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Automatic transcription – some real-world case studies 2: automatic closed-captioning

There has been a lot of talk lately about automatic transcription, or AI (artificial intelligence) transcription. This includes speech-to-text software and means that a transcription of your voice or recording is made automatically rather than by a human. I’ve recently experienced working with clients who use voice-to-text software and receiving an automatic closed-captioning file from a video meeting platform, and I’m taking the opportunity to share my experiences with both. Last time, I looked at features to look out for with speech-to-text software and this time I’m talking about automatic closed-captioning.

Using closed-captioning to create live subtitles and texts

A client for whom I’m transcribing focus groups (so discussion groups of several people with one facilitator) had one group that included a participant living with a hearing impairment. They turned on the closed-captioning feature in the video meeting platform they were using, so that the participant could read what the other participants were saying. As it recorded everyone’s speech in real time and then generated a text afterwards, my client sent it to me to see if I’d find it useful.

As I’ve been thinking about offering an automatic transcription editing service next to my full transcription service, I was really interested in seeing how this worked.

What does real-time closed-captioning or automatic transcription look like?

In my opinion, automatic real-time closed-captioning is not there yet in terms of generating a good, usable transcription. Here are the downfalls I noticed in the tape (you’ll notice some of these if you turn on the subtitles on the news, etc. – which are very rarely produced by humans these days).

  • Time stamps were added every few seconds which is great for some clients but my focus group transcription clients usually only want it every ten minutes.
  • There was no differentiation of speakers, although new utterances were usually started on a new line (this could be a new utterance by a new speaker or a new utterance by the same speaker).
  • If two people spoke at once the speech was jumbled.
  • Even captioning of the slowest, clearest and most “accentless” (Received Pronunciation) speaker was full of errors including homophones, missed words and repeated words.
  • If someone had an accent (regional or English as an additional language), it pretty well failed to cope at all.
  • If someone spoke quickly, it pretty well failed to cope at all.
  • Ums and ers were not recorded, which is understandable in terms of a participant needing to know what the others were saying, but is not useful when your client has requested a full verbatim transcription (see my article on the types of transcription here).

In summary, the transcription produced for this session by the closed-captioning software would not have been of any use to the researcher without extensive editing.

I have also had a look at the automatic transcription on various video playing platforms such as YouTube and the same issues have appeared there, too.

Is it quicker to edit an automatically generated transcription than to transcribe it from scratch?

With this particular client, while the participants varied over the groups, I had transcribed a fair few groups and had an idea of how many audio minutes I was transcribing per hour. It’s also worth noting that I’m experienced in editing other people’s transcriptions, as I used to be the go-to transcriber for tricky sessions at a big worldwide conference.

Bearing those points in mind, using the closed-caption transcript and editing it to the same standard as one I had done from scratch took exactly the same time as transcribing it from scratch would have taken! There was less actual straight typing, but more mouse work and clicking, so I don’t think it saved me much risk of RSI, either.

I will keep looking at this issue over the next few years, as automatic closed-captioning and the transcripts it produces are bound to improve with improved technology and voice recognition.


In this article, I have discussed the use of automatic closed-captioning and whether it can be used to generate transcripts that replace or can be used as a basis for human transcription.

If you have experience of using automatic closed-captioning, particularly in languages other than English, please comment with anything else you’ve noticed that it would be useful for people to know.

Other relevant articles on this website

Automatic transcription – some real-world case studies 1: voice-to-text software

Why you need to be human to produce a good transcription

Using a transcription app rather than a human transcriber – pros and cons

What are the types of transcription?

What information does my transcriber need?

How to be a good transcription customer

How long does transcription take?

