How to Choose the Right Level of Verbatim

At Rogers Word Service, we offer three “levels” of verbatim, but the concepts behind these levels should be fairly universal for all transcribers and folks who need transcripts. Essentially, the idea is this: depending on what you’re using the transcript for, you’ll need the transcriber to more or less strict in their interpretation of the spoken word. Remember, transcription is essentially the translation of the spoken word into the written word, so there is a certain amount of subjectivity or art to it.

If you’re using the transcript to search for the exact right phrase for a commercial video, you’ll need as close to an absolute rendering of the spoken word as possible. If you’re going to be publishing the transcript for public consumption, you’ll want an edited version that is easier to read and makes the speaker look good. Now, when I say “edited,” I don’t necessarily mean that the transcription company is picking and choosing phrases for you, but they are paring down the speaker’s stutters and verbal tics in order to make the transcript more readable.

So, I’ll explain our three levels of verbatim and give examples of situations when you might need each one.

Standard. As you can see from the name, this is our default setting. It’s also the most “loose” in terms of the rendering of spoken words. We eliminate ums, uhs, stutters, and word repetitions, as well as most “likes” and “you knows.” This is most helpful when you want a transcript that is as readable as possible, while still being a faithful rendering of the spoken words. As I mentioned above, you’d go with this option if you were going to publish the transcript as an interview in a magazine, or if you’re just looking to glean the information in the most efficient way possible.

Legal Verbatim. This is the style we use most often when we’re dealing with court transcripts or transcriptions for law firms, though it’s not limited in its applicability to just legal matters. In the legal verbatim style, we eliminate only the insignificant ums and uhs, and we render all spoken words, but not half-words or general guttural utterances. So you’ll have all your “you knows,” and “likes”; you won’t have quite as many ums and uhs, but you’ll still have them if someone has a four-second long “um” before answering a question, as that could definitely impart some sort of meaning.

Video Editing Verbatim. As you can tell, we have a penchant for literalism at Rogers Word Service, which I suppose is a good thing for a transcription company. This style is most often requested by our video editor clients. We render all spoken words, verbal tics, stutters, false sentence starts, et cetera, and we eliminate only the very insignificant of ums and uhs. This style is often accompanied by time codes or burn codes embedded in the transcript, which allows for a much quicker editing process for video editors.

Now, these are our three basic choices, but we can definitely accommodate special requests, so if you know your interviewee says “like” every other word and you want those eliminated, but you want the rest of the word repetitions and “you knows.” Basically, we want to help you get the right transcript for the job.

-Paul Rogers

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