There are many reasons for requiring transcription services and an almost equally large number of options within the transcription service market. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where an interview, speech, or audio clip needs to be transcribed, it’s vital that you choose the right solution for your project. While you will inevitably need to consider a whole range of elements, deciding on if proofreading is important to your transcript will help you narrow down a bunch of choices about what transcription service is best for you.
Fundamentally, it is very easy to mishear sections of any audio recording. Proofreading could be the difference between ‘there’ and ‘they’re’, ‘he accepts’ and ‘he excepts’, or ‘ketchup’ and ‘catch up’. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that proofreading is right for everyone. Here’s all you need to know about the different solutions before making your final decision.
Proofreading and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) Software
Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software uses technology to ‘hear’ what is being said before transcribing it. Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is like a more advanced version of Siri; instead of speaking one or two sentences, it’s possible to have an entire conversation transcribed in this manner.
The truth is that ASR software can be very useful when recording ideas. The latest ASR software can transcribe live speech, allowing you to talk directly to the device before having the dialogue presented in text form. It is also used by automated transcription services to turn recordings into transcripts.
This is the cheapest option on the market and is often also the quickest. However, it’s important to accept that there are several noticeable limitations. If the words aren’t spoken in a very clear fashion, even the best algorithms will struggle. The quality of the results will quickly start to degrade and eventually become unintelligible. Even when the circumstances are ideal (clear speech, high audio quality and no background noise), it’s not uncommon for error rates to exceed 20%.
Other limitations become noticeable when more than one person is speaking on the tape as the software will struggle to distinguish one individual from the next. If you need your transcript to hang together without significant errors and loose ends, you will need to proofread a transcript produced by an automated transcription service yourself. Unfortunately, this often nullifies the expected time savings. Depending on how much you value your own time, it might also discount the cost savings as well.
Pros of Automated Transcription Services:
- Quick turnarounds
- Affordable (often around £0.10 per minute or recorded audio)
Cons of Automated Transcription Services:
- Inferior quality
- Illegible sectors will require manual transcriptions
- You need to spend time proofreading yourself
- You lose that sense of confidence
Proofreading and Human Transcription Services
If you want to acquire a ‘clean’ transcription, human transcription services are almost always the best option. This means having a real person listen to the recording before making the transcription. Compared to automated transcription services using ASR software, there will be a noticeable difference in outcomes. A large part of this is the cursory proofreading included within the service as standard.
Pros of Human Transcription Services:
- Can detect words in less than perfect conditions
- Fewer errors in meaning or content
- Greater versatility (we’ll get to that)
- Less work required on your end
- Can accurately identify multiple speakers on a recording
Cons of Human Transcription Services:
- More expensive — can be in excess £2.00 per minute of audio
- Takes longer for the project to be delivered
Generally speaking, human transcriptions are the best solution if you need a professional service. Even with poor audio quality, there will be far fewer gaps in the transcript, and the overall end product will be professionally presentable. The proofreading and review process can also be used to alter the presentation of your transcript to deliver greater value from your engagement with the transcription service. These include:
- Word for word transcriptions (intelligent verbatim) will deliver a transcript with repetitive words along with stutters, ‘erms’ and ‘errs’ removed. This leaves you with a transcript that makes more sense and is easier to read.
- Proofreading can also deliver grammatical corrections within a transcript. For example, ‘should of’ can become ‘should have’ to ensure that the written transcript reaches an even greater level of professionalism than the original sound recording.
- Summary/notes transcription services can be sought if you need a transcript simply to digest a lot of information as quickly as possible. This is a great way to ensure the points you wanted to get across are presented in a professional and easy to read manner.
A professional proofreading service ultimately enables you to gain a better transcript. Most human transcription services provide a standard proofreading service within their rates. However, some additionally offer an advanced ‘expert’ proofreading service that will guarantee the best results.
When Proofreading is Important to Human Transcription Services
Proofreading isn’t needed for every transcription. Nonetheless, sometimes proofreading (and even advanced proofreading) are deemed necessary. For example, if the recording deals with topics that use a lot of technical jargon, you will want to choose a human transcription service that includes proofreading. Otherwise, the piece could lose its meaning.
Proofreading is also important when you need help with the flow or the grammatical attributes of the piece. In truth, though, having another person deal with the audio recording is a great way to remove inaccuracies at all times.
When opting for a transcription and a proofreading service, you should pay attention to some of the finer distinctions between transcription services. Not all of them are the same, and differences in price are likely to indicate if you need to engage in proofreading yourself.
- A service that is under £0.50 per minute is likely to use ASR
- A service under £0.75 per minute is likely to use no-to-little proofreading
- Services that let you submit a glossary will provide a better service
- Services that boast experienced and technically literate transcribers are best
- Consider the location, transcriptions in the UK, for example, will have an easier time with accents and delivering UK English.
The Final Word: If You Need an Error-Free Transcript, Proofreading is Critical
When you need an error-free transcript, proofreading is critical. Only human transcription services can provide clean transcripts. This is why ASR should be ruled out for any professional project. Most human transcription services deliver proofreading as part of their service. But, if you need a 100% ‘error-free’ guarantee, look for additional proofreading services that offer you that promise. The importance of accuracy, however, comes down to how you intend to use your transcript and why you are seeking out a transcription service in the first place. If you can’t determine what a service offers by way of quality control guarantees, that is a red flag. Always look for the ability to contact a transcription service for further information. If you have questions about a service, call them up and ask.