Recording and sending audio files for researchers and journalists

How to get into transcribing as a job

The technology transcribers use

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2021 in Skillset, Transcription

 

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Automatic transcription – some real-world case studies 1: voice-to-text software

There’s a lot of talk about automatic transcription, or AI (artificial intelligence) transcription, also known as voice-to-text software. This means that a transcription of your voice or recording is made automatically rather than with human input. What’s the state-of-art of this at the moment? I’ve recently experienced working with both a client using voice-to-text software to generate text that I edit and receiving an automatic closed-captioning file from a video meeting platform, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my experiences with both. This article looks at speech-to-text software and the next one will examine closed-captioning.

Using voice-to-text software to create text documents

A couple of my regular editing clients use voice-to-text software to create documents which they send to me for me to edit. I have also worked with a number of students who, because they live with a visual impairment or a physical issue (for example, RSI that makes typing painful and difficult), have used this method to generate sometimes very long documents.

What common features of voice-to-text-generated documents can an editor look out for?

Here’s what I’ve noticed about what documents look like when the client is using voice-to-text software

  • The outcome is a lot more accurate when using more sophisticated voice-to-text software that can “learn” the speaker’s voice, rather than out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all software.
  • The outcome is also a lot more accurate and able to cope with “standard” (Received Pronunciation) slowly and clearly spoken English (in this case; I’m guessing it’s the same with other languages but would love to know for sure). The software can struggle with accents and fast speakers.
  • The most common issues with voice-to-text software are
    • Homophones – the software doesn’t know which spelling the speaker wants to use out of two alternatives that sound the same – bear/bare, which/witch, etc. This is really common and can lead to some very odd sentences and potential embarrassing issues. Note that these can’t be spotted by having the software read the text back to the speaker, as the words sound the same.
    • Added words – the software registers two separate words when there’s only one: “repeated distractions” becomes “repeat and distractions”.
    • Missed words and parts of words – if the speaker speaks quickly and skips over short words or swallows the middle of words, they might not register in the software: “paddle boards” becomes “pad boards”; “fruit and nut” becomes “fruited nut” or “fruit nut”.
    • Missed punctuation – this usually has to be spoken in in a set formula by the speaker. If they don’t do that, the punctuation won’t be there.

These issues are quite different from the usual ones met in editing people’s texts, whether their English is their first or additional language. Just as particular Language 1s will bleed through into writers’ other languages (as an L1 English speaker, I am likely to put French and Spanish sentences into an incorrect English word order, for example), dictated English has its own little oddities and patterns that you need to look out for.

How can the speaker and editor combat issues with speech-to-text documents?

There are a few things the speaker and then the editor can do to mitigate these issues.

  • The speaker could speak slowly and clearly, enunciating all the words and their endings and putting the punctuation in as required.
  • If there is an option to “teach” the software the speaker’s voice, I recommend doing that for optimum results.
  • Always have someone check a speech-to-text-generated text.
  • The speaker/client could let the editor know that they’ve used such software, so the editor can be on high alert for the features listed above (remember that Spellcheck won’t necessarily notice correctly spelled homophones).
  • The editor could watch for oddly worded sentences as well as the grammar / spelling / punctuation issues they usually look out for.

In this article, I have discussed voice-to-text software that is sometimes used to generate documents, what the client/speaker can do to make sure the text they generate is as accurate as possible and what the editor of such documents can look out for.

If you have experience of using speech-to-text software, particularly in languages other than English, please comment with anything else you’ve noticed that it would be useful for people to know.

A friend talks about this issue with regard to an interview she conducted – read about her experience in this guest post.

Next time, I’ll talk about my experience of automatic closed-captioning on a video meeting platform.

Other relevant articles on this website

Automatic transcription – some real-world case studies 2: automatic closed-captioning (coming soon!)

Why you need to be human to produce a good transcription

Using a transcription app rather than a human transcriber – pros and cons

What are the types of transcription?

What information does my transcriber need?

How to be a good transcription customer

How long does transcription take?

Recording and sending audio files for researchers and journalists

How to get into transcribing as a job

The technology transcribers use

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2021 in Skillset, Transcription

 

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How do I prepare my focus group for transcription?

