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How to Write a Transcript: Step by Step Guide with Tricks and Tips 2024

Daniel Chang
Daniel Chang
Posted in Zoom Sep 4 · 7 Sep, 2022
How to Write a Transcript: Step by Step Guide with Tricks and Tips 2024

Transcribing audio or video files is crucial for researchers, marketers, planners, managers, students, and virtually anyone who needs written material for an audio resource.

Although you can hire a transcriptionist to convert audio into text, the transcription process is straightforward enough that you can create the most accurate, high-quality transcription you need.

If you’re not convinced that learning how to write a transcript is a cinch, we’ve outlined the steps for you. We’ve also included some tricks and tips to make your transcription journey more meaningful and worthwhile while ensuring transcription accuracy and quality.

Step 1. Prepare Your Transcription Materials.

Seasoned transcriptionists have a master list of essential tools, equipment, and materials. These items are crucial if you want to learn how to write a transcript accurately and quickly. If you can see yourself transcribing audio or video resources as a full-time job, we recommend investing in the best products you can buy. These materials might cost you, but you should be able to get your money’s worth over time.

Transcription-specific Headphones

The headphone is the most crucial tool for any transcriptionist – aspiring or veteran. However, you cannot use the pair of earmuff-like audio devices you wear when strolling or relaxing. We’re talking about purposely designed headphones with features distinct from run-of-the-mill audio equipment.

Noise-canceling headphones are the best for people learning how to write a transcript. These headphones have unique components that generate sound waves that eliminate or cancel undesired noise. Hence, the only sound you’ll hear comes from the file you’re listening to and not from the shouting match among neighbors, traffic, dog barks, and other environmental noise.

Part of a noise-canceling headphone is the design of its earpieces. If you’re transcribing in a noisy environment, pick a closed headphone to isolate all external noise while guaranteeing a higher signal-to-noise ratio.

On the other hand, open headphones are perfect for transcribing in closed environments, such as studios. Open headphones provide richer and fuller sound than closed headphones while offering a wider frequency response. 

The human voice operates from bass to midrange (15 Hz to 2.0 kHz). Hence, you’ll need headphones with the right frequency response to project lows and mids more effectively than other headsets.

However, a studio headphone is best when transcribing files with an expansive frequency range. You can also pick headphones with either dynamic or electrostatic drivers because these technologies guarantee higher quality audio reproduction.

Don’t forget optimum fit. It’s not unusual for transcriptionists to listen to audio resources for countless hours. It’s not only the noise-induced hearing loss you must consider but also the pressure on your ears and temporal lobe. It can get uncomfortably hot if you leave the headset on for several hours. So, check the earpiece material if it’s soft and smooth with sufficient padding. You might also want to consider the headphones’ weight.

Lastly, pick over-the-ear headphones instead of in-ear or around-the-ear headsets. These audio devices can provide better background noise isolation, ensuring better transcription accuracy.

Comfortable Chair

We cannot emphasize the value of an ergonomically comfortable desk chair enough, especially if you’re still learning how to write a transcript. It’s okay to pull an ordinary seat if you’re only transcribing a few minutes’ worth of audio or video material. Extend this activity to a few more hours, and you’ll feel a shooting pain in your back, tight muscles in the shoulders and lower back, stiff neck, and aching arms.

Don’t believe us? Consider this. Four out of five employees complained of tingling and numbness of the hands because of non-ergonomic chairs. Three out of ten business owners also experienced lower back discomfort and pain due to the wrong office chair.

Nineteen percent of them had neck pain, while 17 percent had mid-back pain. More importantly, close to nine out of ten (88%) business owners cited that non-ergonomic chairs contributed to a dip in employee productivity.

An ergonomic office chair is crucial if you’re spending countless hours transcribing audio material.

The chair must have comfortable surfaces to minimize, if not eliminate, pressure points on the body. The backrest must also conform to the spine’s natural curvature to ensure perfect alignment. It would be best for the chair to have multiple adjustment mechanisms, including height and angle. We also recommend getting a chair with ample headrest and neck support. 

Transcription Software

Although you can use almost any word processor and multimedia player to transcribe, we don’t recommend it. It’s a hassle to navigate between two open windows, lengthening the transcription process and increasing the likelihood of transcription errors. A better solution for mastering how to write a transcript is using transcription software.

