How to Create and Use a Transcription Style Guide

how-to tips Jul 09, 2020

One of the key resources you will use as you pursue your transcription career is a transcription style guide.

Every transcription company and client will have their preferred style and format to ensure consistency among multiple transcribers, to align with the company brand, or to meet industry standards. 

While many clients will gladly defer to your best judgment and recommendations, others may have specific preferences that need to be adhered to.

What is a transcription style guide?

A transcription style guide is a document outlining specific formatting requirements. These requirements may apply to different types of transcriptions (podcast vs legal proceedings), for different clients, or just for your own organization. 

At the highest level, it specifies the preferred grammar resource (e.g., CMOS, AP Style), dictionary (e.g., Merriam-Webster or industry-specific dictionaries), language (e.g. US English, British English), and strict vs. standard verbatim.

It’s important to remember that a transcription style guide is a living document. It will grow and change as you get more familiar with your client’s content and as trends in grammar develop over time. In addition, it’s likely that you will have different transcription style guides for different clients.

Examples of transcription guidelines

The following are examples of items you will likely want to include in your transcription style guide. This list is by no means all inclusive, and you will likely discover other types of preferences to add, particularly as you branch out into different industries.

  • General 
    • Grammar reference
    • Dictionary
    • Language
    • Strict vs. standard verbatim and whether um/uh is included
    • File format
  • Layout
    • Font type and size
    • Header/footer/page number
    • Cover page
    • Spacing at end of sentence
    • Indentations and line breaks
    • Superscripts on or off
  • Numbers
    • Digits vs. words
    • Money
    • Dates, decades, partial numbers
  • Symbols
    • &, $, % or use words
    • Ellipsis or em dash when trailing off
  • Other
    • Oxford comma
    • Titles of publications in quotes or italics
    • Use quotes only when reading from a document or also use for paraphrased speech

How do I create a transcription style guide?

A transcription style guide does not need to be a complex document, and creating one doesn’t need to be a daunting task. It should simply be either a document or a spreadsheet that organizes preferences into categories for easy use.

We recommend creating a style guide that you send to new clients at the start of a project. Your transcription guidelines lay out all of your recommendations and preferred references. You can then ask the client to specify any preferred deviations from your guidelines.

This approach has several benefits including:

  • You think through your preferred formats in advance and gather them together into an easy-to-use file
  • Building trust with your client by demonstrating your knowledge of transcription industry standards, forethought, and organization
  • Avoiding a unique constellation of transcription guidelines for each individual client. The reality is that most clients probably don’t care about more than a few specific formats, so having a company style guide keeps the bulk of the formatting consistent across all of your clients. 

Sample excerpt from a transcription style guide

Conclusion

Creating a transcription style guide -- even a very basic one -- will help you achieve consistency across jobs and makes your work more efficient. It also shows your clients that you are prepared to take on their jobs and deliver reliable results over many files, that you’ve created a framework for your business, and are prepared to make client-specific adjustments.

Have you used a transcription style guide or build one for yourself?

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