What is Transcription? The Ultimate Guide.

What is transcription? Simply put, transcription is the process of converting spoken language into written text. It involves listening to audio recordings or live speech and accurately typing out what is heard. This process is essential in various fields, including medical, legal, business, academic, and media sectors.

What is Transcription to Different Industries?

Transcription plays a crucial role in correspondence, documentation, record-keeping, and accessibility.

What is transcription in the medical field? Accurate transcription of patient records ensures proper treatment and continuity of care.

What is transcription in legal settings? Legal transcription provides reliable records of court proceedings, depositions, and legal discussions.

Businesses also use transcription to document meetings, interviews, and conferences, making information easily retrievable and actionable.

Academics rely on transcription for research interviews, lectures, and seminars.

In media, transcription helps create captions, subtitles, scripts, and searchable content for videos and podcasts.

Types of Transcription

What is Verbatim Transcription?

You know the answer to “what is transcription?” but it doesn’t stop there.

Verbatim transcription involves transcribing every spoken word, including fillers, false starts, and non-verbal communication such as sighs and pauses. This type of transcription is often used in legal and research contexts where every detail is important.

What is Intelligent Verbatim Transcription?

Intelligent verbatim transcription goes a step further by paraphrasing and restructuring sentences to enhance readability and comprehension. This type of transcription is often used for creating content from speeches, interviews, and presentations.

What is Transcription to Different Sectors?

In healthcare, clinicians tend to dictate letters or notes during or after seeing a patient. So, what is transcription’s role here? Medical transcription involves converting these dictations into accurate text, either as a note, or a letter.

A medical transcriber with years of experience working in the healthcare professionals’ discipline will type this up, ensure they’re aware of specific medical terminology. This ensures accurate patient records and facilitates better communication among healthcare providers.

Legal Transcription

Legal transcription entails transcribing legal dictation or recordings such as court hearings, depositions, file notes and client interviews. It provides accurate and official records that are essential for legal processes.

Business Transcription

Business transcription covers meetings, conferences, interviews, and other corporate communications. It helps in documentation, decision-making, and maintaining transparent communication within the organization.

Academic Transcription

Academic transcription involves transcribing lectures, research interviews, seminars, and group discussions. It aids researchers, students, and educators in preserving valuable academic content and making it accessible for future reference. Proofreading services also come under the umbrella of academic transcription.

Media Transcription

Media transcription is used to create subtitles/captions, scripts, and searchable content for audio and video files. This enhances accessibility, SEO, and audience engagement.

Utilising tools such as Captionme allow users to create video transcripts and captions simultaneously. 

What is transcription: The Process

1. Allocation

Customer sends the dictation, audio or video content to the transcription company/transcriber. This should be allocated to somebody with experience in the customer’s industry.

2. Transcription

The transcriber then listens to and types out the spoken words into a text document or other format. This step requires a good understanding of language nuances and industry-specific terminology.

3. Proofreading

The text is proofread to correct any errors. This step should involve multiple reviews to achieve the highest level of accuracy. If outsourcing, ensure that the transcriber proofreads, and there is a further proofread by employed proofreaders.

What is Transcription: Tools and Software

Transcribers use various tools and software to enhance their efficiency and accuracy. Some popular transcription tools include:

Foot pedals

These allow the transcriber to control audio playback with their feet, freeing their hands for typing.

Transcription software

Programs like Express Scribe, Olympus and Accuro help with audio playback, timestamping, and text editing.

Typing aids

These tools help speed up typing by allowing you to fix issues quickly. Writing aids such as Grammarly, Ludwig, and ProWritingAid which help with grammar, spelling etc. Accuro have a thorough, in-depth medical terminology guide for transcribers here.

What is Transcription: Benefits

Now we have an answer to “What is Transcription?” we can now discuss the benefits of accurate transcription.


Transcription makes content accessible to people with hearing impairments or have difficulties processing auditory information, ensuring that they can access and benefit from the information. It also aids those who simply prefer reading over listening or watching videos.

Record Keeping

Transcriptions provide a written record of spoken content, which is invaluable for legal, medical, and business purposes. Written records are easier to store, search, and reference than audio files.

Searchability and Indexing

Transcribed content can be easily indexed and searched, making it simple to find specific information within large volumes of text. This is particularly useful for research, legal discovery, and content creation.


Having a written version of audio content saves time for those who need to review the material. Reading a transcript is often faster than listening to an entire audio recording, especially when specific information is needed.

Cost effectiveness

Rather than utilizing in-house staff, instructing transcription services can often be cheaper when paying pro-rata rather than a full-time staff member which comes with training costs, tax and insurance implications.

What is Transcription’s Biggest Challenges?

Accuracy and Quality Control

Ensuring accuracy in transcription is challenging, especially with poor audio quality, multiple speakers, or technical jargon. High accuracy requires skilled transcribers and thorough quality control processes.

Dealing with Accents and Dialects

Transcribing speech with various accents and dialects can be difficult. Transcribers need to be familiar with different speech patterns and may require additional time to accurately transcribe non-standard accents.

Managing Background Noise

Background noise in recordings can obscure speech and make transcription more challenging. Effective noise reduction techniques and careful listening are essential to accurately transcribe such audio.

