Why Transcription Speed Matters

The transcription industry is growing, with the U.S. transcription business valued at nearly $26 billion alone. Global medical transcription is also expected to grow to $52 billion by the end of 2023, while legal transcription is predicted to have an 11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2028. This means that more and more businesses recognize the value of transcription services. Therefore, more and more people are signing up to be transcriptionists — and who can blame them? Flexible hours, good pay, limited educational requirements, primarily remote work environment, and great portability mean that transcribers often enjoy a great work-life balance while making reasonable money. Despite all these perks, transcriptionists must often meet strict deadlines, which means they must be fast without sacrificing quality. That’s why transcription speed matters to us and our transcriptionists.

How Long Does It Take To Transcribe One Hour of Audio?

In our experience, transcribing an hour of audio takes between three and four hours. That means a good transcription speed measure is three to four minutes for every one minute of recorded material. This is not set in stone, though. More complex audio may take up to 6 hours for every one hour of recorded material. 

Being able to produce consistent and quality work at reasonable speeds with little to no errors is a hallmark trait of a skilled transcriptionist, and overall, it helps companies like us to maintain our accuracy guarantees while offering fast turnaround times. 

Factors That Affect Transcription Speed

Several factors affect transcription speed, some of which can be addressed effectively by the transcriptionist or company. Here are the most common of them. 

Typing Speed

No matter how you look at it, typing speed is essential to transcription speed. Faster typing speed allows the transcriptionist to keep up with the pace of the audio content better. This is especially evident when dealing with fast speakers or complex technical content. The average person can type 40 words per minute. Transcriptionists are encouraged to reach somewhere around 60 words per minute. People with above-average typing skills may reach 80 – 100 words per minute, however, that shouldn’t be treated as a baseline. The great thing is that there are many ways to improve your typing skills. We’ll talk more about them later. 

Audio or Video Quality

The audio recording quality is one of the most significant factors affecting transcription speed. Typists working on transcription can work faster when dealing with clear audio recordings. This is somtimes a technical factor, and can also be a human factor.  It can depend on many things like recording equipment quality, background noises, the environment in which the recording was taken, electrical interference, compression rate, type of audio file, and the overall recording technique used. The audio quality can also be affected by the way people speak, how fast they speak, if they speak over each other, or if someone is speaking quietly and away from the microphones.

Unfortunately, all of it is out of the transcriptionist’s hands. Some tools can help improve audio quality; transcription companies often employ them to ease the process. For the most part, however, professional transcriptionists working with poor audio typically have to depend on context clues or pull from their experience transcribing similar audio recordings to create a more acceptable result. 

Speakers, Dialects, And Accents

Aside from audio quality, transcription speed may take a hit if the speaker has a different or complex speaking style.  It may take a transcriber some time to get used to a speaker with a thick accent or an unfamiliar dialect. Similarly, if a speaker talks a mile a minute, extra attention will be required to ensure that the transcript includes every word said. In some cases, multiple overlapping speakers are in the recording, making it harder to determine who’s speaking and what is being said. 

When dealing with such factors, familiarity with the language, accent, or dialect and the ability to quickly pick up on nuance and contextual clues can help speed up the transcription process. 

Transcription Style

There are two styles of transcription: verbatim and cleaned-up verbatim. Verbatim transcription is a full transcript of everything said, including ums, uhs, stutters, partial words, etc. This differs from cleaned-up verbatim, which removes unnecessary sounds like laughter, ums, ahs, stutters, or ambient audio. Verbatim transcription requires strict attention to detail and requires transcribers to capture every sound and every spoken word. Non-verbatim transcription involves a more selective approach focusing on conveying the overall message.

