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What Is a Transcription?

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Transcription is a powerful tool, and one people often overlook. It enables speech and audio content to be more easily consumed, accessible, and search-engine friendly. What’s more, transcription is useful for translating journalism interviews, detailing business meetings, recording court hearings, documenting academic lectures, and more.

This article will take a closer look at transcription, how it’s used, and some of its benefits. But before we get carried away, let’s begin by answering the question: What is transcription? 

Ready? Let’s dive in!

What Is the Definition of Transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting speech or audio into a written format. The result is a transcript, a text document translation of the audio that can then be read and more closely examined. 

One of the most common transcriptions is the closed captions provided for television and movies. In this case, the movie’s audio is converted into written words that can then be read on the screen. Typically, CC services transcribe dialogue, but many also provide brief descriptions of sounds and music. 

The transcription process is an excellent way to make content accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing, but it’s far from the only benefit it has to offer. For example, it’s also commonly used to create written documents for: 

  • Court hearings
  • Business meetings
  • Academic lectures
  • Speeches
  • Seminars
  • Interviews
  • Medical notes

And the list goes on. In fact, we’re willing to bet that the more you think about it, the more examples you’ll discover. A transcription is a valuable tool and essential for a number of reasons. However, before the benefits sidetrack us, let’s examine the different types of transcription and formats.

Types of Transcripts

There are three main types of transcription: verbatim, intelligent verbatim, and edited. Each type has its uses and which one you need depends mostly on how you intend to use the transcript once completed.

Verbatim transcription is a direct recording of spoken language. It captures audio word-for-word, including pauses, laughter, and filler words like “ah” and “huh.” Verbatim transcription is best used in situations where reactions and behavior are just as important as the spoken words themselves. It’s commonly used for court cases, market research studies, and police investigations.

Intelligent verbatim transcription removes the filler words and lightly edits the document to make it easier to read. These edits include simple grammar corrections and the removal of irrelevant words. Intelligent verbatim transcripts also omit off-topic content, such as the speaker asking their audience to “hang on a minute” while looking over their notes.

Edited transcription takes some liberties with the audio by editing the content for clarity and readability. Often, a verbatim transcript is taken and edited to present a speech or lecture better. It can also be used for business communications or anything that you plan to publish formally. It’s also commonly done when a transcript in one language is converted into another, rewording sentences to deliver the content better.

Transcript File Formats

These days, most transcripts are presented in digital format. This format enables users to more easily publish the transcribed text onto a webpage and share it with others.

The most common file formats used for transcription are Word (.doc or .docx), text (.txt), PDF (.pdf), and HTML. Word documents are most useful when you need the flexibility to edit or add to the content, while text files provide a plain text version of the transcript without formatting of any kind.

On the other hand, PDF documents also offer plain text without formatting but prevent the end-user from editing the document. PDFs are useful when accuracy is crucial, and you need to ensure the document is secure. They’re also convenient to upload to the web. 

Lastly, HTML files provide a transcript that is formatted for online publication. This type of transcription can include simple code so that italicized words, bolded text, and paragraph breaks show up when the content is published online. HTML files can also be used with Screen Readers to convert digital text into synthesized speech. 

What Are the Benefits of Transcription?

There are a number of reasons why someone might need something transcribed. Here are the five significant benefits of transcription.

Accessibility 

First up is accessibility. The closed captioning example we used earlier is an example of how transcription makes content accessible to everyone. Transcripts may not provide the same viewing experience as someone who can hear the dialogue, but it helps better communicate a spoken language.

For people who are blind, transcripts can help to narrate visual aspects of media. In this way, transcripts and closed captions work with each other to improve accessibility services.

Accuracy

A transcript is an accurate record of what has been said. This is crucial in some fields, as most of us can’t remember exactly everything that was said. With a transcript, you have direct documentation that can be further analyzed.

Having an accurate transcript is vital for police work and can be used as evidence in court cases. It’s also valuable for business, medical, and academic purposes.

User Experience (UX)

Including transcripts with your video or audio content provides another way users can interact with it. So, if you’re looking for another way to boost engagement on your website, transcripts are an excellent way to add value.

Another trend to be aware of is the prominence of video and audio content in higher education. According to one study, 75% of students use transcripts to help them better learn and retain information. They also use them as a learning aid and study tool.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The thing about audio and video content is that search engine crawlers can’t examine it. That means that no matter how amazing your content, it’s going to be hard to rank in search results. For this reason, publishing a transcript with your video is a great way to make your content searchable and easier to find. This is especially true for your brand’s podcast episodes

What’s more, transcribing your content in this way helps to improve the ranking of your website overall by providing more diverse keywords. In this way, transcripts boost SEO.

