General transcription ‘versus’ specialist transcription

I’ve just read a post which really irritated me! It suggested that ‘general transcription can be a route into a more specialist transcription role,’ and I dare say that’s true, but the way the post was written suggested (to me at least) that general transcribers were slightly second-class citizens compared to the great and the good in say medical or legal transcription.

To my mind that’s a bit like saying a labrador is better than a chihuahua … or for all those indignant chihuahua fans out there, a bit like saying a chihuahua is better than a labrador. The point is that they’re quite different skills. Both involve typing and both involve, at least to some extent, having a decent knowledge of English* grammar and punctuation, but while the specialist transcriptionist usually deals with dictation, the general transcriptionist usually deals with interviews or groups, and that’s where a whole other set of skills comes in.

The specialist transcriptionist will often be provided with the punctuation by the person dictating, although frankly that person probably gets it wrong as often as not; the general transcriptionist typing an interview, however, has to work out where all the punctuation goes, and also has to convert to text an often rambling and slightly incoherent conversation, so that when it is read back it actually makes sense.

The specialist transcriptionist will have to be conversant with specialist language, usually medical or legal, and have a wide vocabulary in this specific sphere. The generalist , on the other hand, needs a good general knowledge as he or she could be covering rocket science one day and religion the next. He or she also needs to be a good lateral thinker, to make sure that the word s/he thinks s/he is hearing is a word that ‘fits’ in context.

Both roles are highly skilled, and both involve more than ‘just typing’ but they are definitely quite separate skills and I think they are probably suited to different sorts of people. Whereas a specialist transcriber may enjoy and take pride in drawing on and building up their specialist medical or legal knowledge,  I love doing general transcription because of the endless variety of topics we cover. This week we’ve been transcribing about sexuality, stately homes, domestic violence and development of website statistics. Next week  we might be typing about sheep diseases or company culture again.

Please visit our website, to find out more about the transcription services we offer.

* I am only talking about English transcription here as that’s what I know about!


One response to “General transcription ‘versus’ specialist transcription

  1. I’m a general transcriptionist and I totally agree with your comment about the variety to be found in our work, it’s part of the reason I love my job. However, I have now also become somewhat of a specialist transcriptionist as one of my most regular clients is in the field of cutting edge cancer research, work I wouldn’t be able to undertake if it wasn’t for Google understanding my best guessed spellings of drug names and medical side effects! I think the ability to phrase suitable web search terms is another useful skill of a good general transcriptionist.

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