The Value of Verbatim Transcription

 In Legal Transcription
Verbatim Transcription

Why ‘Intelligent Verbatim’ is a Misnomer

Verbatim transcription is one of our fortes. That means we are well-placed to describe what it is and outline its benefits. This type of transcription is of important legal value. The term ‘intelligent verbatim’ has gained momentum in recent years. But, did you know, this type of transcription can be dangerous?

We are the preferred transcription partner of legal firms and police authorities. Alphabet also works with local authorities and HR professionals. To them, verbatim transcription is vital. When they ask us to produce a verbatim transcription of a sound file, verbatim is exactly what they get. That cannot be said of all transcription specialists.

Our verbatim transcription service records every detail of a conversation. Our work includes non-words such as ‘ums’ and ‘errs’. Neither do we overlook false starts or external noises. That is because we pay strict attention to detail . This ensures our transcripts are precise. They record speech in the way it was spoken. No omissions. No editing.

We provide intelligent transcription for clients who do not need every single detail. For us, ‘intelligent verbatim’ does not exist.

What is Verbatim Transcription?

Verbatim transcription converts the spoken word into the written word – exactly. The dictionary definition of verbatim is, “In exactly the same words as were used originally.” And, “Word-for-word, letter-for-letter.” Single words used to describe verbatim include: literally, exactly, faithfully and precisely.

Documenting the exact words said is important in legal documentation. For example, our PACE work has to be verbatim. So too does our transcription work for covert operations. It is also recommended for inquest proceedings. Getting transcription wording exactly right ensures speech is documented in context.

Intelligent verbatim is not precise. It can be likened to editing a sound file. This type of transcription can have serious implications for legally sensitive documentation. Transcriptions that have been ‘tidied up’ or are not verbatim can alter the context of speech.

Imagine losing a case in court because your transcript omitted an important detail. Think about the consequences if it changed the meaning of something. Consider the cost implications. What if you realise your verbatim transcription isn’t really verbatim after all? Getting a sound file transcribed again can cause expensive delays.

As William E Gladstone famously said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Verbatim Transcription v Intelligent Transcription

Imagine you are defending a claim at a fraud investigation. The claimant denies making an admission during an interview. You check your transcription of the recorded meeting. To your horror, you cannot find the exact wording you know was said.

Just for fun, here is an example of how words written in the book The Wizard of Oz can be taken out of context. You will see how, by combining several sentences into one, the meaning has been altered:

Verbatim (what was actually said), “I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy.

“Oh, no, my dear, I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad Wizard, I must admit.”

“Can’t you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow.

These sentences are often abbreviated to, “You don’t need brains.”

Now apply ‘intelligent verbatim’ to instances where it can be risky. He are some examples:

Disciplinary Hearing

Verbatim transcription (what was actually said), “Yeah, I know what you said is right, but I was just having a really bad day and I didn’t realise my actions would cause such devastating consequences. I am sorry, but I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.”

Intelligent verbatim transcription (edited), “I was having a bad day and didn’t realise my actions would cause such consequences. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.”

In this case, the intelligent verbatim omits an admission of guilt. “I know what you said is right.” It also fails to use the word ‘really’. This could lead a tribunal to underestimate how impaired the employee’s thinking was on the day in question.

Another important point is that the intelligent verbatim transcription does not include a half-spoken sentence as it was said. All utterances are important in verbatim transcription because they can provide valuable insights.

Police Interview

Verbatim transcription of a witness statement:

Witness: “I was crying, really crying. The front door was probably not unlocked, but I don’t know how the man got into my house. I just looked up and saw him there, holding a knife.”

Intelligent verbatim transcription of the same witness statement:

“I was crying. The door was unlocked. I don’t know how the man got into my house. He was holding a knife.”

We know, it’s a bit dramatic. However, it exposes serious flaws in intelligent verbatim. For a start, the second transcription fails to record the scale of the emotion. More importantly, it changes the witness’s understanding of what happened. She said her door was probably not unlocked (meaning it was most likely locked). The intelligent verbatim transcription says the complete opposite. This error could make all the difference to a case. It could cause the Crown Prosecution Service to lower the seriousness of a charge. It gives the intruder an opportunity to claim in court that he walked through an open door.

An intruder who has forced entry into a home is more of a risk to the public. It shows that the man went to some effort to enter the property. The verbatim witness statement demonstrates clear intent. It rules out the work of an opportunist.

Benefit Fraud

Verbatim transcription of an interview conducted under caution:

“Err, yes, I probably did – I think so – you will have to ask my partner.”

Intelligent verbatim transcription of the same recording:

“You will have to ask my partner.”

Again, the intelligent verbatim transcription fails to record important speech detail. It omits words that could imply an admission of guilt. Or knowledge that the person has done something wrong. “I probably did” and “I think so” are vital to the case against the alleged fraudster.

Non-Verbal Communication in Verbatim Transcription

In these, and many other cases, non-verbal communication plays an important role. Angry outbursts, laughter, pauses, even stutters and stumbles should be captured. Let’s look at our three examples again and include non-verbal communication.

