Transcription: The Great Unsung Hero Of The Business World

Speaking is (generally) a far more natural and less time consuming process than typing. This is an undeniable fact and as such, ‘typing up’ audio reports can be one of the most frustrating and tedious tasks that befall most of us in the business sector on a daily basis. There is however a select group of flash fingered wizards who can make their brains and their fingers work in tandem to the extent that the spoken word and the written word become almost seamless in their delivery; to them this work is as natural as breathing. These prodigiously talented individuals are known as ‘transcribers’ and they offer a service that has proven invaluable for millions of people in a variety of professions, all over the world.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

The History of Transcription

Transcription has been used in various capacities since the early 1900’s, where medical stenographers were hired to document doctor’s work in text. Eventually (with the invention of cassette recorders and later computers) such documents were stored as audio records dictated by the doctors themselves but medical transcriptions are still commonplace. The actual act of transcription itself has over time, bled into many other sectors, primarily the journalism and business sectors where interviews or meetings are often transcribed in full. Before the invention of audio recording devices, transcription was an incredibly difficult process that required transcribers to use shorthand to write down speech as it was being spoken. The introduction of handheld Dictaphones in the 90’s made the job of transcribers immeasurably easier and now that most Dictaphones use mp3 technology, the audio data can quite easily be recorded and then emailed to a third party transcription service. Various ‘auto transcription’ software packages have recently started to reveal themselves online but they are largely unreliable (the intricacies of human speech are still beyond even the most powerful computers) and require absolutely crystal clear, perfectly pronounced speech to operate properly, which is very rare in most professional circumstances.

What is Transcription?

The job of transcribers is (literally) to transcribe. One of the most common forms of transcription is when transcribers are hired to take either an audio recording or live dictation and then transcribe the contents into text. Examples of where this sort of transcription might be used in the workplace include court hearings (court reporters are essentially transcribers in all but title), seminars and speeches, all of which can be converted from spoken content into text. Perhaps the most obvious use of a transcription service would be in television where transcription is required to produce subtitles. Transcription has only recently become a mainstream career option thanks to the advent of high-speed internet and the almost ubiquitous availability of personal computers. It is a job that is free of the restraints of traditional 9-5 office work and as such, most transcribers will either work freelance or will work for transcription companies but will do so from the comfort of their own homes. Transcribers will charge their clients either by time spent or work done so it will either be on a ‘per word’ or ‘per minute’ basis. Larger transcription firms will deal exclusively with private law firms, TV studios or government agencies but there are firms who will offer their services to anyone for a price.

What Goes into a Transcript?

The industry standard time for producing a transcript from a piece of audio is approximately one hour for each 15 minute chunk of audio. This means that live transcription is rare. In the few cases where it is used, translations tend to be unreliable at best as there is no time for transcribers to go back and check for errors or refine their text. In many situations however (such as live television) a broadcast might be delayed ever so slightly, to give the transcribers time to refine and correct their words before they are broadcast.

What else can a Transcription Company offer?

Besides straight English audio to English text, many transcription companies will employ staff members versed in a variety of languages so translation is usually an (incredibly useful) option. Post production work might also be offered, which is especially import for television work where specific time-codes, logs, musical cues and shot descriptions are generally necessary.

If you’re serious about your work then hiring professional transcribers might be the best decision you ever make. These workers have a number of valuable skills and their fingers can work as fast as their mouths (if not faster). What’s more, their lightning quick work (many companies offer 24 hour turnarounds) will save you countless hours as time is arguably the most important commodity in any business.

About the Author: Pipa Rose is a writer who understands that transcription has now become an essential part of industries such as television production. Television companies use from take 1, transcription services to help them produce professional and informative shows.

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