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.

Seven Secrets to getting what you pay for when purchasing transcription services!

data security, recorded statements, transcription services, transcription services company, verbatim transcription, work turnaroundsPurchasing Transcription Services:

When purchasing transcription services, do you ever wonder if you got what you really agreed upon?  It’s costly to go visit them at their place of business, although that is one of the very best ways to really get to know a vendor.  Better yet, a short notice visit really does the trick.

The question comes down to this: Is the reality you thought you were buying during the sales process the same “reality” you are living with day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year?  For example, does your transcription services company really do the following things they discussed during the selling process?  If they aren’t, here are a few secrets I’ve come to know and follow and even suggest to my own customers to follow.

  • Do they really have a quality assurance staff overseeing, grading, and tracking the quality of work the transcriptionists produce?  Or is the quality assurance “staff” the same person who sold you the account and in some cases answering the phone?  Secret #1 is asking for up-to-date reports of all their graded scores.  You should be able to see the scores being given by the 100% Review Team.  They may need to give you the report for the previous two weeks or even last month.  The key is seeing the report.
  • Secret #2 is CRITICAL!  If it takes longer than 15 minutes for the 100% Review Team reports to be made available to you, BEWARE! Don’t let them say they will have it to you tomorrow.  The Bible tells us the world was built in six days, don’t you think a report could be created in an hour (after their important “meeting”) or even overnight?  15 minutes, that’s it!  Make the request early in the day and possibly find out what their schedule is before asking so as to make sure they have the time to deliver it in the 15 minutes. Guess what, many of your vendors can’t produce reporting because they don’t live up to what they are selling!
  • If it’s verbatim transcription of recorded statements that you need, do they really know how to transcribe the recorded statements using verbatim style transcription?  Where did they learn it, and how uniform is their work?  Secret #3 is simply asking them what the number one challenge they face is when doing verbatim transcription.  They should have an answer that pops out of their mouth immediately.
  • Is the work turnaround time being fulfilled as promised?  Secret #4 is determining whether they are fulfilling their agreement and adding a Service Level Agreement surrounding work turnaround with financial penalties if they are meeting their obligations.
  • Secret #5 is pushing the tracking and reporting to the transcription services company.  When they send their invoice, they need to send their reports!  You can periodically check their reports so you don’t do all the heavy lifting.
  • When your transcription services company spoke to you about data security initially, did you feel alright?  Secret #6 is don’t rely on feelings!  This is a job for your IT/Security team to be involved in. Cover yourself so you know exactly what you have.  There are vendors working out of their houses, where even if digital transport security is fine, you don’t even know their physical security risk.  Be sure you are not going to end up on 20/20 with compromised data resulting in career suicide.
  • I’ve seen the procurement of transcription services decisions go from actual users involved with the services to procurement departments making the decisions.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods.  Regardless of which model you follow, Secret #7 is in the area of relationship-building.  Build relationships when possible and do not become connected to just one person in the transcription services company!  Visit your vendor when possible.  At the very least, speak to not only your customer services representative but also possibly the president or quality assurance personnel.  Know that without various people to fill the roles, and therefore the promises, they are probably not happening.

I would also add to all of the above that connecting personally with different parts of the transcription services vendor might generate additional ways to lower your costs or add value to your operation.  They may have ideas from other work they’ve done that you’ve not ever thought of in your company.