If you’re running focus groups for your research, information-gathering or market research, it’s likely you will want to record them and get them transcribed. How do you get a transcript with the voices labelled? How do you work with your transcriber to get the best possible transcript output that is most useful for you?

Top tips for running your focus group if it’s going to be transcribed

When you get a focus group transcribed, you probably want your transcriber to differentiate the voices, adding the participants’ names to their utterances. Most transcribers are really good at telling different voices apart and labelling the speakers. However, you can help them by following these good practices:

  • If you are recording a focus group in real life (as opposed to on a video chat), place your recorder in the middle of the group or table so that everyone can be heard equally.
  • Ask the speakers to introduce themselves at the start of the session, with their name and a brief sentence – this can be about anything but helps your transcriber to match names to voices.
  • Encourage speakers not to speak over each other, but to allow the current speaker to finish before they speak – if it’s in real life, the transcriber will hear two overlapping voices; if it’s a video call, the first speaker will typically be silenced by the second one.
  • Every now and then, confirm who is about to speak or has just spoken – “What do you think, Jim?” “Thank you for that contribution, Sophie”. This really helps your transcriber to check they are still matching the correct voices to the names.
  • When you send the recording to your transcriber, include a list of the speakers’ names – it’s also useful to note if one comes in part way through the recording. Then they can double-check who they’re listening out for.

Sending your recording to your transcriber

When you send your recording to your transcriber, do make sure that you …

  • Include a list of the participants’ names, as mentioned above
  • Specify what kind of transcription you need (verbatim, tidied up, etc. – see this article for more on the types of transcription). Transcriptions of focus groups often need to be absolutely verbatim, ums and ers and everything, and you need to tell your transcriber this.
  • Provide any other basic information your transcriber might need – see this article for more detail

In this article, I’ve explained how you can run your focus group, then record and send it, in the best possible way in order to get a transcription that’s exactly what you need. Please ask any questions in the comments, or comment and share if you find this useful.

Other relevant articles on this website

Why you need to be human to produce a good transcription

Using a transcription app rather than a human transcriber – pros and cons

What are the types of transcription?

What information does my transcriber need?

How to be a good transcription customer

How long does transcription take?

Recording and sending audio files for researchers and journalists

How to get into transcribing as a job

The technology transcribers use

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2021 in Skillset, Transcription

 

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Using a transcription app rather than a human transcriber – advantages and disadvantages

Have you considered using an app to transcribe interview tapes or dictations, rather than doing it yourself or hiring a transcriber? Today I have a guest post from my friend Mary Ellen about her experience using a transcription app. When she told me about how she’d used one to transcribe the interviews she conducted for a magazine article, I was very interested and asked her to write me something about how it all went.

I’m not saying don’t use apps – but if you have the funds and you want an accurate and quick transcription, it’s worth learning from what she found out.


Recently, I was commissioned to write an article about visually impaired runners. Being inexperienced, I blithely accepted the challenge to interview five runners without realising the effort that is needed in getting all of their interesting stories into text.

Aware of the fact that there are people who transcribe interviews for a living (like my lovely friend Liz), the fact was that my fee was a free copy of the periodical and so the budget did not cover the expense of paying a transcriber. The instructor for the writing course I was taking recommended the transcription app Otter so I put it on iPad and used it while interviewing.

It had occurred to me to transcribe it myself, but as I was also working full-time as a teacher time was at a premium. So, with a deadline looming, I cracked on with the interviews which I loved doing. However, after each one I was soon to realise that the app was not ideal for getting their words into print accurately. Oh the errors! The software, to be fair was able to differentiate between the person I was interviewing and me. Aside from this, the text it transcribed was disjointed and while some words fit, most of the sentences made little sense. After each interview, 
I had to correct the errors in the transcription.

