A history of transcription

When I first began working, I was employed as an audio typist in surveyors offices.  My working days were spent listening to audio recordings the surveyors made about the properties they visited and typing up their reports. Alongside my typewriter was a cassette machine, which played mini cassettes, headphones and underneath my desk was a foot pedal that enabled me to play tapes, rewind and fast forward these. Recently I have been reminded of this time as I have been listening to audio recordings and correcting the digital transcripts for a client and it got me thinking about the history of transcription.

Hieroglyphs on stela in Louvre, circa 1321 BC.
Hieroglyphs on stela in Louvre, circa 1321 BC.

The Oxford English dictionary defines transcription as ‘a written or printed version of something’, the word transcribe as ‘putting thoughts, speech or data into written or printed form’ and the word  transcript as ‘a written or printed version of material originally presented in another medium.’ The history of transcription as documentation is believed to have begun in ancient Egypt where scribes were taught how to read and write hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts. There were many signs to learn and students would practice writing these by copying them onto sheets of papyrus, old pieces of pottery or flakes of limestone. The word ‘transcribe’ dates back to the 1550s and comes from the Latin word ‘transcribere’ meaning ‘to copy, write again in another place, write over, transfer’ and much to my delight, while researching this post, I have discovered that to transcribe poorly is to ‘transcribble.’

Jean Miélot, a European author and scribe at work.
Jean Miélot, a European author and scribe at work.

As religions developed around the world, scribes were in high demand. Medieval scribes were often monks who wrote the text, while an illuminator, painted the pictures and in the late 12th century the word scribe meant ‘professional interpreter of the Jewish Law’ with Jewish scribes being known as Sofers. The Bible Odyssey explains ‘as the Israelites identity and beliefs started to come into sharper relief in the centuries leading up to the Babylonian Exile, Jewish scribes began to invest more and more time in defining themselves and their religious tradition over and against neighboring cultures.’

Jewish scribes at the Tomb of Ezekiel in Iraq circa 1914.
Jewish scribes at the Tomb of Ezekiel in Iraq circa 1914.

In late 14th century English the word came to mean ‘one who writes, official or public writer’ and in the 1530s meant ‘copyist, transcriber of manuscripts.’  From the 1530s onwards the word was also used to mean ‘an author, one fond of writing.’ Scribes were also known as scriveners. From the fourteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, scriveners, were confidential writers of legal documents. The Worshipful Company Of Scriveners was founded in London in 1373 to establish control over the practice of all those writing legal documents in the city and from 12 January 1498 every apprentice was tested to ensure satisfactory knowledge of grammar. Scriveners were also called on to write documents for those who were unable to write themselves, as shown in the painting below titled ‘The Public Letter Writer.

The Public Letter Writer.
The Public Letter Writer by Z. Carabin – York Museums Trust.

Types of transcription

There are a number of different types of transcription. 

Verbatim transcription

When audio needs to be transcribed verbatim, this means that both verbal and nonverbal elements are recorded. This could be changes in breathing, emotion or tone, when someone coughs, sneezes, speaks loudly or softly, interruptions in speech and background noise, such as a phone ringing or a knock on the door. Punctuation is also used, inserting ellipses in the transcription for example to represent pauses or hesitations or inserting two short dashes for interruptions.

Intelligent transcription

This type of transcription is similar to verbatim transcription but is likely to have tags and markers such as [cough] or [sneeze] removed making it easier to read.

Edited transcription

This type of transcription is more streamlined again. Hesitations, stuttering and filler words such as ‘um’, ‘ah’ and ‘yeah’ are removed and spelling and grammar errors are corrected. This type of transcription is intended to be read widely say as an article or website post.

Summarised transcription

Summarised transcriptions provide the gist of a recording, they are not word for word.

Paraphrased transcription

Paraphrased transcriptions are similar to summarised transcription but written in the third person.

Monastic scribes copying manuscripts.
Monastic scribes copying manuscripts.

What transcription is not

What do you think of when you think of transcription? Here are some things transcription is not.

Court reporting

Court reporting is undertaken by a court reporter (often referred to as a stenographer.) Court reporters are trained to create written verbatim records of proceedings, using a type of shorthand called ‘stenography’. Using a stenotype machine stenographers type out syllables rather than each letter of a word, which cuts down the time required to type and enables them to record what is  being said in real time. 

Live captioning

Live captioning is used at remote conferences and online events to transcribe audio in real time, or at events with live interviews and discussions, where the transcription is projected onto a large screen. Live captioning that is shown in a language other than the one being spoken live is known as Communication Access Real-Time Translation’ (CART.)


Subtitling is text added to a recorded video file – it requires special file formatting and there are technical aspects involved relating to character limitations, to ensure subtitles fit on  a screen. An audience’s reading speed must also be considered so they can have an enjoyable reading experience.