How to Transcribe Video and Audio Content

The bottom line is that anyone can transcribe video and audio content. If you have the time and determination, you can have your content transcribed in-house. Or, of course, you can hire a professional service. 

Between the years 1970 and 2000, transcription was achieved either by painstakingly DIYing it or by hiring a transcription service. The process involved mailing a cassette tape, CD-R, or floppy disk to a transcription company and then waiting a few days for the transcription document to show up in the mail.

These days, with the advent of the internet, transcription is much easier than it used to be. An audio file is now easily stored in the cloud, where a transcriptionist can access it and return the transcript digitally, sometimes within a matter of hours.

Transcription In-House

To transcribe your content, it’s as simple as listening to the audio and typing up what you hear in a Word document or other text editor. Overall, it’s not a difficult task and is undoubtedly the least-expensive method you can use, but it is time-consuming.

That said, there are tools you can use to help with the transcription process. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software (like Camtasia or Dragon) will take audio and create a working transcript. However, the document will be riddled with errors you’ll still need to correct later. Nevertheless, this can be less labor-intensive than transcribing from scratch.

There are also applications like Express Scribe that are designed to create transcripts from audio. Again, software apps like these are certainly helpful, but not fool-proof, and will still require a human touch to perfect.

Hiring a Professional Transcription Service

While you can make your own transcript from an audio recording, it’s a time-consuming job. On top of that, unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s unlikely that you have the skills or software to transcribe an audio recording perfectly. 

If you don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself, it may be best to hire a professional transcription service. After all, it’s hard enough making the content itself without also having to transcribe it afterward.

A professional transcription service or a freelance transcriptionist can save you a lot of effort, time, and energy. While there is a cost for this service, it’s well worth it for those who prefer to focus their attention on their business and the creation of the content itself.

What to Look for In a Transcription Service

Regardless of how you intend to use transcription, the best transcribers are those who know how to work fast, produce an accurate document, and keep your content safe. With that in mind, here are a few things to look for in transcription services.

Turnaround Time

Regardless of your industry, it’s critical to find a transcription company or freelance transcriptionist that can meet deadlines. While you may be charged extra for rush services, the crucial thing is to know when you can expect to receive your transcript. In some cases, you can receive the finished transcription in a matter of hours.

It’s then a good idea to give yourself some extra time if the document needs editing. The bottom line is, always confirm that the transcriptionist you’re working with can and will deliver on time.

Confidentiality

There may be times when the content you’re having transcribed is sensitive data or information you don’t want to be released to the public until you’re ready. In cases such as these, it’s paramount that your transcriptionist understands the need for confidentiality.

A professional company should protect your data and adhere to a strict confidentiality policy. They should have also screened their employees carefully to protect your sensitive information. 

Clear Pricing and Guaranteed Quality

Whether you’re working with a transcription company or a freelancer, you should know exactly how much you’re going to pay before you sign off on the project. There would also be some sort of guarantee to ensure the quality of the finished product.

Most transcriptionists understand there is sometimes the need for revisions and corrections. If you’re unhappy with the quality of the work, your transcriptionist should take steps to correct any errors or misunderstandings. If they don’t, you should use a different service.

Accuracy

Every transcriptionist you work with should be able to produce a document with nothing less than 99% accuracy. That said, every company and freelancer will say they’re accurate, so it’s crucial to review your transcript once you receive it.

A reputable company should offer a return period for revisions. After receiving your document and scanning it carefully, don’t be afraid to send it back for corrections if you notice significant issues. Keep in mind that accuracy is one of the reasons you’ve chosen to hire a professional in the first place.

Excellent Service and a User-Friendly Platform

All in all, the transcription process is a simple one. As such, it should be easy to submit audio for transcription. If you’re having trouble figuring out a company’s complicated process, it may be worth looking elsewhere.

Similarly, customer service is essential. You should be able to reach out to someone with questions or concerns at every stage of the process and expect an understanding and helpful response.

A Final Note About Transcription Services

There are several reputable transcription companies and many freelance transcriptionists available if you need audio or video transcription. Remember to look for someone professional and accurate, who offers clear pricing, and who is happy to work with you through every step of the process. 

And if you’re looking for voice talent, don’t forget to check out the world’s largest voice over marketplace here at Voices.

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