Audio recordings have become a great way to create content. They can save time in formulating and expressing ideas, especially if you’re not a confident writer. It’s satisfying to spit out an audio transcript after a talking session filled with rich insights. Don’t be surprised, though, if your frustration with writing now shifts to editing this work. If you edit line by line, you might take upwards of an hour to get through 10 minutes of audio. That’s a whole day lost if you’re trying to distil a one-hour discussion you’ve just recorded. So, can you speed up the process of editing audit transcripts? And what are the best techniques to quickly get a decent audio transcript you can shape for your online content?
1. Don’t add timestamps, or speakers, to your audio transcripts
Depending on the transcript tool you’re using, and there are plenty, you may get the option to add timestamps or speakers to your transcript. Even if you want to include speakers in your published transcript, you’re unlikely to want them to be known as Speaker 1 and Speaker 2. Either search and replace with the names you want to use or remove speaker identifiers altogether, especially if not publishing an interview format.
I haven’t come across any instance where the time stamp is useful. If I want to jump ahead to a section of the interview, I find it easier just to search based on the word or phrase I’m looking for.
2. Select the proofing language of your choice
Hit Ctrl A to select the whole transcript, then select the Proofing Language you prefer from your Language dropdown. Unless you can select it in advance (and that you remember to!), it will likely default to US English.
Setting the proofing language ensures you pick up regional spelling defaults quickly. Scan through the document and accept any suggested spelling updates recommended. Note that some words with ‘z’ in them like organize/organise don’t show up as spelling errors in some regions, so do an extra search for ‘z’ words if you have a strong preference about the spelling here.
3. Keep a copy of the original audio/video where possible
The audio transcript makes garbage out of our words sometimes. It doesn’t mean to, but it is made by a simple machine, not sophisticated humans like us. It might only happen once or twice in a recording, but don’t risk missing out on a unique insight.
For instance, in one transcript I found the phrase “The one setting beast and sunburst” from a conversation about a local reality TV show. I couldn’t work out what on earth this could refer to even when I said it out loud. I went back to the audio recording and quickly realised it meant “The one set in the Eastern Suburbs” referring to a place in Sydney. Sometimes we talk garbled, and sometimes we don’t but it sounds like it anyway.
4. Remove or replace common speech tics and contractions that don’t add value
If you or your speaker use common filler words or speech tics, keep a list, and strip them out right from the start using the ‘search and replace’ function or equivalent. Examples include: “you know”, “yeah”, “so”.
Different speech transcriptions have different interpretations of regional accents. If you don’t want to be too casual, identify and replace words like ‘wanna’, ‘gonna’ ‘’cause’ with ‘want to’, ‘going to’, ‘because’. Bizarrely, the program I use spells “connection” and its variants with an “x”, as in “connexion” which I’ve never seen anywhere else.
5. Run your grammar check program through your audio transcripts first
Whether you use your writing software’s inbuilt editor, or you use ProwritingAid or Grammarly, run their spellchecker through your audio transcript first to catch the glaring items. Don’t run the transcript through any of the other editor features just yet though. You’re better off tidying up the manuscript yourself first so it says what you want it to, before using any other parts of the editing tool.
These five tips aim to tackle some of the common frustrations that uniquely relate to editing audio transcripts. They are quick ways to get the transcript into the best shape, so you can save time and focus on shaping the words into what you want them to say.
These tips focus on the how to effectively:
- Create the transcript
- Set up the transcript
- Use the original recording
- Get rid of typical speech features not wanted in writing
- Get the spelling up to scratch
However, you’ll undoubtedly find other short cuts as you get used to editing your audio transcripts. When I first started working with audio transcripts, it took me twice as long as it does now. Over time, you will get faster.
Made the audio transcripts, want the output, and more, fast?
If you don’t want to spend the time messing around with editing, get in touch to find out how I can help you use the transcript to create your content, or we can have a quick session on how you can speed it up. Let me know at email@example.com and I’ll get back to you promptly. Happy talking in the meantime!
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.