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Using a style sheet – for editors and proofreaders

DictionariesA little while ago, I wrote an article explaining what a style sheet was, mainly for my own clients, so I could send them a link when I sent their completed work and style sheet to them.

It struck me, though, that it might be useful to write about style sheets from the perspective of the editor / proofreader as well (I’m going to use “editor” to refer to both here, for simplicity, unless I’m distinguishing between the two).

I assume this will primarily be useful for people new to editing who are picking up tips from those of us who have been in the game a little longer. But whoever you are and however long you’ve been editing, do pop a comment below if you have anything to contribute!

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet is a list which spells out how things are to be done when writing and/or editing a text, including information on spellings, hyphenation and capitalisation, referencing and special information. Its aim is to keep texts consistent.

When you’re an editor, you will encounter three types of style sheet:

  1. Style sheets you receive from someone earlier in the process or general ones prepared by particular publishers, journals, etc.
  2. Style sheets you create yourself as you work on a project
  3. Style sheets created by the previous editor when you’re taking over a job or doing the proofreading for something that’s previously been edited (this is unfortunately rare, in my experience)

All three types serve the same purpose: to record the style decisions (more on this later) that have been made in order to keep the look, feel and detail of the text or texts consistent.

When you’re creating a style sheet, it might only be for a single use, for a single client (e.g. a PhD student). When one is created by a journal or publisher, it’s usually so that their “house style” will be consistent across publications and journal issues. But the idea is the same: it’s a tool that’s used to keep things consistent.

What do you mean by “style decisions”?

English is a funny old language. Even if you’re adhering strictly to one of the major style guides, (Chicago Manual of Style, Oxford Style, etc.), you will find there is still room for choice in some aspect of your text.

An example where even Oxford didn’t tell me what to do: I was editing a set of articles which included lots and lots of words and phrases in a different language to English. Each then had the English translation in some form before or after the foreign word. Of course, the articles were all written by different people who had used different ways to express this (word in italics / non-italics / double or single quotation marks and English in parentheses or not, italics or not, quotation marks or not). I was looking to make this consistent … but after some rules on what to do, Oxford told me to choose a way I did this as long as it was consistent!

There will also often be individual names, phrases, etc. in the text you’re editing which will need to be set out in a consistent way, which might not have rules.

An example where there can’t be any rules: your client has lots of interviewees and they’ve referred to them with a code to ensure anonymity. Do they put Respondent OH1, just OH1, OH-1, (OH1), [OH1], etc., etc.?

Although a client a while ago said that his first editor “kept it all in his head”, I prefer to note all of this down so I have it to refer to and keep things consistent.

What does a style sheet look like?

I’m sharing here an example of one of my own style sheets. Note that I have a little explanatory note at the top to explain what it is.

You can see that I set out the most common things that can differ (in my experience) and need noting down – s or z spellings, how the paragraphs are set out, how the headings and figure / table titles are set out, etc.

style sheet 1

In the second half, I go on to dates and numbers, how references are laid out, and some specific things to do with the particular text I’m working on.

style sheet 2

I find that a publisher’s style sheet is set out in the same way, although it might sometimes be online or a pdf with links.

If I’m working on a text destined for a particular publisher or journal article, if their own style sheet is very long and my text is quite simple and doesn’t need all that detail, I’ll often summarise the parts I need on my sheet anyway.

When should I set up a style sheet?

I set up one of these for any text that …

  • Isn’t for a publisher or journal that has its own style sheet
  • Is for a publisher or journal that has its own style sheet but that sheet is very long and complex and I can use a summary
  • Is more than a few pages long
  • Is being sent to me chapter by chapter (this happens with PhDs I work on)
  • Is going to form part of a larger body of work or a series (e.g. the regular publications of an organisation
  • Is being worked on with a colleague – this is quite rare but does happen

When and why should I send a style sheet to my client?

I pretty well always send the style sheet to my client along with my completed work.

I typically send it with a note in the email directing the client to my explanatory article, as I’ve found that most of my clients haven’t come across this before (I happen to work with a lot of students and self-publishers, as well as translation agencies; your experience may differ if you mainly work with publishers).

