If You Want to Improve and Polish Your Grammar for Transcription, Start Here.

For some, grammar comes easy, for others you have to work for it. Some grammar mistakes are so common that at times people often don’t notice that they made a mistake. This is because it has been repeated so many times that it’s almost become a norm, acceptable. Technology hasn’t made it any easier. The need to shorten your words so as to write more words in a given space and period of time, has had people coming up with the most ridiculous acronyms. The repeated use of such words has seen them embedded in our minds and at our fingertips. Transcription needs your grammar to be spot on and that being said clients expect transcribers never to compromise in quality no matter what. Below we are going to look at some of the most common mistakes that people make in grammar during transcription and how to correctly use them.

  1. Homophones

This is a group of words that cannot be exhausted in one sitting. We would need several articles just looking at these. However we are going to look at just a few to help us get the point. First a definition. Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced but have different meanings and/or spelling.

  • Their, they’re, there

Their: This refers to possession e.g. Their house was robbed last night. When you think of this word think ‘belong to.’

They’re: This is the contracted form of they are e.g. They’re early for the meeting. The apostrophe marks the eliminated letter ‘a’.

There: This refers to a place e.g. She is seated over there. It can also be used in the following context; There are many ways to get to town.

  • There’s, theirs.

There’s: This is the contracted form of there is e.g. There’s a bug on my bed.

Theirs: This refers to the third person plural possessive pronoun e.g. The books that were on the table were theirs.

  • This and these.

This: Is singular. This book is mine.

These: Plural. These books are mine.

  • Here and hear.

Here: This is an adverb referring to a place or position. e.g. I want you to sit here.

Hear: This is a verb referring to the act of perceiving a sound e.g. I hear my neighbors singing every morning.

  • Who’s, whose

Who’s: This is the contracted form of who is e.g. Who’s in the shower?

Whose: This refers to possession, e.g. Whose book is this?

  • To, too, two

To: This is a preposition e.g. I went to bed at 9.

Too: Refers to ‘also’ e.g. I too have such a bag.

Two: Refers to a sequence/number as in one, two

  • Weather, whether

Weather: This is a noun to climate. How is the weather today?

It can also be used as a verb to mean endurance e.g. He will weather the storm.

Whether: This a conjunction and a synonym of ‘if’. E.g. I’m not sure whether to attend the conference or not.

  • Lose and loose

Lose: In relation to suffering a loss, the past tense form of it.

E.g. I did lose my shoe in the riot.

Loose: This is the opposite of tight.

E.g. The knot is loose, it might not hold.

  1. Punctuation

Apostrophe: This can change the meaning of a word entirely when it is added or removed, for instance on the words ‘it’s’ and ‘its’. The first one is a contraction of the words it is and the latter refers to possession. E.g. It’s sad that the cat bit its own tail.

Comma: These can bring out a variety of meanings depending on how they are used. For instance let’s look at this same sentence punctuated differently.

Let’s eat, mother.

Let’s eat mother.

  1. Nouns

The rule of thumb dictates that one should capitalize the first letter of proper nouns, e.g. names of people, institutions and the likes. But for someone whose grammar is a bit off they might get some things mixed up.

For instance when talking about say a library or an airport, when the name of the library/airport is mentioned you capitalize the first letters but when it’s not, don’t. What do I mean? Let’s try out a few examples.

I passed by the library on my way home.

I’m on my way to the airport.

And now…

I passed by Margaret Thatcher Library on my way home.

I’m on my way to Heathrow Airport.

  1. Commonly Confused Words
  • A lot vs. a lot: A lot (two separate words) is the correct grammar. Avoid using alot.

E.g. A lot of students don’t like exams.

  • All together vs. altogether: All together means collectively while altogether means completely.

E.g.      Put the plates all together in the sink.

I’m altogether worn out.

  • All right vs. alright: All right means okay, safe, good etc while alright is the informal version of all right. Avoid using alright in your formal grammar.

E.g. His writing is all right.

  • I’m vs. am: I’m, which is the contracted version of ‘I am’, is the correct spelling.

