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Six Questions To Ask To Get The Transcript You Want

by Joanna Norman

A professional transcriptionist will want to work with you to make sure you get the transcript you need and want. Here are six questions you should ask a transcriptionist before you contract with him/her to transcribe your audio or video recording:

  1. What format will the transcript be in?
    Find out if your transcriptionist has a standard format they use and ask to see it. Ask if you can request a different format. Do you want headers and page numbers? Double-spaced or single-spaced? Right-justified or not? Most transcriptionists can offer a standard template if you don’t have any preferences and then you don’t have to decide about all those details.

  2. How do you identify speakers?
    The transcriptionist will need to know how you want her to identify the speakers in the document.

    For example:
    Q: What influenced your decision the most?
    A: It was my family’s input that helped me to decide to move ahead with the testing.

    Some common options are Q and A, Interviewer/Interviewee, Male/Female. If you want your transcriptionist to use names, provide the correctly spelled names to the transcriptionist if you can.

  3. How do you handle false starts and filler words?
    This is really about if you want strict verbatim or standard transcription. For most general transcription, standard verbatim is appropriate and allows the transcriber to leave out filler words such as like, you know, um, and omit short false starts. It makes the transcript much easier to read without losing the meaning. If you want the transcript to include every word and sound spoken (strict verbatim transcription), transcribers change more for this service because it is more difficult to do. Strict verbatim is often used in legal transcription work.

    For example a strict verbatim transcription would read like this:
    My friend told — both of my friends thought that, um, I should probably wait at least, well, three or maybe like four days before, um, um, before I called — sorry — before I returned the call.

    Here is the same transcription using standard transcription:
    Both of my friends thought that I should probably wait at least three or maybe four days before I returned the call.

  4. Do you want timestamps?
    Transcriptionists charge more for transcripts with time stamps because it is quite a bit more work. A transcript with timestamps has the running time of the audio or video recording inserted in the written transcript at specific time intervals (every 30 seconds or every 2 minutes, etc.). Most general transcriptions don’t need time stamps, but I would recommend that you ask for time stamps in some situations. For example, if you are having video interviews transcribed that will be edited into a documentary, time stamps will allow you to quickly locate segments that you want to use in the final product.

  5. In what file format will the final transcript be delivered?
    Many general transcriptionists use MS Word for transcript files. If you want your transcript document in a different format (.txt, .rtf, etc.), you’ll want to make sure your transcriptionist can provide it in the format you need.

  6. What audio/video file formats do you accept?
    It is a good idea to know ahead of time that your transcriptionist will be able to open and use the files you send him/her.

I hope this helps you to know what questions to ask your transcriptionist so that your transcript is just what you want and need.

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