I will send the style sheet to my client if …

  • They’ve asked me a lot of questions about grammar and wording issues before we start (I will probably pop down the standard hyphenation and capitalisation rules on it if that’s the case)
  • They are likely to add to the text (for example if I’ve pointed out gaps or missing references)
  • They are sending me their work chapter by chapter – sending the style sheet with the first chapter can often nip certain issues in the bud, the client learns from it and they’ll be more consistent in the next chapter (I’m always so happy when this happens!)
  • They plan to send me regular publications, etc. – if they didn’t have a style sheet I provide one for their writers to use, making my work easier and less time-consuming and meaning they have less to correct
  • It’s a substantial document (more than a few pages)

Hopefully, having a style sheet from me will mean that the client will keep things more consistent in the future.

I do also mention that they should send this on to their proofreader if they’re planning to use one in the next stage of publication. This saves their proofreader from busily changing all the Chapter Ones to chapter 1 (or at least it explains that it was an active, considered choice on my part, and not an error).

Making changes to a style sheet

If I send my style sheet to my client mid-way through a project, for example with their first PhD chapter, I ask them to look through it carefully and let me know if there’s anything they’d like to change or they’re not happy with. Sometimes in this case I ask them questions (e.g. “You’ve used ‘Interviewee RD1’ and ‘RD1’ in equal numbers in your text; which one would you prefer to use throughout it?”). If they give me feedback, I record that, or if they ask to change something and their change does actually defy a stated grammar rule I will explain why I can’t.

Working with an established style sheet

If the text I’m working on is destined for a publisher or journal that has a full style sheet, I will of course obey that to the letter, to make things as easy as possible for the in-house editor or designer. Even if that means leaving footnote numbers before the punctuation, something I don’t like to do (but some publishers prefer).

If I’m proofreading a text that someone else has already edited, or I’m working on for example corrections in a PhD that someone else has worked on, I will use their style sheet to guide the changes I make. Even if I don’t approve of their decisions personally, as long as they don’t defy a rule of grammar, I’ll keep it consistent (even if I have to move a footnote number to before the punctuation!). I aim to make as few changes as I can at the proofreading stage, in order to keep corrections (and the chance of new mistakes creeping in) to a minimum.

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I hope this post has been helpful and given you some more information about why we use style sheets, where they come from, setting up your own one and working with your style sheet with your clients. Do pop a comment at the bottom or like and share this article if you’ve found it useful and interesting!

Related posts on this blog

What is a style sheet? For people working with editors

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Copyediting, Organisation, Word, Writing

 

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Transcription tips: How do I transcribe a tape with multiple voices?

keyboard earphonesAlthough transcribing interviews by journalists or students that only involve two voices is the most common work I do, transcribers often have to work with tapes with more than two voices on them. How do you tell the voices apart so that you can differentiate them on your transcript? This article shares some tips I use to tell different voices on a tape apart.

What’s the problem with transcribing multiple voices?

I was transcribing an interview with two fashion designers today; my client had said it was OK not to differentiate them and the women themselves said that their voices were often confused. How did I tell the voices apart so I could produce a transcript that had the correct words attributed to the correct people?

Although it’s sometimes very easy to tell the people who are talking on a tape apart, for example if they’re a man and a woman, or one has a very strong accent, sometimes it can be difficult. Because it will help my client to know who said what, it’s important for me to try as hard as I can to differentiate the voices and make the transcript as useful as possible.

Before the interview: who are the interviewees?

If you know it’s going to be an interview with more than one participant, you can ask your client to help you from the very beginning.

Either they could ask their interviewees to introduce themselves by name at the beginning of the tape. Even if they are all, for example, young male voices, you can pick up a lot of information from this that will allow you to differentiate between them …

Or they could ask people to introduce themselves every time they make a point (this works in a more slow round table discussion at a conference, for example)

Taking the first option once led to a very sweet tape where the musicians in a band introduced themselves by name to me, mentioning my name, at the start: “Hello Liz, my name’s … and I hope you can understand me”. Aww!

After the interview but before you start typing: checking who is who on the tape

If you didn’t get the option to ask your client to get the interviewees to introduce themselves, it is OK to ask them who is who – for example, who speaks first, who has a voice that is distinctive in some way. They might also mention that, for example, the lead singer talks most and the person who only talks about one track is the drummer.

If you’re working on a discussion at a conference, you might be able to get some information from the conference website. For example, there might be a video up already that time stamps each person’s speech with a note of their name. Play the video, check the speech against your tape, and there you go.

When you’re transcribing: how do you differentiate between the different voices?

If you have no clues about who is who or who says what, there are still ways in which you can differentiate between voices on a tape. It can take time to get used to doing this, but it is useful.