Luckily I had written notes so I knew roughly the quotes I wanted and could then listen to the sections I wanted to quote from. However, this was labour-intensive as I then had to hand write the correct words and then re-type the corrected quotes. Worse still, I was writing the article on the iPad I had recorded the interviews on and so had to hand write the correct words before I typed them. This was frustrating, since I knew if the app had transcribed the words correctly this was a step I could have avoided.

So my first adventure in interviewing for an article was great since I loved talking to interesting runners but really, I could have done without having to retype the faulty automatic transcriptions. It makes me tired just thinking about it now. I am determined to continue pitching ideas to periodicals and hopefully get a paid assignment soon. I would definitely pay for a transcription by a trained professional for an article I was being paid for since it would make better business sense. Not only would it save me time, it would also allow me to take on more work, since I wouldn’t have to spend precious hours transcribing. Given that it took me about about an hour and a half per interview to type out my quotes, that is about 7 and a half hours.

In the end, I think the transcribing app, though free, was a false economy that made the article much more labour-intensive than it had to be. Live and learn!

Mary Ellen Flynn writes about special educational needs and disabilities and running. You can find her at @mareflynn on Twitter.

Other relevant articles on this website

Why you need to be human to produce a good transcription

How to get into transcribing as a job

The technology transcribers use

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2020 in Skillset, Transcription

 

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Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Happy birthday to me! (or, rather, to my business)

Although I issued my first invoice in August 2009 (and so will be celebrating in August, too), when I set up as self-employed, I matched my financial years to the UK’s financial years, to make everything easier, and so Libro officially started in April 2009. I cannot believe I’ve been going ten years, though – that astounds me.

Originally, after a lot of experience working on various types of texts through my working life (see About Me for more information), I was approached by one of my colleagues at the university library where I worked to see if I could edit their student’s Master’s dissertation. I said yes, did it, and instigated a string of lovely referrals. For the rest of that year, I mainly worked on dissertations for people whose English wasn’t their first language (I still do that today, although I work on more PhDs now).

I was lucky enough to have a fairly routine job and flexitime, so with a lot of time management and hard work, no holidays and an understanding then-boyfriend (now-husband), I worked part time editing and full time in the library through 2010. Then in 2011 I made the decision to go part time at the day job, after making sure I was replacing my wages with my self-employed income. I came off the Certificate of Low Earnings (which lets people who don’t earn much from their self-employment not pay national insurance: something I only did because I was paying NI through my PAYE in the job). Later that year I dropped a second day of the day job and in November 2011 I resigned, starting full-time self-employment in January 2012 (at which point I got jury service for the first two weeks of January!).

It’s been a lovely part of my working life and one I hope never to leave. I have a reasonable amount of flexibility, working alone at home (but with lots of friends a Facebook messenger message or “meet me at the cafe!” request away). My earnings went up and then stabilised, I had a good year last year and I’m aiming to work a bit less this year to retain my flexibility. I’m grateful to my lovely clients, some of whom have been with me almost from the very beginning, and I now edit, proofread, localise and transcribe, so I have a lovely variety of work, from helping academics record the voices of their interviewees to sorting out philosophers’ words and making sure British people understand American companies. Here’s to the next ten years!

And to celebrate, I added two chunks to my Kiva portfolio and, with the repayments I had sitting in my account, made three loans to three entrepreneurial women around the globe:

  • loan Rosa
    Honiara, Solomon Islands

    A loan helps to buy bags of rice, biscuits, soft drinks, and noodles for her canteen (general store) business.

    $25.00

  • loan Jivtiben
    Kutch, India

    A loan helps to purchase kurtas, sarees, leggings, etc., to expand her clothing business.

    $25.00

  • loan Mwanaisha
    Makumbusho-Dar es salaam, Tanzania

    A loan helps to add stock of braids, weaves, earrings, necklaces, hair food, hair pegs, and hair treatments.

    $25.00

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Business, Celebration

 

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What happens to your website statistics when you drop the ball with your blogging?

