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Verbatim vs. Non verbatim transcription: Which should you choose and why

Before you choose an online transcription service, it’s imperative to know what problem you’re trying to solve by integrating transcription in your workflow. Why? Simply because this will help you narrow down the type of transcription service that can help you solve your problem on time and on budget.

Clients reach out to us all the time regarding this, so we decided to create a quick guide for choosing the right transcription service for your business.

This guide is for you if you asked yourself the following questions soon after landing on our website:

  • “Is there more than one type of transcription service?”
  • “What exactly are the differences between verbatim and non-verbatim transcription?”
  • “Why do I need a verbatim transcript?”
  • “When do I need a non-verbatim transcript?”
  • “Will I lose out on information if I choose a non-verbatim transcript?”

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Verbatim and Non-verbatim transcription: What’s the difference?

Verbatim transcription

Verbatim transcription is the art of converting the speech in audio or video files into a textual format that exactly reflects the media file.

Now, what do we mean by “exactly reflects the media file?”

Verbatim transcripts capture all speech, non-verbal utterances, as well as background noise in textual form to provide a true-to-form account of the media file being transcribed. This means, if somebody coughs, shrugs, or bangs a door in the audio or video file, this is going to show up in your transcript.

There are only a few instances where you may benefit from a verbatim transcript (we’ll discuss them in a bit). Moreover, these transcripts have a longer turnaround time (TAT) to ensure that the transcripts are in fact true to the media file – opt for a verbatim upgrade only if you actually need it.

Non-verbatim transcription

Non-verbatim transcripts do not capture non-verbal utterances and background noise in the transcripts, which means they read much smoother. However, this textual reflection is still true to the media file – just without the distracting bits of non-verbal communication and background noise.

A round of editing to correct grammar and punctuation is also normal (Minor editing, but not paraphrasing, is also common in verbatim transcripts to aid clarity).

Lastly, there’s no data or information loss in a non-verbatim transcript. In fact, the paraphrased information makes scanning for data even easier.

Why do you need a verbatim transcript?

Verbatim transcripts are seminal when you need to get into the depths and look for clues beyond the speech in an audio or video file. This means verbatim transcription is ideal for you if your work involves the following:

Interviews (Witness interviews, hiring interviews, etc.)

Verbatim witness interview transcripts are helpful to gauge how an interviewee reacts to certain questions and conversational cues. That is, during a police interview, if a witness hesitates when answering a question, this non-verbal communication can be built into the case and later brought up in court to uncover the truth.

Verbatim transcripts of hiring interviews provide an insight on not only the answers of a candidate to the interview questions but also their body language. As an interviewer, this can help you discern whether the candidate will be a good fit for their role.

Verbatim transcripts are also ideal if you’re a journalist and your job involves interviewing people for a feature piece or story.

Focus group meets

Verbatim transcription is the right option for you if you’re a focus group moderator. In product marketing focus groups, people often voice an opinion in contrast to their feelings under peer pressure. This can inevitably hamper accurate data collection. In such cases, a verbatim transcript can be a valuable aid to get additional clues in non-verbal communication, for example, when an individual stutters, pauses before a response or provides a complex response. With a verbatim transcript, you can go beyond the speech and actually garner true opinions regarding a product based on speech as well non-speech utterances.

When do you need a non-verbatim transcript?

A non-verbatim transcript is a practical option when a detailed paraphrase does the job for you. A non-verbatim transcript can help you with the following tasks:

Keeping records of business meetings

While you may need to identify speakers in these transcripts, you don’t need a blow-by-blow account of the meeting for the record, to send that MoM, or to carry out related tasks.

Keeping records of lectures and seminars

Non-verbatim transcripts of lectures and seminars are a great aid for writing an editorial or for filling in the gaps in a research paper. A word-for-word transcript that concentrates on building a narrative rather than providing facts may actually be an impediment in such cases.

Medical transcription

The doctor’s observations and a clear treatment plan are all you need to capture in your medical transcripts for accurate record keeping. Non-speech communication and background noise do not add any value to these transcripts.

Aid to podcasts and online videos

Readers refer to transcripts of podcasts and online videos to supplement their learning, which means they’re generally not looking for the word-for-word account. So, these transcripts don’t have to detail anything other than the speech in the media file. Moreover, a non-verbatim transcript (rather than a verbatim one) becomes a great starting point for creating derivative content such as blog posts and whitepapers.

The Wrap

As listeners, we’re quite good at filtering out filler words such as “um,” “ah,” or “sort of,” however, these are major distractions and productivity killers when encountered during a data scan. So, whether you’d like to boost your video SEO, keep accurate records in your healthcare establishment, or make project management leaner, choosing the right type of transcription service is an important first step in integrating a transcription workflow.

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