  1. Check the video. This one sounds obvious, but if you have a video to transcribe, do look at it carefully. There may well be captions stating who is speaking, at least for the first time, and you can recognise who is who by their appearance. If there’s the option of a video for a conference or marketing meeting / focus group, do take it, even if it takes longer to download.
  2. Check where people are in space. In the tape I’ve been working on most recently, the speakers were sitting either side of the tape recorder. So, even though their voices were similar, one came from the left and one from the right. Result!
  3. Check the sound level/volume. If one person is sitting further away from the recorder, they will sound fainter.
  4. Check for even slight accents. There may be a non-native-speaker or regional accent on the tape: listen for different vowel sounds or intonation.
  5. Check the ums, ers and filler noises. These really vary across speakers and can make a difference. Person 1 might say “like” constantly, while Person 2 “ums” and “ers”.
  6. Check for clues in the environmental context. Does Jane order food but Sally just have a coffee? The one talking through her dinner is likely to be Jane.
  7. Check for clues in what they say. I often switch off from the content when I’m transcribing, just letting the words come into my ear and out of my fingers. But people will refer to each other by name, and this gives you a good clue to who is who, or reinforces your first thoughts (If the person you think is Pete refers to “Pete”, unless you have several interviewees with the same name, he’s unlikely to actually be Pete!).

I have two other handy hints to add, which I use all the time …

  • Draw a plan or write notes! When I work out who is who, I will write a little diagram out or make notes – “Bella … Jean” for the left/right ones, “Jim: high-pitched. Bob: rumbly and quieter” etc.
  • If you can’t put a name by each participant, at least try to break the text up into paragraphs spoken by different people. You might be able to go back and add the names if Julie says, “As Veronica said earlier, it’s difficult opening a tin of Spam”, for example.

It can be challenging when you find you need to transcribe a tape with more than one or two voices on it. As you have seen, there are things you can do to make this easier before the interview even starts, once you receive it and during the transcription process.

If you’ve found this article useful, please click to share! If you are a transcriber and have any tips to share on this topic, please do comment below!

If you want to learn more about Transcription as a career, buy my book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.

Related posts in the series:

Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute and not per word?

How do you start a career in transcription?

Why you need a human to do your transcription

Being a professional transcriber – software to use to help

Ten top tips for transcribers

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Business, Jobs, New skills, Transcription, Word

 

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How do I combine several Word documents into one document?

This article explains how to combine several Word documents into one document. It’s particularly useful if you’ve written a dissertation, thesis or book and need to combine all of the chapters into one file.

These instructions work for Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013; I’ve used Word 2010 for the screenshots

Why would I want to combine chapters into one document?

Lots of people do their writing a chapter at a time, and have it edited a chapter at a time, too. But the time will come when you want to put it all into one book, with page numbers running throughout, rather than messing around starting the page numbers for chapter 2 at the next number on from chapter 1, etc.

What’s the incorrect way to combine my chapters?

You might be tempted to pick up the text of each chapter and copy and paste it into one document. That can lead to issues and inconsistencies. This is the correct way to do it and actually takes less time and avoids you leaving out any bits of your individual chapters.

How do I prepare to combine my documents?

It’s pretty easy to combine several documents into one, however the most important point is …

The file names must be in the order that the chapters are going to be in.

Word will combine your chapter files in alphanumerical order.

If you have called your chapter files

Chapter 1 introduction

Chapter 2 review of the literature

Chapter 3 methodology

Chapter 4 conclusion

then that’s fine, they will combine in that order.

If you have called your chapter files

Introduction

Review of the literature

Methodology

Conclusion

then Word will carefully sort them alphabetically into

Conclusion

Introduction

Methodology

Review of the literature

when it combines your documents.

The best thing to do is add a number 1, 2, 3, etc at the start of your file names BEFORE YOU START COMBINING, so you know they will come out in the correct order.

How do I combine my documents?

OK, so we’ve got, say, four documents or chapters to combine into one.

First, open a new, blank document (using the Home button, New, and choosing a blank document)

Then, click on the Insert tab and find Object in the Text area:

1 insert tab

Click on the arrow to the right of Object to get the drop-down menu, and click on Text from File:

2 insert text from file

Now navigate to your files and select the ones you want to combine.

3 find your files

Hold down the Control Key and click on all the ones you want to combine (or click on the top one, hold down Shift and click on the bottom one if you want all of them). Once you have them all highlighted, click Insert.

4 select files

Note: it doesn’t matter what order you are displaying them in or what order you click them in, it will choose them and insert them in alphabetical or numerical order, as I mentioned above.

Now you will have one big document including all of your chapters!

