Transcribing Audio to Text

in Making Audio and Video Media Accessible


Good transcription requires knowledge of which non-speech audio information should be included in the transcription. It’s more art than science — for example, it’s not always clear which non-speech audio information to include and how to communicate it in text.

If you have the resources to hire professionals to do your transcribing, that is best. If you don’t, please don’t be deterred from providing transcripts or captions. This page helps you do it yourself (DIY).

In some cases, there is already text available in a script. You’ll probably need to make some minor edits so it’s accurate with the final audio content.

How to Transcribe

You can just listen to the audio and type it up. That’s usually pretty tedious because you have to stop and restart the audio a lot. There is software that can help by slowing down the audio and providing easy pause buttons.

You can start with an automatically-generated text file. There’s lots of software and services that provide speech-to-text. These have various levels of accuracy. Often the text does not match the spoken audio — and in ways that change the meaning (or are embarrassing). For example, missing just one word such as “not” can make the captions contradict the actual audio content.

Plan to spend time correcting automatically-generated transcription.

More details on options and tools for transcribing are in: Transcripts on the Web, How to get or make transcripts .

A little about captioning tools is in the Captions/Subtitles page of this resource: Captioning Tools.

What to Transcribe

Generally, you transcribe all speech and relevant non-speech sound (such as: baby cries, fireworks going off, horse hoofs approaching). Keep in mind that the main purpose is to provide the information that you hear to people who cannot hear the audio. That will help you know which sounds to transcribe, and which are not needed. The following are common practices, not requirements.


Transcribe Accurately and Honestly

More on Captions

For captions:

Captions also include the time that each phrase will be displayed. Most people use tools to develop and refine captions.

Learn more about captions in another page of this resource: Captions/Subtitles.

More on Transcripts

Learn more about transcripts in another page of this resource: Transcripts.

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