Audio to text translation

Audio to text translation requires material in one language to be translated into a different language. Rather than providing a written record of exactly what has been said, it requires fluency in both languages in order to translate one language to the other  accurately, so is something very different to transcription.

Modern scribes with typewriters outside post office, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India, 2010.
Modern scribes with typewriters outside post office, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India, 2010

Transcription today

As recently as the 1980s, a transcriptionist had to be in the same room as the dictator with many dictators having a secretary situated close by to ‘take a note’ for them. Alternatively they would record on to tape or hand write letters, memos and reports for their secretaries to transcribe. Word processors and computers made it easier to correct mistakes, print multiple copies of documents and store documents for later use. Then technology changed everything again.  

There are many examples of the usefulness of transcription today.  

  • Audio transcription can be used for recordings and podcasts that may need to be transcribed into readable, written text. Legal proceedings may need transcribing for reading by lawyers, juries, and judges. Medical and healthcare workers may need their notes transcribing for medical records. Researchers may need to transcribe interviews. Audio files can be uploaded online, downloaded anywhere and transferred back online or through email. Smartphones also support recording.
  • Video or film audio may need converting into text say for blogs, news articles and ebooks.
  • Written PDFs and handwritten materials such as notes and letters may need transcribing for example historians and archivists working to preserve history and written content that appears in brochures or flyers may need to be re-created in a text only format. The blind or visually impaired also rely on transcription to be able to read.  
  • Visual scribing where artists attend events and transcribe what has been said with illustrations that capture ideas and key messages.
Visual scribe at Wikimania Stockholm 2019.
Visual scribe at Wikimania Stockholm 2019 by Simply Draw It Big Visuals.

A report by Future Market Insights (FMI) states the global marketing transcription market is projected to witness a growth in revenue from US$ 1.68 Bn in 2021 to US$ 3.71 Bn by 2031. The report cites modern artificial intelligence (AI) which provides a huge opportunity to quickly transcribe high quality audio and video recordings and speech recognition software which enables the conversion of speech into text by recognising spoken words for this boom. So while technology will never replace transcribers who will always have to oversee and edit transcriptions for errors, it can do much of the work, meaning transcription is very much here to stay. 

Hate typing? Record your letters, reports, emails, minutes, agendas, contracts, interviews, send the recordings to me and I will type these for you.


Further information

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

Lifelong learning

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a webinar – ‘Learning At Work – How Being A Lifelong Learner Can Make You Happy.’ The event was hosted by Laughology an ethical, training and consulting organisation built around the psychology of humour, laughter and happiness and was one of many events held to mark Learning at Work Week, an annual event which aims to put a spotlight on the importance and benefits of continual learning and development.

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay.

The aim of the webinar was to:

  • recognise different learning styles
  • notice when you slip into a fixed mindset – that is listening to the voice that tells you can’t do something and learning to talk back to it
  • show how to choose a growth mindset – that is a belief that an individual can grow and develop through dedication, hard work and purposeful practice and not just rely on natural talent  
  • understand why lifelong learning can impact positively on wellbeing.

As a Virtual Assistant I do not attend a workplace every day and so do not have access to training and development through an employer but I have been trying to make time to continue learning, by undertaking training courses and attending webinars.

In 2020/2021, at the same time as I set up as a VA, I began studying towards the Honours year of my degree after a twelve year break. Long story short, after six years of part time study I had well and truly had enough of studying and although I promised myself I would return, the years slipped by. However, it felt like unfinished business and when Covid struck, picking up where I had left off seemed like a good distraction technique.  It was difficult getting back into studying after such a long time but I gave it my all and when I passed with first class honours, it was such a buzz and I was on cloud nine for days.

In 2021/2022 I undertook a twelve week digital marketing course to improve my digital skills and earlier this year, I began learning Spanish, downloading an app onto my phone and studying 15 minutes a day. … ‘Hola, yo soy Toni, yo soy una mujer, yo bebe leche’ … okay, so it’s early days but it is a fun low level commitment that enables me to learn each day and keeps me out of mischief. 

Books and light bulbs.
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

There have been times when I have questioned why I am doing this learning. Surely I should be building my business and working on that at all times but I have found it a really valuable way to connect with others while working alone. Together, me and my fellow students have a shared purpose and studying gives me an individual sense of purpose too, making sure I don’t stagnate, become isolated and get left behind.  Studying  boosts my confidence, keeps me connected with others, keeps my brain in shape and interested in the world around me.

And although there are times when I am not in the mood to study, I believe that if you are open to learning new things, you can learn anywhere – from books of course but television, radio, podcasts, video tutorials, blog posts and even from an app on your phone.

Think you might like to learn something new too? Take a look at the information below for some ideas where to start.   

