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CastingWords Main Style Guide

Section 4.1.10 updated for clarity, April 2019
Sections 4.2.2 and 4.2.4 updated, August 2018
Section 7 updated, July 2018
Section numbering error corrected, March 2018
Section 3.1.1 edited for clarify, December 2017
Section 6.1 edited to correct error, November 2017
Whole document reformatted & edited for clarity, September 2017

How to use this guide

Most of our transcription jobs have a base pay amount, and then a score-based bonus you can earn by doing better work. See the Grading Guidelines for information about the types of issues that may be present in assignments that receive a particular grade.

You will be paid (base pay) for any work that is not rejected. Section 1, The Basics, outlines the minimum requirements of acceptable work. If your work does not meet these basic requirements, we can't use it and will have to get it redone. This means rejecting the assignment and discarding your work.

We will always pay you for work that we can use, but you will not be paid for work that is rejected, since this is discarded and redone. If you were not paid, we did not use your work.

Higher quality work is rewarded with a score-based bonus, on top of the base pay. Section 2, Moving Beyond the Basics, will help you improve your work and earn higher bonuses.

If you turn in consistently high-quality work, you will begin to earn badge points as well. Badges are a graphical representation of your track record with us. Successively higher badges will allow you to access higher-paying jobs.

It's crucial that you read this guide through completely before beginning your first transcription job with CastingWords (CW). There is, quite honestly, no way you can get our highest bonuses if you do not, even if you have transcription experience.

We know this guide is long. However, it is a complete reference for matters of CW style, and we have tried to make it as clear and easy to use as possible by breaking it into sections and providing quick links to each one.

You are welcome to make a personal quick-reference guide, and we encourage you to do so. Creating your own "cheat sheet" is a great test of whether you understand a particular style.

1 The Basics
   1.1 Confidentiality
   1.2 Transcription Requirements
2 Moving Beyond the Basics
   2.1 Accuracy and Common Sense
   2.2 What to Cut: Removing Filler and False Starts
3 Transcript Formatting
   3.1 Sentence and Paragraph Structure
   3.2 Speaker Labels
   3.3 Tags
4 Punctuation and Grammar
   4.1 Punctuation
   4.2 Grammar
5 Verbatim Transcripts
   5.1 The Basics
   5.2 Non-Words
   5.3 Punctuating Verbatim Transcripts
6 Numbers
   6.1 The Basics
   6.2 Special Rules for Money
   6.3 Special Rules for Technical Audio
7 Something is Weird! What do I do?
   7.1 Special Instructions from the Customer
   7.2 Audio Problems
   7.3 When and How to Contact Support

1 The Basics

1.1 Confidentiality

Confidentiality is of utmost importance. Do not ever post or share any transcripts or audio that you receive from CW, or create for us, and never leave these materials anywhere that they will be accessible to anyone besides CW and yourself.

You may want to save the text files from your completed jobs for a short time after submitting, just in case of questions or technical issues. It is fine to hold onto them for a few days, but all text and audio files should be deleted in a timely fashion.

1.2 Transcription Requirements

The following basic criteria describe the job we are paying you for. We can't use work that does not meet these standards, and will have to reject and discard it it so someone else can do the job.

See the Grading Guidelines for more information about the types of issues that may be present in assignments that receive a particular grade.

It must be accurate
The words you type must be the words that are spoken. Words and phrases that you can't understand must be tagged appropriately (see section on tags), not just omitted.

It must be written in standard US English
Use proper US English spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Do not use netspeak or phonetics, such as "u" for "you."

It must not paraphrase
Do not rearrange words. Do not correct the speaker's grammar. Do not cut words that you think are irrelevant or off-topic. Do not include any words that are not spoken. You are not typing up the gist of what you hear, but the actual words that are used.

It must not include anything that wasn't in the audio
Do not include titles, job numbers, page numbers, or your own comments along with the job. There is a separate field where you can (and should!) provide your own comments before submitting.

It must be formatted correctly
See the relevant sections below for full details on sentences, paragraphs, tags, and speaker labels. Transcribers never add timestamps.

Non-verbatim jobs must be "cleaned up"
Non-verbatim work must be lightly edited to remove stutters, filler, and false starts. See the "What to Cut" section, below, for full details. Our standard transcription jobs are all non-verbatim.

Verbatim jobs must be true verbatim
Verbatim work must include every utterance and sound event, exactly as you hear it. Transcribe stutters as accurately as possible. Do not leave out any filler words unless specifically directed to do so in the "Notes" section of the job. See the Verbatim section, below, for full details. Our verbatim jobs are clearly marked as being verbatim.

2 Moving Beyond the Basics

We have many repeat customers, and it is important that they know what to expect when they place an order.

Our formatting guidelines assure that all transcripts process correctly and have a consistent appearance. Our style guidelines help different transcripts to have a consistent "feel," even though they may be ordered at different times and be produced by different workers.

The more closely your work adheres to the style and format guidelines in this document, the easier it will be for the editor to incorporate it into a final product that is both internally consistent, and in line with any other transcripts the customer orders.

In short, following these guidelines will get you better grades, which earn you bigger bonuses.

2.1 Accuracy and Common Sense

Inaccuracy is the worst problem for a transcript to have. Inaccurate work will not receive a bonus, may be rejected, and we may reduce your badge.

Read on to learn how to make your work as accurate as possible:

2.1.1 What to do when you can't understand a word or phrase

No transcriber can understand every word in every transcript. If you give it a few tries but you just can't understand it, or the words you're hearing don't make sense in the context of the transcript, use the [xx] or [?] tags. See the Tags section, below, for complete instructions on how and when to use them.

Your transcript won't be downgraded for using [xx] or [?] for words that are legitimately hard or impossible to understand. However, there are several things you can check or try before marking something as inaudible:

Check the job page
The customer's special instructions, the list of names given, and the title of the assignment can all contain clues as to the names and spellings of individuals and organizations mentioned in the audio, as well as the fields of work or study they may discuss.

Use clues in the audio
Pay attention to information contained in the audio itself. If an inaudible word is used elsewhere in the audio and you get it, you can then go back and correct the earlier instances.

Likewise, if the interviewer concludes by saying, "Thanks, Dave!" and the interviewee's response indicates that he is Dave, you can go back and label the interviewee as Dave throughout the transcript.

Do some basic research
If you can't understand a word but you know the context (for example, it's the last name of a company CFO, a drug used to treat asthma, a city in Ireland) you can often figure it out with a couple of searches by looking up relevant keywords, together with your best guess at the spelling of the unknown word.

2.1.2 Don't make up words

The speakers in your transcripts can use their own made-up words, and you can transcribe them as spoken. If a speaker says "ginormous" or "smartification," that's no problem. However, transcribers and editors should not make up words.

When we say "Don't make up words," we mean two things:

Don't spell words phonetically.
All words should be spell-checked and must be actual English words unless, again, the speaker is deliberately using made-up words. Your transcript will be heavily downgraded for using phonetic spelling, such as "coco van" for "coq au vin."

Don't include words that make no sense in the context of the audio
Read your transcript before submitting, as if you were reading an article or story. The words you transcribed may sound like the syllables that were spoken, but if they don't make sense, it's probably not what the speaker was saying.

For example, a TSA officer is unlikely to mention "hot gowns" when discussing his work. It's more likely "pat-downs," since that's what he probably does all day.

