How Do You Tell if You Are a Good Transcriber?

Good transcriber

Wannabe doctors go to medical school, wannabe lawyers go to law school, and wannabe Spice Girls go zig-a-zig-ah, but what about transcribers?

At Take Note, our transcription team is made up of people from an array of diverse backgrounds, all with different stories about how they found their way here, and every one of them at some point or other had to determine whether this road was the right one for them.  So, how did they do that? There’s no Oxford, Harvard, or Hogwarts where transcribers can hone their craft, no exams you can take or textbooks you can study, so how exactly can you tell if you’re a good transcriber?

Do you feel the need, the need for speed?

The average human can type at speeds of about 40 words per minute, which is alright if you’ve got days, weeks or months to write up a report, but transcribers often have files that need to be written up in a matter of hours, or even minutes.  At Take Note, we look for newbie transcribers with a typing speed of about 65wpm, but our experienced transcribers can type at speeds over 100wpm, and our live notetakers tap away at their keyboards at a whopping 150wpm, allowing them to keep up with everything as they go along.

To err is human.  To not err is to be a transcriber.

For some of us, it’s a long time since our school days spent learning about apostrophes, semicolons, or ‘I before E except after C’ (which is wrong 75% of the time anyway!), and so spelling and grammar mistakes can be the downfall for a lot of people when entering the transcription world.  The typical rule of thumb for a transcriber is that you want your typing accuracy to be over 92%, which allows for just eight mistakes out of every 100 words typed. For most people, that might seem like a ridiculously tiny margin of error, but the more and more hours you put into your work, the fewer red squiggles you’ll see dotting your page.  In fact, sooner or later, you’ll find you’ve become so good at picking out mistakes that you’ll start to see them in every news article and book you read; this is known as the curse of being a good transcriber, and is unfortunately incurable!

Great Scott, is that the time?

Every November, wannabe authors all over the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel in the space of 30 days as part of National Novel Writing Month.  That might seem crazy, but I wrote 10,000 just this morning typing up a transcript. Time management is something you very quickly pick up when you become a transcriber; you’re always working to a deadline that is often only a few hours away and you have to have your file finished in time. The average transcriber should be able to work at a ratio of 4:1, meaning it should take them around four hours to transcribe an hour-long audio file. Of course, this changes depending on the audio quality, the number of respondents and sometimes even the context of the discussion itself, but on a busy day a Take Note transcriber can get through up to 75 minutes of audio in a standard 6-hour shift.  If that sounds like a lot to you, don’t worry! You won’t be thrown in at the deep end on your first day, but will gradually work your way up to this level, and sooner or later you’ll be whipping files into shape in no time at all!

Can you repeat that?

Once upon a time, transcribers used to be secretaries and assistants, people who worked in the same office as the meeting was taking place, those who could sit in the room and write up everything they heard.  Today, of course, things are a little different. To improve privacy and anonymity, transcribers never meet any of the moderators or respondents involved, they can’t ask for the question to be repeated or the respondent to speak up, and yet they still have to identify every single word spoken.  Unfortunately, there’s really only one way of improving this skill, and that’s practice! Practice, perseverance and in some cases an awful lot of patience. It also takes a good set of headphones and listening to someone say a single word ten times over! The key is to keep on going; sometimes audio can seem overwhelmingly difficult to decipher at first, but by pushing on through, you’ll find your ear adjusts to the dialects, accents and voices on the recording, and suddenly it’s like someone’s turned on the translator in your brain, and everything just clicks into place.

Written by Transcriber Lydia

You have been reading about what makes a good transcriber. If you enjoy transcription, are a fast typist and are looking for a flexible, part time job that works around your other commitments, visit our careers page.  If you are interested in learning more about using our transcription services, please contact the team for a no obligation quote or check out the range of services we have available.

Take Note

Take Note is a UK-based transcription service with world-class customer support alongside the highest standards of security and ethics. We deliver a comprehensive range of transcription services including Audio and Video Transcription, Video Captions and On-Site Note Taking.