Verbatim vs. Intelligent Verbatim: Which Transcript Style to Choose, and When

Transcripts can be created in a range of styles and formats, depending on the scenario. Verbatim and intelligent verbatim are the two most common, but in order to choose the right one, it’s important to understand the differences between them. When it comes to creating a written record of the spoken word, the finished transcript can vary greatly depending on the proceedings being documented, who the transcript is for, and how it will be used.

What Makes a Transcript ‘Verbatim’?

A verbatim transcript includes everything that’s said, exactly as it’s said. So as well as the spoken word, the transcript also includes:
  • pauses, silences, repetitions, stutters and stammers
  • non-verbal ‘fillers’, such as ‘uh’ and ‘um’
  • noises, including coughing and laughter
  • physical gestures and movements, for example head shaking or nodding
  • ambient noise, including background chatter, doors banging
  • overspeaking and false starts
  • slang, grammatical errors and non-standard language such as ‘aint’
In a verbatim transcript, there’s no cleaning up, summarizing or finishing off sentences, and no attempt to explain the meaning of what’s been said.

Verbatim vs. Intelligent Verbatim

When Verbatim Transcripts are Useful

Verbatim transcripts are used for court proceedings as well as formal hearings that might lead to legal action, for example fraud or corruption inquiries, regulatory probes, police interviews, or employment court proceedings. In these situations, it’s not just what’s said that matters, but how. By capturing gestures and mannerisms, a verbatim transcript can show how the speaker is thinking or feeling. Are they nervous or relaxed? Confident or hesitant? Total accuracy is essential, and everything must be included – a failure to reflect the manner in which something was said could have serious consequences for the outcome of formal or legal proceedings. There are other scenarios in which a verbatim transcript is useful. In transcripts dealing with medical or scientific data, cleaning up punctuation can change the meaning entirely. For market research companies running focus groups or businesses holding staff feedback sessions, non-verbal content is critical to understanding the real meaning behind the spoken word.

How are Intelligent Verbatim Transcripts Different?

An intelligent verbatim transcript is a ‘cleaned-up’ version of what’s been said. All redundant words or sounds are removed, as well as any non-verbal content. However, when producing an intelligent verbatim transcript  the transcriber goes further, for example correcting grammatical errors or paraphrasing speech in order to make the meaning clearer or more succinct. Unlike a verbatim transcript, an intelligent verbatim transcript only conveys the meaning of what’s been said, rather than how. The aim is to create a transcript that is more readable, and easier to understand. Compare these two examples: Verbatim: “So, anyway, you know, I’m planning to start the, um, project in hmmm, let see, actually definitely on the, ah, the 10th of December. It’s a bit complicated, you see? So, eh, I plan to let all my funders know my kinda thinking so that they see I am very, very serious about taking off soon, you get it, right? Know what I mean? Intelligent verbatim: “I’m planning to start the project on the 10th of December this year. I plan to let all my funders know I am very serious about taking off soon.”

The Power of Intelligent Verbatim

There are many scenarios in which intelligent verbatim is more appropriate than verbatim. Businesses wanting to document meetings or phone calls to capture and share key messages will find this type of clear, to-the-point transcript ideal. And organizations needing to share content from conferences and events will also find intelligent verbatim transcripts useful. In fact, in any situation requiring concise, clear communication to a target audience, where the way in which things are said is not critical, this transcript style is the one to choose. Although they sound similar, there are some important differences between verbatim and intelligent verbatim transcripts. By understanding the characteristics and advantages of each, you can make a more informed decision about which one is right for you. For more information on Appen’s verbatim and intelligent verbatim transcription services please contact us.  
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