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Transcription Services 101: Clean Verbatim and Full Verbatim

Transcription services can take important audio and video content and turn it into a convenient and accessible text file that is easy to distribute, search, and save for future needs. There are two types of transcription services that you’ll come across. Full verbatim transcription (also known as strict verbatim or verbatim transcription) and clean verbatim transcription (also known as non-verbatim or intelligent verbatim transcription). Let’s examine how these two transcription types differ and what factors can influence the quality of a transcription project. 

Full Verbatim Transcription

When you undergo a full verbatim transcription, the goal is to do a word-for-word transcription of the spoken language. This includes filler words like “um”, incomplete sentences, and even sounds like throat clearing and laughter. 

Generally, full verbatim transcription is used when the behavior and reactions of the person(s) are being recorded, such as in police investigations, court cases, and market research studies. This is the most expensive type of transcription to undertake, as it typically takes the longest to perform. Let’s look at an example of what a full verbatim transcription can look like. 

While that type of text is difficult to read, you can see how the filler words and pauses show uncertainty on the speaker’s part. While pauses and misspeaking in a business presentation may be chalked up to nerves, in a police investigation those signs of uncertainty might be a lot more meaningful. 

Clean Verbatim Transcription

Clean verbatim transcription filters the spoken language a bit, as the main purpose of this type of transcription is to extract the meaning of what was being said. During a clean verbatim transcription, filler words, pauses, and sounds like coughing or sighing will be omitted. The transcriber may even edit the text a bit to correct sentences for grammar or to eliminate irrelevant words or sentences. 

Clean verbatim transcription is used when the meaning of what was said is more important than the exact wording that occurred, such as when transcribing business presentations or medical diagnoses. In these cases understanding the text and being able to easily read it is more important than the reactions of those that were speaking, and it’s not helpful to have every pause or self-correction noted. Let’s look at the same transcribed text from early, but from a clean verbatim perspective. 

You can see how in this example, the text is cleaned up and all the key information is clarified. 

Where Timestamps and Audio Quality Come Into Play

With either type of transcription, two things you’ll need to take into consideration are how timestamps and audio quality can impact the final transcription product. 

One way the transcriptionist can help deliver a quality product is by time-stamping the typed copy. This really comes in handy when managing a video transcription project, as you can connect dialogue with the relevant visual sections of the file. Timestamps can be vital when dealing with foreign-language discussions applied to video, as it helps keep the spoken and visual elements of the file in sync — this also applies to subtitles. A transcriptionist must time-stamp the text version and depend on the purpose of the transcription, timestamps can be applied every one or two minutes or every time a new speaker starts talking, it really depends on the project’s unique requirements.

The quality of the audio file can also greatly impact a transcription project. Professional transcriptionists can only do so much if the file they have been given is poor quality. They need to be able to clearly understand what is being said, so they can transcribe it properly. You’ll want to consult your transcriptionist first to make sure you’re both on the same page about what you can achieve. There are some workarounds for small quality issues. If the bad quality audio-only happens occasionally in an audio file — for example, an ambulance on the street for just 10 seconds — the transcriptionists will add “[unintelligible]” and continue transcribing once the speech becomes intelligible again. But if the whole audio is difficult to understand, then the quality of the transcription will be impacted.

How to Handle Queries Efficiently During a Translation Project

How to Handle Queries Efficiently During a Translation Project

Communication is key. That’s a solid rule most of us know is a good idea. That being said, in the hustle and bustle of a big translation project it can be easy to let good communication habits slip. But when clients, project managers, and linguistic teams all need to stay on the same page, it is especially important to facilitate organized and effective communication between the translators and the client. This is where “query sheets” come in.

When working on a project with multiple collaborators, you may come across a query sheet. Essentially, a query sheet is a centralized place where those working on complex projects can organize questions and comments from all parties involved in the project.

Multiple people can collaborate in a query sheet, which can make it easy to get disorganized. Here are a few tips for managing queries efficiently and effectively:

1. Keep it Digital

Choosing to use a virtual tool that multiple users can access from anywhere at any time, that makes global updates (aka there is one draft that updates whenever anyone makes a change) is a super important element needed to make sure a query sheet stays up to date and functioning. Google Sheets is a good example of a digital tool you can utilize to build a query sheet. Because it’s saved in the “cloud” you don’t have to worry about a computer crashing and losing work or someone accidentally deleting the document off their computer. With web-based spreadsheets like Google Sheets, you can see changes to the spreadsheet automatically happening in real-time. Keeping things digital is also a great way to avoid the hassle of saving, downloading, and emailing documents again and again every time an update is made.

2. Encourage Collaboration

One of the main benefits of a query sheet is how collaborative they are. If you’re working on projects with multiple linguists across several languages, it is important that everyone is able to read all notes and take any questions or answers shared with the group into account. A high level of collaboration can not only help provide clarity, but can streamline operations. If a translator sees a question has already been asked and answered in the query sheet, they won’t need to ask the same question again. Make it clear that you want everyone on your team to utilize this resource and to create a collaborative dialogue about the project. 

