Transcribing: A True Art Form, part 2

I would like you to think for a minute about the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo; or the painting Le dejeuner des canotiers by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Think of the intense amount of detail that both of these artists had to put into these pieces of work. The planning, the precision, the process, and the product. This is much like transcribing. In Transcribing – A True Art form Part I, I mentioned how being able to take what comes from the mouths of one person and crafting it onto paper using the complicated conventions of the English language is an art form in itself.

Just like Michelangelo or Renoir, transcribing takes an immense amount of planning, precision, a process – all to give a product to companies who require the transcribing services. (Not to play down the talents of artists like Mondrian – but, in my opinion, there is less planning or a process to create that type of sophistication. There are quite possibly times that transcribers also may have a straightforward task.) Yet, transcribing is more akin to a Michelangelo or Renoir in its core.

Let’s look at Le dejeuner des canotiers by Renoir. The amount of time it took to get each brush stroke of the piece – the ruffles in the table cloth, the detail of the plants behind the group of people, the skin tones, hues… Renoir completed a masterpiece that is pleasing to look at. I don’t think anyone would be able to argue how magnificent this piece is. Now think of every brush stroke as a word, or every color as a standard convention of the English language – for example, punctuation. A misguided use of punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence when read. When we hear people talk, we’re not making judgments on the syntactical implications, rather, we are listening for meaning. When a transcriber goes to work, they are focusing on both meaning and syntax – What is this person saying? How do they want their message to get across? Did they mean for an ellipses or a dash? Do they want a comma here? The way people talk is drastically different than what appears on paper. A transcriber is a lot like Renoir in the way that the smallest details can add up – they can either create a masterpiece or create a headache. Unlike artists, though, transcribers can go back into their work and make changes within a draft – something I’m sure many great artists wish they could do at one point or another. In summation, the idiom, “The devil is in the details,” is true. Transcribing what people say to put it on paper can be a truly complex, even artistic process.

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