E.g. I’m going to bed.

  • Ok vs. okay: Okay is the most preferred in formal editing works.

E.g. In regards to the meeting Wednesday would be okay for me.

  • Yeah vs. yah: Yeah is the accepted version.

E.g. Yeah, I saw him yesterday.

  • All over sudden: These are three different words not one.

E.g. All of a sudden the clouds turned dark.

  • Favor/favour, color/colour and neighbor/neighbour: The Difference is the additional ‘u’. The words without the ‘u’ are American spelling and the one with is British spelling.
  • Maybe, maybe: Maybe means perhaps, whereas when you think of may be think of ‘might be’.

E.g.      Maybe I should skip the party.

It may be that she fell sick that’s why she didn’t come.

  • Already, all ready: Already refers to time i.e. previously while all ready means being prepared.

E.g.      They already cleaned the house.

We are all ready to go now.

  • Everyone every one: Everyone refers to everybody every one on the other hand refers to each one in a group.

E.g.      Everyone must have breakfast.

The principle thanked every one of the parents who came to the general meeting.

These are just but a few, as mentioned before the list is endless and cannot be exhausted in one post but more post will follow up with more. Feel free to give your suggestion/comments below on the same.


7 Factors That Dictate the Pricing of Transcription Services

You might be asking yourself how transcription service providers determine the price rate for their transcription services. Well not all audios, clients’ needs and subsequent instructions are the same. This means that the work done on the transcripts will not be the same. There are  factors that determine how much a service provider will charge, below are the most common ones.

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  1. Turnaround time.

Most transcription companies offer a turnaround time (TAT) of between 24 hours to 5 business days. For longer projects it can be anywhere from two weeks to months. However there are times when a client might need their work to be rushed, I’m talking in a matter of hours. For such cases you will find that the service provider will tend to charge a little extra for such a special request. The reason is that this work will be prioritized over other clients’ work. It does not mean that the pricing will be ridiculously much higher than the standard fee but it definitely won’t be priced the same.

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  1. Quality of audio.

The quality of the audio can be determined in a number of ways.

  1. Background noise.

A clear audio is very easy to transcribe. You can hear what is being said clearly thereby reducing the chances of having inaudible parts in the transcript as well as the time taken to transcribe it. However audios that have background noise can be tricky to transcribe. This is because the background noise makes it difficult for the transcriptionist to hear what is being said. For example if you have two audios one recorded in a quiet room and another one recorded in a noisy restaurant, the first one will definitely be easy to work on as opposed to the latter. You have to try and hear what is being said amidst noises such as people talking and laughing, spoons hitting the plate, others clapping name it. Therefore you see more effort has to be put into this audio justifying the extra charge.

  1. Low volume.

Some audios may be clear but the volume of the speakers might be barely audible. Either the speaker was sitting too far from the recording device or they were simply speaking in a low tone. Take it from someone who has dealt with such audios in as much as the softwares for transcription, headphones and computers have options for increasing the sound some audios don’t get any better. The transcriptionists therefore have to use their hearing skills in order to work on the audio.

  1. Poor recording quality.

Some audios do not have background noise and neither are they low but they might have been poorly recorded making it hard for one to hear the speakers. This might result from using poor quality recording devices, not knowing how to operate the recording device or failure of the recording device to work properly. Other times the recorder was working just fine but maybe the speaker was not stationary. So if a speaker keeps moving around the sound being picked by the device will vary depending on whether they are close to it or not. The recorder might also be picking up on other sounds. For example the mic might be rubbing on other things while the speaker is in motion like jewelry or clothing. In other instances a recording might be done over the phone or on Skype and sometimes the connection is bad that you end up having static. Speakers get cut off or you have these buzzing noises drowning the speakers.

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  1. Heavy technical terms.

Some topics around certain areas frequently have heavy terms that need researching. Some transcriptionists do specialize in certain fields like medical and legal fields so for them, chances are they are familiar with most of the terms in their field. For some however it means a lot of research. So be it scientific terms or legal terms this means extra work for the transcriptionist due to fact that they have to research the terms.

