When it comes to transcribing interviews for research, business, documentary, TV shows or any other purpose, most of us think only about text. However, transcription of numbers is also quite significant. Wrongly recorded numbers can create confusion in the transcript. Numbers should not only be accurate, they should be legible and easily spotted by the reader. Transcribing numbers accurately in interview transcription is also crucial for maintaining the integrity of the data.
Basic Rules for Transcribing Numbers
The numbers zero to nine must be written out while numbers having double figures should be written as numerals. For example, if the interviewee says his company signed two contracts, then it can be transcribed as ‘two contracts.’ But if he says ten contracts, it should be transcribed as ‘10 contracts’.
Units of Measurement
Instead of spelling out numbers, use numerals to indicate the units of measurement (for example, “10 degrees” instead of “ten degrees”). This would make it less confusing.
Numbers at the Beginning of a Sentence
If you have to use numbers at the beginning of a sentence, write them out instead of using numerals. For example, if your business partner says in a meeting, ‘10 days are left to cancel the contract,’ you should transcribe it as ‘ten days are left to cancel the contract.’
If you are writing time on the hour, it should be followed by o’clock, p.m., or a.m.
While using a telephone sequence, the number must be written and relevant punctuation marks must be added. In the U.S., the format ‘1-234-567-1212’ is fairly common in business context.
You should use single quotes around numbers while indicating ratings. For example, if an interviewee says I can only give 4 rating for this movie during the interview, you have to transcribe it as I can only give ‘4’ rating for this movie.
Tips You Can’t Ignore
Use numerical symbols: Instead of spelling out numbers, use numerical symbols (e.g. “5” instead of “five”). This helps maintain consistency and readability in the transcript.
Include punctuation: Use appropriate punctuation marks, such as commas or periods, to separate thousands, decimals, or fractions. For example, transcribe “$1,500” instead of “$1500” to clearly indicate the value.
Clarify ambiguous numbers: If the speaker’s pronunciation or the audio quality makes it difficult to understand a number, mark it with a timestamp and indicate the uncertainty. For instance, “[inaudible]”.
Spell out specific quantities: In certain cases, it may be necessary to spell out specific quantities for clarity or emphasis. For example, “two million dollars” instead of “2,000,000 dollars.”
Verbatim transcription for emphasis: If the speaker emphasizes a number or repeats it for emphasis, include it in the transcript exactly as spoken to capture the intended meaning.
Proofread for accuracy: After transcribing numbers, double-check for any inconsistencies, errors, or omissions. Pay attention to transposed digits, missing decimals, or incorrect punctuation.
Use context for clarity: Consider the context of the conversation to ensure the correct interpretation of numbers. If the subject matter suggests a specific unit (e.g. time, currency, measurements), apply the appropriate format.
Even though basic rules should be applied most of the time, there are exceptions. You should understand the context and type of transcription (for example, verbatim, intelligent verbatim or non-verbatim) to keep up with the rules. An expert transcriptionist will follow the basic rules without any confusion. Many professional transcription companies employ an efficient QA team to proofread and edit the transcribed content. This will help minimize the errors in the completed transcripts and ensure maximum accuracy with good audio.