Many transcriptionists consider transcription software heaven-sent, making it nearly effortless to transcribe audio or video material, shortening the transcription process. You only need to upload the file, hit a few buttons, and the program automatically transcribes the audio material. The only thing that you need to do is to review and edit the copy for maximum accuracy.

We recommend reviewing and familiarizing yourself with the transcription software’s user settings and features. Try to navigate the various controls before transcribing the initial piece. It’s one of the most crucial steps to learning how to write a transcript effectively and accurately.

Some transcription software has an integrated dynamic range compressor, boosting audio quality. The technology amplifies the sound of difficult-to-hear sections while reducing the volume of loud, unwanted sounds. It’s a decent system for hearing soft words and other audio information that might be crucial to the transcript.

The best transcription software provides you with the right tools to ensure accuracy and quality. It offers an intuitive text editor, timestamped audio player, keyboard shortcuts, integrated features, and a user-friendly control panel for optimum customization. 

It would be nice if the software had a word expander that automatically predicts and expands words. It scans the project and anticipates the correct word to put into the transcription based on the material’s context. This technology helps you transcribe materials with vague or unclear terms.

A spelling checker is always great to have. You don’t want to create a transcription with spelling mistakes. After all, polishing the text is part and parcel of learning how to write a transcript. 

Some transcription software has audio speed controls, allowing you to slow down the video playing to understand the spoken word better. If you find the audio too slow, you can always speed it up.

There are pause, rewind, forward, and skip keyboard shortcuts, too. These tools make it more straightforward to transcribe, although we recommend getting a foot pedal to improve transcription efficiency.

We recommend studying these features before you start transcribing. Not knowing what buttons to press or features to activate can prolong the transcription process and increase the risk of errors.

Transcription Foot Pedal

There’s a good chance you’re not familiar with a transcription foot pedal if you’re only learning how to write a transcript. You can look at this device as an oversized laptop trackpad or touchpad, except you operate it with your foot.

Let’s face it. Some audio materials have a fast-talking narrator or voice-over that makes it almost impossible to hear every word they utter. If the transcription calls for every detail, you’d want to hear everything. It would be challenging to understand every sound if the audio is too fast. You’ll also feel bored if the audio is at a snail’s pace. 

Although you can control the audio speed settings from your computer, it requires moving your cursor to click on the correct button. A more efficient way is to use a transcription foot pedal that retains your fingers on the keyboard to continue typing.

A transcription foot pedal allows you to control the audio speed by tapping predetermined sections on the pad. These are plug-and-play devices that work seamlessly with some transcription software. The conventional foot pedal has three functions: play/pause, rewind, and fast-forward. Other products allow you to slow down the audio and skip to the next dictation.

Everyday Carry 

A mug of coffee, bottled water, eyeglasses, and a mobile phone on your work desk might not seem like transcription essentials. However, they can minimize unnecessary distractions, allowing you to focus on the project and learn how to write a transcript effectively.

Try to think of items that you will need while working. For example, some people have a bowl of candies to munch on while working, while others require a continuous supply of freshly brewed coffee. 

Step 2. Understand the Transcription Requirements.

We cannot overemphasize the value of trying out the transcription software’s menu navigation and feature set before proceeding to the next step in the transcription process. Trust us! It will save you time and effort in transcribing different materials if you are already well-versed with your transcription software. It’s one of the best-kept secrets to acing how to write a transcript.

One of the most crucial steps to effective transcription is determining the transcription type required. For example, some projects require a full verbatim record that includes every spoken word, phrase, idiom, and utterance. These projects expect transcriptionists to transcribe false starts, pauses, “ahs,” “uhmms,” and other verbal tics in the transcription. 

Some clients don’t like verbal tics in their transcription. Hence, they expect transcriptionists to create a clean verbatim record of the audio or video file. This type is similar to a full verbatim, except it doesn’t contain verbal tics, pauses, and false starts. It also doesn’t alter the sentence or paragraph ordering and doesn’t paraphrase them. 

If you’re transcribing a recorded interview, it’s often necessary to use detailed notes. This transcription technique focuses on isolating highlights, distilling the interview recording right down to its essence. It’s like making a book summary, covering only the salient points and allowing readers to understand the content without reading the whole material.

