On the surface, proofreading an audio transcript appears to be one of the simplest tasks on the planet – after all you are merely checking that the written word matches the spoken word, right? Unfortunately this is a fallacy, as proofreading is one of the most challenging and highly skilled occupations in existence. Here are ten reasons why:
1. Variable audio quality – audio quality is affected by background noise, the standard of the recording equipment, proximity of the speakers, et cetera. Poor sound quality can create delays and headaches by making it almost impossible to interpret what was said.
2. Unclear speech – each speaker is unique in terms of accent, vocabulary, volume, and delivery style. When a recording contains unfamiliar accents or mumbling, this can present an enormous challenge to the listener.
3. Time stamps – having to add or correct time stamps for missing speech is incredibly time-consuming, especially when it is necessary to listen to the recording numerous times to attempt to discern the speech.
4. Multiple speakers – although it is imperative that speakers are correctly identified in every transcript, it can be extremely hard (if not impossible) to distinguish between similar-sounding speakers, particularly of the same gender, or multiple speakers talking at once.
5. Time pressure – the proofreader is the final person to check the document and is often running against strict deadlines to return the transcript to the client.
6. Competing interests – while reading, your brain will attempt the higher level task of making sense of the writing, which often overrides your ability to pay attention to detail. This process is called generalisation and means that typos easily slip through.
7. Alertness and fatigue – proofreading requires a high degree of attention and is very difficult to sustain for extended periods, even when completely rested.
8. Multitasking – with audio proofreading not only are you checking that the written word matches the speech but you are simultaneously correcting spelling, typographical errors, and formatting the document. This is multitasking in action!
9. Language requirements – proofreaders require a high level of language proficiency in every respect, including a thorough knowledge of punctuation, spelling and grammar.
10. Client and organisational conventions – proofreaders often need to learn the specific writing preferences used by the organisation they work for, as well as becoming familiar with formatting guidelines. Each client will also have unique vocabulary and speaker names which may need to be researched.
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