Tips for a Successful Transcription


  • Digital

WORDsmart Transcription and Design can transcribe audio or video in almost any digital format. Here are some formats we have worked with in the past:


These high-quality compressed formats provide the best balance between audio quality and file size.


These uncompressed audio files offer the best audio quality, but because the files are larger it may be more difficult and time-consuming to transfer them.


This highly compressed proprietary format is of lower audio quality and is usually only suitable for recording dictation as opposed to interviews, phone calls, conferences, etc.


Compressed video files will speed file transfer time and work optimally with our transcribing software.


  • Audiotapes

WORDsmart Transcription and Design has the equipment to transcribe full-size audio cassettes, as well as minicassettes and microcassettes.

Choosing a Format

Full-size audio cassettes produce much better quality recordings than minicassettes and microcassettes.


Use an external microphone to minimize noise from the tape recorder itself. Avoid placing the microphone near sources of extraneous noise (air conditioners, etc.), and avoid making noise near the microphone (i.e., shuffling papers, typing on a keyboard, pouring beverages, etc.).

If your tape recorder has more than one speed, use the faster speed. While it will use more tape, the recording quality will be far superior.

After the Recording

Please label each cassette clearly with the title of the event, the topic of the recording, or the names of speakers. If the recording spans more than one cassette, clearly label them in sequence.


  1. Any supporting materials you can provide (interview questions; lists of specialized terminology, acronyms or names of people or places, etc.) will help us deliver an accurate transcript.
  2. Clearly labeling each audio file or cassette with a short description of the topic or the names of speakers or interview subjects will minimize the risk of confusion.
  3. If there are introductory or concluding remarks you do not need transcribed, consider letting us know the time points at which we should start and stop transcribing—or edit the audio file to eliminate any material you do not want transcribed.


  • Equipment:

  1. Landlines provide better audio quality than cell phones or Skype connections.
  2. Handsets are better at filtering out extraneous background noise than speakerphones.
  3. Engaging a conference call recording service or using a cable to connect your recording device directly to your phone will most likely provide better audio quality than putting the call on speakerphone and using an external device to record the conversation.

  • Before the Recording:

  1. Test your setup to check audio levels and make sure all voices will be captured.
  2. If possible, have each participant call in from a quiet place free of background noise and voices.

  • During the Recording:

  1. Limit crosstalk to minimize recording dropouts and obscured conversation.
  2. If there are multiple people on the call, ask participants to mute their lines when they are not speaking.
  3. If there are numerous people on the call that must be accurately identified, ask the participants to identify themselves each time they speak.


  • Before the Recording:

  1. Choose the best environment possible for the recording. A quiet room just large enough for everyone to be comfortable is ideal. Excessive noise—including conversations, music, or traffic noise in the background—can make a recording difficult to transcribe. Also, if there are only a few people in a large room, reverberations and ambient noise can adversely affect the quality of the recording.
  2. If you cannot avoid recording in a noisy environment, place the microphone close to the interviewee to make sure he/she is audible over background noise.
  3. Test the recording before starting the interview and make any adjustments necessary to make sure you will capture the audio you want transcribed.

  • During the Recording:

  1. Avoid making extraneous noises near the microphone. Rustling papers, typing on a keyboard or pouring water near the microphone will almost certainly obscure the speakers' voices. Sliding the recorder over a table or picking it up and setting it down will also create noise.

  • After the Recording:

  1. Include each interviewee's name in the name of the corresponding audio file.


  • Before the Recording:

  1. Use multiple microphones (one per person, if possible) to cover the entire group and make sure you capture the audio you want transcribed. If possible, have a technician on hand to adjust sound levels during the recording.
  2. In advance of the recording, test the microphones and audio levels and minimize ambient noise (air conditioners, fans, etc.).
  3. Make sure that microphones are not placed where they will pick up such extraneous noises as rustling papers, typing on a computer keyboard, clattering silverware or beverages being poured.

  • During the Recording:

  1. Remind participants that they are being recorded and ask them to speak one at a time.
  2. Have speakers introduce themselves at the beginning of the recording. If the participants identify themselves by name and say a couple of sentences about themselves, it will help the transcriptionist distinguish the various voices.
  3. Alternatively, having the participants identify themselves each time they speak--or having a moderator identify them--will enable the transcriptionist to accurately identify each speaker. ("This is John. I would like to say that I..." or "Thank you, Mary, for that comment.)
  4. If multiple participants start speaking at once, have the moderator gently intervene and encourage them to take turns so the transcriptionist can capture as much of the conversation as possible.


  • Before the Event:

  1. Confirm the equipment is in working order and check audio levels.
  2. Make sure microphones are not near sources of extraneous noise, such as rustling papers, slide projectors, or clattering computer keyboards. Make sure lapel microphones will not create noise by rubbing against speakers' clothing.

  • During the Event:

  1. Make sure all speakers use microphones. Even if they can be heard by the live audience without amplification, it will be difficult if not impossible for the transcriptionist to hear what they are saying if they do not speak directly into the mike.
  2. If you want to capture questions and remarks from the audience, provide microphones for that purpose. Alternatively, have the moderator repeat questions and remarks from the audience to ensure that the transcriptionist is able to hear them.
  3. For a long meeting, divide the recording into smaller segments--i.e., by speaker or topic, or at the breaks. This makes it easier to transfer the audio files and divide the job among multiple transcriptionists for a faster turnaround.

  • After the Event:

  1. If there are multiple audio files, make sure each file name indicates its place in the sequence and identifies the topic discussed and/or the speakers' names.