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  1. Heavy accents.

Some speakers have really thick accents that are very pronounced in their speech. If you are not familiar with the accents sometimes you might even doubt that they are speaking English. Accents can range from American to British, Irish, Chinese, Indian, Canadian the list is endless. Some transcriptionists choose to stick to their lane and only work with accents they are good with.

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  1. Time stamping.

Clients might require you to timestamp their transcripts. Time stamping frequency differs from client to client depending on the intended use. It can range from putting a time stamp every 30 minutes to putting a timestamp every 15 seconds. The point is the higher the frequency the higher the pay.

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  1. Number of speakers.

An audio with one speaker is a slice of heaven for transcriptionists; an example is a doctor’s dictation. The more the number of speakers the higher you will pay for the services. The reason for this is that the more speakers there are the more likely you will have interruptions and talkovers making it harder for you to identify who spoke and what they said. Examples of audios with multiple speakers include focus groups, seminars, conferences et cetera.

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  1. Verbatim versus clean transcripts.

A verbatim transcript is one where you are required to transcribe everything. By everything I mean everything, the stutters, false starts, uh-hums, ah-ahs, grunts, chuckles, repetitions, filler words and the likes. At times you are even required to mark the silence and other noises outside of the conversation, things falling, chair movements, car honking outside. This is just about the most complex transcribing can get. You cannot afford to miss a thing. Verbatim transcripts are typically required for deep qualitative analysis such as those done by speech disorder specialists.

A clean transcript on the other one means you only transcribe the important details. Ignore the outside sounds, false starts, stutters, filler words. Below are two examples of a clean and a verbatim transcript of the same audio.


John Smith: I, I, I went to the mall to uh [car honking] do some shopping. I got like…I got a lot of stuff you know for my kids to play with.


John Smith: I went to the mall to do some shopping. I got a lot of stuff for my kids to play with.

For clean transcripts some clients might require you to also correct the grammar. Say the speaker was not a native English speaker and said things like, “Last night I wake up in the middle of night and I feel hungry.” To, “Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and I was feeling hungry.” However such work calls for people with spot on knowledge of the English language. This is because in an attempt to correct the grammar you might end up changing the meaning of what was said. Remember the client wants you to correct the grammar but maintain the meaning.

As you can tell from the above the more the work put into the transcript the higher the charges. So depending on your needs you are able to decide how much work goes into the transcript consequently determining how much you’ll be charged.

What they didn’t tell you about transcription.

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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.

  1. 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.

  1. Grammar skills.

Your grammar skills have to be absolutely on point. Why you might ask? Here’s why.

1. Homophones

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.

3. Punctuation

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.

  1. A woman: without her, man is nothing.
  2. 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.

4. Autocorrect

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Setbacks

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.

  1. 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.

5 tips to help you handle difficult transcription audios.

Just about every transcriber I know has encountered one of these audios. They drive you crazy and take longer than usual to finish. An unclear audio could be as a result of many factors. There might have been a lot of background noise, there is some interference with the recording material e.g. static, the connection was bad (the likes of phone and Skype interviews), audios with heavy industry-specific terminology, the speakers have heavy accents or the speakers were not loud enough etc. These can be really tricky to transcribe. For the experienced transcribers you may have realized that these ‘bad’ audios seem to pay a lot (it’s because they know how tough it will be for you to get these transcripts right thus the incentive). Good news is there are a few things you can do to handle such audios.