When you have a professional website with a blog attached, what happens to your reader stats if you stop blogging? I did not do this experiment solely for this blog, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what happened when I had a blogging hiatus.

I haven’t updated this blog for six months. How did that happen? I’ll explain below. What am I going to do about it? Start blogging again, I hope …

Why did I stop writing blog posts?

Back in the summer, I made the decision to stop working at weekends. Working in this case included both paid editing, proofreading, localisation and transcription work and the additional marketing tasks like blogging, writing articles, responding to blog comments, etc. I did have to make the odd exception when work levels were high or I’d taken time off during the week (or had a holiday) but by and large I’ve stuck to this and am happier, less tired and more balanced as a result. OK, I took up a new hobby as an Endurance (cross-country and road relays) running official and lately a Track and Field official, which has involved weekend training courses and time standing around in muddy fields or boiling hot infields, but that’s a healthy, outdoors hobby.

However, the anticipated drop in paid hours didn’t happen. In fact, in 2018 I have brought in around 12% more revenue than in each of the two previous years, on average, I’ve worked the same number of hours per week, and I’ve in fact had fewer low-paid-hours weeks this year. So what had to give? Blogging.

This was exacerbated by the fact that, while my blog still obviously displays my knowledge of Word, language, business, etc., and channels people to buy my business books (still going just as strong as ever), I have been fortunate enough to have sustained my customer base through a lovely set of regular clients and through their recommendations to others. Added to this, over the nine years I’ve been self-employed, I’ve moved from a model of working with lots and lots of small jobs, editing Master’s thesis for overseas students, etc., to longer-term projects working with regular translator clients and writers / ghost-writers, so work has been more predictable, and I haven’t really needed my blog to funnel customers to me like I once did.

So it slipped. Should I just let it go?

What happens when you stop writing new posts on your blog?

Because December is always a low-traffic month anyway, I’m sharing stats from July 2016 through to the end of October 2018. Although there are peaks and troughs always, with March always being busy with those students and their Master’s dissertations searching how to put bibliographies in alphabetical order, you can see the drop-off in the latter few months of the cycle. That’s when I stopped blogging.

It’s pretty well-known that Google and other search engines like regularly updated content to index. That’s why I and others tell people to keep blogging and/or updating their website regularly. So I knew this, and the stats show it.

What am I going to do with my blog? Should I give up blogging?

Although I don’t feel at the moment that I NEED to write and publish lots of blog posts, I’m going to get back into it. How, I will share below. There are a couple of reasons WHY:

  • Although I have sufficient clients now, especially with lots of them being in Europe and the threat of Brexit looming, I can’t assume that will continue to be the case (small independent sole traders like me have had no advice from the government or HMRC). So it’s good to keep marketing yourself even when you’re busy. I am fortunate enough to have lots of lovely colleagues I can pass work to that I can’t take on at the moment.
  • I enjoy helping people. I get a buzz when I receive a comment saying I sorted out someone’s problem, or one of my Small Business Chats interviewees thanks me for a referral they received from my site. I do my job because I like helping people, and the blog allows me to help more of them while I’m doing other things!
  • I loved finding out what my Small Business Chat interviewees were up to and how they were getting on, and learning from their journeys. I don’t want to lose those connections.

What’s the plan?

I’m going to use my time wisely. Over the festive break, I’m going to add the flesh to the bones of a load of ideas I’ve put in my blog post drafts and get them all ready to schedule through the year (the plan there is to see how many I can get written and then distribute them evenly through the next year, keeping an eye on what’s about to publish as I go through the year in case there’s some awful clash between a light-hearted Troublesome Pair and a horrible news item).

I’m going to get in touch with my January 2018 Small Business Chat people as normal for their updates, but I’m also going to contact all the June-December 2017 ones I never got back to, see if they want to continue to take part and slot them in until I can spread them evenly through the year again. I will point them here and hope they appreciate my honesty and openness and continue to take part.

