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The Ultimate Guide to a High Quality Transcription Job: Steps, Mistakes and More

Post Author Take1 / April 4th 2016

Want to learn about the steps of transcription? We have created the ultimate guide to a high-quality transcription job, where you will discover all the stages of a professional transcription process. To put it in a nutshell, transcription refers to the act of transcribing speech into a written format. The specific verbal content to be transcribed can be provided in audio or video formats while some transcription jobs are performed live. Transcription is required for various fields of activity, for a wide range of purposes. A few examples of situations that might need transcription are:

  • Court hearings
  • Recorded medical notes
  • Interviews
  • Subtitles for video material
  • Speeches
  • Events

When it comes to classification, there are three main types of transcription to mention:
  • Intelligent transcription – transcribing the audio or video content in clear, concise, readable, all-around ‘intelligent’ text.
  • Edited transcription – including the most significant parts of the speech in the written result. Some fragments may be omitted, as long as the focus remains on the main subject.
  • Verbatim transcription – precise transcription of all words, sounds, and details in the audio or video content, including contextual noises.

Generally speaking, intelligent transcription is the most sought-after, but any one of these three varieties can be required by a client at any time. The type requested is usually strongly connected to the purpose of the transcription. For example, if one is transcribing a physician’s notes, intelligent or edited transcription will most likely be necessary. On the other hand, movie subtitles require verbatim transcription, particularly for the hearing impaired.

Regardless of the chosen method, there are quite a few steps of transcription that should never be ignored for a proper result. Not only do they aid in delivering a top quality product, but they also ensure accuracy, relevance, and thoroughness from beginning to end. Here is all you need to know about transcription work step by step.


The Main Steps of Transcription

Pre-Transcription Preparations

Main Steps of Transcription and Their Proper Implementation

Post-Processing of the Transcription Work
Full Playback

Quality Standards of a Transcription Project

What to Ensure Your Transcription Project Checks Off

Required Skills and Qualities of the Transcription Team

Common Mistakes and Transcription Flaws to Watch Out For
Transcription Errors or Transposition Errors

The Main Steps of Transcription

As they advance in their career, every transcriptionist establishes their own set of guidelines and workflow to guarantee a reliable result. There are certain tips and tricks for faster typing, software for smooth audio playback and other ‘secrets’ of the craft that most transcriptionists pick up along the way. These are rather more supplementary than mandatory, as useful resources and the final touches for a transcription piece. Their main aim is to assist the transcriptionist regarding efficiency and professional growth.

However, the mission of our guide is to walk you through the main steps of transcription so you can get a better idea of the big picture. The process might seem simple at first, but it actually contains pre and post segments that are crucial for correct transcription. When venturing into transcribing, it is recommended that you work with a group of professionals who possess the necessary knowledge for an accurate job. More than one individual might be involved in the process – i.e. for final proofreading – precisely to ensure a flawless adaptation. Here are the three main stages that serve as steps of transcription.

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Pre-Transcription Preparations

When describing the steps of transcription, it is essential to present the preparation process. Before getting started, the transcriptionist needs to make sure that they have the following information and tools:


  • The audio or video file that needs to be transcribed;
  • Document software, such as Microsoft Office;
  • Playback software for the audio or video file;
  • Headphones or headset – even though they aren’t mandatory for transcription, they greatly aid the transcriptionist throughout the job;
  • Any additional software required by the client or company.

One of the most significant aspects regarding the steps of transcription is that the content needs to be heard clearly. Background noise in abundance or poor audio quality might make the file impossible or extremely difficult to transcribe. The more challenging the transcription is, the more likely the costs of the job will rise.

Transcription requirements vary from project to project. For example, if the job is to transcribe speech for subtitles, it might or might not involve using dedicated software to implement the subtitles. If a particular kind of software is required for finalizing the project, the transcriptionist will need to have access to it, as well as a computer that meets compatibility standards.

Depending on how long the audio or video file is, the transcriptionist will also need a dedicated timeframe for work. In most cases, roughly one hour of work is required for a fifteen-minute recording. This timeframe can increase or reduce, according to various factors.

When you have all of your materials prepared, proceed with the next steps of transcription described below.

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Main Steps of Transcription and Their Proper Implementation

The main activities involved in the steps of transcription basically involve listening and writing. Nevertheless, the process isn’t smooth sailing from the beginning. It is almost physically impossible for a transcriptionist to keep up the pace with spoken communication without pausing the recording.

The steps of transcription – just like the requirements – tend to vary. They can be based on the preferences of the transcriptionist, his or her working habits to obtain proper flow, and other similar factors. Every transcriptionist will take more or less time to transcribe an audio segment, depending on their experience, typing speed, and listening skills.

