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What Is Electronic Transcription?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Electronic transcription is a term that can refer to several types of activity. One is a process by which a human uses electronic equipment in the process of typing a document containing the words used by a person speaking. This process can be entirely automated using a computerized voice-to-text application. Electronic transcription can also be the process of producing a digital copy of a printed document, particularly a historical document.

At its simplest, electronic transcription is a job involving listening to speech and turning it into text. In this context electronic can refer to the equipment used to carry out the recording, or the fact that the finished product is a digital computer file. While sometimes the equipment may be nothing more than a cassette recorder or dictaphone and computer, there can be more complicated electronic equipment involved. For example, some audiotypists use a foot pedal to pause and restart the recording, meaning they don't have to take their hands off the keyboard.

Some forms of this electronic transcription work are more advanced. A key example is medical transcription, which requires a good understanding of medical terminology. Accuracy is particularly important here to avoid mistakes that could lead to incorrect diagnosis or dosage. Another example is in courts, where a specialist typist takes a verbatim transcript of what is said by witnesses, often using a special version of a typewriter where keys represent phonetic sounds rather than letters.

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Fully automated electronic transcription uses special software to "listen" to audio and turn it into text, using automated voice recognition. The main advantage is that computers can analyze the content of an electronic audio file very quickly rather than having to play it back in real time. The main disadvantage is that computers are more likely to make mistakes in identifying words, though there is a wide variation in accuracy between different applications.

The phrase electronic transcription can also serve as a noun. In this context it means a digital copy of a document, often a very old document owned by a museum. The transcription means people can see the content of the document without needing to go to a particular location to see the original copy. It also makes it much easier to quickly search or analyze documents, for example in tracking the development of language.

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