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Why do we need intelligent verbatim?

Before we talk intelligent verbatim, let’s discuss verbatim transcription is an invaluable tool. It crucially allows us to not only read dialogue, but also understand the meaning behind it and the manner in which it was said. After all, language reflects humans and humans are strange creatures. Context is everything. 

Just take a moment to consider the number of ways the word “really” can be said. It can be used to indicate surprise, horror and even sarcasm. To convey this well on a transcription we must ensure the context is made clear, using grammatical signs such as question marks if necessary.

What is verbatim transcription?

A verbatim transcription is a complete record of every utterance of a given conversation, interview, meeting or the like. It captures speech exactly as it is spoken, without alteration. Unless the transcript is of a pre prepared speech, it will contain many natural aspects of spontaneity such as hesitations (usually represented by commas), repetitions and other verbal filler.

Verbatim transcriptions are especially useful in situations where the manner of speech is being studied or for use in a legal setting where readouts must be unaltered. 

But why do we need intelligent verbatim then? 

It bridges the gap from spoken to written language

Essentially, humans don’t speak as they write. They tend to uh, speak um a little, a little like this, with several false starts, if you know what I mean. Speech is littered with all sorts of features, such as hedging and filler. These things are almost unnoticeable when they are heard, often because they are mumbled or said quickly, but look very different on paper where reading speed is not generally adjusted to account for fast spontaneous utterances. Intelligent verbatim converts spoken language into something that can be easily read and documented.

It preserves the meaning of what is said

Many recordings are transcribed in order to document what occurred in a certain setting and what was said, sometimes in order to prepare other materials such as minutes of meetings. These tasks usually don’t require a word for word record of everything that came out of everyone’s mouth, but a guide to the points they made. This can be easily achieved by removing non essential parts of the transcript that do not alter its meaning, such as repetitions, hesitations and other stuttering and background sounds. 

Intelligent verbatim transcripts flow and read better

Because transcripts are intended to be documented and stored, potentially for long periods of time, it’s important that whenever they are picked up, they can be read and understood easily. For this reason, intelligent verbatim transcripts omit certain phrases known as filler, such as “you know” and “right?” and excessively repeated words. When these are said, our brain automatically deletes them, but when read they cause us to stop and break our flow. Editing transcripts in this way also enables them to be sent to anybody, irrespective of whether they heard the original conversation. 

Final thoughts

Intelligent verbatim is an extremely handy tool for balancing transcript accuracy with ease of reading. It communicates the meaning of dialogue, while removing unnecessary and cumbersome features of everyday speech. It’s not good for everything; certain jobs require a completely faithful transcript with no edits, for example studies to do with speech patterns in children. But for most settings where meaning is the primary concern, intelligent verbatim is the fastest and the most economical choice.


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