Transcription is the process of converting audio or video files into text. Professionals and nonprofessionals alike use transcription to create source documents of spoken accounts such as interviews, dictations, speeches, podcasts, and more.  

But there are actually two different types of transcription, depending on the level of detail needed. These includes general transcription (also referred to as non-verbatim transcripts) and verbatim transcription.  

General transcriptions provide a reader-friendly version of a spoken account. The typist actively edits these documents during the transcription process, omitting unnecessary details and mistakes made by the speaker(s). While the overall meaning and structure of the dialogue remains the same, the final, edited transcript is easier to read and digest.  

Verbatim transcriptions, on the other hand, create a document that includes every word and non-verbal sound as it was originally said. The final transcript mirrors the conversation completely.  

Unlike general transcriptions, verbatim transcripts leave in speaking gaffs like false starts, stutters, and mispronunciations. Even pauses or laughter are noted for greater detail and context surrounding the account.   

Sounds simple enough? Verbatim transcription is actually much trickier than it sounds.   

What Makes Verbatim Transcription So Tough 

Mistakes are a natural part of speaking, and we often mispronounce words, stutter, or lose our train of thought while we communicate. Meaningless sounds like “um” or “uh” (called filler words) serve a purpose in conversational speech, and we all use verbal cues — not found in writing — to help convey thoughts.   

But these imperfections do little to affect how we understand one another when people speak, because we listen for meaning – not individual words. It’s why you understand boy hug dog as the boy hugged the dog without thinking twice. 

The problems start when you sit down to transcribe a conversation verbatim. All of those speaking hiccups, mixed with your own natural tendency to ignore them, mean many frustrating repeat-listens to record each and every detail.  

Example of Non-Verbatim Transcription vs. Verbatim Transcription 

Consider the below. Each line comes from the same dialogue, but notice the extra level of detail in the verbatim version. 

Non-verbatim Transcription: “Yesterday, I went to Walgreens. I picked up my prescription and left. That’s when her beloved dog bit me in the parking lot.” 

Verbatim Transcription: “Yesterday (sighs), well, um… I went to Walgrins – I mean Walgreens. And, uh, you know, I picked up my prescription and left. And that’s when her beloved dog (laughs) bit me in the par – in the parkin’ lot.”  

The general transcript conveys what was said, but the verbatim transcript conveys how the account was said. Again, it’s all about context.  

Providing that context, of course, takes a lot more work. Most people will need to play the dialogue back many times over to catch the dozen additional details found in the verbatim transcript.  

The solution is, of course, to hire professionals. Years of practice, careful listening, special equipment and phalangeal dexterity (typing skills) can simply do things no machine can yet accomplish. But if you want to give verbatim transcription a shot (and we don’t recommend you try this at home), here are five basics.  

Five Basic Principles

No paraphrasing allowed: Every word and sound has to be captured, rambling and longwindedness notwithstanding.  

Embrace colloquialism — even mispronunciations: If a speaker says “gonna it’s natural to want to write “going to.” But a verbatim transcript must represent exactly what was said, incorrect or not. 

Don’t skip the crosstalk: Crosstalk is when multiple speakers try to talk at the same time. It can be confusing, but it’s important to transcribe whatever is intelligible. Deciphering becomes easier if you focus on one speaker at a time, and go back to listen to the others. 

Always include false starts and filler words: Filler words and phrases like “um” and “you know” must be recorded. All sentences must be transcribed even if they go unfinished. 

Note laughter, pauses and other non-verbal sounds: Non-speaking cues help convey context surrounding what was said.  

Closing Thoughts 

Because verbatim transcription is all about detailed accuracy, choosing the right transcription company is essential. Always consider your field, needs and the scope of transcription required when seeking outside help!

Curious about verbatim transcription services? E-Typist can help – get in touch!

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