Transcription rules: Standars, legal and guideline

This article on Transcription rules will show you how to convert audio to text professionally.

If you are a beginner, these transcription rules will let you know how a transcription should be done based on what is established by most companies in the industry.

Be sure to read this post; knowing this regulatory framework is the first step to becoming a successful transcriptionist.

General Rules and Guidelines for Transcription

Transcription rules are general guidelines for how a transcription should be and how it should be done.

If they are not taken into account, the transcription will not have the expected quality. It may be returned, perhaps without the possibility of improving it, because it may be given to another transcriber, and the effort and time invested will be lost.

rules for transcription

Below we present and describe each of these essential rules to be followed:

1. Accuracy

Transcripts should be at least 90% accurate; this involves listening carefully to the audio recording and writing down each sentence and phrase as it is in the audio.

2. Language

It is necessary to follow all the grammar rules of the language you are transcribing, with proper capitalization, punctuation and correct spelling.

The highest demand for transcription of audio files is in US English; however, if the audio is in British or Australian English, consider that some words have slightly different spelling.

transcription guidelines for beginners

In the transcriptions, a formal use of language is made; this implies not writing abbreviated words, such as "s." or "s/" for street, because it is faster.

3. Without paraphrasing or additional information

The transcript's content must be accurate and complete; therefore, paraphrasing or adding additional information is not acceptable.

Resist the temptation to summarize, rearrange, or add words to make the content more understandable; this is one of the most important transcription rules.

transcription rules

Some transcriptionists leave notes or comments on the transcript; this will not help the person or company requesting the transcript; on the contrary, it will generate confusion.

If you have any doubts, use the established communication channels to resolve them with the person who requested the service.

4. Verbatim or Non-verbatim: Stay within the chosen format

This is one of the most critical transcription rules to consider before starting to transcribe any content: to know what kind of transcription will be done.

In the case of verbatim transcription, all words and expressions of the speakers are accurately written down, including false starts, filler words, repeated words, bad words, slang and stuttering.

Relevant sounds in the audio are also transcribed; for example, if there was laughter, this is the way to do it: [laughter]. It is not necessary to place time stamps.

Use [background noise] to identify ambient sounds on a separate line. And use [background noise] on the same line if a relevant sound occurs when a person is speaking.

verbatim transcription rules

Silences are also included to reflect pauses, [silence] is written and can be referred to on the same line or separately at the time of occurrence; not less than 4 seconds nor more than 10 seconds.

If the silence is for more than 10 seconds, it is reflected as [pause 00:00:00] in bold to reflect a significant silence in the speech. In this case, it is written on a separate line.

Verbatim transcription is time-consuming and requires a lot of attention to detail; if it was requested this way, it is because you want to discover meanings, and everything is considered for the analysis.

5. Transcribe everything -tag what you can't understand

We know it's difficult, but avoid not transcribing something because you don't understand it or can't make sense of it.

Instead of omitting, use the established tags for words or phrases that are not heard or not understood.

The established tags are: [inaudible 00:00:00:00] and [unintelligible 00:00:00:00]. The text is written in bold.

6.  Do not use phonetics or shortcuts

In the transcriptions, a formal use of language is made; this implies not writing inappropriate abbreviations, such as "s." or "s/" for street because it is faster or "u" for you because it is easier.

transcription rules and guidelines

7. Do not correct the speaker’s grammar.

Unless otherwise requested, even if the speakers in the audio make grammar mistakes, do not correct them; write the words as they are pronounced.

Other standard guidelines in transcription services

Transcription companies have a style guide, or format, where they define, for example, how to write abbreviations, acronyms, sound events, dates, years, percentages, measurements, telephone numbers and more.

This guide should always be followed unless otherwise indicated or you are sent specific details for a particular client. If at any time you have doubts, ask before you start transcribing.

Transcripts are reviewed by an editor and given a grade based on compliance with standards (usually between 1 and 5), and you may be given feedback to improve the text.

In some companies, consistently high grades may qualify you for an editor's position, or bonuses are awarded for high grades and on-time delivery.

The risk of not following transcription rules and standards is that you will be removed from the company's transcription team.


Read the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against disability discrimination and seeks to ensure effective communication, including providing audio transcripts.

There are also guidelines for transcribers from the Described and Captioned Media Program, showing how to write content that is accessible to different audiences. Although these guidelines are not law, they are referenced by organizations around the world.

Additionally, the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines show how to write content that is accessible to all audiences, including people with disabilities.


Following the general transcription rules and the specific rules of each company means avoiding wasting time reviewing the editor's notes and making the corresponding modifications.

This affects productivity, so it is very important when you start working in a company to understand all the rules, established standards and put them into practice.

Not only to be eligible for a promotion or bonus but also to build your image and personal brand of being an excellent transcriptionist.

Emil Nikkhah
Hi, I'm Emil Nikkhah.
For over 25 years, I have successfully built several television post-production companies.
Frustrated by the high cost and slowness of manual transcription and subtitling in this industry, we decided to create ScriptMe, a powerful software for automatic transcription and subtitling.
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