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The Ultimate Guide to Editing or Proofreading Transcriptions

The Ultimate Guide to Editing or Proofreading Transcriptions

Poor grammar and sentence construction can make your brand take a turn for the worse. Once it’s out there, there’s no turning back. This is exactly why taking the time to edit and proofread your material is really crucial. It can make or break the public’s perception of your company. Proofreading should be the last gateway of your material before it gets submitted to the client, before it hits the shelves, or before it’s posted online where everyone can easily access it. It helps make the written content suitable for communicating the correct message to a specific target audience or client. It helps you check if you have included everything you wanted to say in the best way possible for any piece of writing. 

When it comes to transcriptions, however, editing and proofreading takes a bit of a different turn. Knowing that transcribing is usually being done for technical industries like research, medical, or anything legal-related, editors are only given a limited window for editing. This is because it’s vital that they preserve the original thought of the speaker when the recording was made and depending on the intended use of the transcript.

What is Proofreading?

Proofreading refers to the process of checking and correcting errors on a written document before it’s submitted to the client or before it is distributed to audiences. It consists of the words ‘proof’ and ‘read’ which implies that it is a process of making a content error-proof after re-reading it. 

It is usually associated with a publishing house for the distribution of books, magazines, or newspapers. Proofreading is also practiced in the academe for dissertations, research and case study revisions. Apart from these industries, proofreading is also being typically applied in transcribing. It is especially deemed ideal in companies offering automated transcriptions because the rate of accuracy is lower than those worked on by human transcribers. This means automated transcriptions are inherently more susceptible to mistakes, hence, the need for proofreading.

a female employee is on her feet, proofreading a document in front of her station with a cup of tea on her other arm.

Why is editing and proofreading important?

Can you imagine being in the middle of reading a really enticing book only to find out that there are several typographical and formatting errors here and there? Also, do you know how detrimental it is to present inaccurate data from your research study to the research and development panelists? 


History of Transcription Technology

A misplaced punctuation, some misspelled words, or a wrong page number. These seemingly tiny mistakes can actually affect you, your team of researchers, or your business on a much deeper level. This can easily diminish the credibility of the writer and the publishing house responsible for its distribution. Likewise, submitting your dissertations without having gone through proofreading may also expose it to more errors which then affects the credibility of the researcher. What you’d initially think are tiny errors easily missed by the human eye can actually cost brands a ton amount of money. One popular example was NASA’s mistake of missing out a single hyphen in their code to launch Mariner 1 in 1962. Mariner 1 is the first of the 10 unmanned aircraft made to explore Venus. However, because of an omitted hyphen, the rocket was blown into pieces just after 4-5 minutes of flight! This catastrophe cost NASA a staggering $80 million worth of damages.

Why Should You Edit or Proofread Your Transcript?

a male employee listening to recordings on his headphones in front of his laptop and coffee before transcribing

Perhaps to avoid spending $80 million for damages, yes?

Given the advancements in technology, more and more companies are digitally recording conversations taken during meetings, conferences, interviews, company announcements, etcetera. And because these recorded conversations are being converted into a written text format for future references, transcription services, be it manual or automated, are also getting a lot of traction in this digital age.

Transcripts from automated transcription tools are more difficult to proofread than manually transcribed documents only because it lacks that human touch that goes the extra mile. As a proofreader, you are bound to come across more sections to proofread in documents that went through an automated tool.
What happens here is that the proofreader will have to listen to the same audio or video recording, worked on either by the transcriptionist or run through the automated transcription tool, and use that initial transcript as reference to check possible errors instead of just looking through it alone and trying to spot any mistakes. In addition to that, the proofreader is also responsible for formatting the document according to the client’s instructions and specifications. This includes using specific fonts and font sizes, adding specific headers, adding or removing page numbers, including or editing footnotes, etcetera. It is therefore important to have your documents undergo proofreading because it smooths out any discrepancies and inconsistencies within the file before its final version reaches the client. If you think about it, it could well be the difference between ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ or ‘write’ and ‘right’. Basically, the proofreader will serve as the second set of eyes and ears before the document is sent to the client. This will ultimately enhance the quality of your services over time.


Proofreading transcriptions include:

  • Checking and revising grammatical and textual errors
  • Formatting the document according to the client’s specifications such as the addition of speaker labels or timestamps
  • Filling in words and phrases that transcriptionists or the automated tool may have missed out on
  • Carrying out final quality check on the document
Benefits in Research Free Transcriptions

Errors Commonly Corrected Through Proofreading:

  • Wrong choice of words or word usage
  • Typographical errors
  • Confusion on homonyms (similar-sounding words)
  • Grammatical errors
  • Misplaced punctuations or the lack thereof
  • Misspelled words
  • Omission of words
  • Stylistic inconsistency
  • Formatting

Whether we like it or not, the audio quality of your audio or video recording is directly correlated to the accuracy of your transcript. The same goes for proofreading – proofreaders are bound to have a harder time double checking your documents if they’re referring to poor-quality audio recordings.

a close up image of a paper being proofread using a red pen

Elements that Affect the Audio Quality of Your Recordings:

  • Voice clarity of participants in the recording
  • Background noise
  • Speaker with accents or fast-talkers 
  • Multiple people talking simultaneously
  • Unusual spelling of words
  • Inaudible recording
  • Use of highly technical, scientific, or medical terms                                      

Poor-audio quality delays an otherwise speedy transcription process. But with the right equipment and by following the best recording practices, your transcripts are sure to come out quickly. Pair that up with a great editor and proofreader and you’re sure to get that quality and accurate output of a transcript in no time.

What are Helpful Proofreading Tips?

a male transcriptionist's hands are typing on his laptop
FreeTranscriptions - Proofreading Infographics

Hilarious Transcription Blunders and Failed Captions

Anyone who has experienced transcribing or captioning would know the effort and hard work that goes into accomplishing one. It requires a lot of focus and concentration and even then, you can still be very much prone to commit silly mistakes. Mistakes can be anywhere from silly, mostly unrecognizable ones to the critical ones that can cost you millions of dollars. 

Below are just some examples:

The patient was given IV in the buttocks.

The patient was given IV antibiotics.

  Patient had dollar surgery in 1994.

Patient had gallbladder surgery in 1994.

The patient had a history of erectomy.

The patient had a hysterectomy.

Should You Use a Free Transcription Service
Twitter post explaining caption mistakes
The one above was a caption from BBC News where they incorrectly spelled ‘his brother’ as ‘hezbollah’. Even BBC News is prone to such mistakes.
Twitter post explaining wrong captioning
This is when the cast of Gladiator reunited in ThisMorning and instead of spelling Helen O’Reilly’s character Panther correctly, they wrote the word Cancer instead.
Lady speaking
When they referred to Nancy Reagan as former fertile lady instead of former first lady.


It’s important to make sure that your material is accurate, clear, and is easily understood by your intended audience. Effective proofreading is absolutely vital to the production of an excellent content to ensure that your brand stays consistent, cohesive, and of high caliber.

So there you have it, the pros and cons of free transcription services. With FreeTranscriptions 300 free minute offering, it might be worth it to give it a try to come to your own conclusions.