2.1.3 Research and verify

Transcribers are expected to do the legwork when it comes to verifying spelling, format, and punctuation of any proper names or unusual words. Leave a comment to confirm that you have done the research.

If you can't verify something, be sure to tag it with [sp] or [?], and again, leave a comment so the editor knows you were unable to confirm.

Verify spelling
Your work should be spell-checked, of course, and you should do additional research as necessary to verify spelling of any unusual words, such as places, scientific names, drug names, etc.

Look up proper names
Some company, organization, and brand names are hyphenated, some are not. Many use unusual spelling, spacing, capitalization, or punctuation. Look them up and go with whatever styling the company or organization uses in its own communications.

Follow accepted conventions
Got a phone number? Look up the standard notation for phone numbers in the country in question to find out whether and where to use spaces, parentheses, dashes, or other punctuation.

Twitter handles start with an @, so if someone is talking Twitter it's @GeorgeTakei, not "at George Takei" -- and of course you've already done a quick search to make sure you're spelling "Takei" correctly.

URLs and email addresses should be written in lowercase unless the speaker specifies caps. Write them out in their final, usable form, even if the speaker stops and spells something in the middle. If the speaker says, "Amazon, with a Z, dot com," just write amazon.com. If the speaker doesn't say "http://" or "www," don't add it in.

In a few cases, the URL doubles as a company name, such as Amazon.com. If it is being used as the company name rather than as a URL, capitalize appropriately.

2.2 What to Cut: Removing Filler and False Starts

The whole point of transcription is to make the spoken word available in written form. The best transcripts are easy to read.

Spoken language differs from written language in several ways. Many speakers pepper their speech with "um" and "uh," small stutters, false starts, and filler words, especially in informal conversation.

Unless the customer has ordered a Verbatim transcript (in which case see the separate section, below), these verbal excesses should be trimmed so that the final product reads smoothly.

This section applies to non-verbatim jobs, which make up most of the work at CastingWords.

2.2.1 What not to cut

The guidelines below will tell you how to "clean up" some common verbal excesses so that your transcript reads more smoothly.

You will notice that all of these guidelines are about trimming "fluff" that does not add meaning to the transcript. Do not skip content just because the speakers have wandered off topic. Our job is to transcribe what is said in the audio, not decide which parts are important!

2.2.2 Clean up filler and non-words

Remove non-words such as "ah," "er," "um," "uh," and "mm-hmm," unless they are absolutely necessary to indicate meaning.

If "mm-hmm" or a similar utterance is the only answer to a direct question, then it should be kept, or information will be lost.

"Filler" is not a specific word, it's how the word is used.

Any word or phrase that a speaker uses habitually and repetitively, which does not contribute meaning to the sentence, is likely filler. Some common ones include "like," "you know," "really," "kind of," "so," and "OK."

However, all of these words have legitimate uses, and dozens of other words and phrases can be used as filler, depending on the individual speaker's habits and speaking style, so there's no magic formula. You have to understand what "filler" is, not just cut out every "so" and "OK."

Some speakers start every sentence with the same word or phrase, such as "OK, so..." or "Yeah..." That's filler, and should be cut.

An interviewer may acknowledge an interviewee or prompt them to continue by murmuring or saying "Right," "Yeah," or "Mm-hmm" whenever they pause. That's filler, and should be cut.

Some speakers, especially in business settings, have a personal catch phrase such as "essentially" or "quite frankly" that they sprinkle into nearly every sentence. That's filler, and should be cut.

At the same time, we want to preserve the "flavor" of a person's speech, so it's OK to leave in an instance or two of a catch phrase, especially in places where it seems to actually mean something as opposed to being solely a verbal tic.

2.2.3 Clean up stutters and false starts

A false start is when someone starts to say something, then stops. They may re-start the sentence in the same way, say the same thing in a different way, or just switch and say something else entirely.

Remove false starts unless they add information that is not included elsewhere. Also remove stutters and words that a speaker repeats while thinking or searching for the right word.

Use common sense!
Sometimes, the participants in an audio are recording multiple takes of an interview or presentation that will eventually be edited into a seamless, polished final product.

You can clean up minor "conversational" false starts in that case, but obviously not every failed take is a giant false start to be deleted! If the speaker trails off or flubs a line and remarks on it, all of that should be included. Start a new paragraph when the speaker starts a new take.

Click for Examples

If the speaker says: What did I do with the dog's...I need to get to the bank before it closes
You should write: What did I do with the dog's...I need to get to the bank before it closes
The false start is kept because it includes information that is not found elsewhere.

If the speaker says: I really need to...need, um...I've got to get to the bank before it closes
You should write: I've got to get to the bank before it closes.
The false start is cut because it adds no new information.

3 Transcript Formatting

In most cases, the TC (Transcript Chunk) you work on is just one part of a larger audio file, which in turn may be part of an order containing multiple files, and a customer may place many such orders over a period of time.

It's important that we deliver consistent results, from one file to the next, and one order to the next.

In addition, we have automated processes that format transcripts and move text from one type of job to the next, and these processes rely on certain formatting conventions.

The style and format requirements in this section help assure both that the assignment text is handled properly by the system, and that customers receive consistent work each time they order a transcript.

3.1 Sentence and Paragraph Structure

3.1.1 The basics

Your text must have the following properties when pasted into the assignment page. If it does not, you must make the necessary changes before submitting. Tip: You can adjust the settings on your word processor of choice so you don't have to tweak your text every time you submit.

Use Word Wrap
Word wrap is the default on most word processors, and usually not a problem. If you work offline (which is usually a good idea), just make sure there are no stray line breaks in the middle of your paragraphs after you paste your work into the job page. If there are, fix them before submitting.

Don't double space after sentences
Do not put two spaces between sentences, after speaker labels, or anywhere else. It can be a hard habit to break! It may help to use search & replace to change all double spaces to single ones before pasting your work into the job page.

Start every sentence with a capital letter and end it with punctuation
This includes the first word of a quoted sentence. It also includes the first word after an ellipsis, if -- and only if -- it is the beginning of a complete sentence. Also capitalize and punctuate words and phrases that stand as a complete statement (such as "OK") even if they are not actually complete sentences.

Break compound sentences into smaller ones where possible
Shorter sentences are preferred, as long as the resulting sentences are still grammatically complete, and not sentence fragments. If a sentence is ridiculously long (more than 400 characters), go ahead and break it into fragments. See also the section on Conjunctions, below.

Keep paragraphs short
Keep paragraphs to a maximum of 400 characters. Most word processors have word/character count tool that can help you get a feel for what 400 characters looks like. In general, shoot for a maximum of 400 characters including spaces, but it's OK to use the count without spaces if you have a long paragraph with no good place to break it.

Put a blank line between paragraphs
Separate paragraphs with a blank line. Start a new paragraph at every speaker change, and at logical points if a single speaker goes on for more than one paragraph. Tags that stand on their own, such as [laughter] or [crosstalk] are treated like paragraphs as well, with a blank line above & below each one.

Do not indent anything
Do not insert spaces or tabs at the beginning of any paragraph, before speaker labels, or before a tag that stands on its own line.

3.1.2 Conjunctions

Conjunctions such as "and," "because," "but," "or," "so," and others are generally used to join two parts of a sentence together. They therefore also provide a natural breaking point that can allow you to create two shorter sentences rather than one long one.

