How to write and format a transcription

Transcription can turn your audio into a variety of high-performing written content. Here’s how.


      A transcription is the written version of the spoken word – whether in the form of audio or video recordings. Knowing how to write and format a transcription correctly brings numerous benefits to businesses. For example, allowing editors to mark up and comment on written documents can accelerate workflow. By providing text alongside video content, transcription can also bring SEO benefits. Transcription transforms speeches and meetings into tangible documents that can be repurposed. Transcribing content also expands accessibility to those who may struggle to hear or require subtitles. And, importantly, at a time when content is king, turning audio into text increases social media impact, generating more likes, shares and traffic.

      Full audio and video transcription solutions

      How to write a transcription

      To create an accurate and effective transcript, it is important to follow certain procedures. Here is a basic overview of how to write a transcription that is well written and accurately represents the original audio or video content:

      1. Ensure that you have a clear audio or video recording of the content you wish to transcribe. Use appropriate tools to help you transcribe the content, such as dedicated transcription software.
      2. Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation to ensure readability and accuracy.
      3. As you transcribe, take note of any important details, such as speaker names and time markers.
      4. Proofread your transcription and compare it with the original content to ensure accuracy and completeness.

      Download our free transcription template

      Get started with transcription. Here you will find templates for both detailed transcription and standard transcription. You can use the formats and examples in your own working document.

      Different types of transcription

      There are many types of transcription to cater for a variety of needs. The most common types of transcription are verbatim, intelligent verbatim, edited and phonetic.

      • Verbatim transcription captures every sound and silence that occurs, including verbal pauses and fillers. It also records ‘noises off’, such as doors slamming and phones ringing.
      • Intelligent verbatim transcription removes any irrelevant elements from the text, such as fillers and repetition, resulting in a concise and readable transcript that remains faithful to the original recording.
      • Edited transcription revises and corrects any errors, including grammatical mistakes and unfinished sentences. This type of transcription provides a more formal representation of what was said while being easier to read and understand.
      • Phonetic transcription uses symbols to represent the smallest distinct units of sound in a language. It’s useful when comparing speech between different groups or time periods, and it follows the same process for all languages.

      How to format a transcription

      As well as simply writing down what is said, a transcriber is also required to include other information, for example:

      Speaker labels

      When working with audio or video files, speaker labels are used to distinguish between different speakers. These labels can be the speaker’s name, their role in the conversation, or a generic label such as ‘Speaker 1’. Only when the speaker or their role cannot be identified is it appropriate to use a generic label. It’s helpful to listen to the audio to determine the speakers and their roles before transcription begins. We recommend that you format the speaker label in bold and follow your company’s guidelines or use the suggested format.


      Timestamping helps the reader match sections in a transcript with corresponding parts in a video or audio file, making it useful in market research and focus groups. There are three approved methods for adding timestamps to a transcription: at regular intervals, for example, after every one or two minutes; at the start of a paragraph; or every time another speaker talks.

      Inaudible labels

      Insert a tag to indicate the time of any inaudible periods in the transcription. These may be caused by unclear speech, background noise or crosstalk (where multiple people are speaking at once).


      The transcriber should annotate all sounds that are captured by the recording. These may include traffic, doors closing and audience applause, for example.


      The rules of grammar you should follow differ depending on the style you wish to abide by. Continue reading to learn more.

      What does a transcript look like?

      Here is an excerpt showing how to format a transcription of an interview in the intelligent verbatim style. The transcription includes timestamps at the beginning of each speaker’s turn to indicate the time elapsed since the start of the recording. Additionally, the inaudible tag is used to indicate where the transcriber was unable to hear or understand what the speaker was saying.

      00:05 Interviewer: So, can you tell me about your experience working in customer service?

      00:08 Interviewee: Sure, I’ve been working in customer service for about five years now. I started off as a representative for a telecommunications company, and then I moved on to working for a retail store.

      00:20 Interviewer: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of working in customer service?

      00:25 Interviewee: I think the most challenging part is dealing with [inaudible] or upset customers. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay calm and professional when someone is yelling at you, but it’s important to remember that they’re not angry at you personally. They’re just frustrated with the situation.