If the scope of the project involves translators speaking multiple languages, it can be wise to avoid creating different sheets for different languages as tempting as that may be. Doing so will lessen the collaborative approach that makes a query sheet so valuable. 

3. Question Carefully

When using a query sheet, it’s important to keep in mind the intention of the document, which is to ask questions. Each query included in the document should be structured in a clear and concise way. That way, clients or other teammates can easily answer these questions in a productive fashion. Adding notes like “this sentence isn’t translatable” doesn’t pose a solvable question or present a possible solution. It would be better to say, “this sentence isn’t translatable in the target language for x reason, can we transcreate and say y instead?”. It’s okay if the question posed only needs a yes or no answer, simplicity can get the job done. 

It’s also helpful to think carefully before adding a question to the query sheet. While we would like to say there is no such thing as a stupid question, there are questions that will be a burden to a queery sheet and not a productive addition. 

Before asking a question, consider the following solutions:

  • Did I research this issue thoroughly?
  • Does the client’s style guide provide an answer?
  • Is the answer in the project instructions?

It’s always better to ask a client a question if you’re unsure of their answer before playing the guessing game. But if you can find the answer on your own first, that’s even better.


Pros & Cons: In-House Translators vs. Freelance Translators

Whether you crave the stability of a nine to five or like to hit the road and let the world be your office, you may find working as a linguist or translator suits your needs. While some benefit more strongly from being in-house or working as a freelancer, there are some pretty solid pros for translators considering either option. Of course, there are a few downsides we’ll cover too, but let’s try to keep things positive!

In-House Translators

Working as an in-house translator is probably a bit easier to picture for most as many have held full-time in-house positions before. 


  • Fixed income. One of the main perks of working in-house is the income stability it provides. You know exactly how much money you’re going to earn each year and have consistent paychecks coming in. You’ll also qualify for unemployment in the event you do lose your job, which can be trickier for freelancers to obtain. 
  • Benefits. In-house employees typically have access to benefits that freelancers don’t such as healthcare, retirement, paid vacation, and more. 
  • Convenience. When you work in-house, there is no need to worry about the logistics of running a freelance business. There are other employees that will handle things like accounting, marketing, and looking for new clients.
  • Teamwork. You can rely on a team of peers to help you complete big projects. There’s no need to wear all the hats, which freelancers often have to do. When you need to take time off, ideally there will be someone there to cover your workload. And if you need help with a tricky project, you should have teammates you can lean on. You can learn from each other and grow together. 
  • Professional development. Typically in-house employees receive valuable training from those who are further along in their careers. Many companies invest in employee professional development on an ongoing basis. The company may offer to send you to conferences, to pay for educational resources, and to train you in new skillsets.


    • Less flexibility. Some in-house employees may have to work in a specific office each day at an agreed upon schedule. Not to mention, there are dress codes and other office rules to worry about. That being said, while most in-house translators used to work in a company office, nowadays it’s very common for them to work from home.
    • Cap on earnings. While working in-house provides stability, in many ways you have less control over your earnings. Freelancers have lows, but they can also have major highs. 
    • Less autonomy. When in-house, you typically have to do as you’re told. You may have little control over what types of projects you work on and might have to follow company protocols.

    Freelance Translators

    If you haven’t worked as a freelancer before, it can be hard to picture what that career path looks like. There are some major benefits of freelancing worth considering, but there are also some downsides that not everyone is ready to handle. 


    • Ultimate flexibility. Want to work by the seaside today and in a mountain cabin tomorrow? No problem. Are you a night owl who does your best work when everyone else is asleep? Good for you. Don’t like a client or aren’t interested in certain types of projects? Send them packing. As a freelancer you’ll be able to decide when and where you work, who you work with, and what your vacation schedule looks like. 
    • You’re the boss. Freelancing is essentially running a very small business of one. You’re a business owner, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside, which means you get to do things your way. 
    • Earning potential. Freelancers get a bad rap as being “underemployed” at times, but many freelancers can tell you that when you’re retaining the whole profit from a project (and your company isn’t taking a cut) that your income can soar. You get to set your rates and can choose to only take on projects that work for your budget. 


    • Stability not guaranteed. Working as a freelancer provides a lot of excitement and the wins can feel really big since they’re all your own, but a stable income is not guaranteed. This can be challenging for people on a tight budget or who have a family to support. 
    • No benefits. You’ll have to purchase your own benefits and accept that there is no such things as a paid vacation anymore. It’s important to remember to aim to make more than you would in-house in order to pay for benefits yourself. 
    • Loneliness. Working as a freelancer can be lonely at times. If no one else in your household works from home or if you live alone, you may find you have a lot of solitude on your hands. The lack of teamwork can also feel very isolating. 
    • Out of pocket expenses. Office supplies, computers, and professional development will all have to come out of your pocket which can sting a bit.

    The Takeaway

    There is no “better” option here. Both in-house and freelance translators have some major perks to look forward to. At Terra, we employ in-house linguists as well as collaborate with freelancers. So whatever your preferences are, we can work together. The key is to find which is the best fit for your goals, personality, and lifestyle!