What is a good accuracy level for transcription?

What is a good accuracy level for transcription?

There are a range of different levels of accuracy and different ways of rating it. However the vast majority of transcription companies and services indicate accuracy levels of about 95-99%.

But how accurate are the accuracy levels, and is it really possible for transcription businesses to be claiming that they can provide 99% accuracy?

The first issue is how you measure accuracy.

Quite a lot of transcription is of single or dual speakers either dictating/speaking or alternatively one person asking questions and the other person answering. If a transcription is being undertaken with strict rules of notating everything to do with the recording (strict verbatim) then 100% or even 95% accuracy is impossible unless the transcription company subjectively decides that their version of the transcription is completely correct. This is because a lot of the strict verbatim or strict transcription is dependent on the subjective decision of the transcriber on what they notate and where. For example, a pause in the recording can be notated in different ways, or similarly the number of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ can vary according to how many the transcriber has picked up as they have gone through the work.

Accuracy levels are much easier when the transcriber is undertaking intelligent verbatim or standard transcription, which is where the transcriber makes an informed judgement on what is and what isn’t needed. The transcriber is in fact quite restricted in terms of what they can leave out because the wording of the typed version of the recording is going to be dependent exactly on what has been said. Usually the only errors that human transcribers pick up are grammatical, with the use of ‘their’ and ‘there’, or the mispronunciation of names (e.g. not catching a brand name and being able to decipher it), or to miss a localism or dialect and mis-transcribe it (e.g. ey up me duck).

Ensuring 95% accuracy on these types of transcription is fairly straightforward to measure and the usual way of doing it is for the transcription company to take a paragraph of work every now and then as a sample and to compare that to the original recording to see how many errors there have been before using this to assert their accuracy levels and those of their transcribers.

What is often a better measure of accuracy levels is to look for a transcription company who don’t necessarily indicate a percentage of accuracy, but instead promise to adjust and amend the transcription until the customer is completely satisfied with it. In reality most transcriptions of recordings are going to contain errors because of the nature of the work. The transcription of a 60 minute recording can involve  thousands of words, and even the best transcribers with many years experience are not going to get 100% accuracy when notating these. Usually this does not matter too much, unless the transcription is Jefferson levels (i.e. full notation) or the context of an answer or statement is lost because the transcriber has used the wrong words in the wrong order.

However one would expect on every occasion that transcription work is undertaken the level of accuracy from a fully competent native language speaking transcriber with more than 2 years experience to be at least 92% if not 95%. We think it is rare that anyone would ever hit 100% success and that they would do this with any regularity, because it is virtually impossible without considerable effort, which almost certainly falls outside the scope of usual transcription company prices.

We have heard horror stories of artificial intelligence transcription being about 40 to 50% accurate, if that, and some of our clients spending considerable time going through work that has been done in order to correct it, and in fact spending more time on this than they would have done if they had employed the services of a human transcriber, and more particularly one based in their own country speaking with native language skills.

For human transcription with high accuracy levels and a willingness to work with clients until satisified with the finished document, please visit www.universitytranscriptions.co.uk