Verbatim versus “Modified” Verbatim Transcription: Finding skilled transcriptionists!

modified verbatim style, verbal transcription, Verbatim Style Insurance Transcription, verbatim style transcripts, verbatim transcriptionVerbatim Style, how is it different?

So you’ve heard the term “verbatim style” transcription, but what does it mean and how is it different from what you might think of as “normal” or traditional transcription?  More importantly, what kind of transcription do you need for your purposes?  Is it important for every word and sound to be transcribed, do you need it to be grammatically correct with the right sentence structure and punctuation, or do you need a combination of the two?
To start, let’s define the three styles as the following:

Professional – Used for legal documents and letters and other forms of professional written communication.  In this style, the transcriptionist will edit and correct the final copy to create a professional sounding document.
Verbatim – Used when the transcript needs to read exactly the way the recording or audio sounds, including all the ums, ahs, stuttered sounds, and partial words.  Everything, including any false starts, repetitions, grammatical errors etc. are left unchanged.  This style is typically ideal for insurance recorded statements, depositions, research transcription, PhD interviews, market research interviews, movie scripts, B-roll transcription, and other projects where HOW something is said is equally as important as WHAT’s being said.

Modified Verbatim Style:

Typically preferred by authors, journalists, bloggers and others who need to know exactly what was said on a recording but don’t necessarily need the extreme detail of verbatim transcription.  This style involves transcription followed by light editing.  The transcriptionist still captures every word said on the recording, but edits out parts like filler words (ums, ahs, ers, etc.), ambient sounds and non-verbal communication as well as false starts (incomplete sentences), repetitions, and grammatical errors. Some minor paraphrasing may also be done without changing the meaning of what is being said; however, it does not ever mean to reword what was said! Transcription services need to be very careful to still type exactly what is said when doing modified verbatim and not to reword or rephrase any of the speech as they might for professional transcription.
Another issue to consider when choosing a style of transcription you need is the overall quality of the audio.

Verbatim Style and it’s connection to audio quality:

Several factors can add to the difficulty of transcribing an accurate verbatim transcript.  These include:

  • Audios with background noise or overall poor recording quality
  • Audios with three or more speakers
  • Audios where the speakers are difficult to hear or very loud
  • Recordings where the speakers have thick accents
  • Audios that require time-stamps at places where the speakers could not be understood
  • Audios that require the transcriptionist to look up or verify data such as medical terms, cities, streets, or names

So once you’ve determined what kind of transcription best serves your needs, the next step is finding a qualified transcriptionist and that’s where the real challenge comes in.  As you can see from the information above, Verbatim and Modified Verbatim transcription are the most challenging styles to transcribe and only transcriptionists specially trained in this style should be considered.  Here’s why:  We all have an “automatic editing ear” when we listen to human speech.  Our editing ear listens to a speaker and then edits out extraneous words and sounds and searches for the basic or true meaning in what the person is saying.  This might even include modifying words the speaker says to fit our own perspective and understanding.

The same thing happens for the transcriptionist, even an experienced one, unless they’ve been trained specifically to override the tendency to edit!  Verbatim style transcription is a skill that is learned and then needs to be practiced on a regular basis, otherwise the skill diminishes. Here’s an interesting fact: A skilled legal or medical transcriptionist might not make a good verbatim transcriptionist because the skill set is different.

At Transcription Express, we specialize in Verbatim and Modified Verbatim transcription.  To ensure our transcriptionists produce high quality documents, designed to our client’s unique verbatim style requirements, each transcriptionist who works with us spends a week with us in an “Art of Verbatim Style” training class conducted at our on-site training lab.  By doing this, we can ensure each transcriptionist has overcome the desire to edit what he or she hears and can produce an accurate Verbatim style document.  Taking it one step further, our goal is for all verbatim documents produced by our transcriptionists to be done exactly the same way using the same techniques.  In this way, we ensure our clients receive accurate documents, done to their specifications, no matter who may have transcribed it.  And we don’t stop there!  Transcripts submitted by each transcriptionist are regularly and routinely checked for adherence to our verbatim guidelines to ensure that their “editing ear” doesn’t start creeping back into their transcripts.