Whenever possible, avoid starting sentences with conjunctions, especially "and" and "so." You can often simply cut an "and" or "so" from the beginning of a sentence, without changing the meaning.

If cutting the conjunction out would alter the meaning of what was said (be especially careful with "but" and "because"), you may be able to leave the longer compound sentence, rather than breaking it into two shorter ones.

Conjunctions should only be left at the beginning of a sentence if neither of those options is workable for a specific case.

3.2 Speaker Labels

Speaker labels should be useful to the customer
Customers order transcripts because they need a written copy of spoken material. In most cases, they need to know not only what words were spoken, but also who said what.

Speaker labels are most useful to the customer when they identify each speaker as specifically as possible. (See the Group Style section, below, for details on what to do when it is not possible to track each speaker.)

Speaker labels should be formatted correctly
While transcription and editing is always done by humans at CW, audio and transcript files do undergo automatic processing. Incorrectly formatted tags and speaker labels can interfere with that process, make the editor's job more difficult, and slow down a transcript's progress through the system.


We use the phrase "speaker labels" rather than "speaker tags." Only items in square brackets are considered "tags" in the CW system. Tags and labels have different formats, and serve different purposes.

3.2.1 The basics

What is a speaker label?
A complete speaker label includes the speaker's name (or role or other identifying label), followed by a colon and a space. Each word in a speaker label should be capitalized.


Interviewer: Hello, thanks for coming today.

Woman 1: It's a pleasure to be here.

A note on formatting
In some views, the system will display the speaker labels from your transcript in boldface. Transcribers and editors work only in plain text, and are never required to apply bold, italics, or other formatting to submitted text.

Occasionally, a speaker label may contain punctuation or special characters such as accented letters. The system may not bold these labels as expected in some views, but such labels are still valid, and the copy of the transcript delivered to the customer will display them correctly.

How often do I label the speakers?
Label the first person who speaks, even if they are the only speaker in the entire audio.

Thereafter, insert a speaker label at every speaker change, and after any tag that stands on its own line (such as [laughter] or [crosstalk]), even if it is the same person who was speaking before.

If one person's speech is broken up into multiple paragraphs, do not re-label the speaker at the beginning of each paragraph.

3.2.2 Choosing the best speaker label

Be as specific as possible. Use the speaker's name, if known. Names may be provided in the customer comments, or in the name list on the job page. If names are provided but you can't be sure who is who, never guess.

If you don't know speakers' names, or can't be sure which name goes with which voice, use roles instead. Examples include Interviewer, Interviewee, Lecturer, Student, and Moderator.

Use gender (Man 1 and Woman 1) only as a last resort, if you don't know anything else about the speaker.

Using names in speaker labels
A speaker's full name, sometimes including a title, may be found in the audio, or may be given in customer comments or on the list of names included in the assignment.

The first time the person appears in your audio chunk, use their full name (including title, if any) if you have it.

After the first mention, you should use a shortened form of the person's name. In most cases, you will shorten it to the person's first name. However, in a formal setting, it may be more appropriate to use last names with titles or honorifics instead.

Use your judgment regarding the formality of the occasion, and taking into consideration the way the speakers themselves address one another.

For any speaker with a title, the shortened version should retain the title, along with either the first or last name, whichever seems more appropriate in that particular case.


Dr. Jane Michaels may be shortened to Dr. Michaels, if the event is a panel discussion where speakers are formally introduced.

Pastor Linda Thomas may be shortened to Pastor Linda, if she, her congregation, or her website refer to her that way.

Using roles in speaker labels
The whole point of labeling speakers is to make it easy for the reader to know who is speaking.

When names are not known, you should make speaker labels as informative as possible by identifying speakers based on their roles in the audio. You will need to use your judgment in applying relevant, helpful speaker labels. Some examples include: Interviewer, Interviewee, Lecturer, Host, Student, Facilitator, Congregant, Audience Member, Passerby, Announcer, Tech (for camera or sound crew).

Some speaker labels are too general or too informal. Unless specifically requested in the customer notes, you should never use speaker labels such as Respondent, Speaker (or Speaker 1, 2, etc.), Female, Male, Lady, Dude, Person, or People.

When to mention gender
In the absence of a name or role, if all you know about a speaker is their gender, use numbered "Man" and "Woman" labels.

If there are children in the audio and you can't tell if they are boys or girls, you can use numbered "Child" labels instead.

Unless specifically requested, "Male" and "Female" are never valid speaker labels on their own (use "Man" and "Woman" instead). However, you should apply "Male" and "Female" as modifiers if (and only if) people of different genders have the same role in the audio. See examples below.

When to number speaker labels
Transcribers should always use numbers with "Man" or "Woman" labels, even if there is only one person with a "Man" or "Woman" label in a given transcript chunk.

Editors should remove the numbers if there is only one person with a "Man" or "Woman" speaker label in the entire audio file.

With all other speaker labels, use numbers only if two or more people have the same gender and the same role.


A podcast has two unnamed hosts of the same gender.
Use numbers only: Host 1, Host 2

An unnamed man and woman conduct a joint interview.
Use gender only: Male Interviewer, Female Interviewer

Three unnamed students participate in a study.
Use both gender and numbers, as needed: Female Student, Male Student 1, Male Student 2

3.2.3 Speaker labels and audience participation

When a whole audience speaks together, they are labeled "Audience" unless they are gathered in a church or other place of worship, in which case they are a "Congregation." A single member of the group is an "Audience Member" or "Congregant."

Don't worry about telling audience members apart. Each one will just be "Audience Member" or "Congregant," with no numbers or gender needed.

Please note that not every large group is an audience. "Class," "Group," or other labels may be more appropriate, depending on the context of the audio. Use common sense!

3.2.4 Speaker labels for group discussions

When to use Group Style
In groups with many active speakers, it may not be possible to track each one.

The following rules apply to any job that is identified as Group Style on the job page, or that is described as a "Focus Group," "Panel," "Round Table," or "Group Discussion" in the tags, customer comments, or job title.

If you think a job should be Group Style, but it is not identified as such, check with Support if possible. If you can't get an explicit go-ahead, use common sense and make the decision yourself.

If it is legitimately a group discussion, focus group, or other type of meeting with many participants, Group Style is probably justified. Files with four or more active speakers may qualify, especially if they are all the same gender.

If you can track the individual speakers, then do so. If you have a main speaker (or several) with audience participation, see the section on audiences, above. Audience participation is not a case for group style. If it is a seminar setting where there are many speakers but they are each introduced and speak individually, that is not a case for group style.

Use your best judgment and always leave a comment if you feel a job must be done in Group Style, but you can't get the official go-ahead. Using group format speaker labels on a job that does not require them is cause for rejection.

Speaker labels on Group Style jobs
The only person to be tracked in a group discussion is the group leader, if any. Use the facilitator's name if you know it, otherwise label that person "Facilitator."

If there are two identifiable facilitators, use their names if known. If you don't know their names, use "Facilitator 1" and "Facilitator 2" if they are both men or both women. Use "Male Facilitator" and "Female Facilitator" if there is one man and one woman.

All other participants in a group discussion are labeled Female Participant or Male Participant, with no numbering. That's the whole point of group format -- not having to track individual speakers.

If the participants go around the group and introduce themselves, then use their names for that part only, then switch to the generic, non-numbered labels thereafter, even if you can sometimes tell who is saying what.

