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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Proofing Your Files and Common Mistakes

We've already discussed the importance of proofing financial earnings calls, but what about other audio files? This is a topic that often comes up with people getting started in the industry with the opinion or preference on the subject often being split. There are the people that proof every transcript they do to audio. At the same time, there are people that run the spell check and call it a day. Then there are all those people in the middle, proofing without audio or marking and spot-checking only specific sections.

As you are getting started, proofing is often a necessity to see where you need to improve and catch the things you aren't used to listening for that may have thrown you off or been missed the first time through a file. There are other times when the audio is particularly difficult or the speakers have accents you find hard to make out where proofing is an absolute must, but what about those files that you just fly through without any problem whatsoever? The audio is clear; the speakers are articulate. Is it really necessary to proof THAT file?

The answer to that question is often a personal one. To proof or not to proof? It is a decision that only you can make for yourself based on your skill, perfectionism, the client's expectations, the quality of transcript you are looking to provide. Still, there are contracts that will require proofing to audio of every file you complete for them and expect perfection in each and every transcript you turn in. In these cases, make them happy and proof that file, especially if you value the contract.

Mandi gave some great tips for proofing in her post on proofing financial earnings calls. If you're looking to save time while proofing a clear audio file, increase the speed of your audio. Take a break between transcribing the audio and starting to proof, even if it's a short one. It's amazing how different things can sound after you've take off the headphones and given your ears a rest, even if it's as short a break to grab a glass of water. If you want, you can try proofing every five minutes as you're going through the file or proofing each page as you get to the bottom and looking up. This method can also help you give your fingers a break, which is great for your wrists, ergonomically speaking.

If you choose not to proof fully, be sure to check your transcript for common mistakes that you may make while transcribing that a regular spell check won't find. One thing that I noticed in my transcripts a while ago was I would be slow to type the apostrophe in words like "don't." I would type "dont'" instead. However, because Word was set to automatically fix "dont" to "don't," what I ended up with when I made this typing error was "don't'." To fix this, I now check my transcripts for any apostrophe-space occurrences using the Find and Replace feature in Word. This helps me make sure I've caught all these tiny errors that I sometimes even miss while proofing a file.

Other common mistakes include: adding spaces between the first letter of a word and the rest of the word ("the" vs. "t he"), typing "/" instead of "?" and so on. Once you identify what your common mistakes are, be sure to check your transcripts for them, especially if you won't be proofing the file to audio. You could even create a macro to check for your most common mistakes after you finish a transcript.

Remember that proofing is something that you are in charge of, and your comfort level and skill can have a lot to do with your choice of whether to proof or not to proof. Your clients and contracts may also be the ones pushing you to proof, and even if they don't necessarily require it, you want to keep your transcripts as good as they possibly can be to increase the status of your professional relationship and to prove your skill as a transcriptionist.