Dictation Tips and Techniques – How to dictate and record for quality & clarity.

dictation, dictation tips, dictation transcription, speech transcription, speech transcription services, verbal transcriptionDictation Tips, How Hard Can It Be?

How hard can it be to dictate?  You press the record button and speak, right?  How many times have you done just that only to find you had to dictate the same material again, and again, and again?  Just imagine you’ve completed your dictation and then you play back your recording and think, “Wow!  That is a great recording!”  What?  That hasn’t happened to you?  Who has spare time on their hands to dictate over and over again to get that great recorded quality?  Not me and I’m sure there aren’t many out there that do.  Let’s face it, we’re all busy and often put more on our plate than we have time for, so let’s get things on track (no pun intended!) and start using your time wisely.

There are many reasons that certain material may require the need for dictation.  Dictation can be anything from summary reports for a big case you’ve got coming up.  Perhaps you’re recording a telephone interview.  Wait a minute.  Did you say recording?  Yes, I did.  Dictation AND recording.  When you do one, you often do the other; they go hand in hand.  And now it’s time to learn some tried and true dictation tips and techniques to get you on track to perfect recordings, the first time, every time.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning.  It’s important to get to know your equipment, how it works and how to maintain it.  Ensure you are aware of where all the buttons are located.  If you are unsure, refer to your user manual.  Try to remember to have your dictation equipment serviced at least annually; this will ensure that your equipment stays in good condition and that the recording quality remains high.

Speaking of recording quality

That’s why you’re here, right?  Be sure to record your dictation using the highest recording quality level available on your recorder.  If you’re using a cordless device, be sure your battery is charged and/or you have extra batteries.  The last thing you want happening is the recorder to shut off in mid-dictation.

Be aware of your surroundings

Make sure you are in a quiet area so your dictation can be heard clearly by the typist.  Background noise is not only distracting, but it can also distort words when recording, increasing the risk of errors.  A quiet area will also help you maintain your concentration during dictation.  Noises that cause particular problems for the transcriptionist are shuffling papers, rattling of coffee cups, tapping on the table where the recorder is mounted, and eating or chewing while recording.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

Be prepared before the dictation/recording begins.  Have a general format that you will be following to allow for a smooth transition from question to question, statement to statement.  Compile a list of questions or statements beforehand and review them prior to the recording so that you’re at ease and comfortable before the recording begins.  This will help you avoid those awkward moments when you might trip over your words.

Identify yourself at the beginning of your recording:

Spell out the details of any pertinent information mentioned during your dictation, such as names, addresses, file numbers, etc.  Spelling any difficult and/or unusual words or names with various different spellings will help your transcriptionist provide you with an accurate transcript.

Speak clearly and at a steady pace:

Try to breathe between sentences; you may pride yourself on being able to fit 10 minutes of dictation into two minutes of tape, but this will take much longer to type and the potential error rate in your transcript is much higher.

Remember, the best dictation is with placing your mouth at the recommended distance from the microphone.

Each brand of recording equipment has recommended optimum recording distances.  (Refer to your user manual for guidelines.)  If you are too close, your dictation may seem muffled, and if you are too far, the dictation may be too quiet; even worse…if you vary between the two, this can be very uncomfortable for the typist as he or she tries to adjust between a too loud and a too soft recording.

If you need to find a file or a piece of information during your dictation, stop the dictation equipment.

Once you have started your recorder, pause for a moment before your dictation begins, and when you have finished speaking, allow the recording to continue for a second.  This will help ensure none of your dictation has been clipped off.

Are you interviewing someone?

It’s important to set some ground rules before you begin to record.  Advise the person you’re interviewing you will be recording the conversation.  Let them know it’s important to enunciate their words properly and speak at a normal pace.  Remind them verbal answers are important; the recorder can’t pick up nods or shakes of the head.  A “yes” or “no” answer is much easier to understand and transcribe than a um-hum or uh-huh.  Also, if there are multiple speakers, try to avoid speaking over one another by reminding everyone to speak one at a time.

What have you got to lose?  Give it a shot!  Do yourself the favor of following the above dictating tips and techniques and see how improved your dictation recordings will be! This not only benefits you, but it also benefits your transcriptionist as well.

Remember the old saying garbage in, garbage out — well, by following the above dictation recording tips and suggestions you will avoid that “garbage out” result.