How to Transcribe Faster

Three Methods:Using the Right EquipmentLearning to Type FasterDesigning an Ergonomic Workspace

Transcription is the process of converting speech or audio files into a written or electronic text document. A good transcriptionist should have the ability to multitask, have the ability to research, and be speedy and accurate while typing. You can improve your transcription speed by using the right equipment, learning to type faster, and designing an ergonomic workspace. With practice and dedication, you'll be able to transcribe faster in no time.

Method 1
Using the Right Equipment

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    Acquire good quality headphones. Using quality headphones will ensure that your audio sounds clear, and is easy to understand. This will prevent you from having to go back over the audio again and again, trying to make out words that seem inaudible.[1]
    • Good quality headphones can go for as little as $20 at your local Radio Shack or Walmart Store.
    • Good headphones will offer comfort, sound isolation, and frequency range. Finding headphones with a solid frequency range will serve you well for audio transcription.
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    Utilize transcription software. Good transcription software allows you to pause, rewind, and speed up/slow down your audio at your own discretion. This can be done using “hot keys,” or simple keyboard shortcuts, that improve your speed. Download a free transcription program, or find one for purchase.[2]
    • Some examples of free software include InqScribe, Express Scribe, and MacSpeech Scribe.
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    Use “correction” tools. Correction tools, such as Autocorrect on Microsoft Word or QuickCorrect in Word Perfect, can help reduce the number of keystrokes you make while typing. This can greatly increase your transcription speed and accuracy.
    • These tools are often turned on by default, but you may need to check your settings to ensure that these functions are enabled.
  4. 4
    Explore “auto-complete” functions. Some word processors (such as Microsoft Word) offer “auto-complete” functions. These tools finish words that you begin to write, and understand certain abbreviations. Try turning this function on in your settings to improve your transcription speed.[3]
    • For example, auto-complete will type “thank you very much” for “tyvm.”
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    Use a foot pedal. Many transcription programs (such as Express Scribe) are designed to work with an optional foot pedal. These USB foot pedals allow you to start and stop audio playback with your foot. This has been proven to be even faster than using hotkeys. Consider investing in a transcription foot pedal to improve your speed.[4]
    • These foot pedals start around $20 and can be purchased at Radio Shack or online.
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    Create templates. Create some files with stock formatting that you can plug specific info into. (These are called “templates”). It is helpful, for instance, to set up templates when transcribing medical or legal files on a regular basis. Using a template will save you the time it requires to keep recreating documents with a similar format.[5]

Method 2
Learning to Type Faster

  1. 1
    Use all ten fingers. Transcription is all about typing. If you want to improve your transcription speed, you must be an excellent typist. The first step in learning how to type faster is utilizing all ten of your fingers. Even if you are a pretty good typist, you may neglect your pinky fingers, or favor one hand over the other. Re-familiarize yourself with “home row” finger placement, positioning your pointer fingers on the “F” and “J” keys. Then, review which keys should be governed by which fingers.[6]
    • You can improve this skill by practicing with typing apps. Check out TypeRacer, Typing Maniac, or[7]
  2. 2
    Learn to touch type. “Touch typing” is typing without looking at your fingers. Once you have become familiar with home row and which keys are assigned to which fingers, you can begin practicing your touch typing. You can discipline yourself not to look down, or you may slide a blank sheer of paper into the slot above your keys and let it drape over your hands. Touch typing takes practice, but you will improve exponentially in time.[8]
    • Once again, practicing with typing apps is a great way to improve at touch typing and gain speed.
  3. 3
    Memorize shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts can save you a great deal of time and keystrokes. Memorize the basic shortcuts and get comfortable using them regularly.[9]
    • For the following shortcuts, use Ctrl for a PC and Command for a Mac.
    • Ctrl/Command + C = copy
    • Ctrl/Command + X = cut
    • Ctrl/Command + V = paste
    • Ctrl/Command + Z = undo
    • Ctrl/Command + S = save
    • Ctrl/Command + F = search for word
    • Ctrl/Command + A = highlight everything

Method 3
Designing an Ergonomic Workspace

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    Use a keyboard. A real keyboard with small legs (not a laptop) is an essential transcription tool. When you are typing at your computer for hours on end, you will need to take care of your wrists. Using a keyboard with a little height is the most ergonomic, most gentle on your wrists. Using proper positioning can improve your transcription speed.[10]
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    Position your body correctly. Situation your chair so that you sit straight up, with your head titled down just slightly to look at the screen. This should allow your forearms to slope down to your hands, and your hands to arch over the keys. This ergonomic position will be healthiest for your arms, wrists, and back, By staying healthy and comfortable, you will improve your speed.[11]
  3. 3
    Place your feet flat on the floor. In order to ensure good posture, make sure that your feet lie flat on the floor under your desk. If they do not, place a box or footrest under your feet. This foot position balanced your entire body and supports you posture, so do not neglect this. By keeping yourself in best position, you will work more efficiently and effectively.[12]
  4. 4
    Use a long headphone cable. You need your cable to be long enough that you do not need to tilt or twist your head sideways in order to sit comfortably at your keyboard. This helps ensure the health of your neck, keeps your head balanced, and ultimately improves your efficiency. [13]
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    Take regular breaks. When you are transcribing for long periods of time, it is important to schedule regular breaks. This allows you to stretch your legs, refocus your eyes, and rest your ears. Taking breaks might seem antithetical to working faster, however taking short breaks will actually help you to work better and more efficiently.[14]
    • Try giving yourself a 15 minute break after every 75 minutes of work.
    • It may help to set a timer.


  • Generally it takes 3 to 4 hours of transcribing to complete an audio hour.
  • Even for the best transcribers it takes at least 3 hours to transcribe one hour of audio without sacrificing quality and accuracy.

Article Info

Categories: Music Techniques | Audio