On the whole, the steps of transcription can be narrowed down to:

Listening: The recording must be played through some kind of software or device. For instance, a recording can be played back through a VCR/ DVD player (for video content) or a tape recorder (for audio). However, most recent recordings will be provided in digital formats such as .mp3, .wav, .avi, .mp4 etc. According to the format of the recording, a playback program or device will be required. As a result, the first step of a transcription is to listen to the audio or video material.

Pausing: These first three steps of transcription – listening, pausing, and transcribing – typically go hand in hand. Depending on the level of experience a transcriptionist has, listening and transcribing can be performed simultaneously. However, pauses will need to be made throughout the process so the transcriptionist can accurately write down all the sentences spoken in the recording. Pausing is necessary for an accurate representation. If the transcriptionist tries to write down the spoken segment from beginning to end without pausing, an abundance of mistakes will most likely slip in.

Transcribing:The third step of doing a transcription is the transcribing part itself. Using the requested software, the transcriptionist writes down the dialogue or monologue included in the recording. This is the part where a mistake or two might slip in, but that’s where the last two steps of transcription come in. At this stage, typos and small errors are not an issue. Nonetheless, if the final two steps of transcription and the post-processing segment are not carried out until the final document is delivered, there are great chances that flaws will indeed be included.

Re-listening: This transcription step is actually a preparation for the post-processing segment. Before moving on to another minute of the recording, it is highly recommended that the transcriptionist re-listens to the freshly transcribed content. For example, if a sentence was just written, it is best to play the audio counterpart back to see if all pronouns, prepositions, and so on were picked up. Re-listening throughout the job will aid the transcriptionist not only in guaranteeing accuracy but also spending less time on the post-processing.

Adjusting: Another step of transcription that resembles post-processing is the regular adjusting. Instead of spending way too much time at the end of the transcription to edit a quickly transcribed text, a transcriptionist can save time by making small adjustments along the way. Nevertheless, this does not mean that post-processing should be ignored whatsoever – it is the most significant part of transcription.

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Post-Processing of the Transcription Work

After the audio or video recording was written, the final steps of transcription need to be carried out. These last three steps of transcription are essential for a trustworthy product, an adaptation that is not only correct (grammar-wise), but also easy to read, understand, and interpret. They can make a world of difference between a hurried transcription job and one that will result in a happy client that will come back time and time again. The transcription needs to be performed with the reader and listener in mind, to enhance their experience and support comprehension.

Full Playback: It might be a bit time-consuming, depending on how long the recording is, but a full playback can help the transcriptionist check for potentially erroneous information. Listening to fragments of a recording with pauses in between is one thing while listening to a recording from start to end is completely different. Fine touches can be easily identified during this particular step of transcription.

Editing: While listening to the full recording once again, the transcriptionist can edit the necessary parts. Words might be added or excluded, mumbled sentences can be cut out, and so on. Depending on the client’s requirements, any incoherent speech can be deleted from the transcription.

Re-reading: To wrap up the project, the final of all steps of transcription is to re-read the entire document. After you have played back the audio or video and made the first drafts of edits, it is time to proofread the transcription without any distractions. As with editing any written work, the final stage of transcription requires full attention to grammar, punctuation, typos, and other frequent mistakes.

The re-reading process should not be rushed whatsoever, as it is the key to a successful transcription job. In cases where jargon can be identified throughout the speech, a dictionary might be required to check spelling. Before sending the transcription, the professional will take one last look at the entire progress to make sure that any other mistakes didn’t make their way in the text.

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Quality Standards of a Transcription Project

What really makes a transcription job shine among others is the final result. No matter how long or time-consuming a transcription project might be, it needs to be 100% accurate to reach industry quality standards. A transcriptionist must be meticulous from listening to proofreading, even though the process might become painstaking. Nevertheless, it is the only way that a transcriptionist can truly state that their work is flawless.

In addition to accuracy, there are also a few other factors that the transcription needs to be up to par with, such as readability or consistency. The latter is just as important as the former; we’ll explain more below.

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What to Ensure Your Transcription Project Checks Off

As we previously mentioned, there are several steps of transcription you need to take care of before you send the final draft. All of these aspects are fundamental for a quality transcription, so make sure to look out for them at all times.

Accuracy: First and foremost, accuracy is vital when dealing with a transcription. Even though it is a task that can easily interfere with accuracy due to audio or video conditions, the transcriptionist needs to pay very special attention to the correctness of the presented information. This is a factor that should not be taken lightly especially when dealing with niche transcriptions, such as those for law or medicine. If the transcriptionist is not sure about spelling or similar aspects, a quick dictionary check is always recommended.

