What is Verbatim transcription and when is it used

What is Verbatim transcription? When would I use it?

Here at the Typing Company, we’re the go-to specialists in all-things-transcription. A key part of the business we do revolves around verbatim transcription. In certain professions and instances, it’s critical that the client receives exactly what they asked for, yet verbatim transcription can be one of the most intimidating forms of transcription out there for newer transcriptionists. There’s different definitions of ‘verbatim’ to be considered, and your client’s wishes and end need for the document must be carefully considered when picking a verbatim transcription style. Today we demystify verbatim transcription, and look at why (and when) it could be needed. 

So what exactly is verbatim transcription?

On paper, verbatim transcription looks like the easiest thing possible. You’re going to capture exactly what you hear, as you hear it.

It sounds simple but, in reality, it can be very intimidating to tackle as a transcriptionist. At the strictest level, there’s no room at all for personal interpretation of the work- the idea is that you will record what you are sent faithfully in writing. It can’t be done by mindlessly listening and typing, but will require a keen ear and a lot of concentration. Every sound, word, verbal tic and mis-spoken word must be captured. The typist needs to pay careful attention to their use of punctuation, too, and use it to adequately and faithfully represent what the speaker said. They will also be called upon to record and represent all background noise and ‘sound effects’ they can hear, such as a crying child or a busy street.

In short, verbatim transcription is not just recording what was said, but also how it was said, and in what circumstances the spoken word occurred. There are some more relaxed versions of verbatim transcription, however, and which your client needs from you will be determined by their end-use.

Are there different styles of verbatim transcription?

Yes, there most certainly are! Most often you will see the following three key divisions made in the verbatim transcription genre:

  • ‘True’ verbatim
  • Verbatim
  • ‘Intelligent’ verbatim

Each of these classifications carries subtle differences in what the typist is expected to do, so it’s key to confirm with your client exactly what they’re expecting from the transcription they will receive, too. 

True verbatim

True verbatim is the most detailed of the verbatim styles. You will give an exact account of everything heard, from sound to word and ambient noise. The typist records every word they hear. They will also capture ‘non-verbal communication’ like laughter, pauses in speech, ambient sounds like sneezes and background noise. They will not, however, include stutters and pauses irrelevant to the transcript. It’s a very detailed form of transcription, a fact which makes it the go-to style for several types of transcription job, which we look at in more detail below. 

Verbatim

In this style, you will still record everything you hear, including grammar errors and ‘false starts’. You will remove stutters and repetition, however.  Fillers (the ‘you knows’ and ‘ums’) are removed, as are non-verbal communication and ambient sound.

Intelligent Verbatim

Intelligent Verbatim is sometimes called ‘clean read’ or ‘clean verbatim’. Here you will use detailed editing (and occasional paraphrasing) to create an easy-to-read transcript. Although you still record everything said on the recording, you will correct grammatical errors, remove fillers, stutters and false starts, ignore repetitions and non-verbal communication, and will not consider ambient sounds.

All of these types of ‘verbatim’ transcript might be referred to by a client as ‘verbatim’ alone, so it’s very important that you determine which style they expect you to present your work in.

Where is verbatim transcription used?

Verbatim transcription of all types occupies a huge niche in the transcription industry. In fact, most of the work we see comes in in this format, because clients mostly need their typist to skillfully navigate their notes to produce an accurate, faithful copy of what was said to paperwork. Each style of verbatim transcription has its own uses in specific situations. 

True Verbatim is often used in situations where every nuance and detail matters. This makes it a go-to style for academic research, analytics and legal interviews/witness statements. Focus groups and research panels will also commonly use this hyper-detailed type of transcription. Tiny things, like a nervous laugh, can make a huge difference in the way a sentence is interpreted legally, so expect most legal documents intended to go before the courts to need this style.

Verbatim is the go-to style for student notes, researchers and journalists. Any situation where the transcript must be true to the recording, but does not need to be cluttered by deep detail. Intelligent verbatim is a top choice in the business world, where the client wants to hear the print-ready gist of what they said, not the ums and ahs of the actual conversation. 

Mastering the different styles of verbatim transcription is a key part of upgrading yourself from a novice transcriptionist to a true expert, as is learning to confidently guide your client on exactly what they’re expecting from their transcription experience. As always, the Typing Company is here to help you get the very best transcription around. With decades in the industry, we have the know-how and experience to deliver perfect work, on time and accurately, every time.

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