Over to you …

Have you paused your blog (especially a professional one) and started up again? What did you learn or change? Are you one of my abandoned Small Business Chat folk? Would you like me to continue featuring you again or has that series run its course? Have you enjoyed reading those posts? Have you, well, missed me?

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Blogging, Business, Marketing, Writing

 

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Copy-typing hints and tips 1: what it is, what it looks like and how to charge

Copy-typing hints and tips 1: what it is, what it looks like and how to charge

In this article I’m going to share my learning points from a job I’ve recently done, copy-typing a manuscript which had originally been typewritten. In this case, it had the added complications of having hand-written alterations and corrections made to the typescript, all of which had to be taken into account. Here’s what I learned, but first a quick round-up of what copy-typing actually is.

What is copy-typing?

Copy-typing means creating a Word document (usually) out of a document which is not editable in Word. This might be handwritten notes in a notebook, notes made during meetings on large sheets of paper, typescripts or PDFs that it’s not possible to convert using Optical Character Recognition.

What format do copy-typing jobs come in?

The copy-typing jobs that I have done have come in PDF format or sets of images. I’ve worked with photographed hand-written notes and in the latest case, a set of pages that had originally been typed out on a typewriter, then amended by hand, then, a long time afterwards, scanned and put into one big PDF.

You might also copy-type hand-written or typed documents on their original paper (if this is the case, do invest in a document stand). You could also receive a scanned or printed copy of a word-processed document where the original has been lost and only the printed pages are available!

It is possible to convert PDFs of type-written or word-processed script into Word documents using Optical Character recognition.

Why is this not used instead of paying someone to type out every sheet by hand?

  1. Even if you have the document converted, some errors are bound to creep in (ever read a Kindle book that’s been scanned in and notice weird spellings or gaps in words?). So someone will still need to proof-read the resulting text to check it is the same as the original.
  2. Some PDFs are simply not suitable for conversion – the pages may have copied dark, there may be all sorts of annotations and scribblings on the typescript which will confuse the convertor, there might be speckles, blotches and rings of coffee on the typescript, or the type itself might be fuzzy and indistinct.

How do you charge for copy-typing?

It’s difficult to charge a per-word rate for copy-typing because you cannot know how many words the original has.An hourly rate often works well, as this can also take into account any indistinct pages or sections, adding in annotations, etc. none of which would be covered by a per-word rate.

I tend to charge for copy-typing on an hourly basis, although this does have the disadvantage that you don’t know exactly how long the job is going to take so how much it will cost.

In order to quote either a fair (to you and the client) per-word rate or to estimate how many hours a job will take, I recommend doing a test copy-type.

When doing a test copy-type, I will typically spend an hour on a representative sample of pages from the document (usually the most complex and wordy pages, so I over-estimate how long it will take, rather than under-estimating). I will see how many pages I can type out during that hour, then divide the total number of pages by that number to see how long it will take (for example, with my last job, I managed four pages in the hour, so if the document had 60 pages, I knew it would take me around 15 hours. This gave me a ball-park figure of 40 hours for the whole job. I did it in 39 and felt quite smug).

Of course, as with all jobs, if it looks like you are going to go significantly over your original estimate, work out why (had the client only sent you a few pages, and the others had more text or alterations?) and warn your client in good time.


In this article we’ve reminded ourselves what professional copy-typing is, looked at what formats copy-typing jobs can come in and discussed why sometimes conversion from PDF to Word isn’t a viable option. I’ve also given some suggestions on how to price copy-typing. In the next article, you’ll find hints and tips for the actual process.

Other relevant articles on this blog

What is copy-typing?

Copy-typing hints and tips 2: how do I do the actual work?

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Copy-typing, Word

 

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What are the types of transcription?

What are the types of transcription?

