I started transcribing over seven years ago because my exceptionally fast typing (over 80 words per minute) makes me pretty well able to keep up with normal talking speed of recordings. I receive enquiries every day from people hoping to become transcribers, but many of these seem to be from people with a fairly poor grasp of English. I’ve realised over the years that there’s more to being a good transcriber than just lightning fast fingers and I thought I would share some key skills that I look for in my employees.

1. A good ear for accents. Given that Transcription Centre receives a lot of work about international relations and politics, we listen to speakers from all over the world, some of whom don’t speak English as a first language. And this doesn’t just go for international speakers – obviously there are a myriad of accents within the UK! Having a good grasp of different ways of speaking is really important to getting good transcript accuracy.

2. An understanding of the audio’s subject matter. Part of the reason I founded Transcription Centre was because of the frustration I felt as a researcher reading transcripts by companies who rely upon average typists. I realised how important it was to me to hire transcribers with an education and background in the topics we cover, so that ‘VCS’ doesn’t get mistaken for ‘BCS’ and names like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are spelled correctly.

3. And – hopefully this goes without saying! – an excellent grasp of spelling and grammar. Call me a pedant, but there is simply nothing more annoying than mixing up it’s/its or there/their/they’re.

These are just a few things that most people don't really think about in regards to transcription ("how hard can it be?"). I've recently tried doing some transcribing in French as a language practice exercise, and I've realised just how much I take for granted when doing it in English!

AuthorCaitlin McMullin