Fingers of Fire: Tips for Better Transcribing

Hello, dear readers!


I’m so sorry I missed last week’s post. I’ve been rather bogged down recently and I let the blog fall by the wayside. I’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again!

With that said, I’ve been doing a lot of transcribing work lately. While not incredibly difficult work, transcribing can be very time consuming. For my own education as well as yours, though, I’ve curated a few tips to make the most of our work time!

1. Make yourself comfortable

Ergonomically speaking, transcription can be tough on your arms. Starting out isn’t so bad, but after a few hours, it can start to hurt.

LibroEditing lists a few tips to make the transcription process as easy on you as possible.

  • Use a proper keyboard with little legs, not a laptop keyboard, even if it’s propped up.
  • Take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, give your ears a rest and refocus your eyes – once an hour at very least (I do some squats and calf raises every hour as I seem to store tension in my legs when I am transcribing).
  • Make sure that your chair is adjusted so that you can sit straight, looking slightly down at the screen, with your forearms sloping slightly down to your hands and your hands arched over the keys.

2. Stay focused

It can be difficult to focus on a transcribing job, especially if the audio isn’t particularly interesting. However, self-discipline will go far when it comes to transcribing. The more you stay focused on the task at hand, the more you can minimize distractions, the better and more accurately you can type, which will make your client oh-so-happy!

3. Consider using transcription software

There are several options out there when it comes to transcription software. Take it from someone who’s tried it: a media player and Microsoft Word is nice, to be sure, but working through specailzed software will make your life considerably easier.

For me, I use an unlicensed copy of InqScribe and copy and paste my work into a Word document. The ability to create hotkeys is invaluable and will trim time off producing your final product. You can give it a try by clicking here.

4. Research your proper nouns

Sometimes names and places will come up in the audio that you may not immediately be familiar with or know how to spell. That’s perfectly okay; just take a second to Google how the word sounds phonetically, and you should find the result you’re looking for.

For example, I was familiar with who actor Jim Nabors portrayed. However, I wasn’t sure how his name was spelled, so I searched for Jim Neighbors, Carol Burnett Show, and bingo! I got the result I was looking for.

I’m aware information about certain names may not be readily available. Depending on what you’re transcribing, you may want to ask your client ahead of time for a list of terminology and proper nouns to ensure they won’t have to go through and spell-check everything.

5. Find-Replace is your friend! 

Besmir Fidahic of Translators Cafe had this tip to share that shaved off plenty of production time!

I found myself transcribing one and the same set of expressions over and over again.

So, what I did is that I started substituting them with numbers in the whole transcript:

111:  you know

222:  I said to you earlier

333:  I mean

444:  if I’m not mistaken


When I finished the transcript, I went to find-replace and started revising it!  It really decreased my time on this, I got done 30 minutes of recording in one and a half hours of work.  Just put the list with numbering somewhere handy that you can refer to it later and you’ll see good results.

Keep on trucking, freelancers! I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam


What are tips you can offer freelance transcribers? Discuss in the comments below!


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3 thoughts on “Fingers of Fire: Tips for Better Transcribing

  1. Liz at Libro August 20, 2014 at 9:44 am Reply

    Thanks for linking to my post. Even better than find and replace, you can use autocorrect to autocorrect those phrases from your shortcuts to the full version as you type – so you can check they’re coming out correctly as they go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adam August 20, 2014 at 9:45 am Reply

      Excellent point, Liz! Thanks for the great tips! I know I learned something reading your post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz at Libro August 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

        You’re welcome! It’s interesting to see which tools other people use, as I use Express Scribe and get on with that very well.

        Liked by 1 person

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