  1. Clear up the background noise. Some transcription softwares such as Express Scribe have the option of clearing out background noise. Go to the Express tool bar, click file go to special audio processes and click on background noise reduction. For some files you will have to do this more than once to clear it up (not that it will be super clear now) but it helps.
  1. Boost the volume. If the volume is too low and increasing the volume to max on the Express software does not help follow the same process as above but now click on the second option that reads extra volume boost, right below background noise reduction. You can repeat this as many times as you would like to get the desired volume.
  1. Speed up the audio. Sometimes the speaker is inaudible but if you speed up the audio you might actually get to hear what they are saying. Do this after you are done typing out the audio and you are doing a once over. You might actually get to hear some of the words you missed before.
  1. DO NOT slow down the audio. As crazy as this might seem slowing down the audio might actually make it harder for you to hear the speaker. Imagine this, the speaker was talking at normal speed (normal is not so normal to everyone some actually sound like they are rapping) so when you slow down the audio it might sound like they are slurring. Keep it at 100 or speed it up.
  1. Pay attention to what they are saying. If you are actually following the conversation in the audio you are more likely to get it right. This is because when you are paying attention there are those words or phrases that you might have misheard but since you know the topic of discussion you have a clue as to what might have been said. Now don’t get me wrong that does not mean that you type out what you think you heard but paying attention to a conversation helps you know where the conversation is going.

All in all if you are not able to handle such audios I would advise against doing them just because they pay a lot. You would rather reject such than take them up do shoddy work and end up with bad reviews/reputations. Reputation is of utmost importance in this field and nothing speaks more to it than your previous work.

Being Kenyan; Trying to earn that extra cash.


Now if you ask most people in Kenya what transcription is the answer would be, “I don’t know.” This is because transcription is not very popular in Kenya although in the recent years, say the last three to five years, its popularity has slightly increased. The spark in interest has emerged from the fact that quite a number of Kenyans have turned to working online given the busy schedules and of course the need to make that extra cash (9 to 5 jobs alone don’t cut it anymore with this economy).  As companies are realizing the benefits of outsourcing transcription services many Kenyans have taken that opportunity to make some cash. Some do it as a full-time job but many are still going about it as a part-time job. Reason? Transcription is not as easy as one would think. Listening to an audio while typing it out is not an easy task more so when faced with audios with a lot of background noise or speakers with heavy accents.

Another factor that has contributed to many Kenyans taking transcription jobs as a part-time job is because there are high and low seasons. Transcription jobs are not always available throughout the year. There comes a point when the demand goes down thus the need to have a back-up plan (read 9 to 5 job). Some have perfected the art of transcription; they are fast and good with just about any accent. We will call them transcription gurus. Of these some are kind enough to offer training services to newbies free of charge, while others do it at a fee (again, that extra cash does come in handy). Not many landlords would accept your kind gestures in lieu of the rent or are there any who would? No? Didn’t think so.

For those who are not lucky enough to be taken under the wings of the gurus fret not. This is the era of the internet. What is that popular motto doing rounds in campus again? What Google has I have. There are uncounted number of free eBooks and guides on how to go about perfecting the art of transcription online. All you have to do is have internet access, a computer, headphones and transcription software you are good to go. Then you can proceed to pray to God that you don’t experience a power blackout in the middle of your transcription.

If you  put in time and efforts it does not take long to master the art of transcription. The key is to have good grammar skills and get into the audio, really get into it. Follow what is being said, don’t just type passively. You are more likely to make mistakes this way.

Several pages have been formed on Facebook  bringing Kenyan transcribers together to form somewhat a community to offer support and advice to fellow transcribers. Such pages include Awesome Transcribers in Kenya a closed group with 11,725 members and counting, Transcribers Kenya: Working Online from Home and Creating Wealth another closed group with 2, 743, Reach Transcribers in Kenya also a closed group with 1313 members to mention but a few.

In as much as these groups are set up to provide support not all the members in these groups are here for genuine reasons. Some are out to make money by conning others. The admins of the group might try as much as possible to weed out such members but trust me there are always more of them lurking somewhere waiting for an opportunity. It could be through offering non-existent training services or bogus study materials at a fee or selling ‘imaginary’ data bundles or modems at dirt cheap prices. Always be weary.

For those not brave enough to go the DIY way there are well-established and reputable companies like Adept Technologies Ltd who are willing to hire inexperienced transcribers and even offer free training. Many have chosen to go the company way as it is ‘less risky’. They provide you not only with the training but also the computer, headphones and did I mention the internet. No spending money on data, just make sure you show up and be ready to learn. Yeah, nothing comes for free you have to put in the effort to learn and actually learn.