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According to the professional industry standard it takes one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech - a minimum of 4 hours to transcribe a one-hour audio recording, and depending on the quality of the recording it can take up to 10 hours to transcribe a one-hour audio recording, such as recordings with multiple speakers, such as of focus groups, meetings, seminars and conferences. Therefore we work on a ratio of 1:4/5. Normal rate is $40/hour.

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How long would it take to transcribe an audio recording?

It is a commonly held misconception that it only takes one hour to transcribe one hour of recorded material. People speak about 4 to 5 times faster than an experienced transcriptionist can type. Therefore, in general, a one hour audio recording that is of good sound quality and well dictated takes between 4 to 5 hours to transcribe, although there are variables such as the quality of the audio, the number of people speaking, the speed of the conversation, accents, overlapping speakers, poor microphone positioning, etc.

Interestingly, people speak seven times faster than they write and four times faster than they type, which is why one needs to allow four times the length of a recording.

How long would it take to transcribe an audio recording of one hour ?

In general, 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech takes one hour to transcribe. Therefore a one hour audio recording would take 4 hours to type. Allow an equivalent time of the duration of the recording for proof reading. Therefore a clearly dictated one hour audio recording would probably require 5 hours work. Obviously, longer would be required if the recording is muffled or otherwise unclear.

The professional industry standard allows ONE hour to transcribe 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech. It therefore takes a MINIMUM of 4 hours to transcribe a one hour audio recording and can take as much as 6 or 8 hours depending on the quality of the recording. Transcribing can take much longer for focus groups, meetings, seminars and conferences with multiple participants, and perhaps as much as 8 or 10 hours for an audio recording of one hour.


We take the quality of our transcriptions very seriously but often receive recordings where the quality of the recording is so poor that the voices of those speaking are unintelligible. A transcript relies upon the quality of the recording. Most commonly a poor recording results from people talking over the top of one another (over-speaking), the microphone being placed away from the action (faint voices), or background noise drowning out speakers (masking).

Here are a few tips for producing a better quality recording:

Recording interviews and groups:
  • Keep any background noises down. Microphones are notorious at picking up background noises, so close all doors and keep side conversations under control.
  • Make sure only one person speaks at a time.
  • Do not interrupt them or talk over them while they are speaking.
  • Point the microphone towards the speakers and away from any potential sources of noise.
  • Place the microphone where it is likely to pick up all the people who will talk.
  • Speak clearly and slowly. It often helps to place the microphone at an equal distance from everyone who is likely to speak.
  • Use good equipment. Using a dictaphone with an inbuilt microphone or recording using non-digital equipment can result in lost speech.

Dictating medical reports:
  • Make sure you are in a quiet area so your dictation can be heard clearly by the transcriptionist.
  • Check your recording equipment and assemble any papers and reports before you start dictating.
  • Start by identifying yourself at the beginning of your dictation and state what dictation you are doing (i.e. what type of report, date of report, date of patient examination, date of dictation and any special instructions).
  • State, then clearly spell the addressee's full name, mailing address, file number, reference number, patient record number and subject matter.
  • Try to use the same phrases in each of your report types. Be consistent in the way you approach similar reports. Make sure you use the same headings whenever possible. This makes it easier to transcribe your work and lessens the chance of error.
  • Speak clearly and at a regular pace. Speak with inflection in your voice as monotone voices tend to put transcriptionists to sleep.
  • Pause slightly before speaking when starting your recorder and pause briefly before stopping recording. This prevents words from being "clipped".
  • Speak with your mouth at the recommended distance from your microphone or recorder for optimum sound levels.
  • Edit-out any errors you make, by rewinding and erasing them.
  • Spell unusual words such as diseases, drugs, or procedures not normally found in the mainstream of your daily work or specialty.
  • Always include punctuation, especially when starting new paragraphs.
  • Include "open" and "close" quotation instructions.
  • Don't dictate in a noisy area. Extraneous noise can make it difficult to hear dictation accurately.
  • Don't mumble. Speak clearly without letting your voice fade out at the end of sentences.
  • Don't eat, drink, chew food or gum when speaking.
  • Don't make an error and then say "strike that" or something like that but try to use the "cue and review" feature found on most current dictation equipment to erase your last statement. Erasing your own error also negates any chance of misunderstanding on the part of the transcriptionist as to what was to be "struck" or removed from what you dictated.
  • Don't try to spell words you don't know how to spell. If the word is unusual, just say it as clearly as possible and the transcriptionist can check and confirm the correct spelling for you.
  • Don't say "period" for the end of a sentence. The proper phrase when dictating is "stop" or preferably "full stop."
  • Don't shuffle papers, open drawers, rearrange your desk, rip paper, or make loud sudden noises when dictating.
  • Don't dictate while driving. Not only is it dangerous but the sound quality is usually poor.
  • Don't forget to say "End of Dictation" at the end of your dictation, so the transcriptionist will know there is no more dictation at the end of the tape or digital audio file.
  • Have your dictation equipment serviced at least once a year.

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