Tips to get the best recording for the best transcription.

Word Wise cares about quality.

The fidelity of your recording helps guarantee the accuracy of our transcription. We think you will appreciate the following tips, especially if you will be listening to your audio over again.

Imagine conducting your interview blindfolded. You would miss out on all the nuances seen in body language and facial expressions. As transcribers, this is what we experience (except for what we hear in intonation). Therefore, we need to capture every single word spoken that you, being present at the recording, can easily intuit if the speaker happens to falter.

The better the recording, the better the transcript!

  1. If you are using cassettes instead of a digital recorder, please use standard
    (not micro) cassettes, when possible.
    Standard cassettes provide a larger magnetic tape band on which to record, allowing a more crisp voice recording
  2. Use 60- or 90-minute tapes.
    Longer (120-minute) tapes wear down and stretch out more easily, introducing irregularities into the recording. (60-minute cassettes are preferred over 90-minutes for this same reason.)
  3. Record a test sample.
    Then play it back to hear if the audio is loud enough and understandable, or if any distracting noises need to be eliminated.

    Hot Tip: This is also a good time to label your tape with an audio cue containing date, time, participants, topic, and the number in a series if more than one recording!
  4. IF a microcassette is used, set speed to “Normal” or “2.4 cm.” 
    Voices recorded at another speed will sound like “chipmunks” or “slow motion” and produce bad sound quality. If you see the tape advance fast (not slow), you have the right setting at normal speed for the best sound quality.
  5. Check the power supply first.
    Use fresh or newly charged batteries or check that the power source plugged is in. You do not want your recorder to stop or drag unexpectedly.  (Or, worse, that you not notice until the discourse is over!) Using the freshest tapes (not old ones recorded over) provides the highest quality.
  6. Watch the clock.
    Keep an eye on the time or tape remaining in order to transition the conversation before the end of side A. Then flip the tape to side B without losing salient discussion.
  7. Have everyone get closer.
    Get as near to the recorder mic as is comfortable to pick up everyone’s voice.  (Within four feet is optimum.)
  8. Cushion bad vibrations.
    Place a towel, mouse pad, or padded notebook (day planner) between the recorder and the desk or tabletop. This will help muffle any mechanical vibrations or ambient noise reverberating off the surface. (This applies to either cassettes or digital devices.)
  9. Record inside in a quiet room.
    Listen for distracting sounds and secondary conversation coming from adjoining rooms, or traffic  noise from the street. (Back away from windows. Close doors.) Do you hear building mechanical noises, like air conditioning blowers or phone intercoms?
  10. Hear them loud and clear.
    Remind speakers to speak up more loudly than normal conversation. Also ask them to enunciate, to look up, to sit upright, and to not chew, mumble or cover their mouths with their hands. A test run of their speaking pattern will spare you from having to give directions once the interview is underway.
  11. Set group guidelines for sharing, without crosstalk.
    When working with groups, facilitate discussion for one person at a time, assuring that everyone gets his or her turn and no one talks over another speaker. (Make eye contact with one person; call on quiet persons by name; and acknowledge raised hands, fingers, or eyebrows.)
  12. Repeat what you think is inaudible.
    Hot Tip: Especially in focus groups, try to repeat or rephrase someone’s quiet comment both to log it on tape and to generate more discussion, pro or con! (This trick can work for whispered asides and under-the-breath comments also.)


  13. Keep us posted!
    Include with your tape to us any printed material, handouts, outline, list of names and places, industry jargon, topic guidelines, PowerPoint slides, referral documents, etc., that we can use as reference points or markers within the conversation flow or for unclear comments.

The better you prep us, the better we transcribe!

Making people, companies and documents look good is our business!

I am pleased to extend and share my experience in using Word Wise for over 20 years. They get the job done right, with top quality and returned on time. I can always depend on them. Word Wise also provides superior customer service. They’ve always been a pleasure to work with.”

— Diane Goodman
Family Law Attorney/Mediator

Word Wise has been providing transcription services for me since 1990. I have always found this company to be honest, efficient, precise, and reasonable. Word Wise will go the extra mile, often working late into the night and through the weekend to accommodate special orders. The character, skill, and knowledge of this company is second to none, and I would recommend them without reservation.”

— David Brendel, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist