Must-Haves for Transcriptionists
Updated on: by Amy Kennedy
Back in September I wrote a post where I gave some transcription tips. I touched briefly on basic equipment that you need for transcription work. However, since that time I have started to transcribe longer files, and I’ve learned that a few additional things are needed.
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This post will go into a little more detail on the must-have equipment for transcriptionists – this equipment includes the three things I mentioned in that article – a good headset, good transcription software, and a foot pedal, as well as text expander software and any dictionaries appropriate to the type of transcription you’ll be doing.
A good quality USB headset – The headset doesn’t have to be the stethoscope style headset that’s used specifically for transcription, but you should be able to hear audio through it clearly.
Good transcription software – You can spend money on transcription software if you want to, or if the client you’re working for requires specific transcription software to be used. If that isn’t the case however, download Expresscribe for free on the web – this program works with most foot pedals and allows you to slow down and speed up audio, as well as go forward and backward in the audio file.
If you don’t have a foot pedal, Expresscribe allows you to use the keys on your keyboard to perform the different functions. You can also set up hotkeys to perform additional functions. For example, when I do reviewing for Scribie, I have a hotkey set up to insert timestamps.
A foot pedal – if you’re doing short transcriptions like the ones found on Scribie or Mturk, you may not want to invest in a foot pedal right away – however if you’re going to be doing longer transcriptions, a foot pedal is a must for keeping your hands free so you can type. The foot pedal allows you to start and stop audio, as well as move forward and backward using your foot. Prices for foot pedals can range from $20 on up, depending on the foot pedal you use.
A text expander program – if you’re going to be transcribing longer audio files, I highly recommend using a text expander program. Text expander programs allow you to press just a few keys to type out a few words, or even whole paragraphs, if you have certain phrases you use over and over again when you transcribe.
Most text expander programs cost money, however I did find one text expander program called PhraseExpress which the site says is free for personal use. PhraseExpress can actually be used anywhere you type text, whether it’s in a word processing program or on the web – I’ve actually forgotten I had Phrase Express loaded up after I finished a transcription assignment, then gone on the web and Phrase Express would be trying to auto-complete my sentences.
Any dictionaries appropriate for the type of transcription you’ll be doing – If you’re just doing general transcription, the only type of dictionary you’ll need is a regular Webster’s dictionary. However if you’re doing a more specialized type of transcription, such as medical or legal transcription, you’ll want to have a medical or legal dictionary handy so you can look up any medical or legal terms you may not be familiar with. Luckily, the web also has many resources to help with different types of transcription. One site that I know of in particular that’s great for medical terms is Online Medical Dictionary. Since I haven’t done any legal transcription I’m not sure if there are any legal dictionary resources online.
Templates or sample transcripts – Most transcription companies will provide these, however if you’re working for a private client you may have to ask if they have any templates or sample transcriptions they can provide so that you know how to format the transcript. When I first started working for my current transcription client, she provided me with a sample transcripts so I knew how to format the transcripts for the different types of transcription I do for her.
Ergonomic Keyboard – For someone like me who spends a lot of time typing, an ergonomic keyboard can be a real lifesaver. Not only can it help prevent issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, but it can also increase typing speed and accuracy, which are crucial for transcriptionists. There are many brands and styles to choose from, so it’s worth trying a few out to see which one works best for you.
High-Speed Internet Connection – I cannot stress enough the importance of a reliable, high-speed internet connection. If you’re working with large audio files, you’ll need a solid connection to download and upload them quickly. Furthermore, many transcription software programs are cloud-based, meaning you need a good internet connection to access them.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones – While a good quality headset is a must, I highly recommend investing in noise-cancelling headphones if you’re going to be working in a noisy environment. This feature can help to filter out background noise and let you concentrate on the audio you’re transcribing, which, believe me, can make a world of difference.
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Grammar and Style Guide – For most transcription tasks, you need to maintain a specific formatting and grammatical standard. Having a grammar and style guide on hand can help me ensure that my transcriptions meet these standards. For instance, the Chicago Manual of Style is a widely used resource. It helps me address any tricky punctuation questions or confirm the right way to format certain elements, enhancing the overall quality of my work.
I hope this post has provided some insight on the type of equipment that’s needed for transcription. As I said previously, if you’re doing shorter transcriptions like the ones found on Mturk or Scribie, then the first three things may be the only three things you need. However if you start doing longer transcriptions, you’ll definitely want to look into the last three things as well.
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