3.3 Tags

What tags are
Tags are used to provide information about the audio, apart from the words that are spoken. They can be used to draw the editor's attention to problem spots in a transcript, or to denote sound events, pauses, or other relevant features of the audio.

What tags are not
Do not use tags to include your own comments or opinions in the transcript. Do not put any speaker's words inside a tag for any reason.

3.3.1 The basics

Tag Format
CastingWords tags are only ever formed with square brackets [], never parentheses, curly brackets, angle brackets, or other symbols.

Text in tags is lower case except in the (rare) case of a proper noun being included in a tag such as [non-English speech].

Tag Placement
A tag relating to an individual speaker's words or actions is placed inline with the rest of the speech, as if it were a word. Examples include [xx], [?], [sp], and [laughs]. Use a space between these tags and the words around them.

A tag representing something external to the speaker, or involving more than one person, is placed on its own line, as if it were a paragraph, with a blank line above and below. Examples include [laughter], [crosstalk], [music], [background sounds only], [silence], and [pause].

Always use a speaker label after a tag that stands on its own line, even if the speaker is the same person who was talking before.

Do not use tags to state that the audio begins or ends
It is OK for a transcript to start or end with a tag if one is called for, but do not use [audio begins], [cuts off], or other tags that merely denote the beginning or end.

Most of our audio starts abruptly, often in the middle of a word or sentence. If the speaker's first utterance is a complete sentence, just label the speaker and start typing normally. If they start in mid-sentence, use an ellipsis to indicate the fragment and do not capitalize the first word, since it is not the beginning of a complete sentence.

If the last thing in the transcript is a tag or a complete sentence, no further punctuation is needed. If the audio cuts off mid-sentence, use an ellipsis.

Do not use the words "inaudible" or "indecipherable" in any tag
Tags containing the words "inaudible" or "indecipherable" are reserved for editors only. Transcribers must only use the [xx] tag for words they can't understand (see below).

Transcribers never timestamp anything
Timestamps are a special kind of tag that show where in the audio something occurs. Editors will timestamp any inaudible or indecipherable tags, so customers can check the problem spot if they wish.

Because CW breaks audio files up into individual chunks, in most cases the time displayed on your audio player will not correspond to the correct time in the overall file. Transcribers must never insert timestamps into their work for any reason.

3.3.2 Using tags when you are unsure of a word or phrase

Use the [xx] tag when you feel unable to even guess at what was said. We do not penalize you for using [xx] unless the words are easily understandable to us or other workers.

This tag shows us that you knew words were there, but couldn't understand them. It also shows that you aren't just randomly leaving words out, which is really important to your grade.

Spacing, speaker labels, and punctuation around [xx] should be exactly the same as they would be for the word(s) the tag is replacing.

The [xx] tag is the only acceptable way for transcribers to mark inaudible or indecipherable words. The editor will check these spots, resolve them if possible, and convert any remaining [xx] to inaudible (or indecipherable) tags.

Transcribers never use the words "inaudible" or "indecipherable" in a tag.


Sharon: What are your thoughts on [xx]?

Joe: [xx].

Sharon: A lot of [xx] that idea.

This means you have typed out your best guess at a word or phrase, but it doesn't really make sense in the sentence, so you need the editor to give it a close look.

The [?] tag is used, with spaces around it, before the word or phrase you are flagging. You do not need to use a [?] tag in front of every questionable word if you're uncertain about a whole phrase. However, if the word or phrase comes up more than once, you do need to tag it every time.


Correct: One tag for the whole phrase, repeated when the phrase repeats
We really like [?] fish bike pizza. If we could, we'd [?] fish bike pizza every weekend.

Incorrect: A tag for every word, not repeated when the phrase repeats
We really like [?] fish [?] bike [?] pizza. If we could, we'd fish bike pizza every weekend.

This tag means you know you have the right word, but you were unable to verify its spelling. This should be rare. The [sp] tag is used, with spaces around it, before the word you're flagging.

This tag is used when two or more people are speaking at once and you miss some of what is said as a result. Transcribe as much of what is said as possible, but go ahead and resort to this tag if you can't get it all.

The [crosstalk] tag goes on its own line, like a paragraph. Label the speaker after the tag, even if it is the same person who was talking before. Use ellipses as needed if the speech cuts in or out mid-sentence around the crosstalk.

If people are talking over each other but you can still get everything that's said, do not use the [crosstalk] tag. Just transcribe what each person said.

In non-verbatim work with crosstalk, keep sentences or at least phrases together for readability, rather than switching speakers every other word, even if that's how it sounds.

Tagging non-English speech
If someone speaks in a language other than English in an English transcript, you can tag the language, if known; for example, [French] or [Japanese]. If you do this, use only the language name in your tag. Do not use a phrase such as "speaking French."

If you're not completely sure what language is being spoken, tag it [non-English speech] instead.

Obviously, foreign words that are commonly used in English, such as "raison d'être" and the like, should be transcribed.

If you speak the language in question, you may transcribe non-English speech if you are completely sure you can do it accurately, but be aware that the editor may cut it out for the sake of consistency, if other sections of the transcript have foreign speech tagged out rather than transcribed.

3.3.3 Using tags to indicate context and sound events

Tags are sometimes used to mark events that the speakers react to or need to speak over, such as [applause], [phone rings], [siren], and anything else that comes up.

In non-verbatim work, these events are only tagged if the speakers react to the sound, or have to stop talking because of it. If a ringing phone, crying baby, barking dog, or passing train is ignored, don't tag it. Coughs, sneezes, and clearing of throats can also be ignored.

You should make up your own tags as needed for sound events, following these guidelines:

  1. Be specific -- [traffic noise] is better than [noise]
  2. Be brief -- [fire alarm] is better than [alarm for fire drill goes off]
  3. Be consistent -- don't tag the same thing in different ways

Laughter, whether a chuckle, a chortle, or a guffaw, is only ever tagged in two ways:

Use [laughs] when your active speaker is the one laughing. The tag goes inline with the rest of the speech, like a word. If there is punctuation right next to the [laughs] tag, put the tag outside the punctuation.

Use [laughter] when two or more people laugh. This tag always appears on a line by itself, with a blank line above and below it, like a paragraph. Label the speaker after the tag, even if it's the same person as before the laughter.


Amy: Did you hear that joke? [laughs] It cracked me up.

Rory: It was even better than when he told it yesterday.


Rory: That joke never gets old.

Tags that show tone
Very occasionally, it is necessary to use tags such as [sarcastically], [jokingly], or [tearfully] to indicate the speaker's tone, especially if failing to do so could cause confusion about their meaning.

If a speaker begins to sing, shout, whisper, etc., use the appropriate tag at the beginning of the altered speech, then start a new paragraph when they go back to speaking normally.

Use the [music] tag when music occurs in the audio and nobody is talking over it. Use the [background music] tag instead, if people start talking while the music is still playing. Don't use both together.

It is generally not necessary to transcribe the lyrics of music that is included in the audio, unless there are special instructions requesting it, or it is clearly important to the context of the transcription (for example, the speakers are discussing or referring to the lyrics).

If the material you are transcribing is a broadcast or podcast that goes to a commercial break, there is no need to transcribe the commercials (unless requested in the customer notes). Just tag the whole thing as [commercial break], on its own line, and use a speaker label when the main content starts back up.

