So all I’m doing is listening to an audio and typing it out? That’s it? Sounds simple right? Wrong. In as much as it sounds all easy as A, B, C it’s not that simple. It can be for some people but for some, well, it’s not. Many confuse it with typing. In as much as transcription requires you to have spot on typing skills the two are very different. Transcription is more of an art that follows a given set of rules. Here are a few things you should know before delving into matters regarding transcription.
- Takes Time.
It takes time to master the art of transcription. You have different clients with different rules. Even those whose rules you have mastered will at one time have special instructions for certain transcripts. Some of these special instructions will definitely be out of your routine not to mention comfort zone. Imagine time stamping at every change of speaker or every 15 seconds or every time they say a certain word. Putting certain words in Italics every time the speaker mentions it or having to work with very technical terms. It can be tedious but if you are doing transcription you had better be ready to take on the challenge.
- Grammar skills.
Your grammar skills have to be absolutely on point. Why you might ask? Here’s why.
You remember homophones? Those two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different meaning and/or spelling? Yes. You will get a lot of those in transcription. You might have probably thought that your English is spot on until you had to decide whether the speaker said there, they’re or their, this or these, healed or heeled and so on. The list is endless.
2. Contraction or possession.
These probably get the best of just about everyone the difference is a person whose grammar is good will probably catch the mistakes during the proofreading session. Did the mean its or it’s? Your or you’re.
Punctuation can completely change the meaning of a sentence. How about we use the most common example. A woman without her man is nothing. Now let’s punctuate that.
- A woman: without her, man is nothing.
- A woman, without her man, is nothing.
The punctuation made a great difference in the meaning of the sentence depending on how it was used. Another reason why your punctuation is important is the fact that some speakers do not have a lot of pauses in their speech. What happens then is that you end up having run-on sentences. The rule of thumb is, if a sentence is longer than three lines that is considered to be a run-on. If you are not careful you will end up with a paragraph that has two or three very long sentences.
Now, if your grammar is good you will be able to punctuate that long sentence and end up having shorter sentences without having changed the meaning of what was said. Place a comma here and a full stop there but again be careful not to have too many commas though. Yes it is possible to overuse and underuse punctuation marks. Mix it up a little, one long sentence here and a short one there.
The way MS Word’s spell checker is structured it can sometimes highlight grammatical errors that aren’t really grammatical error. If you do not know your English well you will correct the ‘mistake’ that really wasn’t a mistake in the first place. These can include anything from the spelling of names to the structure of a sentence. Also there will come a time where you will have to use your common sense when dealing with some grammatical rules. The best example is with how to shorten long sentences without changing the meaning. Where do you break off the sentence? Where do you put a comma, use a full stop or a colon?
Another place would be when you have to use the article ‘an’ which is normally used before a word that begins with a vowel. However there are those abbreviations like HR (for Human Resource) that when pronounced will sound like a vowel and thus require you to have the ‘an’ before the abbreviation HR. The MS Word program is not likely to catch this error but you should be in a position to.
- It is repetitive.
Transcription tends to be repetitive; you are seated for long periods of time doing the same thing over and over. Remember sitting in one position for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health. Also if your ergonomics are not right you might cause harm to your body maybe not now but later you will. So sit in the right position, use the right kind of desk and chair, take frequent breaks and stretch out. Check out a previous article titled work egronomics for more on.
- Quality of audio.
So you have only dealt with clear files so far and it’s been a smooth sail. Don’t be so quick to celebrate. Once in a while you will get one of those dreaded files. An interview that was recorded in a noisy restaurant, a recorded phone conversation with very poor reception or a Skype interview. Such audios take longer than usual to transcribe and it takes time to perfect the art of handling them.
There is also the matter of accents. You will definitely come across a number of accents ranging from the American accent to the British, Chinese, Canadian, Indian, Australian and Jamaican to mention but a few. For some like the American accent you will also find other accents such as the Texas accent, you might have to deal with slang mostly used by African-Americans and the likes. That being said you need to familiarize yourself with such. Watching a variety of movies to familiarize yourself with the different accents does a lot of good.
Be prepared for setbacks. These can manifest themselves in many ways, power outages, internet hang-ups, a client requesting you to finish the audio earlier than agreed, your computer crashing. There are a lot of things that might possibly go wrong, so just to be prepared factor them all in before committing to a deadline to avoid disappointing your client. Sometimes you won’t be so lucky.
- Keyboard skills.
Ensure that your keyboard skills are polished starting from your typing speed to your mastery of the keyboard shortcuts. This will enable you to do more work in less time seeing as transcription pays per audio minute with the exception of medical and legal transcription that pays per line and page respectively.
Beyond the aforementioned factors you need discipline. Discipline in terms of time management, consistent production of good quality transcripts and maintaining open lines of communication with clients. If you are not able to deliver on time, let your client know why and when you would be delivering. If you do not understand the instructions, ask and get clarity. Get these right from the start and you are on your way to mastering the art of transcription.