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Verbatim, ‘Intelligent’, or Summary: How to Choose the Right Transcript Style

Sarah Lowe Leave a Comment

When it comes to transcription, accuracy is everything. But with different transcription styles on offer, and all of them accurate in their own way, how do you choose? Here’s Appen’s guide to getting it right. Broadly speaking, there are three types of transcription: verbatim, so-called ‘intelligent’ verbatim and summaries.

Verbatim transcription

Verbatim does exactly what it says on the tin. Every word is transcribed, but so is everything else, including:
  • Verbal tics, like ‘erm’, ‘ah’ and ‘eh’
  • Fillers, like ‘you know’ and ‘you see?’
  • Pauses and repetitions
  • Stutters, stammers and hesitations
  • Non-standard language and slang, like ‘aint’ and ’cause’
A verbatim transcript will also include things like throat-clearing and coughing, as well as other non-verbal mannerisms. This kind of transcript is often used in situations like police interviews, legal proceedings or public inquiries, where an exact ‘court-ready’ record is needed. It’s also useful for video interviews with vulnerable witnesses, where physical responses matter, for example ‘nods head’ or ‘shakes head’. In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service often specifies verbatim transcription in this scenario.

‘Intelligent’ verbatim

Most Appen clients choose ‘intelligent’ verbatim transcription. Put simply, the transcriber will ‘clean’ up the recording, removing any distractions and capturing only what was said, rather than how it was said. Just as accurate as verbatim, ‘intelligent’ verbatim omits all noises, fillers, repetition, stutters and stammers. ‘Aint’ becomes ‘isn’t’, ‘cause’ becomes ‘because and ‘kinda’ becomes ‘kind of’. Here’s the difference in action. First, the verbatim transcript: “So anyway, you know, I’m planning to start the, um, project in hmmm, let’s see, actually definitely on the ah, 10th of December this year. 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?” And now, ‘intelligent’ verbatim: “I’m planning to start the project on the 10th of December this year. I plan to let all my funders know that I am very serious about taking off soon.” For transcribers, the two styles require slightly different skills. But there’s a third option that demands a broader range of skills altogether.

Woman at computer with headphones Summaries

A summary draws out the salient points from the audio, changing the language to convey the same meaning in a short, clear format. For example: “When asked about his family and who everyone was within the family, GG tried to explain but said that he was not sure about all the exact relationships and although he tried to explain who everyone was, he got rather confused and started getting angry and crying a bit.” Summary: “GG attempted to explain the relationships within his immediate family but became confused and upset.” Summary transcription is demanding work. Transcribers must concentrate hard to reflect the audio accurately. More than with any other transcription style, it helps to understand the background and context of the recording. Summaries are used as high-level working ‘briefs’ in a range of business scenarios, with Appen designing a bespoke service for clients including the Insolvency Service. Despite the differences, Appen’s transcripts are all produced by the same highly skilled, well-trained and experienced professionals, in whatever format you need, whenever you need them. And if you’re still not sure which style’s right for you, just ask – after all, it’s good to talk.  
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