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5 Transcription Myths Exposed and Explained

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Transcription is a much-misunderstood job with many myths being constantly perpetuated. Lister here are some of the more common ones, along with explanations as to why these ‘facts’ are untrue.

  1. It is easy to transcribe.

  2. Anyone can do it.

That is not quite right. It is like saying anyone who can write can write a book. This is true, they can write a book, but will the book be any good? Probably not, unless they are professional authors. Or how about saying ‘If you can drive a car, you can drive a lorry. It is the same, brakes, gears, steering wheel. It is all driving, right? Wrong, and you even need a different licence to do it.

While technically speaking anyone can write a book or transcribe audio, what is important is their ability to do it correctly. It isn’t enough to ‘just do it’.

Humans speak quicker than they can type, so half an hour of recorded audio conversation will take around one and a half to two hours to transcribe. In experienced people often think 30 minutes of recording will take 30 minutes, and as this is impossible, this lets you know they are not up to the job.

  1. Automated Transcription is a great replacement for Human Transcription

It isn’t! It may be in years to come, but it is nowhere near being good enough at present to be considered a viable alternative.

Even a clear recording of a single speaker with no background noise will not be transcribed with a high enough level of accuracy by a machine. If you add to this that many audio files have multiple speakers, audio quality that is not great and some background noise, this can make the machine spew out nonsense. (Try coughing into a speech to text app – you might get ‘house’, ‘how’ or any number of alternatives.

Technology has come far enough that a software might provide a rough guide to what was said, but then so will simple note taking, and it will probably be more accurate.

  1. You need to type fast to work as a transcriptionist

You don’t need to be able to type fast to work as a transcriptionist. Most jobs have a deadline, so you cannot be terribly slow, but accuracy is more important than speed.

  1. If you have experience transcribing audio from conferences you can do any other transcription.

Experience in a general sector does not make a specialised field easy to do. Medical transcriptions, for instance, contain medical terms, and you need to be familiar with these to be able to do a good job.

  1. You don’t need any extra equipment

People think you only require a computer to type on and something to play the audio, and you can transcribe any work. It is true you can manage with only these two pieces of equipment, but what happens when you have a low quality recording? You need software to enhance or clean the audio. Then what about all the times you are typing and need to pause the audio? You have to stop typing and lose some of the spoken words. That means going back to find the place you stopped.

London Transcription recommends transcription pedals to their transcriptionists as this lets them use a foot pedal to pause audio while they type. Headphones also give a clearer audio to help transcribe better.

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