A special note on pre-recorded content
If a recording is played as an integral part of the material you are transcribing, then you must transcribe the content of the recording (assuming it is audible), just as you would any other content.

You may want to use a tag at the beginning and end of the pre-recorded material, or speaker labels that indicate the voices are recorded. Use your judgment, and remember that the point of transcription is to make it easy for the reader to understand what's going on.

3.3.4 Tagging silence & pauses

Many transcripts do have some dead air before or after an interview, or in the middle of a transcript if someone is thinking about their answer, reading a document, steps out of the room, etc.

A pause in conversation should generally be tagged if it goes on long enough to make you wonder if the next speaker realizes it's their turn to talk.

Use this tag if there is no sound at all. The audio is running but nothing is recorded.

[pause] and [background sounds only]
Use one of these tags if you can hear the hiss of the recorder, breathing, shuffling papers, or any sort of recorded sound.

In general, [pause] is appropriate for a break in conversation, while [background sounds only] -- not [background noise] -- is better suited to times when there is no conversation going on, such as before or after an interview, during breaks, or when someone has left the room.

[background conversations]
Use this tag if there are people talking, but they are too far away from the mic to understand their words.

Reporting problems
It is OK to submit a TC that consists only of one of these tags, but you must also leave a comment to confirm that you are doing so intentionally, and you must be reasonably sure the lack of content is not a symptom of a larger problem.

While pauses and silence can be part of a normal transcript, in some cases they are a sign that something is wrong with the audio file. See the "Bad or Silent Audio" section under Special Situations, below, for full details.

4 Punctuation and Grammar

While we do have some specific guidelines and requirements, detailed below, this is a Style Guide, not a grammar textbook.

This document outlines CW style with respect to grammar and punctuation, and touches on a few general language rules. It is not a complete reference for basic grammar rules.

You are expected to know and apply standard US English spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules throughout your work, unless otherwise specified.

4.1 Punctuation

4.1.1 Colons :

Colon use is restricted in CastingWords transcripts due to the way the system formats speaker labels. A colon followed by a space indicates the presence of a speaker label and will cause the document to be formatted in specific ways. This means two things:

  1. All speaker labels must be formed using a colon followed by a space.
  2. A colon followed by a space must not be used anywhere other than speaker labels.

Colons may be used for time of day (such as 2:45 PM), ratios (such as a 2:1 solution), or Bible citations (such as Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) because these uses do not call for a space after the colon.

You will need to find alternative punctuation for any use of a colon that would normally be followed by a space. Use an em dash for titles that normally include a colon.


Andrew: My daughter and her friends love to play Magic -- The Gathering.

4.1.2 Semicolons ;

The spoken word is generally less formal than the written word. Semicolons are too formal for most transcripts, and should be used only rarely, especially in informal speech.

4.1.3 Hyphens -

General Rules

Hyphens are used for joining words, numbers and other symbols.

Use a hyphen when two or more words come before a noun and modify it as a unit, especially if the words include a past participle, a present participle, a single letter, or a number.

Do not use a hyphen between an adverb ending in -ly and the word it modifies.

CW Style

Use a hyphen and a comma to indicate partially-spoken words in a verbatim transcript. See Section 5.3 for details.

Do not use hyphens when a person is described as being x years (or months) old. Use hyphens when a person is described as a/an x-year-old.

Do not hyphenate racial designations such as African American, Asian American, etc.

Do not use a hyphen when an em dash, ellipsis, or comma is needed. Never use a hyphen to start or end a sentence.


line-by-line scrolling, read-only memory, I-beam construction, eight-sided polygon, copy-protected disc, free-moving electrons, a five-month-old baby

Do not hyphenate
Windows is a highly graphical interface, he is African American, the baby is five months old

4.1.4 Em Dashes --

General Rules

An em dash -- or, more commonly, a pair of them -- is most commonly used to set off a phrase that might otherwise be placed in parentheses.

The phrase is generally a departure from the rest of the sentence, a pause to provide additional information. The phrase between em dashes could be removed completely and the sentence would still make sense, although it would be less informative.

CW Style

Do not use em dashes to indicate that a speaker has verbally stressed a word or phrase. Do not use an em dash when an ellipsis is needed.

Form an em dash by typing a space, two hyphens together, and another space.

Some word processors automatically convert two hyphens into a single em dash character (like an elongated hyphen). You need to override this conversion if it happens, because the single-character em dash will show up as a plain hyphen in the CW system, and you may be penalized for incorrect punctuation.

4.1.5 Ellipses ...

Use an ellipsis when a speaker (or the audio itself) stops or starts mid-sentence.

The word after an ellipsis should be capitalized only if it is the first word of a complete sentence (or a proper noun). Otherwise, it should not.

Do not include partial words anywhere in a non-verbatim transcript. Just use an ellipsis before the first (or after the last) full word.

An ellipsis is only ever three dots, not two or four. Do not insert spaces between the dots in an ellipsis. Do not put a space before or after an ellipsis. (Exception: If an ellipsis comes right after a speaker label, there will be a space between the colon and the first dot.)

Form an ellipsis by typing three periods in a row. Some word processors automatically convert three periods into a single ellipsis character. You need to override this conversion if it happens, and type out separate periods for your ellipsis.

4.1.6 Quotation Marks ""

A quotation mark is a single character. Do not form double quotation marks by typing two apostrophes in a row.

A comma or period goes inside the quotes, whenever these appear together. A question mark or exclamation point may go inside or outside of the quotes, depending on whether it applies to the quoted text or the sentence as a whole.


A period or comma goes inside the quotes, always:
I read today's "New York Times."

This question mark punctuates the whole sentence:
Did you read today's "New York Times"?

This question mark punctuates the quoted material only:
My roommate asked me, "Did you read today's paper?"

Both of the above rules apply in this example:
My roommate asked me, "Did you read today's 'New York Times'?"

Use an apostrophe (single quotation mark) for nested quotes only. Never use apostrophes when standard quotation marks are needed.

For many reasons, it's important to be very accurate when it comes to quotations. All direct quotes should be typed verbatim, even on non-verbatim jobs. See section 4.2.4 for details.

4.1.7 Quoting Media Titles

Use quotes around the titles of media, but only the first time they appear in a transcript.

Items that should be quoted include books, newspapers and magazines (and the articles in them), podcasts (and individual episode titles), movies, plays, albums/CDs (and individual song titles).

Do not use quotes for the names of companies and organizations (or programs that they run), media networks, computer languages, academic courses, job titles, computer commands, computer menu items, court cases, game titles, or the names of events.

4.1.8 Apostrophes '

General Rules

Apostrophes can indicate possession.


The dog ate the child's homework.
Goalkeepers' uniforms are often colorful.


Possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns such as mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and its do not take an apostrophe.

Apostrophes are also used in contractions to show that one or more letters (or numbers) have been removed. If nothing is removed, it's not a contraction and does not require an apostrophe.


do not becomes don't
should not becomes shouldn't
are not becomes ain't
it is becomes it's

Our projected earnings for '16 and '17
The apostrophe replaces the "20" in 2016 and 2017

I love music from the '50s
The apostrophe replaces the "19" in 1950s

My favorite author is in her 50s
No apostrophe because nothing has been removed

Please note that none of the examples above is possessive, so there is no apostrophe before the "s" in either '50s or 50s.

