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.

Do you feel that audio transcription is a viable service?

Audio Transcription and Its Importance

audio transcription, business transcription, insurance transcription, transcription service, verbatim style transcription, verbatim style transcripts, voice transcription, witness interviewsSeventeen years ago, I wondered if technology would eliminate the need for audio transcription within five years in terms of verbatim style recorded statements.  Although we are working heavily in the area of speech recognition for some of our clients, it will not have an affect on recorded statements to any great degree at all.  The reason for this view is because of two shortcomings of technology and the one major issue of the desire to win:

  1. With insurance transcription, technology will not get in the way of recorded statements because of the unique person being interviewed every single time.  Although speech recognition can be trained by the everyday individual user (although I can’t seem to make it work quite the way I want it), it has no effective way to handle a unique person being interviewed each and every time.
  2. The other problem with speech recognition technology in terms of replacing human transcription is that it has no way of doing verbatim style transcription.  Verbatim style transcription is an art, and live transcriptionists are taught to remove their natural inclination to auto-edit when they type.  This is why audio transcription training needs to be so extensive and consistent grading and tracking must be done to avoid the transcriptionist from slipping back into their auto-editing, everyday world.  In fact, when I’ve seen trained transcriptionists from other countries that know English very well try to do verbatim style transcription for a U.S. company, it’s surprising because they do not truly know the nuances of our North American brand of English.  I talked to one high-level manager about their effort to take the recorded interviews overseas and it was a disaster.  They brought the work back very quickly as a severely failed experiment.
  3. Last but not least is in the area of preparedness and/or winning.  From what has been shared with me, a verbatim style transcript is not going away because it has nuances that can be used in the preparation of a claim and determining whether to spend valuable resources on the claim.  She said that at the moment when recorded interviews are taken is when the value of the information can be exceptionally high.  Quality verbatim style transcripts can be the key to their preparation, controlling costs and winning.  She viewed the recorded statements and verbatim style transcription as the key to saving money rather than just another expense category!

Other feedback regarding audio transcription would be very interesting! This area has become one of my favorites to visit about so feel free to add your feedback or touch base with me at 1-800-371-4315 or