Verbatim Or Non-Verbatim Transcription? Which One Should You Choose?

verbatim and non-verbatim transcriptionIf you work from home as a professional transcriptionist, you know by now that we have two main types of transcription projects. We have verbatim and non-verbatim transcription.

Verbatim is where you type everything you hear (every word, every sound and every tone). Non-verbatim, on the other hand, you clean up the transcript. You remove false starts, stutters, repeated words etc.

Projects associated with verbatim are market research projects, documentaries and court proceedings. With non-verbatim we have lectures, seminars, one on one interviews etc.

So, which one should you choose?

If you are new in the transcription industry, I would advise you to go with non-verbatim transcription. It is easier to do and less time-consuming unlike verbatim where a lot of time and attention is required.

On the other hand, those with experience can handle all types of projects including verbatim. They are fast, have good attention to detail and a keen ear to hear every word or sound made. Furthermore, these types of projects pay more compared to non-verbatim.

Verbatim Transcription Rules That Every Transcriber Must Know

  1. Type everything you hear.
  • Do not paraphrase words or sentences. The meaning might be the same but you might miss out on the sounds if you do this.

For example – Ryan is a wonderful boy. Um, he is obedient, uh, hardworking and respects his seniors. Do not say:  Ryan is a wonderful boy who is obedient, hardworking and respects his seniors.

    2. Include Non-verbal Sounds

  • Non-verbal sounds like [laughing, crying, sighing, phone ringing, door opening] should all be included

  For Example

Jane:   Hello John.

John:   Hi Jane. Uh, how are you doing?

Jane:    Um, I’m doing well. How is everybody at home?

John:   They are all doing well except for [sighs], uh, my grandmother who is ill.

Jane:   [Sighs] I’m really sorry to hear that. Uh, I wish her a quick recovery.

Note: If it’s one person you use something like [laughs, sings, or cries]. If it’s many people you use [laughing, singing, crying]

3. Filler words, false starts, stutters and all repeated words should be typed

  1. a) Filler words – words like ‘you know, uh, um, so, like. Speakers mostly use these words when they are formulating what they want to say next or they’re searching for better words to use. For example – When I was a young boy, uh, back in the day, um, we used to have, you know, black and white TV’s, um, and they were so small.
  2. b) False start – when a speaker says something then stops mid-sentence to rearrange and restart a new idea. For example – I can’t believe she … I cannot believe just how arrogant that saleslady was.
  3. c) Stutters – this is when words are repeated several times by the speaker. For readability purposes, make sure the words are repeated three times maximum. For example  – I-I-I like watching football on-on-on the weekends.

4. Use commas before and after filler words.

For example – We love the way the new boss is organized but, you know, he is too petty sometimes.

5. Do not correct grammar of the transcript.

Type it as it is said. Mostly this happens when the speaker is a not a Native English speaker.

For example – These houses was build by the Arabs.

6. Slangs

Slangs like gonna, wanna, coz, y’all should be written as they are spoken. Do not change gonna to going to, or coz to because.

For example – We gonna party till 6 in the morning coz we wanna feel good.

7. Pauses

If there is a pause in a recording that is longer than 10 seconds type [pause] or [silence] then proceed. You can also include an ellipses.

For example – We went to the zoo the other day and [silence] we didn’t see the lion

Certain sounds can be used to represent positive or negative responses. For positive responses we type mm-hmm or uh-huh to mean (affirmative).

Example of Verbatim Transcription

Speaker 1:      [Sighs] I’ll find it and send it to you.

Speaker 2:      Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Speaker 1:      I’ve got a tumor. Uh, but it looks very similar to this. Um, so, it’s, it’s every week we’ve got a task.

Speaker 2:      Mmhmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1:      … that they are responsible to learn. So, they, uh, they spend three days with Jesse. They spend time with Curtis. They spend time with Cerise, Darla, the expediters. Uh, there’s time with each OPS member. Um, and then they start going into the very … all these classes that are online.

Example of Von-verbatim Transcription

Speaker 1:      I’ll find it and send it to you.

Speaker 2:      Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Speaker 1:      I’ve got a tumor but it looks very similar to this. It’s every week we’ve got a task … that they are responsible to learn. They spend three days with Jesse. They spend time with Curtis. They spend time with Cerise, Darla, the expediters. There’s time with each OPS member and then they start going into the very … all these classes that are online.


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