Step 3. Listen to the Audio Recording.

You must be in a quiet, enclosed room if you’re only beginning to learn how to write a transcript. It would be challenging to transcribe in a noisy environment or with many distractions. Unsurprisingly, many transcriptionists finish their projects at night when everyone is asleep.

You might also want to consider the time. Seasoned transcriptionists can transcribe an hour’s worth of material in three to five hours. Newbies might take longer than that, especially if your typing skills are very elementary. 

Get your material ready and your headphones over your head. Sit down in your ergonomic chair and hit the “play” button. Don’t transcribe yet. We recommend finishing the whole audio material before you start writing. 

Listen intently to grasp the recording’s content, understand the conversation flow, and determine the different voices in the audio file. It will give you a head’s up when you’re ready to transcribe, making it easier to write because your brain’s short-term memory recall will kick in. 

You might want to crank up the volume if the sound is too low. You can also slow down the playback speed if you find the audio too fast. If there is plenty of background noise, transcription software’s dynamic range compressor technology can help. It’s one of the neat things about learning how to write a transcript.

Note the terms you don’t understand and look them up before writing the first draft. Doing this before transcribing will also help you understand the document’s context and clarity.

Step 4. Create an Initial Draft.

We recommend adjusting the playback speed to mimic your typing speed. This technique will help you transcribe more effectively. Don’t mind spelling errors and grammatical issues for now. You’ll still copyread and edit the draft several times to ensure accuracy.

Transcribe every word you hear from the recording, depending on the level of detail the client requires. You can use abbreviations and other shorthand techniques to improve your transcription speed. Don’t worry about these terms because you’ll still edit them later.

Part of learning how to write a transcript is knowing the golden rule of transcription – don’t add and don’t omit. Transcriptionists must write everything they hear from the audio without adding or removing words. You’re not supposed to correct grammatical errors, either. 

Step 5. Copyread the Draft to Ensure Accuracy.

You’re almost through learning how to write a transcript. This step requires you to read your draft to check for spelling mistakes. A spell checker or dictionary can help in this stage. However, don’t edit the transcript for correct grammar and word usage. The transcript must be as accurate as the source recording.

Step 6. Format the Transcription.

You’re ready to format the transcription after the second pass. Add the title, page numbers, and distinct paragraphs. We recommend avoiding large chunks of text in one paragraph to improve readability.

As a rule, a new topic or speaker warrants a new paragraph. Add a timestamp for each speaker.

Here are a few additional pointers for formatting the transcription.

●       Use “[sic]” to denote grammatical errors in the transcription. For example, if you heard “They is confused.” In the recording, you must transcribe it as “They are [sic] confused.” Don’t write “They are confused.” 

●       Type “(inaudible)” if you cannot determine the word uttered. You can always return to this part during the copyreading process. Use “*” or “***” to denote a missing word. Always add a timestamp where these missing or inaudible words are in the recording.

●       Determine and mark nonverbal communication. Recordings do not only contain the speaker’s voice. You might also hear other sounds, such as people laughing or clapping and dogs barking. Hence, you might want to transcribe “This clown is obnoxious [laughing].” Remember not to interpret the nonverbal cue. For example, don’t write, “This clown is obnoxious {laughing out loud}.”  

●       Use ellipses or “{pause]” to indicate pauses in the recording. For example, you can write, “Life’s so hard [pause] I don’t know if I can hold on” or “Life’s so hard… I don’t know if I can hold on.” Ensure to use only ellipses or “[pause]” in the transcript to maintain consistency.

Step 7. Finalize the Transcription.

We recommend listening to the audio recording a final time while reading the polished transcript. This step is crucial to ensure accuracy and quality.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to write a transcript is easy and fun if you have the right tools, mindset, and patience. Listening and typing skills are crucial for any aspiring transcriptionist, although general knowledge of transcription rules also matters. 

It’s okay to transcribe your material. However, it might not be a sensible approach if you’ll transcribe hundreds of audio and video resources or you can’t see yourself becoming a full-time transcriptionist.

A better solution is to hire the services of a professional transcription company. You can sit back, relax, and let them do the work.  We offer you the best transcription solutions. It’s an effortless and affordable method that guarantees accurate and high-quality transcriptions.