Transcript Style | Editor supplement | Sample Transcript | Rare Situations Supplement

Main style guide for transcribing and editing: the basics

How to use this guide

It’s crucial that you read this guide over completely before beginning your first transcription HIT with CastingWords (CW). There is, quite honestly, no way you can get our highest bonuses if you do not. This goes even if you have done other Turk transcription work before.

We know this guide is long. However, it is a complete reference for matters of CW style, and we have tried to make it as clear and easy to use as possible by breaking it into sections. You are welcome to make a personal quick-reference guide, and we encourage you to do so. Creating one for yourself is always a great test of whether you understand a particular style well.

Besides the headings, everything that we show in boldface in this style guide is a specific example of correct style for CW. You can follow those examples exactly.

What we need you to know about CW style

Confidentiality is of utmost importance. Do not ever post to the Internet any transcripts or audio that you receive or create for us, or post these anywhere else that they’ll be accessible by anyone besides you and CW.

Beyond that, the special instructions on the coversheet of the HIT are the second most important determiner of how you handle the transcript. These are our rules for those.

The transcript you submit must meet the following criteria, or we may reject it:

Other major rules

Do not make up words. There are two ways in which we mean this:

  1. Do not spell words phonetically. All words should be spellchecked and must be actual English words, unless the speaker was deliberately making up words, such as "what awesome majorness!" Otherwise, your transcript will be heavily downgraded for using phonetic spelling, such as "coco van" for "coq au vin." (More on this in point 2.)
  2. Do not include words just because they sound similar to the syllables that were spoken. This is one of the co-owners’ pet peeves. These tips should prevent that problem: * Read your transcript before submitting, as if you were reading an article or story. If the words you used do not make sense in each sentence, they are probably not the words the speaker was saying. * For example, is it really likely that a TSA officer repeatedly talked about "hot gowns" while discussing his work? That may sound similar to what was said, but it’s more likely that "pat-downs" was his phrase, since that’s what he probably does all day. Same with "coco van," when it would make much more sense for that chef being interviewed to be talking about "coq au vin." Always consider the context of the conversation; use common sense to interpret the audio.

Tag any words that you are uncertain about or can’t get. It is not enough to mention in the job’s Comments that words are missing or that you are unsure. You must tag the spots where they should have been or where you don’t think you have the right word(s). * If you give it a few tries but the words you’re hearing still don’t make sense for the transcript, use [xx] or [?] instead. See the Tags section of this guide for more details about how the two should be used, but we prefer you use such tags instead of just leaving in words that sound close but don’t make sense. * Your transcript won’t be downgraded for using [xx] or [?] unless it’s clear that you made very little effort to decipher the word(s). It's not OK to use [xx] for a word that's easy to understand, either by itself, and/or by a quick Internet search, and/or within the context of the audio, e.g., if the word is stated elsewhere more clearly and you got it. Use all the information you have available. There are a few major ways in which you can get extra information, and we ask that you use them: * The coversheet for the HIT may contain clues such as the speakers’ names or the correct spelling for certain terms mentioned in the audio. Not including information from the coversheet in the transcript may get your work downgraded, so please check that coversheet! * The audio itself can give you new information. For example, if at the end, the interviewer says, "Thanks, Dave, for this interview!", and the interviewee’s response clearly indicates that he is Dave, then you must go back and relabel the interviewee as Dave: throughout the transcript. See the Sample Transcript for an example of this having been done. * Use our Word List for correct spellings of various common and not-so-common terms, and check our Rare Situations Supplement if something comes up you’re not sure how to handle. Our Editor Supplement *is useful if you’re doing our editor work, and we’ve designed our Sample Transcript to be useful to everyone. If all else fails, contact CW directly to get your question answered. We are happy to help, but it is important to us to see that you have used our documentation before asking.

Remove filler words, including "ah, er, um, uh, mm-hmm," unless they are absolutely necessary to indicate meaning. Do the same for "And, But, Or, So" when they start a sentence, as well as for whatever other words a particular speaker uses (some use "like" and others use "Yeah," for example) to start a sentence without adding meaning.