Time Constraints

Transcription can be a time-consuming process, especially for long recordings. Meeting tight deadlines requires efficient workflows and sometimes, multiple transcribers working on the same project.

Skills Required for Transcription

Listening Skills

Transcribers must have excellent listening skills to accurately capture spoken words. This involves discerning speech clearly, even when there are accents, dialects, or background noise.

Typing Speed and Accuracy

High typing speed and accuracy are crucial for efficient transcription. Professional transcribers often type at speeds exceeding 70 words per minute while maintaining high accuracy to meet deadlines and produce quality work.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail ensures that every word is transcribed accurately. This includes recognizing and correcting errors, understanding context, and maintaining consistency in formatting and style.

Proficiency with Transcription Software

Knowledge of transcription software and tools enhances productivity and accuracy. Familiarity with features such as playback controls, timestamping, and text expanders is beneficial.

Job Opportunities

Transcription offers various work from home job opportunities in fields like medical, legal, business, and media. Transcribers can work as freelancers, for transcription services, or within specific organizations. Accuro has a wide range of transcription jobs from home.

Required Qualifications and Training

While formal education is not always necessary, specialized training or experience in medical or legal transcription can be advantageous. Many transcriptionists also complete courses or certifications to improve their skills and job prospects.

What is the Future of Transcription?

Impact of AI and Automation

AI and automation are transforming the transcription industry. Automated transcription software can quickly convert speech to text, improving efficiency. However, human transcriptionists are still essential for ensuring accuracy and handling complex audio.

Emerging Trends in Transcription Services

Trends in transcription services include the integration of AI, real-time transcription for live events, and increased demand for multilingual transcription. These trends are shaping the future of transcription and expanding its applications.

How to Choose a Transcription Service

Factors to consider

  1. Accuracy: Ensure the transcription service provides high accuracy, especially for complex or technical content.
  2. Turnaround Time: Consider the service’s turnaround time to meet your deadlines.
  3. Cost: Evaluate the cost of the service and ensure it fits within your budget.

DIY Transcription Tips

Best Practices for Accurate Transcription

  1. Use High-Quality Audio: Ensure your audio recordings are clear and free from background noise. High-quality microphones and recording devices can make a significant difference.
  2. Familiarize Yourself with the Content: Before starting, listen to the entire recording to understand the context and identify any challenging sections.
  3. Slow Down the Playback: Use transcription software to slow down the audio playback. This helps in accurately capturing every word, especially in fast-paced conversations.
  4. Take Breaks: Transcribing can be tiring. Regular breaks help maintain focus and accuracy.
  5. Proofread: Always review your transcription to correct errors and ensure it accurately reflects the spoken words.

What Transcription Tools Should I Use?

  • Express Scribe: A popular transcription software that supports foot pedals and offers features like variable speed playback and file management.
  • Otter.ai: An AI-powered tool that provides real-time transcription and supports collaboration.
  • Accuro: A user-friendly platform offering automatic transcription, human transcription and hybrid – utilising both. If you want to transcribe for Accuro, apply here.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Ignoring Context: Transcribing words without understanding the context can lead to errors. Always consider the overall meaning and context.
  2. Overlooking Non-Verbal Cues: Non-verbal sounds like pauses, sighs, and laughter can be important in some transcriptions, especially in verbatim transcription.
  3. Not Using Tools: Failing to use transcription software and tools can slow down the process and reduce accuracy.

What is Transcription: Conclusion

Transcription is a valuable process that converts spoken language into written text, serving various fields such as medical, legal, business, academic, and media. Understanding the different types of transcription, the steps involved, and the skills required can help you appreciate the importance and challenges of this profession. As technology advances, the transcription industry continues to evolve, offering new opportunities and efficiencies.

Frequently asked questions

The time it takes to transcribe an hour of audio varies depending on the audio quality and the transcriber’s experience. On average, it can take 4-6 hours for a manual transcription.

Verbatim transcription captures every word and sound exactly as spoken, while intelligent transcription involves paraphrasing for clarity and readability.

It all depends on the quality of the audio or video, and how much technical content is in there. For medical dictation with really good audio quality, we say it’s somewhere between 60 and 70% accurate; whereas for notes and general audio, it can be anywhere up to 90% accurate with good quality audio.

There are free transcription tools available, such as Google Docs’ voice typing feature and Express Scribe. However, they may have limited features compared to paid options such as Olympus. If you are working for Accuro; however, we offer free professional transcription software.

Improving transcription accuracy involves practicing regularly, using quality audio recordings, and leveraging advanced transcription tools. Proofreading and editing are also essential for accuracy.

While transcription software has advanced significantly, it may not fully replace human transcribers, especially for complex or nuanced content. Human review is often necessary for accuracy.

Accuro has been transcribing confidential recordings for over 20 years.  Our software has been developed around the stringent encryption standards required by the NHS.  We are proud to be certified to ISO27001, the internal standard governing data security.  We are visited annually by external auditors who review every part of our transcription, operational and technical processes. We are registered with the ICO and have an inhouse compliance team who are responsible for monitoring adherence to UK GDPR regulations. 

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