give instructions to clients who record their conversations to assist in speedier transcriptions.

Represent True Speech

To increase the accuracy of a transcript, the transcriptionist must report all words, including broken thoughts, heard on the recording of a dialogue. This will include Freudian slips, repeated words, changing the subject, spoken errors in grammar/usage and false starts. The last term refers to someone beginning a thought and then breaking off in mid-sentence to finish thinking about what she's saying. Get a better idea of what each speaker is thinking and the general context of a conversation by reporting all words you can understand in the recording, except sounds like "um" and other noises.

Edited Transcripts

If you're going to use a transcript for an official purpose, you may opt to hire a transcription service to professionally edit the document. Your final transcript will be edited for grammar. It will not contain unnatural speech patterns, including false starts and repeated words. The advantage of this option might be readability. For official purposes, readers should be able to scan through a transcript quickly to find the dialogue they are looking for.

Audio Recordings

Some clients will give you only a recording of a conversation. You will have to use your own device to play back the tape and try to type what you hear. It helps if you give your clients guidelines for conducting a conversation. For example, one person should lead the whole meeting. Speakers can introduce themselves by name and title at the beginning of the meeting. Throughout the meeting, the leader can acknowledge one speaker at a time.

If someone speaks who was not introduced at the beginning of a meeting, the leader can stop the conversation and ask the new speaker to state her name and title.

Video Recordings

Some clients will give you video recordings that you also will have to play back and type. Ask clients to upload a video in the most compressed file size possible on a free website such as Google Video or YouTube.

Remember, you need information about the people in the video, including names of speakers. Clients can describe people by clothes and facial features, such as hair color and eye color.

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