transcription rules

If your recording session is anything like the cartoon above, be aware that the transcription process is going to be a lot more expensive than you imagined. You can save a lot of time and money by ensuring a few basic rules are followed when recording your audio file.

Some “dos” and “don’ts” when setting up the recording session:

  • Ensure that the environment is quiet with no or minimum background noise. This means a train ride is not a great setting.
  • Test the recording equipment to ensure the recorded volume is sufficiently loud. Your mobile phone should not be your first choice.
  • Participants need to be reminded about speaking clearly and not at the same time.
  • The moderator or interviewer needs to take charge and ensure the discussion is guided and orderly and that the objectives of the session are fulfilled.

At Wonder Words, we are often asked to transcribe recorded sessions that are far from ideal. Common problems include excessive background noise and low volume. This creates new challenges for the transcribers and results in longer transcribing times and, therefore, higher costs. As a rule of thumb, for a good quality audio file, transcribers take approximately four times the length of the original recording to transcribe. A 20-minute recording should take a transcriber about 80 minutes to transcribe. If the recording contains a lot of background noise, the multiple could end up being eight or twelve times the recording time, implying that the original cost could double or triple.

Poorly recorded sessions also make bilingual transcriptions even more challenging, given that the transcriber is already performing a dual task of transcribing and translating at the same time. However, it is generally not possible for the moderator to control the use of uhms, filler words and grammatical mistakes. In this instance, Wonder Words recommends that users opt for abridged/paraphrased transcriptions were the content is summarised and such occurrences are omitted. This ensures that your final transcript is a lot smoother and understandable.


It may not be necessary to wear suits during your recording session, however ensure the recording is sufficiently loud, clear and free of distractions.

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