How to transcribe conversations

Written by kaylee finn
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How to transcribe conversations
Record a conversation to transcribe later. (hand mit recorder image by Dron from

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.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Recording device
  • Word processor

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  1. 1

    Record the conversation using a high-quality recording device.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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.

  6. 6

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

  7. 7

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

Tips and warnings

  • 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.

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