Don’t include false starts, unless they add information to the transcript that will be missing otherwise. Compare these examples: * "What did I do with the dog’s...I need to get to the bank before it closes" becomes What did I do with the dog’s...I need to get to the bank before it closes, because the false start adds information that the rest of the sentence does not, so it should be included. * "I need to...need, um...I need to get to the bank before it closes" becomes I need to get to the bank before it closes, because the false start added no new information.

Verbatim Jobs


Speaker labels

Special rules for speaker-labeling a large group

Special speaker-labeling rules of group discussion jobs. Labeled: Focus Group, Panel or Round Table


Type 1: Use these when you can’t get a word/phrase

General rules

Tags list for things you couldn’t make out, with brief definitions

Type 2: Use these for sound events

Other Audio Problems -- what to check before reporting

Punctuation and grammar


Grammar highlights

These are not the only grammar rules you are expected to follow. You should use all the grammar knowledge you have at your disposal. We are just highlighting some important grammar issues here that are especially confusing for transcribers.

Hyphen reminders

Hints for apostrophes and contractions

Spelling out

Use the spelled-out versions of these words, always: * going to, want to, have to (not gonna, wanna, haveta -- even if the speaker says them) The exception is quoted material, which should always be verbatim, to protect the integrity of the quote. * and (not &) * percent (not %)

Keep every apostrophe-based contraction that the speaker uses. Also, don't contract when the speaker didn't. Do this: "isn't" stays isn't, "don't" stays don't, and "would not" stays would not.

If the speaker is spelling out words letter by letter, please check the Rare Situations Supplement to find out what to do.

Verbatim Transcripts

Numbers: large numbers, fractions, decimals, time and money

Use only words to represent numbers in these cases:

Change the words to numerals in all other cases:

Exception for number series:

Series spoken as "ten, twenty, or thirty thousand," where the speaker clearly means "10,000, 20,000, or 30,000" should be spelled out more than usual to minimize confusion. Do this: 10, 20, or 30 thousand. * If that series has a unit that is not currency, such as "fifty, seventy-five, or one hundred thousand meters," do this: 50, 75, or 100 thousand meters. * If that series specifies currency, treat it as an exception to our usual currency rules below. To keep the amounts clear at a glance, leave the unit spelled out: "Forty, fifty, or sixty million dollars" becomes 40, 50, or 60 million dollars.

Times in years, including age ranges:

Decades are shown with an apostrophe in front of them but nowhere else. Giving someone's age range as a decade of life involves no apostrophes anywhere. Do this: "They partied during the seventies" becomes They partied during the '70s, "Eighties Flashback Friday" becomes '80s Flashback Friday, and "My grandma is in her sixties" becomes My grandma is in her 60s.

Special rules for money:

One more special numbers rule

Word list

If a word or term is on this list and is spoken in the audio, please make sure it gets into your transcript, spelled just this way. Capitalize any of these when starting a sentence.

Special Note: abbreviations (other than common all-caps acronyms) are never to be used.

à la
à la carte
a lot (always two words; "allot" is a separate term with a separate meaning, and "alot" is not standard English)
all right (never "alright")
because (never 'cause, except on verbatim, and never ‘cos or cuz no matter what)
color (added "u" as in "colour" -- applies to other words as well -- is the UK spelling, incorrect for CW)
coq au vin
crème de la crème
dialog (added "ue" as in "dialogue" -- applies to other words as well -- is the UK spelling, incorrect for CW)
et cetera (never etc.)
faux pas
foie gras
gray (with "e" as in "grey" -- applies to other words as well -- is the UK spelling, incorrect for CW)
in lieu
Internet (always capitalized)
iPod, iPad, iTunes (all Apple products have a lowercase "i" but uppercase the next letter)
nouveau riche
OK (always all caps)
raison d'être
Shih Tzu (dog breed)
traveling (with "ll", as in "travelling" (applies to other words as well), is the UK spelling, incorrect for CW)
tsetse (a type of fly or disease)
Ubuntu (always capitalized when referring to the Linux OS distribution)
Web (always capitalized)
website (note that it is not capitalized)

Transcript Style | Editor supplement | Sample Transcript | Rare Situations Supplement