Experience And Familiarity With Jargon

New transcriptionists dealing with unfamiliar terms can slow down transcription speed. Professional transcribers with more experience usually don’t have this problem, particularly if they’re dealing with an audio recording that falls under their specialization. For example, medical transcription often deals with abbreviated healthcare terms, which might sound like utter gibberish to inexperienced medical transcriptionists. They might have to pause and rewind multiple times, get out of their transcription software and jump into Google to search for the term, or get up and ask someone to verify it, which can significantly hamper productivity.  

Even with the relative experience of a professional transcriptionist, some audio transcription work may be more difficult than others. An experienced legal transcriptionist will complete a piece of audio quicker than an academic transcriptionist transcribing a focus group involving highly technical bioengineering terminology. This has to do with the time it takes them to research words, acronyms, and phrases they aren’t familiar with. In a sense, familiarity is the key to efficiency and decreasing the turnaround time of a transcript.

Tips To Improve Typing And Transcription Speed

Both professional transcriptionists and newbies starting their careers can significantly benefit from the following tips to increase transcription speeds. 

Work in A Quiet Environment

Transcription is primarily remote work, so you don’t have to deal with the constant bustle and sounds of tapping keys that are ever-present in offices. Working in the comfort of your home allows you to find a quiet workplace spot. Several studies have indicated that silence is a great catalyst for productivity. Obviously, it also helps you hear the audio recordings better. 

Use Foot Pedals, Quality Headsets, and Ergonomic Keyboards

Transcription equipment like foot pedals are not strictly required, although we highly recommend them. They are often equipped with buttons that allow transcriptionists to control audio playback, including play, pause, rewind, and the fast-forward functions. Some foot pedals allow the buttons to be reconfigured , or you can use third-party software. This hand-free control allows transcriptionists to concentrate on typing without repeatedly reaching for the mouse. Our transcriptionists that use foot pedals transcribe four times faster than the ones who do not use a foot pedal. 

Furthermore, foot pedals can help reduce physical strain and fatigue from constant reaching and repetitive hand movements, allowing them to focus more on typing for faster transcription. They can also help maintain a more comfortable and ergonomic posture, increasing focus and prolonged productivity.

High quality headsets or earphones and ergonomic keyboards are also highly suggested. Quality headsets or earphones with noise-canceling features can help you get every sound and syllable from audio recordings. Meanwhile, ergonomic keyboards reduce the strain on your fingers and wrists, allowing you to work more efficiently before fatigue sets in. They also help reduce the chances of getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a common issue with typists, programmers, and other similar jobs.

Use Transcription Software And Autocorrect

Many tools and software packages exist that can also help speed up transcription. Some offer text expander and macro functionalities, where transcribers can create shortcuts or predefined text snippets for commonly used phrases, speaker names, or technical terms. This reduces repetitive typing and speeds up the overall process. Automated correction from word processors and typing assistants like Grammarly can also help shave off a few seconds or minutes from the overall process. Integrating these programs into your preferred word processor or transcription platform enhances transcription efficiency and makes editing, formatting, and proofreading content much easier. Our transcriptionists that use these tools will go between 20-30% faster than those that do not use these tools.

Take Breaks

This might seem like a no-brainer, yet sometimes, we lose ourselves in our work, deadlines loom – and we forget to take a little “me time.” Not only that, transcribing when you’re already fatigued can lead to more errors, which will take more time to correct, which completely goes against the concept of increasing your transcription speed. So, when needed, take a quick break. Maybe take a nap, go for a walk, grab some snacks, play with your pet, do a quick scroll through your newsfeed — anything that can help take the edge off of working long hours. 

Experience — It Counts For Something 

It takes more than fantastic typing skills to push out content quickly in transcription. It also comes down to years of experience within a subject matter, transcription style, and the tools to improve the audio quality – thankfully, Ditto Transcripts has them covered. 

Our customers say we’re a great value because we are on time, accurate, and affordable. We are experts in different industries, and our transcriptionists always get projects that match their specializations. While there are factors that can interfere with how much content gets transcribed per hour, our transcriptionists always make the project go smoothly and error-free.

Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcription services for individuals and companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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