Three Things All Transcribers Can Agree On

Three Things All Transcribers Can Agree On

While convincing another transcriber to adopt your comma philosophy is like teaching your cat a multi-stage trick, there are at least three areas where transcribers new and old can come together:

  1. Clear audio
  2. Clear speakers
  3. Clear instructions

Clear audio

Nothing will improve the quality of a transcript more than clear audio, but what does this encompass exactly?

  • File compression. Working on audio that’s been compressed into oblivion can be really, really difficult. Audio files that have not been compressed are around 1MB or more per minute of audio. At Expedited Transcripts, we have customers upload to our ShareFile account to avoid the necessity of file compression.
  • Audio interference. While many things cause audio interference, one common source is BlackBerry cell phones. If you’re recording with a handheld device, it’s best to keep your BlackBerry several feet away to help mitigate this common issue.
  • “Hot” audio. This type of distortion can occur when the volume on a device is too high. For example, if you’ve ever plugged a recorder into a TV or computer, you may have had to adjust the volume on both devices to eliminate hot audio distortion.
  • Backup audio. Besides failing safe, having two recorders is particularly useful for roundtable discussions and Q&A sessions. For roundtables, place a recorder at each end of the table, with one near the organizer. For Q&A, place one near the briefer and another near the questioners.
  • Top tip: Hit “record” on both recorders at exactly the same time. This saves valuable time if transcribers need to switch between files to hear everyone’s voice.

Clear speakers

We all know some people are easier to understand than others. Aside from the obvious traits of a “clear” speaker, like a moderate speaking pace and good pronunciation, audio transcription also highlights a person’s train of thought — for better or worse.

For example, some people are able to speak extemporaneously in perfect paragraphs. Other people, meanwhile, barely get halfway through a sentence without interrupting themselves.

Since audio transcription involves structuring sentences and paragraphs, transcriptionists understandably have a much easier time with people whose thoughts are articulated in a clear, structured format.

Clear instructions

While many transcripts are very straightforward, others require detailed instructions. Here are some features transcribers look for:

  • What to transcribe. If a file contains more than just the target recording, transcribers need to know when to start/end the transcript.
  • Speaker IDs. If speaker identification is desired, transcribers need to know speakers’ names and have a way to identify them. Frequently, this can be determined by listening to the audio. If not, transcribers will need further instructions on how to ID each speaker. For example, a customer may want to tell his transcriptionist, “The lower voice is Bob” or “Larry speaks first.”
  • Redaction. If a name is to be redacted, transcribers need clear instructions on the person’s name and desired pseudonym. It’s also important to clarify whether identifying context should be redacted. For example, if a well-known politician spoke on background and a reporter asked, “What year was your mother elected senator of Hawaii,” should that also be redacted? In the absence of specific instructions, transcribers can make a note when delivering the transcript or highlight the text in question for the client’s review.

These are just a few things that make transcribers’ lives easier, save time, and improve quality. Is this post spot on, or did we miss an obvious point? Let us know in the comments!

Image by Andrew Neel

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