How to transcribe conversations

Updated March 23, 2017

Transcribing a conversation is the process of writing down exactly what was said. Transcriptions are used in courtrooms, in business and in many other settings. They make it easy to quickly find relevant or important parts of a conversation.

Record the conversation using a high-quality recording device.

Start the transcription, in a word processor, with a header detailing the names of the speakers and the date of the interview.

Start the recording. Type what you hear. Use full names for the first time each person speaks; afterward indicate the speaker with his initials. You can use the "Find and Replace" function to change the initials to full names in all instances later. If anonymity is required use some other indicator for each speaker, such P1, P2 and so on.

Pause the recording when it gets ahead of you. You will likely type slower than the speakers talk, so pause and restart as needed. You may also need to rewind.

Write down everything exactly as it is said in the conversation, including filler words such as "um" and "like." Do not edit or correct grammar.

Use a standard set of spellings for region-specific words.

Type [??] (questions marks in brackets) if you cannot make out what is being said during part of the recording.


Consider obtaining a transcription machine, which includes a foot pedal that will allow you to keep your hands free while pausing and restarting the recording and the option to slow down or speed up playback.

Things You'll Need

  • Recording device
  • Word processor
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About the Author

Kaylee Finn began writing professionally for various websites in 2009, primarily contributing articles covering topics in business personal finance. She brings expertise in the areas of taxes, student loans and debt management to her writing. She received her Bachelor of Science in system dynamics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.