Verbatim Transcription

By: Danielle Chazen



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What is verbatim transcription?

Verbatim transcription is a word-for-word transcription of a recording or a live event. It can be helpful as a frame of reference for an interview, deposition, panel session and much more.

Verbatim transcripts capture the exact spoken word, including pauses, stutters and other noises. In transcribing for legal proceedings or court proceedings, verbatim is the standard for the highest level of accurate speech transcription.

Non-verbatim transcription is best applied when it’s used for general meetings or speaker presentations for example. However, with non-verbatim, filler words and background noises are not transcribed.

When looking at transcription in general and then needing to make the decision on whether yours needs to be verbatim, it’s good to consider your use cases and how the transcript will be used after it’s produced.
Verbatim Transcription

What are the different types of verbatim transcription in terms of how “full” they are?

Within Verbatim transcription, there are essentially two ways to transcribe. Full verbatim captures the spoken word exactly as stated, including fillers words, stutters and false starts. Clean verbatim on the other hand captures words exactly as stated, but editing is conducted. Clean verbatim corrects for filler words, repeated words and stutters. It essentially transcribes  words exactly, but for improved readability.

Preferences for verbatim transcripts can vary. For example, some court reporting agencies who are managing proceedings and capturing records, want clean verbatim when transcribing attorney or court statements. They don’t want false starts, stutters and other ‘irrelevant’ bits. However, they want full verbatim when witnesses or deponents speak in order to capture the exact statement as spoken. Full verbatim leaves little room to dispute what was said, how it was said and additional indicators which can help to inform decisions and next steps in various cases.

What is Verbatim format?

Here’s an easy way to look at the different format options for transcripts, including a verbatim transcription example:
Q: At what time did you arrive at the hospital?
A: Hmm, I think it was around eleven at night, or so.
Clean Verbatim: I think it was around eleven at night, or so.

You can see how clean verbatim can be helpful in most business-focused scenarios. However, pauses can other fillers can help in other situations where those using transcripts want to get a sense of the tone or personality of the individuals who are speaking. For example, if HR is interviewing a candidate and they pause a lot or use many filler words, perhaps that says something to them about their readiness or ability to take on the role effectively.

Having both the transcripts and the meeting call or video that they are transcribing and referencing them both together can prove to be very helpful in most use cases regardless of the industry in question.

Why is verbatim transcription important?

Verbatim transcription is important for preserving the record. With several audio and verbatim transcription services available to you, it’s easy to have them produced as well.

These transcripts can be important to help you and your team members recall exactly what a customer shared, to prepare quotes that were provided to you over a Zoom meeting with someone notable or to have important conversations, such as those with HR, captured accurately.

Misquoting someone or recalling information with important business repercussions incorrectly can have devastating results. Verbatim transcripts can help to recall conversations and quotes accurately without objection.

What are the use cases of verbatim transcription?

In legal, both verbatim and clean verbatim are used. These include legal proceedings, which require a detailed and exacting standard for transcripts, as every word counts. Standards for legal court reporting have developed over the years to meet court or state guidelines and style guides. Fundamentally, a witness statement, interview, deposition or testimony are all evidence in a case. Editing witness statements, or deponent answers for grammar for example, eliminate the necessary as spoken words, including utterances, that are essential to discovery and cases.

Interviews are another regular use case for verbatim transcription to be used. Depending on the type of interview, such as a police witness interview, standard verbatim transcription may be used. However, in a more general interview, such as one done in media or for news and business, the text is often edited slightly. Transcribing an interview for example, for a news report, needs to be readable, and it is important to edit for grammar for example, and remove utterances to help viewers and listeners fully understand what was said. Having transcriptions of interviews can help the media to also avoid lawsuits should someone claim they never said something which airs on a broadcast. Verbatim transcripts can help to give interviewers peace of mind and a true record to cover themselves should they be on beats which are more controversial in nature or interviewing noteworthy subjects. Verbatim interview transcripts can also be used by HR teams as they speak to potential hires and the objectives there can be different as well.

Additionally, research is another clear area which relies on verbatim transcription. In research, professionals are most likely using edited text transcription for readability. Researchers often use full verbatim transcription and and non verbatim transcription though depending on the nature of the research. Medical research often needs word for word verbatim transcripts, whereas media research may be better off providing clean verbatim transcription of findings.

Verbatim Transcription

How to do Verbatim transcription

Transcripts can either be produced manually in-house by your team, automatically by Artificial Intelligence (AI) based tools or they can be outsourced to a transcription provider.

It’s important to note that it’s much tricker to get transcripts correct word-for-word when they’re done in-house or by AI alone. Companies producing them in-house are often using interns or professionals who aren’t trained in transcription. It can therefore be a manual, tedious and time consuming process to get things done right.

Additionally, AI alone typically produces high word error rates, also known as WER. AI can be useful in generating transcripts which can then be edited by your team or professional transcribers to get things fully correct. AI typically won’t pick up on nuances or different spellings of speakers names or words which sound similar. Verbatim multi-speaker transcription can be harder to produce. Most companies who need or want verbatim transcription are better off turning to experts and software to help with this task.

Verbatim transcription software

With a shortage of professionals, such as trained stenographers, available to service these transcripts, many industries are turning to verbatim transcription software to generate admissible records. For example, court reporters and legal agencies are utilizing software that captures the audio and video of proceedings and then utilizing Artificial Intelligence based tools, such as automatic speech recognition, or ASR, to generate the transcripts.

These AI tools are mature and advanced enough to capture verbatim transcription. They also help to remove manual work and effort with the options to set interview transcript format and style guides to account for their individual needs. Timestamps and speaker identification are some tools Verbit offers for example to also help these professionals and remove manual effort. When selecting a verbatim transcription service, it’s important to make sure you can customize the tools to your workflow and needs to minimize the effort you’ll need to put in after the transcript is generated.

Transcriptions provide professionals with security

With more calls, proceedings and meetings happening virtually, digitally and remotely, more transcription software will continue to be used. These digital tools help digital court reporters, media companies and legal agencies to better serve their clients, take on more business and scale, rather than encounter backlogs of work due to current restrictions.

At the end of the day, regardless of industry, all professionals who handle sensitive information, client meetings and high-profile interviews should be capturing the record and transcribing it in order to have a backup to reference what was said or agreed to. Additionally, many of today’s digital transcription tools are built on secure networks to ensure confidentiality remains the highest priority to serve legal and compliance needs.

Should a transcript be verbatim always?

Whether or not your transcripts should be transcribed verbatim depends largely on the use cases of how you’re looking at transcripts. If it’s for quotes or legal backing, then yes, you will want word-for-word transcripts. However, if it’s for the creation of marketing materials or if it’s about having notes to reference, sometimes shorter, more concise transcripts or even note taking solutions are enough.

Think about your use cases. Think about if you’re looking at transcripts for anything legal or compliance related. Think about whether these transcripts are “nice-to-have” elements to offer meeting participants or attendees or if they’re essential to deliver accessibility to individuals with disabilities who can benefit from verbatim formats.

If you need more advice on how to produce your transcripts and what factors to keep in mind for transcripts, as well as other solutions like captions, audio description, translation and more, feel free to reach out to us. Verbit is working with leading researchers for example, offering them verbatim transcription in qualitative research use cases. Businesses and institutions are also partnering with Verbit, and we’re providing them with intelligent verbatim transcription, verbatim audio transcription and more within 24 hours. Many are providing us with verbatim transcription guidelines which we can follow and customize our offering to meet each unique business’s needs.