Avoid Making These Top 5 Transcription Mistakes

I’ve been transcribing for a long time and I’ve racked up countless hours of transcription work over the years.  The thing is, everybody has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually the beginning, right?


You can get a head start by familiarising yourself with these top transcription mistakes and learning how to avoid them.

1) Brand Names

Brand names!  The transcriber’s arch nemesis.  You’ve just received a 45 minute long audio recording for a focus group who are discussing their opinion on a certain brand of sports shoe, there’s no point even beginning your transcription if you’re going to spell it Addidas.


Transcription Woes

All Day I Dream About Sport.

Make sure you sit and listen to the audio first, take some cues from the topic and try to make an educated guess on the brand.  If you’re unfamiliar with the brand (I know I often find myself baffled) research into the topic of the tape and see if you can figure it out.

For example, if you’re transcribing an interview where a retailer is trying to find out if the new kitchen appliance somebody has just purchased was delivered correctly and efficiently and you just cannot possibly decipher the name of the brand, well, it might just be time to research local kitchen appliance retailers and see if anything there can help you out with this transcription.

2) Spellchecking your transcription

Use spellcheck!  Always use spellcheck!  But, never rely on spellcheck.

Spellcheck can be great for simple spelling mistakes which even the best typist can fall victim to.


It does sound great.


But, you must always remember that even though spellcheck is a useful tool, it cannot be fully relied upon when transcribing.

Many words will never be flagged up by spellcheck because while they are words and they are spelled correctly, it’s not the right word.

Some of the words like this are as follows, they’re called homonyms, and they make transcribers cry.

 Allowed Aloud
 Bear Bare
 Cord Chord
 Night Knight
 Two To
Steak Stake

So, although spellcheck is a useful tool we cannot rely solely on it for our transcription to be perfect.

3) Headphones for transcription work

As you can imagine, a huge part of transcribing and working on a transcription is the need to be able to listen to the audio you have been provided with.

A lot of people use poor quality headphones or, even worse, use their speakers!

Can you imagine it?

To be able to accurately listen to audio for a long period of time, your choice of headphone is very important.  I’m not here to make suggestions or promote a certain product, but I would definitely recommend something over-the-ear, as it is typically more comfortable.

Transcription headphones

Nice and cosy.


Definitely better than something you insert into your ear that can end up quite painful after a few hours of transcription work.

Ideally, something with active noise cancellation is good, too.  Not only for listening to the audio but to block out any background noises, too.

4) Proofreading

We all proofread, right?

We all type something and then spend some time sitting down and really reading through and listening to what we’ve just wrote, right?


Transcription Proofreading

Close enough!


Of course not.

Not everybody.

Proofreading is a skill, it’s a talent… it’s special and it has to be used to make your transcription perfect.

A lot of people will just type out whatever they can, assume they’ve got it right the first time round and then let it fly out into the world for all to see.  Only to find out, later, they’ve made a grievous spelling mistake in their transcription, tweet, Facebook post, SMS, email or letter.

What a disaster that could have been saved by some simple reading!

5) Understanding transcription requirements

Not every transcription is made equal.

You must pay attention to the client’s requirements for each and every individual transcription.

If the client is savvy and knows what they want, they’ll likely be asking for Intelligent Verbatim, so make sure you’re well aware of the differences of each kind of transcription before you begin!

There’s no point typing out a transcription in Full Verbatim when your client has specifically asked for Intelligent Verbatim!

You’re wasting not only theirs but your own time, too!

Transcription Clock

I think this clock is broken.

So, there you have it.  The top 5 transcription mistakes, and how to avoid them.

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