Further information and sources

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

Authenticity at work

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about being authentic at work.  The workshop was run by Inclusive Recruiting, an organisation who aim to eradicate bias and inequities from the workplace and was presented by Andreena Leeanne, a lived experience speaker, self-care workshop facilitator, poet and author. This blog post was inspired by that workshop.

What does it mean to be authentic

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word authentic as ‘of undisputed origin and not a copy: genuine.’ The word has traditionally been applied to documents, works of art or antiques, however more recently the word has been applied to people, who are seen as authentic or fake, particularly in a work setting or online. Think Chandler Bing’s work laugh in Friends and you get the idea.

In this recent context, being an authentic person means knowing who you are and what you stand for and creating a space for yourself in the world where you feel happy and confident to be yourself at all times – a space where you can be unapologetically you, showing your personality and being the same at work as you are away from it.

Sounds easy huh? However many people have experienced situations where they feel unable to be themselves. You may, like Chandler, have felt you need to act a certain way around your boss and colleagues, telling people what you think they want to hear, so that you will be liked, accepted or promoted. You may have hidden aspects of yourself and developed survival mechanisms to get through the day, so instead of being yourself, you have played a role. It can be exhausting and in doing so you are living inauthentically.

In order to be authentic you need to identify and live according to your values and be willing to live your life proudly, displaying your true colours, regardless of pressure you may be under to act otherwise. Being authentic isn’t easy. People may fear rejection, getting hurt or being ridiculed, so the fear of being judged and the need to fit in often prevents this. However, authenticity has many benefits for both employers and employees. 

Benefits of being authentic

  • Relationships
    People who are able to be their authentic self, tend to attract people to them. Honest, open, character traits generally make it easier for people to trust and build long term relationships with you and in return they will be more likely to be the same with you.
  • Love what you do
    A passion for work is more likely to lead to success than doing work you don’t enjoy. Following your passions will enable you to do what you love, leaving you motivated and eager to achieve.
  • Confidence
    If you are being authentic at work, it will enable you to be more productive, confident in your opinions, happy to share your ideas and unafraid to speak up.
  • Happiness
    If you are happy in your work because you have good working relationships, you are confident in your role and you love what you do, you will feel safe and secure in your working environment. 

Overall being authentic is much more fulfilling than trying to be the person you think other people will approve of or trying to please everyone. As the saying goes ‘You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’

The other side of the story

Despite its potential benefits, oversharing or being overly honest can have a downside, obviously there are socially acceptable norms to consider and there are people who will take advantage of a kind and open nature. Also, while much of authenticity is about individuals knowing themselves and being comfortable with who they are, in order to be their authentic self, employees need to feel safe, therefore it is the responsibility of employers to create safe environments which bring out the best in their employees too. 

Employer honesty is integral to developing an authentic work culture. Shouting from the roof tops about diversity and discrimination, is all worthless, if when faced with the people they claim to support, the employer does nothing to support them. In order to create inclusive environments where employees can be their authentic self, employers need to be able to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, so as to uphold their own values.

From the Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.

Some of the ways employers can create safe spaces include: 

  • leading with empathy at all times 
  • not making assumptions about people
  • listening and responding to feedback 
  • creating safe spaces for difficult conversations 
  • using educational material and events to encourage authenticity and inclusivity at all times 
  • creating opportunities for people to be their authentic self
  • establishing buddying and mentoring initiatives
  • supporting personal and professional development 
  • offering learning opportunities, coaching and mentoring 
  • investing in leaders. 

Tips for being authentic 

Think you would like to be more authentic at work? Below are some things to try out.

  • Identify your values and aim to live by them at all times.
  • Identify who you are and don’t try to be someone that you are not. If you feel there is a difference between who you are at work and who you are outside of it, consider what you can do to bridge the gap.
  • Communicate honestly, respect the feelings of others but don’t play games or use passive aggressive behaviour to get what you want and don’t make promises you cannot keep.
  • Develop self confidence – being authentic is not for the faint hearted. Developing a strong sense of yourself and being assertive, will give you the necessary tools to get you through challenging situations.

What are your thoughts on authenticity at work? Do you consider yourself to be an authentic person or do you have different versions of yourself for different people and situations? Want to learn more about the subject, take a look at the websites below.


Further information

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

Online abuse and its impacts

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about online abuse and it impacts, which formed part of the 17th University of Chester Diversity Festival. Established in 2006, the Diversity Festival gives attendees an opportunity to investigate, question and debate issues around diversity and equality in Britain and in the world at large. Each year the festival provides a focus through which the university actively promotes, challenges and develops an understanding of equality, diversity and multiculturalism. This year the theme was ‘Rebuilding and Rethinking Equality’.

Illustration of different colour people forming a wheel shape.
Image by Geralt on Pixabay.

