There are many ways to transcribe dictation audio.
You can use software. You can dictate directly into Google Docs. You can even turn your audio file into an MP4 file, upload it to YouTube, and copy and paste the automated transcription.
Of course, you can always choose to do things the old school way and manually transcribe audio dictation files.
I prefer manual transcription because transcription software, as well as Google Docs and YouTube still have a long way to go.
While YouTube transcriptions can do a fairly good job, its lack of punctuation is a deal killer for me.
Plus, Youtube autranscriptions require many time-consuming steps.
Also, slowly dictating into Google Docs is a non-starter.
The main reason why I choose to dictate my blog posts, articles, and books, is because I want to crank out more words per day. This is why I’m able to write more than 20,000 words per day.
Slowly and carefully dictating into Google Docs defeats the purpose.
If you are dictating your content, here are the steps on how to manually transcribe dictated blog posts the right way.
Step #1: Play the audio at 1.5 or 2x speed
Using VLC or some other audio playback software, listen to the source audio file at 1.5 to 2x speed.
Speed listening enables you to get an overview of what the whole file is about. It’s not much different from reading a book.
If you want to read a book quickly, it’s a good idea to skim through all the sections of the book to get a general idea. You will be able to figure out the different parts of the book, how it’s formatted, and the organization it uses.
You may also be able to pick out the main points that the book is trying to make.
Audio dictation files are no different.
Listen to the material quickly at least twice.
This also prevents you from stressing out when it comes time to manually transcribe the audio.
By the time you start transcribing, you won’t be dealing with completely new materials.
You familiarized yourself with the audio so it doesn’t come off as completely new, and some parts won’t come off as surprising.
Step #2: Slow down the audio
Use software that can slow down the audio so you can listen to each word clearly enough to transcribe it.
Each word must be transcribed correctly because certain words have different spellings but sound alike or very similar to each other.
Slowing down the audio enables you to pick out the overall context of each sentence. This increases the chance that you will be able to transcribe every word correctly since you understand the context of that text.
Several software packages will help you do this. Some are better than others.
Personally, I prefer nch.com.au’s Scribe Software.
This software slows down the audio so you can make out each word. You can also change the speed setting so you can speed through the audio that you easily recognize.
Step #3: Read your transcription closely
Read the transcription with a critical eye.
Your job is to pick out sentences that may have been formatted wrong.
Believe it or not, sometimes if you put a comma in the wrong place, a sentence meaning changes.
Similarly, you need to read closely for mistranscribed words.
You can’t just read in one sitting, assuming that all the words are correct.
Instead, you’re looking to read and look for a rough spot. This is where the sentence doesn’t seem to make any sense.
This is your clue that a word may have been mistranscribed, or the sentence construction is off, or the clauses are not right.
Step #4: Read for logic
After hunting for grammar problems with your first reading, you should read your transcription a second time. This time, slow down and question the meaning of each paragraph.
Does it make sense?
Does it contradict itself?
Are there holes in its argumentation or its presentation?
Is it referring to stuff that isn’t there?
Is it making any promises that it fails to deliver on?
Are there any inconsistencies in the use of certain terms or jargon?
At this stage of editing, you’re looking at your transcription in terms of logic.
Does it make sense? Is it persuasive? Does it follow up on its claims?
Step #5: Format for maximum readability
If you read a lot of blog posts, you know that big blocks of text scare people.
People don’t have the time to hack through big blocks of text.
Format your transcription the same way. Use short sentences by chopping up long, heavy sentences.
Organize these short sentences into short paragraphs. As much as possible, use subheadings, lists, and bullet points.
By following the five steps above and constantly looking to fine-tune your transcription and editing skills, you will be able to transcribe even the most difficult audio files.
None of this comes easy.
You won’t pick up this skill overnight. But with enough practice and the right attention to detail, you will be able to transcribe your own dictated audio files or somebody else’s at a high-quality level.