There’s more than one type of transcription service. So, when you have an audio or video file you want to transcribe, you’ll need to make a decision as to which is best for you. In this article, we’ll take a look at the main types of transcription services on the market and how you can start to figure that out. In almost all cases, the factor that you’ll want to base your decision on is the purpose for which you’re going to be using your transcribed content.

The three different types of transcription: verbatim, edited, intelligent

These are the three basic kinds of transcription. They’re broadly defined by how much detail (or otherwise) of the sounds which can be heard on your audio or video recording will appear in the text of your transcription. Sounds simple, right?

Let’s take a look at each of them in a little more detail:

What is verbatim transcription?

Also sometimes called word for word transcription, a verbatim transcription will actually include more than just the words which can be heard. Instead, a verbatim account seeks to accurately record all of the information conveyed by an audio file or a video.

This means it can include things like:

  • Stutters
  • False starts
  • Repetitions
  • Interjections
  • A description of background noises
  • A description of emotional states, such as “laughing”, “sobbing” or “speaking softly”
  • Sighs, coughs, sneezes and so on
  • Garbled sentences or unclear words

There are set transcription codes for how to record various expressions of this kind.

Why would you use verbatim transcription?

The great advantage of verbatim transcription is that it provides a clear context. While other types of transcription can be easier to understand when they’re on the page, you can’t beat verbatim for a completely accurate report of what has been said and the way it has been said.

This can make it easier to see if someone was being truthful, for example. It’s also perfect for any project where your main goal is to accurately convey the circumstances a person is speaking in.

This makes verbal transcription the ideal choice for:

  • Court proceedings and police investigations
  • Interviews for legal purposes and job applications
  • Market research and university research programs
  • Psychology
  • Some data analysis
  • Film and TV
  • Commercials

There are different types of verbatim transcription

It’s worth remembering that there are several different levels of verbatim, much like there are several different levels of transcription. These are, in ascending order of how much editing is applied during the transcription process:

  1. Full Verbatim – includes every single sound in the audio without any detail being edited out.
  2. True Verbatim – “true” verbatim cuts nothing from the transcript of the audio file save for stutters or pauses which only serve to make reading it more difficult and do not affect the context of what is being said.
  3. “Clean” or Intelligent Verbatim – still includes every sound, including words, background noise and non-verbal communication but elements like stuttering or repetition are removed.

What is edited transcription?

For all of its advantages, a verbatim record can be difficult to read. This is where edited transcription comes in.
In this kind of transcription, you’ll only see the relevant parts of the audio file – usually just the words – in the text. There won’t be any stuttering, interjection like “erm” or “um” or any of the other things which litter a verbatim transcript.

The transcriber’s skill here is required to correctly choose which bits of the audio are the most relevant. This means a deeper understanding of what is actually being said is usually called for. The transcriber needs to comprehend it well in order to know which bits of the video or audio can be left out without altering the meaning.

Why would you use edited transcription?
This kind of transcribed document is much cleaner to look at and easier to read than a verbatim version.
This makes edited transcription most suitable for things like:

  • Some interviews intended for publication
  • Speeches
  • Conferences
  • Seminars
  • Some business communications
  • Meeting minutes

What is intelligent transcription?

Intelligent transcription takes the editing of a transcript even further. In this version, any indications of stuttering, the thought process, pauses or emotion are usually completely excluded.

The transcriber will also be editing the text in an intelligent manner (hence the name) to convey the message even more clearly. This may involve some slight paraphrasing of what was actually said.

Much like edited transcription, a highly skilled and experienced transcriber will be required for this work. They’ll need to discern precisely what the message is and how to accurately convey it in a grammatically correct way.

Why would you use intelligent transcription?

An intelligent transcription will be as easy to read as it is possible to be. It will also be grammatically correct and written in full sentences.

This makes intelligent transcription often suitable for:

  • Some business communications
  • Fields such as medicine
  • Some interviews intended for publication

Which type of transcription is best for me?

The deciding factor when deciding on the best type of transcription for you will always be the purpose you have in mind for your transcribed copy.

Here are a few examples:

Example One: University or market research

The type of transcription you’d use in qualitative research will almost certainly be verbatim. Here, the exact manner in which a respondent answers the questions they are asked is vital to what the information you’ve gathered actually means. A lot of pauses or interjections might indicate many things about how a survey recipient is feeling.

You’ll only see these when an audio or video file is transcribed verbatim. Specifically, you might want true verbatim or even full.

Example Two: Business communication

Because you’ll not be wanting to beat about the bush in business communication, intelligent verbatim transcription or edited transcription will most likely be your best choices.

The former eliminates all of the “erms” and “uhms” which are a natural part of most peoples’ speech patterns but which clutter up a transcribed document which is intended for business purposes.

The latter goes even further to make sure that what is being said is as clear as it possibly can be.

Example Three: Publication

When you want your text to be suitable for publication, you’ll want it to be more formal in nature. This makes edited transcription a good choice in most cases as it will iron out the broken sentences and grammar problems created by the way in which most people speak.

If you’re intending the text for publication in academic circles, you might even consider intelligent transcription as a way of further formalising what has been said.

The challenges of foreign language transcription

The pauses between what people say can be almost as important as the words themselves. Researchers are often very interested in these gaps as they can indicate a great many things, not least whether a person is telling the truth or not. The interjections and filler words someone uses can be equally revealing about things like their truthfulness or emotional state.

When it comes to foreign language transcription, this means there is a large additional challenge involved in the process. That’s because languages all over the world, from Spanish, French, Czech and Serbian to Arabic, Mandarin, Urdu and Punjabi use different interjections to the “erm”, “ah” or tutting which people might use in English. These all need to be accurately localised to their equivalents in the target language.

This means that you’ll need a professional with deep knowledge of both source and target languages – preferably a native speaker of the target language – in order to accurately localise what is being said.

The deciding factor

Whenever you’re trying to decide on which transcription type will be best for you, it’s always going to come down to the purpose for which you’re going to use the transcribed text.

If you’re ever in doubt, it’s worth asking your provider. After all, it’s in their best interests as well as yours to provide you with the most suitable transcription for your goals.

Do you need to know more about types of transcription? Do you need to decide which would be best for your project?

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