What Does ‘Verbatim’ Transcription Mean?

Having your first audio file or video transcribed can be an exciting little adventure.

You are finally going to get a transcript of your spoken file.

However, one area of confusion for first-timers is always choosing between transcribing in a ‘verbatim’ or ‘edited’ way.

These are generally two different transcription directions.

But, what do they mean?

What is a Verbatim Transcription?

The easiest way to understand what verbatim transcription is, is through a simple little imagination exercise.

Imagine this for a second:

You are reading a text that is written out exactly how a person spoke it.

This includes stammers, stutters, interjections, filler words, mispronunciations, etc,.

You are reading a wall of text that looks quite awkward to read.

But why?

If it’s how someone speaks, it must be natural to read, right?

Well, when we are speaking face-to-face with someone our brains often ignore certain quirks.

Stamers, stutters, filler words, etc,. Are all generally glossed over by the mind.

However, when placed into a text format, they can become glaringly obvious.

A verbatim transcription presents the audio text exactly as it was spoken by the speaker.

This does not clean up or remove anything.

For example:

‘I was um trying to go to the mall and um as I um turned left er left, yeah, left onto Main Street, I uh I uh um got lost and thought thought I had gone the wrong direction!’

This can be a bit difficult to read.

So, what is the other option?

What is an Edited (Clean) Transcription?

An edited transcription, sometimes called a ‘clean’ transcription, is pretty self explanatory.

It’s where the transcriber removes small stammers and interjections to deliver what the speaker was intending to say, rather than what they actually said.

This is done very carefully so as to not change the meaning of anything important.

For example, the above transcription shown would go from this:

‘I was um trying to go to the mall and um as I um turned left er left, yeah, left onto Main Street, I uh I uh um got lost and thought thought I had gone the wrong direction!’

To this:

‘I was trying to go to the mall, and as I turned left onto Main Street, I got lost and thought I had gone the wrong direction!’

As you can see, the edited transcription is much easier to read.

This does not make it inherently better, just different.

Each style of transcription serves a purpose, and it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you and your text transcription.