How audio transcription works and when you should use it

How audio transcription works and when you should use it

When you think about transcribed audio, you possibly only think about closed captioning on TV for the hard of hearing, but in actual fact transcribing text can have multiple other beneficial uses, both from a personal and business perspective.

What is transcription?

Transcription is the process of transferring audio into text and is usually performed by a stenographer or a highly skilled typist. Transcription services are most commonly used in situations where it would be beneficial to retain a physical copy of speech – for example, to record a meeting, a court proceeding or an interview.

Transcribed audio makes it possible to organize, read and archive spoken words. While voice recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI) services are improving, if you want a truly accurate verbatim record of speech, you need to use a qualified stenographer. Indeed, a skilled practitioner can even add emotion to the text i.e. can record not just the words that were spoken, but also how they were said.

How steno machines work

A steno machine looks a bit like a typical keyboard, but that’s where the similarities end. Steno machines work by recording syllables rather than words letter by letter as you would on a keyboard. Steno typing allows an experienced stenographer to record speech at speeds up to 200 words per minute (in some cases, as much as 250 wpm). Given the average person speaks at between two to three words per second, a stenographer can record conversations with startling accuracy, including adding feelings to the text.

Steno machines don’t record words as such but instead use a phonetic style of writing, similar to journalists’ shorthand. Using syllables rather than individual letters allows the stenographer to record entire words or phrases in a single stroke. A steno machine enables the user to depress multiple keys at once, thereby quickly forming the outline of complete words.

How is steno text ‘read’?

While there is a recognized dictionary of steno words, many stenographers have developed their own styles that only they can read with total accuracy. In the modern age, this task is frequently performed by programmable software.

The stenographer teaches software their particular style of writing and the computer handles the rest, seamlessly transferring their short-hand into legible text. Using computers allows steno text to be read in real-time – for example, in a court situation or for live captioning – with the software translating steno text on-the-fly.

When should you use audio transcription

Audio transcription is useful in any situation where you might want to retain a written version of spoken words. It is most commonly used in formal circumstances like meetings or court proceedings – though it can also be useful for transcribing cassette recordings, interviews, phone calls, text messages or any other speech-based event.

These days, another widespread use for transcription is to add captions to online videos. A recent survey by HubSpot found that 81% of businesses now use video in their marketing. This trend is set to continue as more and more companies promote themselves on streaming services like YouTube.

Adding captions to video not only makes your production more user-friendly, it also improves accessibility and can add an extra dimension to your recordings – particularly for the estimated 466 million viewers around the world who suffer hearing problems.

Transcribed audio also significantly aids the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your videos by providing physical text for the search engines to crawl. Similarly, most industry experts agree that YouTube videos accompanied by a transcription rank better than those without, so should appear higher in the platform’s search results. 

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