Disciplinary Hearing

Verbatim transcription, “Yeah, I know what you said is right, but [laughs] I was just having a really bad day and I didn’t realise my actions would cause such devastating consequences. I am sorry, but I don’t understand what all the fuss is about” [bangs fist on table].

Intelligent verbatim transcription, “I was having a bad day and didn’t realise my actions would cause such consequences. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.”

In this case, the intelligent verbatim omits laughter. This non-verbal communication shows the employee is not taking things seriously. It also omits an angry outburst. The verbatim transcription faithfully captures the tone of the meeting. It records the employee’s exact response to a question.

Police Interview

Verbatim transcription of a witness statement:

Witness, “I was crying, really crying [cries]. The front door was probably not unlocked, but I don’t know how the man got into my house [uncontrollable crying]. I just looked up and saw him there, holding a knife” [falls off chair].

Intelligent verbatim transcription of the same witness statement:

“I was crying. The door was unlocked. I don’t know how the man got into my house. He was holding a knife.”

The verbatim transcription captures the trauma the witness is suffering as she relives the incident. The non-verbal communication describes how the event is still impacting the witness. If you read the intelligent verbatim version, it overlooks the impact of the crime on the victim.

Benefit Fraud

Verbatim transcription of interview conducted under caution:

“Err, yes [sniggers], I probably did – I think so [cries]. You will have to ask my partner.”

Intelligent verbatim transcription of the same recording:

“You will have to ask my partner.”

In this verbatim transcription, you can clearly tell that the suspect realises he or she is in trouble. The sniggering, followed by crying is something a prosecutor can put to the suspect in court. For example, if the defendant is denying the allegation, they could be asked, “Why did you become upset when it was put to you that you had stolen thousands of pounds from the public purse? Was it because you realised your fraudulent claims had been found out?”

Alternatively, a prosecutor could ask, “Why did you snigger when the allegation of fraud was put to you? Was that a nervous laugh because it had just dawned on you that you were in trouble?”

External Sounds in Verbatim Communication

Our verbatim transcription includes external sounds. This may be a door opening and someone entering a room. It may note the noise of a cup rattling in a saucer. In the case of covert operations, it can include the sound of a passing vehicle, note any weather-related noise or side conversations.

When we transcribe PACE recordings, we always include external sounds. We also document side conversations and timestamping is often required. This is important for legal documentation. Verbatim transcription is useful for local authorities, fraud investigators and many others. They may need to use a written transcript of a sound recording in court papers.

Alphabet Transcription Specialists work with legal professionals, and others, across the country. That is because we are experts in preparing court-ready legal transcription. Verbatim transcription plays an important role in this. It aids everything from benefit fraud cases to high profile murder investigations.

Our verbatim transcription work is carried out with the highest levels of confidentiality. This is vital. Much of this type of transcription usually contains sensitive information. Our work in this area is in demand. We have a committed team of highly-skilled and trustworthy transcribers. They specialise in this type of transcription. These are transcribers who have honed their skills to perfection. It takes many years of training to produce outstanding verbatim transcription.

The Value of Verbatim Transcription

An audio typist is not capable of delivering verbatim transcription. The level of accuracy required is beyond only the most skilled professional transcribers. Verbatim transcription requires an enhanced ability to listen. Transcribers must be able to hear exactly what is on a sound file. It is not a case of typing what you think you hear.

Our transcribers know that concentration is everything with verbatim transcription. A tiny detail, missed or omitted in intelligent verbatim transcription, could be crucial. Our examples show, the devil is in the detail. As Giorgio Armani once said, “To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail.”

Some of the world’s greatest minds have something to say about paying attention to detail. Here are just a few quotes:

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail”- Charles R Swindoll.

“The most successful detectives owe their success to noticing small signs. Scouts are natural detectives and never let the smallest detail escape them” – Robert Baden-Powell.

We particularly like what Leonardo da Vinci had to say about capturing detail in his art. He said, “The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”

Discover More About Verbatim Transcription

Is your business or organisation interested in the legal value of verbatim transcription? You can find out more about our legal transcription services here.

All our verbatim transcription work is proofread by experts. This guarantees accuracy and ensures you don’t have to correct errors. We use a ‘get it right first time’ approach, because it is what makes our transcription business stand out.

At Alphabet, we use 256-bit encryption to receive and send files. This is because it offers our clients military grade security. Alphabet Transcription Specialists does not retain sound files. Neither do we keep documentation after a project is closed. All files are completely destroyed, unless we are told otherwise.

Working with us is easy. We make getting started hassle-free. Simply send us your proposal and we will provide you with your own client folder in our online portal. Verbatim transcription may be complex but partnering with us is not. Discover more here.

Our service is designed to meet precise needs. It supports legal criteria for the most complex investigations.

If you would like to discuss verbatim transcription projects in confidence, call us on +44 (0) 1707 260027.

Alphabet Transcription Services - Denise

The Founder of Alphabet, Denise Elsdon, commenced her training at British Aerospace.  Having gained her RSA and Pitman qualifications, she embarked on her chosen career path as a personal secretary. Back in 1995, Alphabet Secretarial Services was born. Since then, Alphabet has provided professional transcription services to amazing clients like the NHS, Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) and others.

Transcription StepsInquest Transcription