5 combined

And … if you had footnotes in the documents, and had set page numbers to show, they will automatically update in the combined document to be numbered consecutively (if you want start your footnote numbering at 1 for each chapter, you’ll need to look at my posts on footnotes and endnotes).

Don’t forget to save your document!

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This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Word, Writing

 

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Editing and the Table of Contents – for editors and writers

This article is all about what happens when a document that includes a Table of Contents (and a Table of Figures and/or a Table of Tables) is edited. There are a couple of pitfalls which I have encountered as an editor, and I wanted to share them with fellow editors AND writers, to help other people avoid them.

Scroll down to the bottom for a summary of advice to editors and writers if you’re not worried about the detail.

Please note that there are more detailed instruction on updating a Table of Contents in this article.

What’s the problem with Tables of Contents and the editing process?

If a document with an automated Table of Contents is being edited, the editor has two choices (and the writer will find that their editor has done one of two things):

  1. Mark any changes to headings in both the Table of Contents and the actual heading in the main text
  2. Mark any changes to headings in just the actual heading in the main text, then someone updates the Table of Contents

Let’s look at the risks with these in turn.

1. Mark any changes to headings in both the Table of Contents and the actual heading in the main text

Issue 1 – Awkwardness for the editor. To do this, you will have to have a split screen with the contents page in the top half and the text in the bottom, or you’ll have to whizz up and down the document and make sure you make the same correction in both places.

Issue 2 – Keeping things consistent. a) The editor will have to make the same change in both places, and b) the writer will have to make the same choice to reject or accept the change in both  places.

As an editor, if I do this, I place a comment linked to the words “Table of Contents” reminding the author to make the same choices here and in the main text.

If the Table of Contents is not automated, I a) suggest that the author creates one (or has me create it, if appropriate) and b) I place the comment above by the words “Table of Contents” to remind the author to keep it consistent.

2. Mark any changes to headings in just the actual heading in the main text, then someone updates the Table of Contents

If the Table of Contents is automated, this is what I tend to do.

There are two options here:

Option 1 – The writer wants a “clean copy” not one with tracked changes marked: the editor can update the Table of Contents once they’ve done their edit and accepted all changes. Everything will now match.

Option 2 -The writer wants (or needs, in the case of students) to see the tracked changes and make their own decisions on what to accept and reject. In this case, the writer will need to update the Table of Contents once they’ve gone through the changes.

Option 2 is the most common in my experience.

If the writer needs to update the Table of Contents themeselves, I always add a comment to the words “Table of Contents”:

“Please remember to update this Table of Contents after you have accepted or rejected all of my changes, to make sure that the table reflects the document accurately. Please choose Update entire table rather than Update page numbers only”.

An important choice – what to update in the Table of Contents

This information is for editors and writers.

Whether the editor or writer is updating the Table of Contents, once you’ve clicked on Update Field, you are given the choice of Update page numbers only or Update entire table:

update page numbers or all fields

It is vitally IMPORTANT that you choose “Update entire table”. This will update any changes to the headings and any changes to the page numbers. If you click on “Update page numbers only”, and any headings have been changed in the text, this will NOT be reflected in the Table of Contents.

For authors: updating your Table of Contents when your work has been edited

  • Always update your Table of Contents when your work comes back from your editor, unless they have told you that they’ve already done it
  • Always choose “Update entire table” to make sure that everything in the Table of Contents matches your actual document

For editors: updating or instructing on editing the Table of Contents

  • Always leave a note for the writer explaining what you’ve done or what you need them to do
  • If you are updating the Table of Contents yourself, always choose “Update entire table” to make sure that everything in the Table of Contents matches the actual document (I would still leave a reminder for the writer to do the same after they’ve made any final changes)
  • If you need the writer to update the Table of Contents once they have dealt with your suggestions, leave a note explaining that, and make it clear that they must “Update entire table” when doing so

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This article has discussed issues around updating a Table of Contents when a document is edited. if you have enjoyed this article or found it useful, please share it using the sharing buttons below.

Other relevant posts on this blog:

How to create a contents page in Word

Tables of figures and tables of tables

How to update a Table of Contents, Figures or Tables

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Word, Writing

 

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How to update your Table of Contents, Table of Figures or Table of Tables

This article explains how to update the Table of Contents (Contents Page) or Table of Figures or Table of Tables in your Word 2007, 2010 or 2013 document, which could be a report, dissertation, thesis, book or anything else. To find out how to create a Table of Contents in Word, please refer to this article. To find out how to create Tables of Figures and Tables of Tables, please refer to this article. We’ll refer to it as “Table of Contents” in this article, but this works for all kinds of contents listings.

