How to Help Your Transcriptionist

A transcriptionist’s job is not as easy as it may seem. To begin with, everyone has a different way of speaking – slow, fast and varying accents. Thus, your transcriptionist may need a small amount of time to adapt to new speakers. She also needs to check her transcribed work for errors before submitting it, which usually requires listening to the audio or video a second time.

Successful transcriptionists are careful listeners and proofreaders. However, complete success doesn’t lie solely with the transcriptionist. As a transcriptionist myself, I find that when the client provides as many of the aids listed below, I am able to determine in a short amount of time whether or not I can do the job and how much time I will need to complete it. This not only provides a smooth conversion under good circumstances but also allows my clients to find another transcriptionist if my estimated turn-around time is longer than they expected or if I determine I won’t be able to transcribe the material after listening to it.


Having a clear audio file that was produced in a studio with only one speaker is heavenly to any transcriptionist. But we realize that can’t always be the case. So, here are some helpful tips if you’re submitting an audio with multiple speakers or any number of speakers that aren’t recorded inside a studio.

  • Tell your transcriptionist how many speakers she will hear talking in the audio.
  • Provide the names of the speakers if possible.
  • If names can’t be provided, tell your transcriptionist how you wish for them to be listed (host, speaker 1, panelist 1, etc.).
  • Record the audio in as quiet a location as possible.
  • Ask speakers to avoid as much overlapping speech as possible.
  • If you’re recording a telephone conversation, use high-quality equipment as many telephone recording devices pick up static or muffle the voices on the other end. Telephone conversations are often difficult to transcribe if low-quality recording devices have been used.
  • Make your transcriptionist aware of discernable accents or speech impediments any of the speakers may have.
  • Speakers frequently say, “umm”, “er”, “you know” and other such words as they’re thinking. They may also incorporate unnecessary words such as “and”, “but” or “so” as well as false starts at the beginning of several sentences. A transcriptionist will eliminate any of this pointless dialogue from the transcribed material unless directed to do otherwise.

Subject Material

  • Does your material contain profane language, offensive scenes, etc.? If so, let your transcriptionist know. She may not be comfortable transcribing such material.
  • If your material includes technical terms or business jargon your transcriptionist may not be familiar with, provide a word list of those for her. That will reduce the amount of time she will have to spend researching or contacting you for that information.
  • Provide the recording to her when inquiring about the job so she can assure the quality of the material with her transcribing software. Since she is checking for quality, she won’t listen to the entire recording but will skip through to be sure several locations are audible. Providing the recording doesn’t eliminate the need for the other aids that are listed.

Estimated Time to Complete the Project

  • Provide your transcriptionist with the length of the audio or video.
  • Allow more time for more speakers.
  • Allow more time if you require your transcriptionist to add time stamps.
  • Allow more time for research if you weren’t able to supply a word list for unknown terminology.

By providing as much of this information as possible, your transcriptionist will be able to work better and can better estimate the time she will need to complete the job for you. The rule of thumb is to allow about an hour to transcribe and proofread for every 10 or 15 minutes of audio. However, audible issues that arise, multiple speakers, additional research and adding time stamps may hinder the progress to a degree.

Frequent breaks between one-hour transcribing sessions will give her fingers, eyes and ears a much needed rest. She may also have other jobs in queue. So by keeping all of this in mind, you can be confident that she will provide a quality transcript in the time she has promised to return the work to you.

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