There are many different types of transcription, and when you work as a transcriber, you might be asked to do any or all of them. Later in your transcription career, you may choose to specialise in one, and this can be useful for your career. It’s important to know about the kinds of transcription so that you can provide the best possible transcript for your client – if it’s important to them to include everything everyone says and you do an intelligent transcription, your transcription might not even be any use to them!

The different kinds of transcription

These are the main types of transcription. Be careful, however: some clients might describe these different types in different ways, using different language or explaining what they want rather than using a particular term.

Phonetic / linguistic transcription 

Phonetic or linguistic transcription is a highly specialised form of transcription which records not only the words used but the tone taken by the speakers and the exact overlap when two people speak. It is used when the client need to record what is said and how it’s said, because they need to analyse speech acts by a speaker or the exact nature of the interaction between two or more people.

I have encountered this kind of transcription being requested by linguists or clinical psychologists. In fact, I’ve also seen it in books and academic works about speech and interaction.

In phonetic transcription, you 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.

For both kinds of highly specialised transcription (which is so highly specialised that I don’t offer it), you will be expected to use a range of symbols and probably a special template.

Time and pricing This is the most time-consuming type of transcription by far – expect to take twice as long as your normal speed, if not more. However, as a highly specialised type of work, the rate per audio minute is higher.

Video / descriptive transcription / captioning

If you’re doing video transcription of a film which is not simply of one or two people speaking, you may be asked to provide descriptive information or take down the text that appears on the screen. The purpose can be either to provide captions on the film in the same language, or to provide a script for translators to translate into another language.

This can involve two different aspects:

  1. Recording the wording in any information that appears on the screen: this could be marketing information, information about the speaker’s job and company, wording on diagrams, etc. This is usually requested when you’re producing text that will be translated.
  2. Recording the movements of people and other noises than speech, e.g. slamming doors, a car pulling up outside. This will usually be requested when your client is captioning the film.

Captioning itself is a specialised art and I refer any true captioning jobs over to a friend and colleague who is experienced with it.

Time and pricing: This again is specialised work and takes extra time to do; for example, the words on the screen might appear at the same time a voiceover is saying something else, so you might need to go over the same tape twice. Therefore there’s an argument that you can charge a little more. Captioning is a specialised art and commands higher rates, but you really need to know what you’re doing.

Verbatim transcription

When we do a verbatim transcription, we record every single the speakers say, but using standard typing and symbols.

This is used by, for example, legal clients, researchers and marketing companies and anyone who wants to get the full flavour of how the person was speaking. Many of my ghost-writing clients also want verbatim transcription so that they can catch the exact way the subject speaks and capture that to write their book to sound as if it’s written by the subject.

Time and pricing: I use standard pricing for these three kinds of transcription from here onwards, as they actually take around the same length of time to do: the time typing errs and ums and repetitions can be used up by thinking about how to rewrite someone’s words!

Edited transcription

An edited transcription is a slightly tidied up version of a verbatim transcription. It is usually requested by general interviewers and journalists, and also some academic researchers and writers. Ghost-writers might ask for a small amount of editing just to limit the number of ums they have to remove before they can write up their book.

So the editing 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”.

You do the editing as you type, as it would be far too time-consuming to type out a verbatim transcription and then go back and edit it. Once you’re used to it, it’s quite quick and easy to do.

Intelligent / smoothed transcription

In this type of transcription, you will typically turn non-standard or non-native English into standard English. You are likely to be altering grammar and even wording, as well as doing the activities involved in an edited transcription.

I have two types of client who ask for this kind of transcription:

  1. Companies that produce conference or meeting reports – they want standard English throughout, and any speaker who is a non-native English speaker or even one that is a native English speaker but has a very idiosyncratic way of speaking will be smoothed out and standardised.
  2. Marketing companies that are doing research on a client’s product with its customers, for example. All they want is what the client thinks, straight and simple, to report back to their client, and may well ask me for an intelligent transcription.

