Transcribing Audio Recordings


1. Start the transcript with the date and place of the recording, and when you made the transcript – e.g.

Transcript (made on 22/5/2014) of recording of a meeting at Albany House, London on 23/09/2011

2. When a new speaker starts speaking, indicate this with the name of the speaker in block capitals followed by a colon, and leave a blank line between speakers – e.g.

MR SMITH: Hello, Come in.

MRS JONES: We meet at last.

MR SMITH: Have a seat.

3. Sometimes there may be a short interjection by a speaker which, because it is so short, makes it difficult to recognise which speaker it is. If you are unable to tell who is speaking you can indicate that like this:


4. You may know the names of speakers because you yourself attended the meeting – or this information may appear on formal minutes. Or you may be able to work out their names, at least their first names, from the recording as one person refers to another by name. If none of these apply, you will be in a situation where, although you can recognise which speaker is speaking and when, you do not know the actual names of all or some of the speakers. In this case you should write the transcript like this:

SPEAKER 1 (male): Hello, Come in.

SPEAKER 2 (female): We meet at last.

SPEAKER 1 (male): Have a seat.

5. If any words are completely unclear, indicate this with [unintelligible] – e.g.

MRS JONES: Now I want to raise the issue of [unintelligible]

If you are in doubt as to a word but think you know what it is, indicate the doubt with a question mark in square brackets – e.g.

MRS JONES: Now I want to discuss your proposal [?] in more detail.

6. Where a question is being asked, you should include a question mark. This is particularly important where the question is in the form of a statement and you know it is a question only from the tone of voice – e.g.

MR SMITH: You want more information?

7. It is not unusual for a speaker to pause mid-sentence and say ummm or er as they think what to say. You can include these sounds if you wish but it is not generally necessary to do so. Similarly with repeated words. For example if what is said is:

MRS JONES: The information which... which I would like to have is... er... mainly about the cost... the cost and... umm.. also the timescale.

It is generally fine to write this as:

MRS JONES: The information which I would like to have is mainly about the cost and also the timescale.

8. However where a word is deliberately repeated for emphasis, then you should write down the repeated words – e.g.

MR SMITH: I have told you before, we never never never give costings.

9. Sometimes it is necessary to include every umm, err, and pause to give the full sense – for example where someone changes tack mid-sentence:

MRS JONES: Well if you think I’m going to accept ... err... err... It would be helpful if at least some indication of approximate cost could be given.

10. If, from the tone of voice, it is clear that the speaker has stopped before the end of the sentence, this is indicated by three full stops – e.g.

MRS JONES: It would be helpful if at least some indication of...

MR SMITH: No. Why should I?

11. Sounds can be indicated in square brackets if they are a necessary part of understanding the conversation – e.g.

MR SMITH: No [laughs] Why should I?

MRS JENKINS: Is anyone waiting outside?

[sound of door being opened]


12. Where there is a pause in conversation you should indicate this:

(A brief pause)

13. Where a speaker says something which is grammatically incorrect, or the speaker has obviously chosen the wrong word, you can add (sic) to indicate that it is not your mis-transcription but is actually what the speaker said – e.g.

It was what the doctor proscribed (sic) for me to take

14. You should also put time markers on the transcript. – i.e. put the time, in [hh:mm:ss] format at regular intervals when convenient – e.g. after one person has stopped speaking and before another starts. This is so that anyone reading the transcript who wants to actually listen to a particular passage can easily locate on the recording.


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

This page was lasted updated in May 2020 Disclaimer