4.1.9 A note on contractions

Transcriptions must retain the words the speaker used. Keep contractions when the speaker uses them, and don't contract when the speaker has not done so.


isn't stays isn't -- do not expand to "is not"
ain't stays ain't -- do not expand to "are not"
would not stays would not -- do not contract to "wouldn't"
I have stays I have -- do not contract to "I've"

The one exception: Change "there're" to "there are."

4.1.10 Abbreviations and Acronyms

Acronyms: Do not use periods in multi-letter acronyms, whether they form a pronounceable word or are "spelled out" in speech: NAFTA, NASA, UNICEF, CIA, FBI, EU, USA, Washington DC, TV, Q&A, R&D, and the like.

Abbreviations: Rare, since speakers don't often say abbreviated forms out loud, and we generally don't type a different form of the word than was spoken. The one frequent exception is etc., which takes a period. Occasionally a speaker will speak other abbreviations by literally saying shortened forms such as i.e., e.g., inc., co., ave., and the like. Use a period if they do.

Honorifics: Personal titles such as Mrs., Mr., Ms., Dr., Rev., and similar should be abbreviated, with a period, when used as part of a person's name. If words such as mister, doctor, or the like are used conversationally rather than as a title, then write out the word.

Names: If a person's initials are given, use a period (Samuel L. Jackson). However, always respect an individual, product, company, or group that styles its own name in an unusual way. Look them up, and follow their lead on spelling, punctuation, etc. (iPad, e e cummings, ABBA, AC/DC).

4.2 Grammar

4.2.1 Don't correct the speaker

Our transcripts aim to preserve each speaker's words and the "flavor" of his or her speech.

This means contractions should not be expanded, and expanded phrases should not be turned into contractions. Whether it's "I'm" or "I am," "wouldn't" or "would not," keep it the way it was spoken.

It also means using the best grammar and punctuation you can, but not correcting grammatical errors made by the speakers themselves. Slang, regionalisms, and errors made by non-native English speakers must all be preserved in your transcript.


Student: There's five of us coming tomorrow.

Refugee: Then I tell him we go faster to come here on time.

Kimberly: Ain't nobody got time for that.

4.2.2 The exceptions

There are a few slang terms that are just distracting when written out. The following slang words should be corrected in non-verbatim work:

gonna should be changed to going to
wanna should be changed to want to
hafta should be changed to have to
kinda should be changed to kind of
sorta should be changed to sort of
'cause should be changed to because
there're should be changed to there are

"Gotta" can go either way. If the person is using the slang word intentionally, (such as, You gotta be kidding me), you can keep it as spoken. If it's just sloppy pronunciation, you may choose to write out "got to."

4.2.3 Profanity

Swearing or cursing should be typed out, just like any other speech. If you don't want to hear or type profanity (or any other particular type of content), you are always free to return the job. Never censor, tag out, or otherwise "clean up" a speaker's language.

4.2.4 Other grammar guidelines

Direct quotes should always be transcribed verbatim, even in non-verbatim jobs, to protect the integrity of the quote.

However, stutters or ums & uhs should only be included if they are part of the quoted speech, not if they are the speaker's own mannerisms creeping in.

Indirect or informal quotes, where the words convey the meaning and tone of someone else's speech (or writing) but are not intended to represent the actual exact words, should not be transcribed verbatim unless it is a verbatim job.

Spelling out
If a speaker spells out a word, you should too. Use capital letters with a hyphen between each one. The "www" part of a web address does not count as spelling out.

If the same word is spelled out multiple times, then handle each new instance independently (and spelled out again in your transcript), unless it occurs within the speaker's next breath or two.


Jack Sprat: My name is Jack Sprat, J-A-C-K, S-P-R-A-T. My favorite website is www.eatnofat.com.

Follow proper US English grammar, as well as common conventions.

This means that you should not use an ampersand (&) in place of "and" in general conversation, but you should use it in situations where it is normally called for, such as "Q&A" or "R&D," or if it is part of a proper name, such as Johnson & Johnson.

The @ symbol should be used in the context of Twitter handles or email addresses, but never to substitute the word "at" in other contexts.

See the Numbers section, below, for information on math and science symbols.

There is more than one correct spelling of "et cetera." Please use "etc."
Please capitalize the word "Internet."

5 Verbatim Transcripts

5.1 The Basics

On verbatim jobs, you must include every single thing you hear, exactly as you hear it. Transcribe every utterance, including repetitive phrasing, stutters, false starts, non-words such as "um," "uh," "er," and filler words, including every "like," "I mean," "you know," etc.

All slang should be retained exactly as spoken, including "gonna," "kinda," "sorta," "'cause" (with an apostrophe, and never never "cos" or "cuz"), etc.

All non-verbal sound events must also be tagged, including those that are left out of non-verbatim work.

In cases of crosstalk, get as much content as you can, and type each word or sound event in the order that you hear it (rather than keeping sentences or phrases together for readability, as we do in non-verbatim).

5.2 Non-Words

Verbatim transcripts can get pretty messy with all the repetition and "ums" and "uhs." One thing we can do to keep it as readable as possible is to standardize the spelling of non-words. Use the following spellings, and capitalize if the non-word is the beginning of a sentence:

um -- Not uhm or umm
uh -- Not uhh, uhn, or ah
er -- Not err or ur
mm-hmm -- Not um-hmm. Mm-hmm means yes
uh-huh -- Not uhm-huh. Uh-huh means yes
mm-mm -- Not hm-mm. Mm-mm means no
uh-uh -- Not huh-uh. Uh-uh means no

5.3 Punctuating Verbatim Transcripts

Set off "um" and "uh" with commas on each side.
Use commas between stutters and repeated words.
Use an ellipsis only if the speaker stops (or starts) mid-sentence.
Use a hyphen and a comma for partial words.
Use some kind of punctuation at the end of every line and statement, even if it's not a complete sentence.


Interviewee: Um, OK. So, uh, then me and Jessie went to the mo-, I mean, we decided to go to the movies, um...

[phone rings]

Interviewee: ...but there was nothing on that day.

6 Numbers

6.1 The Basics

In general, spell out numbers from zero to nine and use numerals for numbers from 10 to 999,999, even if it is the first word of a sentence.

See below for info on millions and billions, and other special cases.

6.1.1 When to use words

Spell out positive, whole numbers from zero to nine
This includes money, but see also the special section on money, below.


We had zero-degree weather, so I ate six or seven cookies. The cookies cost five dollars.

Spell out the words "million," "billion," etc. when round numbers are given
Numbers in the millions, billions, etc. are often discussed in round numbers, in which case the quantity of millions or billions obeys the normal number rules, and the word "million," "billion," etc. should be spelled out.

Obviously, if the speaker gives an exact number that can't be expressed that way, then use numerals for the whole thing (see last example below).


That child has a zillion imaginary friends.

The population of the city is three million.
Spelled out because three is positive, whole, and under 10

The population of the city is 3.5 million.
Not spelled out because 3.5 is positive but not whole

The population of the city is 13 million.
Not spelled out because 13 is not under 10

The population of the city is 13,030,210.
The speaker gave the exact number

Spell out simple fractions, using a hyphen


Only two-thirds of the class showed up, but they ate three-quarters of the pizza.

Spell out the names of mathematical operations in general conversation
Plus, minus, percent, etc. should be spelled out in general conversation. However, see the Math section, below, for math, computer, or science-focused audio.