Time and pricing: This is quite a specialised variety of transcription, as you need to be very confident in your own ability to write a good, grammatical sentence, to understand what someone has said and rephrase it. As a by-product of the kind of speaker whose words you are smoothing out, you need to be good at understanding non-native English accents. Not everyone is skilled at this, but if you are, it’s really fun to do, as it involves more thought than the other standard varieties of transcription. It does take a little longer than verbatim and edited transcription if the speaker is hard to understand, and I may charge a little more on that basis.

How do I find out what type of transcription my client wants?

If a client wants captioning or linguistic transcription, they will usually know this and provide templates and instructions: they will also check you know how to do this (don’t try to guess if you don’t have any training in this: it won’t work and it will end in tears!) and might give you a test.

To find out whether my client wants verbatim, edited or intelligent transcription, I include this question in my initial questions to the client:

“Do you want the transcription to have a complete record of all ums and ers / to be tidied up of ums and ers and repetitions / to be tidied into standard English and complete sentences where possible?”

This will usually get them to confirm what they want, even if they don’t use the specific terminology.


This article has explained what the types of transcription are and when they might be used, as well as examples of what they look like and some information on their particular challenges. You now know about linguistic transcription, film transcription and captioning, verbatim, edited and intelligent transcription.

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 22, 2017 in Business, Transcription, Word

 

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What is verbatim transcription?

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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How long does transcription take?

How long does transcription take?

As a busy professional transcriber, I get a large number of queries from potential clients. They often want to know how long it will take for a transcriber to do their tape, how quickly a transcriber works. So, how long does transcription take? I’ll share a few details to make it easier for people to understand the parameters.

How long does it take to transcribe a tape?

I did a quick poll among other transcribers I know, and the answer does vary, but on average, it takes 30 minutes to transcribe 10 minutes of tape. So if you have an hour-long tape, it will take me around 3 hours to transcribe it (if you try it yourself, and you’re not a professional transcriber, it’s likely to take a lot longer. If it doesn’t, consider a career change!).

What factors affect how long it takes for a tape to be transcribed?

There are various factors that will make the tape take a longer (or shorter) time to transcribe.

It takes less time to transcribe an audio file if …

  • The speakers speak really slowly and clearly
  • It’s an interview and I’m asked to only take notes on what the interviewer says

It takes more time to transcribe an audio file if …

  • There are more than two speakers
  • The speakers have strong accents
  • The tape quality is bad (muffled / quiet / picking up the background noise too much)
  • The speakers are speaking really quickly
  • There are a lot of technical terms or other details which I need to look up
  • I’ve been asked to use a complicated template or put in more than the standard number of time stamps

That’s why I and other transcribers tend to charge extra for additional speakers, extra time stamps and ‘difficult’ tapes

How long does it REALLY take a transcriber to type out an audio file?

What people sometimes forget – both transcribers when quoting for work and clients when asking for quotations, is the need for rest. Typing for hours at a time can be quite brutal on the hands / shoulders / back / ears / eyes. Transcribers need to take breaks. There’s also the time for checking at the end – listening right through or at least running a spell check.

So an hour-long tape is not likely to take me exactly 3 hours; I’d say more like 3.5 to 4 hours. I try not to type for more than 7 hours a day, and I prefer not to do it late at night (though I do do it early in the morning instead).

Your transcriber might also have other projects which need to be completed before they can start yours.

All of these factors mean that you shouldn’t be surprised if you ask about an hour-long tape and find out it will take a day or 24 hours to return to you. I’m sure my fellow-transcribers like to be flexible, as I do, but there are limits to human endurance!


Hopefully this article has clarified the amount of time it might take your transcriber to transcribe your tape. Typing speed is one thing, transcription speed is another, and remember that your transcriber is human (that’s why they’re good at what they do) and needs to look after themselves.

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

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

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Business, Transcription, Word

 

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