The session was funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire and run by Glitch, an award winning UK charity aiming to end online abuse. Glitch provide training, research and workshops, with the aim of building  an online world that is safer for all and to encourage people to use the internet in appropriate and responsible ways. Their work has a particular focus on women and marginalised people and in three key areas namely:

  • Awareness 
    Using campaigns and collaborations with partners, including universities, corporates and other charities.
  • Advocacy
    Working closely with the major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, to  influence their policies and hold them to account when needed, as well as helping public institutions create better legislation to prevent and address online abuse.
  • Action
    Believing everyone needs to feel confident when navigating online and offline spaces,  especially women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by discrimination and taking action through educational work to break down complex topics including online hate speech and online gender-based violence.

What is online abuse

Online abuse is any type of behaviour that is intimidating or violent online, whether that be hate speech, targeting marginalised communities, racism or sexism. It includes a range of tactics and malicious behaviours ranging from sharing embarrassing or cruel content about a person, to impersonation and stalking, child pornography, copyright infringements, data theft, defamation, emotional harm, libel and privacy infringements. The purpose of online abuse differs with every incidence but usually is done embarrass, humiliate, scare, threaten, silence or extort. 

During the workshop I learned how to:

  • define online abuse and online gender-based violence
  • recognise types and tactics of online abuse
  • describe the impact of online gender based violence for different groups.
Image by the Women’s Media Center showing types of online abuse, tactics and impacts of abuse.

Online harms  bill

The workshop was timely as the UK Government is currently proposing new legislation to keep people safe online with the Online Harms Bill, which will seek to tackle access to harmful material online. Proposed measures include criminalising the sending of unsolicited sexual images to people using social media, known as cyber-flashing, giving people the right to appeal if they feel their social media posts were removed unfairly, preventing online scams, such as paid-for fraudulent adverts, investment fraud and romance scammers and requiring pornography websites to verify their users’ ages. It would also give Ofcom the power to fine firms or block access to sites that fail to comply with the new rules. However, the bill doesn’t even mention women and girls, who experience abuse disproportionately online. You can learn more about the bill and add your voice to the call to change by visiting the Change.Org website and signing the petition.


Reporting online abuse

Seen something online that makes you uncomfortable? Online abuse can be reported to social media and webhosting providers. It can also be reported to the organisations below.

Further information and sources

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.

Digital marketing student

In November I once again became a student, enrolling on a twelve week Digital Marketing boot camp with We Are Digital. I attended school before the internet revolution, learning to type on a manual computer and while I think I have kept up quite well with technological developments, I was increasingly finding there was much I did not know too. And I am not the only one, millions of people are digitally excluded. 11.9 million people do not have the essential digital skills needed for day to day life in the UK, 1.9 million households in the UK lack any kind of internet access and 9 million people struggle to use the internet independently.

What is digital marketing

Digital Marketing is any type of marketing activity that uses electronic devices or the internet and is different to traditional marketing which uses magazine adverts, billboards and direct mail such as flyers and catalogues. You can learn more about digital marketing in the short animation below.

What does the boot camp involve

The boot camp takes place online via Zoom, three hours a day, four days a week, for twelve weeks, with students benefiting from industry respected trainers and professionals from the world of digital marketing. It has been designed to be focused on commercial aims, so real world practical skills are taught and regular assessments are built into the timetable, with a final assessment – a group project to write and present a marketing strategy. Topics covered include:

  • Market research: understanding customers needs and problems to then develop solutions
  • Social media: Learning to plan, test, implement and measure social media campaigns
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): How to plan, design, and implement an SEO strategy
  • Paid search: Learning to design and implement a paid search strategy
  • Analytics: understanding how to implement, test and measure results using analytics packages.
  • Tools: Learning about the tools that can be used to support digital marketing
  • Conversion optimisation: how to plan test and improve conversion rates on a website.
  • Competitor analysis: learning how to conduct competitor Analysis
  • Content marketing: learning how to plan and develop a content marketing strategy
  • Display and media: display advertising
  • Trends: understand trends in digital marketing, how it’s evolved and what is on the horizon.
  • Strategy: to take all the learnings from the course and develop into an overall digital marketing strategy

You can learn about these topics in more depth on the We Are Digital website below.

Lifelong learning

The boot camp is one of many free flexible training opportunities provided by the UK government Plan for Jobs programme, which aims to protect, support and create jobs across the country, whether you are a business owner, self-employed or a job seeker. To be eligible to study on the boot camp, students need to be aged 19+, recently made unemployed, self-employed, or working part-time and seeking a new career. Other training is available in construction, engineering and manufacturing, green skills and HGV driving.

If like me you would enjoy the opportunity to learn some new skills you can find out more about initiatives and the help available below.


Further information

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.