What is verbatim transcription?

08 Mar
What is verbatim transcription?

Transcription clients often want different levels of detail and accuracy in their transcriptions. They sometimes ask for a verbatim transcription. This article explains what verbatim transcription is.

What is verbatim transcription?

The dictionary definition of verbatim is “In exactly the same words as were used originally” (Concise Oxford Dictionary) and this really explains what verbatim transcription is.

In verbatim transcription, the transcriber types out EXACTLY what is said, including any pauses, mistakes, repetitions, stumbles, fillers (er, um, you know what I mean) – everything.

Why would a client request verbatim transcription?

The three reasons I find for a client requesting a verbatim transcription are:

  • A researcher looking at the way people talk about a particular subject might need to know exactly what was said and how it was said
  • A market research company might need to drill down to the specific way in which people talk about their product, including stumbling over the product name or searching for ways to describe it
  • A legal transcription will usually need to be a highly accurate description of what was said and how

How is verbatim transcription different from other kinds of transcription?

Verbatim description is quite different from other kinds of transcription. A journalist interviewing a subject, someone doing general research or a company producing conference reports will not want every single false start, um and er recorded. They might even need you to smooth out the transcription for them so that it reads more clearly.

Here are the main types of transcription in order of their accuracy or match to what was actually said, going from most exact match to loosest match.

  • phonetic / linguistic transcription – this is a very specialised form of transcription used by, for example, linguists or clinical psychologists. In phonetic transcription, you would record the pronunciation of the words and the rise and fall of the sentence, overlapping utterances, etc., using specialised notation. Linguistic transcription does everything except the phonetic aspect.
  • verbatim transcription – as discussed above, this records everything the speakers say, but using standard typing and symbols.
  • edited transcription – this can have various levels, but usually means removing ums, ers, and repetitions, as well as any “speech tics” such as repeatedly adding “you know” or “d’you know what I mean” as you type.
  • intelligent / smoothed transcription – in this type of transcription, you will typically turn non-standard or non-native English into standard English, altering grammar and even wording as well as doing the activities involved in an edited transcription.

All of these can be complicated and take extra time and effort, and you may find that you’re better at one kind than another. Personally, I really enjoy doing Intelligent Transcription, but do all of the types except the highly specialised Phonetic/Linguistic Transcription.

How do I know if my client requires verbatim transcription?

Many clients will tell you up-front if they require verbatim transcription. If they don’t specify, then do ask. I have a standard set of questions I ask all new clients to get their preferences – this includes asking if they want me to transcribe the recording absolutely accurately, or smooth out the ums and ers, etc.

More to come! Watch this space for more details on the types of transcription, with examples!

This article has explained what verbatim transcription is and why you might be asked to do it.

If you’ve found this article useful, please do comment below – I always love to hear from my readers! There are sharing buttons there, too, so you can share this on whatever social media platforms you use. Thank you!

Other useful articles on this blog

How do you start a career in transcription? – are you suited for it?

The professional transcriber – the technology you need

10 top tips for transcribers – what every new transcriber needs to know

Why do you need human transcribers, anyway? – I explain why!

Keyboards, ergonomics and RSI – the risks and keeping safe

Transcribing multiple voices – hints to make it easier

Why do transcribers charge by the audio minute? – explains it all

How long does transcription take?

My book, Quick Guide to your Career in Transcription is available in print and online

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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Business, Transcription, Word


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