How fast do transcriptionists need to type?

How fast do transcriptionists need to type?

Ultrafast typing speed is one of the biggest stereotypes about transcriptionists. As their job is converting audio recordings to text documents, no doubt, typing is of great significance. But is it the most important competence in their skill set? Transcribing is not the same as typing. It is first about listening, understanding, attention to details and only then typing. Pretty obviously, the end-to-end process is very time consuming. We would like to share some basic aspects about transcribing and why sometimes it takes a bit longer than supposed to.

Subject of the recording

The more specialized and complicated the topic is the more time for transcribing it takes. Technical terminology, scientific analysis, names and surnames, exact numbers and tons of other tiny details require a thorough research.

Number of speakers

The more conversation participants at the same time the harder it is to understand them clearly and distinguish their words. People often interrupt each other and speak at the same time. Any recording with more than 3 speakers takes longer to transcribe. It is not that effortless to distinguish three different but sounding quite similar voices. Plus, transcriptionists need to point out when exactly John, Joe or George is speaking.


170 out of 540 million English speakers are not native, meaning they probably have accents. If John, Joe and George are British, that’s fine. Yet if Pablo from Spain, Pierre from France and Ivan from Russia are discussing about their company’s marketing strategy in English, we tend to believe it is going to take some more time to put their thoughts down.

Audio quality

Journalists do their interviews in the streets and many other public areas. Priests preach their sermons in the church. Public speeches are given in the squares. Needless to say, these outdoor recordings or recordings made without using microphones usually have background noise or echo. These recordings need several rounds of listening and therefore take longer to transcribe.

Transcriptionist’s experience

By experience in this case we mean knowledge of the subject rather than outstanding typing skills. Familiarity with a speaker’s style and the words they commonly use also helps improve transcription time and accuracy. That is definitely among the top reasons why customers prefer to stick to their transcription service provider once they’ve found the right one.

Did we convince you that typing speed is not necessarily the most crucial feature in the portfolio of a professional transcriptionist? Most of them can type around 50 words per minute (wpm). Do you want to find out how fast your 10 fingers are?


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