Why would I want to update my Table of Contents?

If you create a Table of Contents for a document but then change the actual document, it’s likely that you will also change …

  • One or more headings (maybe swapping between Title Case and Sentence case or just changing the wording)
  • What page a heading falls on (and all the other headings after it) (maybe by adding text or just moving a heading to join its text on the next page)

Although a Table of Contents will update to match the actual contents “automatically”, you have to tell it to do so. This is how to update your Table of Contents so that it matches what your reader will find in the actual document.

How do I update my Table of Contents?

First of all, hover your cursor over the Table of Contents. It should be highlighted in light grey. Right click on any part of the grey area:

update contents page word

This will give you a menu – you need to select Update Field:

update contents page - update field

Once you’ve clicked on Update Field, you are given the choice of Update page numbers only or Update entire table:

update page numbers or all fields

Choose wisely – see below! Once you’ve chosen, click OK and your Table of Contents will update!

When to update page numbers only in your Table of Contents

You might want to Update page numbers only if …

  • You are absolutely sure that you have only changed what text / heading is on what page (but you could still Update entire table anyway, just to be certain)
  • You have manually amended your Table of Contents (e.g. one heading was too long to fit on a line and you shortened it) AND you know you haven’t changed any heading text in the actual document.

In the second case, when you’ve manually amended the contents page, if you choose Update entire table, it will over-ride your manual change and replace it with the exact text that is in your heading in the main document, and you’ll have to manually update it again.

Apart from the case where you have manually edited the Table of Contents, I STRONGLY SUGGEST that you always choose Update entire table.

When to update entire table in your Table of Contents

I highly recommend that you always use this option. In this way, your Table of Contents will match the text of your document.

This is especially important to remember if someone else has amended and edited your document.

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In this article, we have learned how to update a Table of Contents, Table of Figures or Table of Tables. If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful, please share it using the sharing buttons below.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use –  Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

Other relevant posts on this blog:

How to create a contents page in Word

Tables of figures and tables of tables

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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How do I change the numbering style of footnotes and endnotes in Word?

As part of my series on footnotes and endnotes, here’s how to change your footnote and endnote numbering styles on the go (e.g. while editing someone’s work, or when you change your mind, or when you’re working to a particular journal’s style and need to amend something you’ve already written)  in Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013.

Why would I want to change my footnote or endnote numbering style?

The main reason to change your footnote or endnote numbering style is because of the style guide of whatever you’re writing the document for. For example, academic journals will usually have some form of Guidelines for Authors which will lay out (sometimes) the font, heading styles, reference styles and footnote styles that you are expected to use. If you’re re-using an article which has been rejected by another journal, or repurposing a chapter of your PhD, you might find that the style for one journal is different from what you’ve done previously.

Alternatively, you may just decide you would prefer to use roman numerals, arabic numerals, symbols or whatever for your footnotes or endnotes, and want to change them.

How to change the number format for footnotes/endnotes

In this example, we’re starting off with some footnotes or endnotes that use roman numerals (i, ii, iii …):

footnote with roman numeral

Now, we want to change them to, for example, arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 …)

First of all, go to the Footnotes menu. This is in the References tab, and there’s a whole area called Footnotes:

Footnote menu

Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Footnotes area to access the Footnote and Endnote menu. Once you’ve clicked on the little arrow, you should see this menu:

footnote menu dialogue box word

We can see lots of things we can do here, including changing the number footnotes start at, whether they restart every chapter, etc. (these more obscure details will be the subject of another article). But for our purposes, the important features are choosing whether you’re telling Word about Endnotes or Footnotes and telling Word what the number format should be.

In this case, we’re using Endnotes (although these instructions cover both), so I’ve clicked the radio button (circle) next to Endnotes. This tells Word that we’re using Endnotes and talking about the Endnote numbering.

Going down one section, you can see that at the moment, the Number format is set to i, ii, iii … To change this, click on the down arrow to the right of the box saying i, ii, iii … (if the Endnotes are set to 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c, this will display in this box):

footnote menu change style

Once you’ve clicked that arrow, you will be able to see all of the choices you have for your footnote or endnote numbering. Now click on the format that you want to use:

footnotes change numbering style word

The Number format will now change to the one that you have chosen. Once you have got the correct format in this box, click the Apply button to apply the changes:

footnotes apply change word

When we return to our document, the endnote numbering has changed from a roman numeral (i) to an arabic numeral (1). You can change this as many times as you want.

footnote with correct style word

This article has explained how to change the number format in your footnotes or endnotes.