She figured out the square root of 18.4 in her head as easily as you or I can add two plus two.

The "a hundred" rule
Sometimes when someone says "a" hundred or "a" thousand, they do mean exactly 100 or 1,000. However, the "a" is often a sign of imprecision. Use numbers if (and only if) the "a" literally means exactly one. Otherwise, spell it out.


The new policy was a hundred times more effective.
I got $100 for my birthday.
There must have been a thousand people there.
We have to get at least 1,000 signatures on the petition.

6.1.2 A special rule for consistency within a sentence

If the same sentence includes both a number that would normally be spelled out and one that would normally be expressed with numerals, you should use numerals for both if both numbers are counting the same thing.


Both numbers are counting the same thing. Use numerals throughout.
He had $4 and she had $15.
The samples measured 6, 2, and 0.75.
I have a 2-year-old and an 11-year-old.
I have 17 students, and 6 were late.

The numbers are counting different things. Each one obeys its own rules.
I packed four sandwiches and 10 drinks.
The three Cybermen were no match for 15 Daleks.

6.1.3 When to use numbers

Use numbers for all whole numbers 10 though 999,999
For larger numbers, see the separate section on millions, billions, etc. Use numerals even for large numbers if it's a specific number (see population examples below).

Use commas in numbers of four or more digits (except years).


I was born in 1969.
The tickets cost $1,969.

We got 2,500 signatures on the petition.
The speaker said "twenty-five hundred"

The population of the city is 13 million.
The speaker said "thirteen million"

The population of the city is 13,030,210.
The speaker gave the exact number

Use numbers for all decimals and all negative values
With decimals, add a zero before the decimal point only if the number is between 0.1 and 1.0 (or -0.1 and -1.0).



6.1.4 Times & dates

Use only numbers (with leading zeros) if that's the way a date is spoken. Spell out the month, if spoken. Use ordinals (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), if spoken.


We spoke on 07/03/13.
Spoken as "seven, three, thirteen"

We spoke on July 3rd, 2013.
Spoken as "July third, 2013"

We spoke on July 3, 2013.
Spoken as "July three, 2013"

Spell out the word "o'clock" if the speaker uses it.
Spell out the number with "o'clock" if it is under 10.
Use numbers for any time of day that does not mention "o'clock."
Always capitalize AM and PM.


I got up at five o'clock.
I got up at 10 past 5:00.
I got up at 5:30.
My daughter got up at 10 o'clock.

My daughter got up at 10:00.
Spoken as "at 10"

I got up at 5:00 AM.
Spoken as "five AM"

I got up at 5:00 in the morning.
Spoken as "five in the morning"

6.1.5 Numbers in a series

A series of numbers may make perfect sense when spoken, but be difficult to represent using the normal number rules.

If a speaker says "five, ten, or fifteen thousand," and clearly means 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000, write it like this:


We're expecting 5, 10, or 15 thousand people to attend.

If a series of numbers has a unit that is not currency, such as "fifty, seventy-five, or one hundred thousand meters," write it like this:


Lecturer: It could be 50, 75, or 100 thousand meters away.

If a series involves currency, treat it as an exception to our usual currency rules (below). To keep the amounts clear at a glance, leave the currency unit spelled out. If the speaker says, "forty, fifty, or sixty million dollars," write it like this:


Economist: The changes are expected to cost 40, 50, or 60 million dollars.

6.2 Special Rules for Money

6.2.1 When to use words

Similar to the general numbers rule, spell out both the quantity and the name of the currency when the amount is a positive, whole number between zero and nine.

The "a hundred" rule (see the general numbers section, above) also applies to currency. If a person says "a" hundred or "a" thousand, spell it out if it's being used as a generalization. Use numbers only if the "a" literally means exactly one.


I need three more dollars.
Lunch cost nine euros.
The house cost four million pounds.
Penny candy costs six cents now.
It costs like a thousand dollars to join.
I'll give you $100 for it.
Spoken as "a hundred dollars"

6.2.2 When to use numbers

Use numbers and the currency symbol (if there is one) for quantities of 10 or more, or any decimal value.

When a specific whole number is given along with "hundred" or "thousand," rather than the non-specific "a," then use numerals.


He makes $18.50 an hour.
The reforms cost €25 billion.
The rent was $3,000.
It cost me 1.5 million clams.
They paid 10 bucks for that.

6.2.3 Millions, billions, trillions, etc.

Spell out large number words such as "million, billion," and "trillion," (unless the speaker is giving a specific number that details the hundreds and thousands as well -- see population example below).

Spell out the number of millions (or billions, etc.) if it is a whole number between zero and nine unless a currency is specified.


The country spent almost five trillion.
(No currency specified)

Auditors could not account for the missing €2.5 trillion.
(Currency specified, plus "2.5" is not a whole number)

I won 1.5 million bucks.
(Not a whole number)

The population was 2,350,210.
(Can't be expressed in the "XX million" format)

6.2.4 Currency symbols

If there is any doubt whether a person is talking about money, or which currency they might mean, do not use a currency symbol.

If it is already established that the person is discussing a specific currency, use the appropriate symbol consistently, even if the speaker does not say the name of the currency every time.

Use standard currency symbols, when called for. If the symbol you need is not on your keyboard, it may be available via a keyboard shortcut, on your computer's Character Map, or you can simply google the symbol then copy & paste as needed.

6.3 Special Rules for Technical Audio

Technical language should follow the standards of the field or industry, whether it's mathematics, coding, medicine, chemistry, astronomy, physics, electronics, engineering, etc.

A couple of quick searches can usually provide you the information you need about spellings, abbreviations, units, and other conventions followed in any given field.

6.3.1 Numbers and symbols

In this type of audio, use numerals and symbols for all formulas or equations. Do not spell out any numbers, no matter how small, and use the following symbols for mathematical operations:

—‹Divided by—‹ is a slash: /
—‹Fractions—‹ are also written with a slash: /
—‹Times—‹ is a star (never an x): *
—‹Plus—‹ is the plus symbol: +
—‹Minus—‹ is the minus symbol -
—‹Equals—‹ is the equals symbol: =
—‹Square root—‹ is the square root symbol:
Exponents use a caret: ^

Exponents can be spoken in several ways. Here are some examples:


Five to the power of seven is written 5^7
—3 squared is written 3^2
—4 cubed is written 4^3
—11 to the seventh is written 11^7

6.3.2 Variables

Use lowercase for all variables unless the speaker specifies capital letters.

—‹Some formulas require both uppercase and lowercase letters as variables. For example, the area of a trapezoid is sometimes written as a A = (B + b)h/2.

—‹Stick with the same case for each individual variable throughout the transcript: if it's A to start, it needs to be A everywhere else, and typing it as "a" will get you downgraded, especially if you also have another variable that is "a" at the same time.

—‹Remember to go back and change a variable'€™s case throughout if you hear the speaker specify it later in the audio and it doesn't match what you had.

7 Something is Weird! What do I do?

In most cases, transcribers are the first humans to come into contact with new material when orders come in. That means you are our eyes and ears, and we rely on reports from workers to let us know if something seems off.

This may include unusual or confusing requests from the customer, or problems with the file itself such as corrupt audio, duplicate material, long stretches with nothing to transcribe, speech in a different language than expected, or anything else that isn't quite normal and needs a member of staff to take a look.