Readability: Just as important as accuracy is readability. This is precisely why the very last of all steps of transcription involves re-reading the entire text. It is generally difficult to reach impressive readability standards from the first draft, so a second reading is always welcomed and actually encouraged.

To ensure that the transcription meets readability standards, go through the whole text and read it in your head without any recording or background noise. A transcriptionist might also work with a team member to get a second opinion on the text. A quality control procedure like this can be considered almost necessary, especially when dealing with long transcriptions. It’s easy to get caught off guard when working on a complicated recording, so checking for readability is a must.

Consistency: In addition to being readable, a transcription needs to be consistent, from the opening sentence to the conclusion. Consistency is of the essence when it comes to the practical uses of transcriptions. A client wouldn’t require a transcription if the information in the recording wasn’t important, so presenting it in a consistent fashion should always be kept in mind. From this point of view, it is recommended that transcriptions contain concise sentences. The longer they are, the less consistent they will be. Instead of using commas or semicolons to break down sentences, it is better to create a new sentence. No matter how short it may seem, it is a lot easier to comprehend in the end. This particular aspect should always receive attention as it’s very easy to get carried away with long sentences in speech.

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Required Skills and Qualities of the Transcription Team

Transcribing is a wonderful job for those who are passionate about linguistics. However, it is far more demanding than most would initially think. Not only do transcriptionists create written adaptations of recordings, but they also need to have polished grammar skills to ensure accuracy. There are numerous qualities that a transcriptionist or a transcription team should possess. We have highlighted the main ones below.

A transcriptionist should be:

Patient: Remember what we said before about meticulousness? Well, patience is one of the most relevant qualities for this position. Even if the recording is short, a transcriptionist still needs to be patient in order to deliver a quality product. We mentioned the average transcription time in the first half of our Steps of Transcription guide, but it can always take a lot more. Patience is also required when dealing with bad audio or video. In other words, the recording the transcriptionist has to work with might be almost inaudible or with a lot of background noise. This is yet another reason being part of a transcription team is not as easy as everybody would think at first.

Detail-oriented: The difference is definitely in the details when speaking about transcriptions. Finishing touches like proper punctuation, easy-to-read sentences, and the right choice of paragraphing can make the whole difference between a poor transcription and a successful one. If a professional goes through all the steps of transcription we have described in our guide, it automatically means that all details will be taken into consideration. In the final section of our guide, we will cover some of the most relevant details related to mistakes that any professional transcriptionist should watch out for.

Thorough: A reliable transcriptionist is not afraid to take some extra time to make sure that the final result is worthy of a customer’s investment. Being thorough is a prime quality for professionals in this field and will guarantee that a transcription is delivered according to plan. Practice makes perfect and, together with patience and thoroughness, a transcription can exceed industry standards and turn a first-time client into a returning one.

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Common Mistakes and Transcription Flaws to Watch Out For

As a final note, we want to cover the most frequent mistakes that occur in transcriptions. We have already explained how transcribing is meticulous work, so these errors should not appear anywhere in the final product. When going through the last stage of transcription, it is especially recommended that you keep an eye out for the following common mistakes.

Typos: Transcriptionists aren’t robots, so it’s natural for typos to slip here and there. This is one of the most common mistakes of all in this industry, as fast typing can easily lead to an extra letter being included in a word. To avoid any typos, a transcriptionist must re-read the whole text before sending it. Most of the typos will stand out immediately, but sometimes a second analysis from a team member can help prevent any mistakes like these. To avoid typos altogether, a transcriptionist should be careful to read as he or she types. This skill can be acquired in time and, at one point, a transcriptionist won’t even have to look at the keyboard when typing.

Homophones: It’s common for homophones to slide in transcriptions. Two words that sound the same but are spelled differently all depend on the audio context a transcriptionist has access to. They can also be avoided by paying attention while typing. If not that much time is available, they can all be edited in the final draft. However, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get the same amount of attention as typos. They are just as frequent as the aforementioned ones.

Transcription Errors or Transposition Errors: Last but not least, transcription and transposition errors are normal for drafts. A transcription error refers to misspellings, typos, or any other similar mistakes that can occur for various reasons. Transposition errors, on the other hand, take place when the transcriptionist accidently switches the order of characters. For instance, ‘2010’ might be written as ‘2001’ or ‘database’ might be typed as ‘databaes’. Most of these errors will be very visible in the final draft, which makes the post-processing even more significant.

To conclude, the steps of transcription aren’t impossible to carry out, but they do require attention, patience and an abundance of other skills and qualities. If all of these guidelines are taken into consideration, the final transcription will most likely turn out highly successful.

Best of luck!
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