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Verbatim vs non-verbatim transcription transcription is often a topic of debate. Transcription, the conversion of spoken words into a written form, plays a crucial role in various fields such as journalism, legal proceedings and academic research. One of the most important decisions that transcriptionists have to make is to consider verbatim vs non-verbatim transcription. These terms may sound technical, but they refer to two different approaches to capturing spoken content. This article looks at the differences between verbatim and non-verbatim transcription and discusses their applications, benefits and considerations.

Definition of verbatim transcription:

Verbatim transcription captures every word spoken, including filler words, hesitations, repetitions and non-verbal cues such as laughter or sighs. The aim is to create a precise written record that reflects the spoken content. This type of transcription is often used in legal contexts where every nuance of the spoken word can be legally significant.

Advantages of verbatim transcription:

  1. Precision and accuracy: verbatim transcription accurately reflects the spoken content. This level of precision is crucial in court proceedings, where the slightest nuance in speech can affect the interpretation of a statement.
  2. Contextual understanding: By including filler words, hesitations and non-verbal cues, verbatim transcription provides a more comprehensive understanding of the context in which the words were spoken. This can be of great importance to researchers or analysts studying human communication patterns.
  3. Legal validity: In legal cases, verbatim transcripts are often required as they reflect the exact words that were spoken. This not only helps to preserve the integrity of statements, but also serves as evidence that can be used in court.

Considerations for verbatim transcription:

  1. Time consuming: Verbatim transcription can be time consuming as every spoken detail must be accurately captured. This can be a factor to consider when tight deadlines and faster turnaround are required.
  2. Cost factor: As verbatim transcription is very accurate, it can be more expensive than non-verbatim transcription. This cost aspect is particularly important when the budget is limited.

Definition of verbatim transcription:

Verbatim transcription captures the essential content of the words spoken, while omitting filler words, hesitations and non-verbal cues. The focus is on creating a concise and readable transcript that retains the core message without including every spoken detail. This approach is often favoured when a more streamlined and readable document is desired.

Advantages of non-verbatim transcription:

  1. Efficiency and time saving: verbatim transcription is usually faster than word-for-word transcription, making it a more efficient option when time is limited. This can be particularly beneficial in industries where quick document exchange is important.
  2. Readability: Transcripts created without verbatim speech are often easier to read as unnecessary elements such as filler words and repetition are removed. This readability can be an advantage in various contexts, such as business meetings or education.
  3. Cost-effective: As non-literal transcription is leaner, it is often more cost-effective than literal transcription. This makes it an attractive choice for organisations that need to restrict their budget.

Considerations for verbatim transcription:

  1. Potential loss of nuance: verbatim transcription captures the core message but may leave out nuances of the spoken content. This can be problematic if a more detailed understanding of the language usage is required.
  2. Unsuitable for court proceedings: In court proceedings where accuracy is important, a non-verbatim transcription may be more appropriate. Courts often require transcripts that accurately reflect every word spoken to ensure the integrity of the court proceedings.


In the world of transcription, the choice between verbatim and non-verbatim transcription depends on the specific needs and goals of the task. Verbatim transcription offers unrivalled accuracy and is indispensable in legal and scientific fields where every detail matters. Verbatim transcription, on the other hand, is a leaner and more efficient solution, sacrificing some details in favour of readability and cost-efficiency.

Ultimately, the decision between verbatim and non-verbatim transcription depends on the specific requirements of the project, taking into account factors such as time constraints, budget and the level of detail required. Transcriptionists therefore play a crucial role in understanding these nuances and tailoring their approach to the unique requirements of each transcription task.