It is very important that these cases be brought to our attention as soon as possible. Delays not only prevent us from fixing problems in a timely manner, they increase the likelihood that assignments will be completed in the meantime, incurring costs that either the customer or the company will have to absorb if the order is canceled, contains duplicate material, or otherwise won't be completed and billed as usual.

Submitting an assignment where there was clearly an issue that needed staff attention may result in temporary or permanent badge loss.

7.1 Special Instructions from the Customer

7.1.1 What if the special instructions contradict the Style Guide?

Customers may provide special instructions for transcribers and editors. Customer instructions overrule the Style Guide on most issues. However, the following four rules must always be followed, and you should let us know if customer instructions request otherwise:

  1. Speaker labels must always have a space after the colon, and a colon with a space must never be used except as part of a speaker label.

  2. Paragraphs must always be separated by a single blank line.

  3. Use only square brackets [], around tags, never parentheses (), curly brackets {}, angle brackets <>, or any other symbols.

  4. Transcribers never add timestamps or use the words "inaudible" or "indecipherable" in a tag. The only acceptable notation for inaudible or indecipherable words at the transcription stage is the [xx] tag. Inaudibles are timestamped only at the final edit stage, following the guidelines in the Editor Supplement.

Aside from the exceptions noted above, if customer instructions contradict the Style Guide, follow the special instructions to the best of your ability, or your work will be downgraded.

7.1.2 What if the special instructions say to skip part of the audio?

Customer comments may say something like, "Skip the first 6 minutes. Just start when the interview begins."

In those cases, the editor must trim the content as requested. Transcribers never skip audio based on customer instructions. This is because we break audio files into chunks, and transcribers don't generally know if the piece they are working on includes the part that is going to be cut.

If the special instructions seem to be asking that a substantial portion of the audio be cut, such as "This is a 1-hour file but I only need the first 20 minutes," you must inform Support by using the "Report a Problem with this Job" link, even if you keep working on your piece of the audio.

7.1.3 What if the special instructions say to omit a speaker?

Customer comments may say something like, "No need to transcribe the interviewer. I just need the responses."

In those cases, transcribers can go ahead and omit the interviewer's words, as directed. However, you still need to use tags to indicate that someone was speaking. Choose a simple tag such as [interviewer speaks], and use it consistently, without a speaker label, in place of the actual speech.


Chris: That's what I thought.

[interviewer speaks]

Chris: That's an interesting question...

7.1.4 What if the special instructions don't make sense?

If the special instructions ask for something you can't do, or don't make sense for some other reason given the way CastingWords normally operates, contact Support to ask. Transcribers are usually the first people to have contact with customers' audio and the notes they leave, so we rely on you to report anything that is confusing or doesn't seem right.

However, as long as the unusual special instructions are feasible and don't violate the four exceptions given above, go ahead and follow them to the best of your ability until you hear back. If you don't have a response by the time you are ready to submit your work, leave a comment explaining that you requested clarification about the instructions, then go ahead and submit the assignment.

7.2 Audio Problems

7.2.1 Difficult audio

If you feel that a job paid at the normal rate is more difficult than usual, and should pay the Difficult Audio premium, feel free to contact Support so we can suggest that the customer apply the Difficult Audio upgrade if appropriate.

However, in most cases there will not be a response before the assignment deadline, so you will need to either return the job or submit your work at the standard rate.

7.2.2 Difficult accents

Heavy accents may merit the Difficult Audio upgrade, so feel free to let Support know if you come across one. However, if you are having trouble understanding someone's accent to the point that your transcript is full of inaudibles, you should return the job and let someone else give it a try.

We have workers literally all over the world, and they speak tons of different languages. There is likely someone out there who can do a good job with any given accent.

7.2.3 Bad or silent audio

While pauses and silence can be part of a normal transcript, in some cases they are a sign that something is wrong with the audio file.

A couple of minutes of dead air at the beginning or end of an interview is normal. Breaks in meetings are normal. Someone pausing to think or stepping out of the room for a minute or two during an interview is normal.

Long stretches of silence (or background sounds only) are not normal.

If the silence goes on for many minutes, or if you take several TCs from the same audio and they're all silent or otherwise content-free, you must report it.

If you find corrupt audio -- for example, all static, high-pitched squealing, high-speed, high-pitched voices -- you must report it.

Simply put, if it's out of the ordinary, email Support@CastingWords.com. If you submit the job, leave a comment noting that you have done so.

7.2.4 One-sided conversation

If one of the participants seems to be missing from the audio (i.e., you hear one side of the conversation on the left or right channel, then silence where a response should be), first check all of your audio settings, connections, cables and equipment. Sometimes a loose connection can cause you to lose one track on a stereo file.

Sometimes, a stereo recording has all the talking on one channel and silence on the other side. That's fine, as long as no content seems to be missing.

If all settings, connections and equipment check out, and there is still silence where there would normally be talking, it could be an improperly converted QuickTime MOV file.

If this is the case, or the audio is untranscribable for other reasons, please report it immediately and wait for us to email you to return the job. (If you return it immediately, it may show back up in the Available Jobs list.)

Obviously, if you're about to sign out and can't wait any longer, you can go ahead and return the job, as long as you have also reported it using the "Report a Problem with this Hit" link.

7.2.5 Duplicate material

Our system is very good at detecting duplicates if the customer uploads the exact same file more than once. However, if the files are different lengths, different formats, or if the duplicate material is contained within a single recording, we cannot detect this automatically.

If you come across audio that you have worked on (or seen) before, please let support know immediately, including the AF or TC number (or URL) of the job that is currently posted, as well as any information you have about the other copy.

7.3 When and How to Contact Support

7.3.1 What to check first

Support is there to help, but you should check the available resources first, to see if your question has already been answered.

Search this Style Guide for key words related to your question. Check the FAQ and other CW reference documents. Review the Editor Supplement if your question is about an editing job, and of course we've designed our Sample Transcript to be useful to everyone.

7.3.2 How to contact Support

If you cannot find an answer in the existing documentation, then feel free to contact Support. You can do this in several ways. Please note that the end result of any of these is to create a Support ticket, so there is no need to do more than one of them:

Send an email to either Support@CastingWords.com or Workshop@CastingWords.com. Messages sent to either address will create a Support ticket. Be sure to send the message from the email address associated with your worker account so we can find you in the system and look up any info we need in order to address your question.

Use the "Report a Problem with this Job" link
The "Report a Problem with this Job" (or "Report a Problem with this Hit") link is found in the upper-right corner of most types of jobs. It leads to a checklist where you can report various types of problems, as well as adding your own comments.

Submitting this form will create a Support ticket with information about the boxes you checked, your comments (if any), and a link to the job in question so we can check it out.

If the job is not assigned to you when you submit the form, we will not know who sent it. We will still look into the report, but we won't be able to reply to you directly.

Please note that submitting the "Report a Problem" form does not return the job if it is assigned to you, so you will need to do that separately if you are unable to complete the assignment.

Click the "Help" pull tab
There is a "Help" tab on the right-hand margin of most Workshop pages. You can click it to access a pop-up window where you can submit your Support request. Please be sure to enter the email address associated with your CastingWords account when submitting a request in this way.

7.3.3 Facebook group

You may find it helpful to join our Facebook group. This is entirely optional, of course, but it's a great place to ask general questions about CW style and procedure.

You can get suggestions from other workers, especially if you need advice at a time when Support is not open, and you can learn from other workers' posts.