Transcription Tips

Updated on: by Amy Kennedy

Written By: Erica Martin

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Transcription can be a great way to earn some extra money,  however it’s very important to have good equipment and be as accurate as possible when you transcribe.  When I do reviewing for Scribie, I notice that some people make careless mistakes that can be avoided if they take just a few extra steps when they transcribe.  In this post I will share some tips I use to transcribe audio as accurately as possible.

Start with good equipment and software.  To transcribe you need at a minimum, a  good quality USB headset and good transcription software.  The headset  doesn’t need to be one specifically for transcription – I use the USB headset I used when I worked for Profinity and Babytobee – but you should be able to hear audio through it clearly. As far as transcription software is concerned, you can spend money on transcription software if you want to, or you can download the free version of Expresscribe.  Expresscribe is all I’ve ever used, and it works fine for me – as a matter of  fact, most general transcription companies prefer it.  Another piece of equipment that’s not necessarily required for all companies, though I do  highly recommend it, is a foot pedal. It is possible to set up your keyboard to start, stop and rewind audio,  a lot of companies  require a foot pedal.  The reason is that it makes the process much faster since it allows your hands to focus on typing only.  Foot pedal prices can range from $20 on up, depending on the type you use – I’ve even seen the Infinity foot pedal that I use for as low as $10 on eBay.

Make sure you read the instructions or style requirements that the company you’re transcribing for provides.  Different companies have different rules for how they want things like speaker changes and words you can’t understand treated, so make sure you’re familiar with the requirements before you start transcribing.

Before you transcribe, listen to a short sample of the audio if you can.  If you’re new to transcribing, I highly recommend you transcribe only audio that is clear and understandable – sometimes audio can have a lot of static, and sometimes one or more of the speakers will have foreign accents – both of these things can make audio even harder to understand for the beginning transcriber.  I don’t know if all general transcription companies allow  you to listen to the audio before you download it and transcribe it, but I know that Scribie does, and so do a lot of the requesters who post transcription hits on Mturk.

After you’ve selected an audio clip to transcribe, listen to the audio at least three times.  The first time,  just listen and don’t transcribe anything – try to get a feel for how fast the speakers are talking and whether there are any accents.  The second time, transcribe the audio the best you can, and follow the rules for any words you’re not sure of.  The third time, go through and listen again, and as you’re going through the transcript correct any mistakes and fill in as many blanks as possible.

Transcribe a few words at a time.  It can make the process longer if you have a long audio segment to transcribe, but it also makes it easier to remember what was said.  If you listen to too much audio before you start to transcribe, you risk omitting words or typing a word or words wrong.

These are my tips for transcribing as accurately as possible.  For those of you that do any kind of transcription, I would be interested to find out if you have any tips to add.

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October 23, 2015 at 11:36 pm

I have been picking audios that are clear and easy to understand because I am relatively new to transcription. If I decide to transcribe an audio that is somewhat clear with statics, background noises, and low volume, what should I do to transcribe them correctly?

Tara Jones

March 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm

My mother has been working on doing interviews of all of our living relatives for genealogical purposes, but now needs to transcribe all the hours of interviews she has and I told her that I’d help her. Since I’m new to this I don’t know what you mean by transcription software. What does it do and how will it help us transcribe everything efficiently? Thanks in advance for your help, Erica!


March 8, 2016 at 6:16 am

Tara, re-read the post I wrote – transcription software allows you to transcribe the audio and use a foot pedal to start and stop it. You can click on the link for Expresscribe to find out more about it.