      How to format a transcript in Microsoft Word

      Microsoft Word has a format for transcripts that you can use and adapt if preferred. The title page will have information about the file you submitted, the media file name and ID, the order number, how long the media is, and when you ordered the transcription. The rest of the document will use 14-point Arial font with page numbers at the bottom. You can change the font to Times New Roman or Calibri, and you can make other changes to the transcript using MS Word tools.

      How to format a transcript for different style guides

      Using tools such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word to streamline the formatting of your transcription can save a great deal of time compared to formatting it manually. These programmes automatically create a bibliography from sources cited in the document, including the correct formatting for various citation styles like APA, MLA, Chicago and Harvard. This includes functions that automatically format indents, headings and font styles to correspond to the chosen citation style. This ensures that your document meets the standards required by your chosen institutional style guide.

      How to reference a transcript in APA style

      In accordance with APA style, there are distinct citation formats for published interviews as opposed to those you have personally conducted.

      For interviews that you have carried out yourself and are not accessible to readers, they should not be added to the list of references. Rather, these are to be cited as personal communications within the text.

      When referencing a published interview, adhere to the conventional citation format that corresponds to the medium in which it was published, such as a book or a newspaper.

      Attributing quotes to research participants in APA style

      When your research approach entails carrying out structured interviews with participants, it is common practice to incorporate the transcripts of these interviews in an appendix. Citations are not required when quoting the participants in your study; simply indicate the location of the transcripts.

      Guidelines for referencing a speech transcript in APA style

      • Identify the speaker as the author.
      • In cases where the transcript and original work have different publication years (e.g., a transcript of an older speech), include the transcript’s year in the main date section of the reference, and the original work’s year in parentheses at the end of the reference.
      • When citing in-text, list both years separated by a slash, with the earlier year first.
      • Specify the transcript type using square brackets (e.g., ‘[Speech transcript]’).
      • Include the website name in the source section of the reference, followed by the transcript’s URL.

      Guidelines for referencing a podcast transcript in APA style

      • Follow a similar format to podcast episodes for podcast transcript citations, with the only difference being the description after the transcript title, which should be ‘[Audio podcast transcript]’ instead of ‘[Audio podcast]’.
      • List the podcast host as the author, specifying their role in parentheses.
      • Include the precise date of the podcast.
      • Add the episode number in parentheses after the title. If episodes are not numbered, exclude the number from the reference.
      • Mention the name of the website that published the transcript and provide the transcript’s URL.

      Guidelines for referencing a broadcasted content on radio in APA style

      • The format for a radio broadcast transcript is almost identical to that of a radio broadcast, with the only distinction being the description following the transcript title, which should be ‘[Radio broadcast transcript]’ instead of ‘[Radio broadcast].’
      • List the announcer’s name as the author.
      • Include the complete date of the radio broadcast.
      • Present the story title in italics, followed by the description ‘[Radio broadcast transcript].’
      • Mention the name of the website that published the radio broadcast (e.g., BBC) and provide the broadcast’s URL. In the example, both the radio recording and the transcript are accessible through the same link, which is included in the reference.

      Read more: Transcript of an audiovisual work references

      How to cite a transcribed speech in Harvard style

      In-text citation: (Speaker surname, year of speech delivery or transcription, whichever is applicable)

      Reference entry list: Speaker surname, speaker initial(s). Year of speech delivery/transcription. Speech title. In: transcriber’s or editor’s surname, initial(s). edition(s). Year of published transcription. Title of the source containing the transcription, e.g., a book, in italics. Publication place: Publisher, p.# for a single page or pp.# for a page range.

      For instance:

      In-text citation: (Gates 2007)

      Reference entry list: Gates, B. 2007. The future of technology and education. In: Thompson, J. ed. 2008. Influential speeches of the 21st century. New York, NY: Pioneers Press, pp.134-137.

      Ask the pros! Semantic transcription-writing services

      Using professional transcription services to turn your audio into written text creates high-quality content that you can use in a multitude of ways, such as blogs, posts, marketing material and training resources. We can make your spoken content more effective through our transcription services. We’ll help you choose the right type of transcription and even translate it for you if needed. We’ll also make sure everything fits with your brand guidelines.

      If you want to reach more people and build your brand with engaging content, contact Semantix to benefit from our high-performing transcription services.

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      Download our free transcription template

      Download templates for both detailed transcription and standard transcription. You can use the formats and examples in your own working document.