Transcriptionist, Transcriber or Typist

What I do for a living seems at times to be an overly complicated issue to explain. Not only because many people have never heard of this line of work but because the terminology around the transcription profession is unfamiliar and sometimes a little confusing.



When conversations steer towards “what line of work are you in,” I attempt to choose the most appropriate explanation based on what I assume would be most easily understood by the person I am speaking to.


The correct term is “transcriptionist”. The term “transcriptionist” also refers to the highly skilled work performed by people involved in linguistics and more specifically the annotation and segmentation of speech.


The term “transcriber” is another term used to denote the title of one that performs transcription of audio recordings to text. This term is also used to mean the tool, software or equipment utilised in the process of transcription. It is a widely used term as an alternative to “transcriptionist” but is certainly not my first choice. Maybe it is just a quirk of mine that I prefer not to be classified in the same category as a tool. In my not-so-humble opinion, my work involves transcribing but that does not make me a transcriber; I am a transcriptionist.


At its most basic, this is what a transcriptionist does but certainly falls short of capturing the level of knowledge and skill required of a transcriptionist or, for that matter, the functions performed by a transcriptionist. I went into some depth in a previous post about the characteristics of a transcriptionist and in another post I described the wealth of knowledge required by a transcriptionist – especially a transcriptionist like myself, who takes her work very seriously and wishes to deliver a superior service to my clients who would then recommend my service to colleagues.


I hope this post goes some way in clearing up the confusion around some of the terminology used in this industry.

Factors that could cause a recording to be deemed “poor”?

A recording being classified as “poor” is preferable to one that is deemed to be “not viable for transcription”. Unfortunately though, a “poor” quality of audio can cost more to transcribe as it will take longer to complete the transcription.


One of the most important factors would be the presence of background noise contained in a recording. While white noise or air conditioners may cause minimal disturbance, the presence of noisy machinery or groups of patrons in a restaurant will severely impact the clarity of the recorded voice input.


Another factor is the format used to record the audio file. Formats such as “.dss” or “.dct” are better suited to the recording of dictation while uncompressed file formats such “.wav” or “.aiff” are appropriate formats for recording groups of speakers or interviews.