Related posts from this blog:

How to insert and format footnotes

How to insert and format endnotes

How to swap between using footnotes and endnotes

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute, not by the word?

keyboard earphonesWhat is the industry standard and fair way to charge for transcription work? Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute rather than by the typed word? This article explains why and offers a fair and standard pricing structure, too. It’s part of a series, and you can find the other articles in the series and a link to my popular book on the subject at the bottom of this article.

I was working with an agency on presenting an offer for a transcription job to a company. As usual, we provided a per-audio-minute rate. This works well and is the industry standard, as it’s predictable in advance and doesn’t change according to how long it takes the transcriber to do the job (of course, it’s up to the transcriber to check the tape and make sure they’re charging a per-minute rate that’s fair to them and the client. Mine is based on two speakers, a clear tape and non-urgent turnaround time, with fair and transparent add-ons per minute for more speakers / tape issues / urgent turnaround).

In this case, the client wanted a quotation by the number of words typed and/or the time it was going to take me to transcribe the tape. So they wanted to know my words-per-minute typing speed for a standard transcription.

Is there such a thing as a standard transcription speed?

In a word: No. There is no such thing as a standard transcription typing speed.

For a start, the speeds you can calculate from your own documents are not worked out in the same way the typing test people work out your official typing speed. That’s done on the basis of a standard five-letter word plus one space (I worked this out, because I’m like that, and a document that showed as 11,582 words would be 10,459 “standard words” which gave me a typing speed of 50 or 45.5 words per minute).

For another thing, the typing speeds you are measured on as a copy-typer are different from those you can achieve doing audio typing / transcription. I can type at about 70 wpm, but my transcription speeds vary WILDLY, as you can see below. If a client is used to hearing about a good typist typing 70 wpm, are they going to be impressed if we offer them a price based on 35 wpm? Probably not.

Of course, when transcribing, it’s rare to be able to keep up with the speakers without pausing the tape. It’s also rare to be able to hear everything perfectly first time – everyone has to rewind and check. In addition, a good transcriber will fact-check as they go along – company names, people’s names, the names of albums … and this slows things down, too, of course.

In addition, it’s completely impossible to calculate a standard transcription speed as it will vary according to

  • Number of speakers
  • Accents of speakers
  • Speed that the speakers speak
  • Turn-taking versus overlapping speech
  • Background noise
  • Quality of the tape
  • Degree of accuracy / in-transcription editing the client wants (e.g. turning non-standard English into standard English, transcribing every um, er and repetition vs. tidying the tape up slightly to not include ums, ers and repetitions)

I actually went back and checked a few transcriptions that I’d done recently (I note how long jobs take me and could take the word count from the Word document. My words-per-minute varied between 35 wpm and 60 wpm over a range of transcriptions, and that variation was not predictable by the type of client or the type of content (I do mainly journalists’ interviews and corporate work transcribing presentations, videos and conferences).

What is a fair way to charge for transcription?

The fair way to charge for transcription is by the audio minute. This is fair on the transcriber, if they have a range of pricing to suit different situations, and is fair for the client because they will in most cases know the charge up front (an exception to this would only come if they booked in 30 minutes and sent 90 minutes of tape with more speakers than expected and suddenly super urgent: if the client specifies exactly what they have, the transcriber will be able to quote clearly in advance for them).

I charge …

  • A minimum rate per audio minute for up to 2 speakers, speaking clearly on a good quality tape and not urgent (with 24 hours for up to a 60-minute tape)
  • A certain amount extra per audio minute for each additional speaker
  • A certain amount extra per audio minute for a particularly challenging tape quality (checked beforehand and only used if it’s a truly terrible tape or with huge amounts of background noise)
  • A certain amount extra per audio minute for urgent turnaround (under 24 hours for up to 60 minutes; negotiable over that tape length)

This charging structure has worked well for me over my transcription career so far.

If you are asked to provide other kinds of pricing, do bear in mind my points above, and feel free to refer your client to this article to explain further!

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If you want to learn more about Transcription as a career, buy my book: A Quick Guide to Transcription as a Career – buy from Amazon UK or visit the book’s web page for worldwide links and news.

Related posts in the series:

How do you start a career in transcription?

Why you need a human to do your transcription

Being a professional transcriber – software to use to help

Ten top tips for transcribers

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Business, Jobs, New skills, Transcription, Word

 

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