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When & How To Transcribe Like

by Joanna Norman

If you’ve ever struggled with speakers who use the word “like” a lot, here are some tips for accurate and successful transcription.

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WHAT WAS SPOKEN

“She was like be sure that you meet with your advisor and get your evaluation notes and I was like should we use the format like last year. I was like disappointed because that format didn’t work for me. I would rather use something else like a spreadsheet.”

CORRECT TRANSCRIPTION

She was like, “Be sure that you meet with your advisor and get your evaluation notes.” And I was like, “Should we use the format like last year?” I was disappointed because that format didn’t work for me. I would rather use something else, like a spreadsheet.

WHY

Like can be used many different ways in spoken English. How it is used will determine what punctuation is required.

DETAILED EXPLANATION

When “was like” is used as synonym for the word “said,” use the same punctuation you would for writing dialogue. Use commas and quotation marks.

  • She was like, “Be sure that you meet with your advisor and get your evaluation notes.” And I was like, “Should we use the format like last year?”

When like is used to mean “similar to” or “as,” no special punctuation is required.

  • Should we use a format like last year?

When like is used to mean “for example,” a comma is used before the word like.

  • I would rather use something else, like a spreadsheet.

Sometimes when speaking, like is a filler word, and it is left out of standard transcription.

  • Standard transcription: I was disappointed because that format didn’t work for me.
  • Verbatim transcription: I was, like, disappointed because that format didn’t work for me.

RESOURCES

For more examples of how “like” is used and how to punctuate it correctly see:

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/like_1

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Joanna,
    I like your succinct and clear explanation. “Like” has become so ubiquitous in spoken English that many people, particularly young people, no longer understand how to punctuate and use it properly. It is becoming almost as meaningless through overuse as “nice” is. I really clamped down on my students when I was a teacher for using “nice” as an adjective.

    1. Your comment about “nice” made me chuckle because I raise Guide Dog Puppies and we use the word “nice” as a marker for correct behavior when we are training. As a result anytime I say “nice” in conversation, my dog looks at me waiting for a treat reward.

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