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What is important while transcribing

Christopher Nguyen
Christopher Nguyen
Posted in Zoom Jul 21 · 23 Jul, 2015
What is important while transcribing

On the one hand, it might seem that doing an audio transcription (converting speech into text) is easy. On the other hand, producing a quality one might require some experience or preparation. While experience comes with practice, preparation can range from interviewing experts in this field to studying this particular subject.

Six Tips to Improve Your Transcripts

Another way to prepare is to research the problem and accumulate information on the topic. In this article, you will find six points that should be taken into account if you’re trying to learn transcription or hone your transcription skills further. If you’re wondering what is important while transcribing, read on!

1. Deadlines

Before starting an audio transcription, the first step is to ask oneself the question, "Can I make it on time?" Several criteria can influence this, one of them being the length of the audio itself. At the same time, another one is that the contents of the audio file (number of speakers, background noises, manner of speech) might also require a lot of time and effort. While considering all of this, also be sure to leave some time for short breaks and proofreading.

2. The Right Equipment

Having an adequate transcription setup can make your work significantly easier. Fortunately, the stuff you need to get started is pretty basic. Aside from a PC, you need a word processor (like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer), and transcription software you feel comfortable with.

More importantly, it would be wise to invest in a good headset as it's probably the most important piece of transcription equipment. You'll wear a headset whenever you're working on a transcription, so make sure to choose carefully and pick something comfortable.

We strongly suggest over-the-ear headsets, preferably with noise-canceling features. Earbuds or in-ear headphones are also a viable option, but they might not be as comfortable to wear for long periods. In the end, it's a matter of personal preference, so find something that works well for you.

3. Grammar

One of the most important points to look at while transcribing is grammar. The main reason is that poor grammar leads to a prolonged, more complicated reading process and might affect a text's cohesion. Moreover, one cannot and certainly should not blindly rely on spell-check tools in the owned word processor software or any other automated solutions, as sometimes they leave some mistakes and automatically correct your words into similar but contextually irrelevant words.

Therefore, constantly being aware of proper grammar is crucial to the quality of your audio transcription and always saves time when proofreading the text afterward. These are some of the most common mistakes:

  • its (possessive) vs. it's ("it is")

  • your (possessive) vs. you're ("you are")

  • their (possessive) vs. they're ("they are")

  • his (possessive) vs. he's ("he is")

  • were (past form of "be") vs. we're ("we were")

  • affect (mostly used as an action verb, "to influence") vs. effect (mostly used as a noun, "a result")

  • farther (physical distance) vs. further (figurative distance)

  • lay (transitive verb) vs. lie (intransitive verb)

  • neighbour (British English) vs. neighbor (American English), also colour vs. color

NOTE: keeping consistency in the text regarding the form of English is also very important.

4. Formatting

While it might not seem like a valid point, a well-formatted document should not resemble a text of a "Type in this code to prove you're not a robot" table. To avoid this, before even starting typing, establish consistency in marking speaker labels, indentation, and the font you're using. Maintain the pattern throughout the whole document. As a result, not only will it be easier to read the text, but the client will also not have to put any time and effort into fixing it. A well-formatted text should resemble this:

Dan: So yesterday I was watching the new Game of Thrones episode.

Stan: Let me guess, some main character's

head was chopped off?

Dan: [pauses] No. It was poison.

And not this:

Dan:                                               So yesterday I was watching the new Game of Thrones episode..

Stan: Let me guess, some main character's head was chopped off ?

Dan: [pauses] No.

It was poison.

5. Summarizing vs. word-to-word

Every person who encountered plagiarism at some point in their life knows that a text made by clicking copy and paste commands on someone else's ideas is a sin indeed. When it comes to transcribing a text, however, this is not the case. On the contrary, it is crucial to write down exactly what is being said in the audio or video file you're working on. After all, this is the main point of creating a transcription.

However, sometimes it's difficult to hear every utterance due to poor audio quality, background noises, crosstalk, or manner of speech. In this case, it is necessary to mark it as inaudible rather than summarize, paraphrase the sentence, or transcribe what you think you hear in the recording. Therefore, using synonyms or generally changing words in a sentence, even if the meaning is still the same, is never a professional move. To see the difference try comparing the provided examples.

Verbatim sentences:

Roger: Lucy, give me the overall results of the quarter.

Lucy: Well, the investments in app development have proved to be very successful. Let me see the exact numbers. Here. We invested half a million Euros, and it is nearly finished now. The expected revenue should surpass the invested amount during the second quarter.

Roger: Okay, that sounds promising. The biggest concern so far is the drop in sales.

Paraphrased sentences:

Roger: What are the overall results of the quarter, Lucy?

Lucy: The application development investments proved to be outstanding. The numbers are: after investing half a million Euros it is almost finished now. The second quarter should bring the expected income.

Roger: Okay, that sounds promising. So far, the biggest worry is that the sales will decline.

6. Proofreading

This is the very last but not least stage of any audio transcription. The main reason why careful proofreading is necessary is that some inaccuracies might slip through unnoticed, even if you followed all of the mentioned steps and heeded the given advice. Therefore, it is always strongly advisable to look through the text at least once and perform the last finishing touches before giving it back to the customer.

Still, you should always perform your proofreading after having a short break from transcription, as it usually proves more effective. Moreover, during this stage, you might be able to resolve some of the previously inaudible or incomprehensible utterances, which always leads to improving the quality of your audio transcription.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few general points for taking a step toward becoming a professional in the transcription industry. You'll undoubtedly develop certain individual preferences and habits along the way. However, having a good starting point will definitely speed up the process and get you there faster.