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Quick-Start Style Guide

Follow these guidelines when taking the transcription test for the CastingWords Workshop. (If your application is approved, be sure to read the full-length Style Guide carefully before taking on any real assignments.)

Transcribe semi-verbatim

Omit non-words such as um, uh, mm-hmm, and stutters.

Omit filler words that are used out of habit and do not add meaning (“like” or "you know" are often used this way). Omit words or phrases that serve only as a prompt for the other person to continue (“OK” and "mm-hmm" are often used this way).

Omit false starts (when a person stops mid-sentence and starts over) if the false start does not provide any new information.

Do not paraphrase

Keep words in the order spoken. Do not type words the speaker did not say. If the speaker makes grammatical errors, do not correct them.

Label the speakers

Each speaker must have a unique label. Use a speaker label even if the audio only contains one person.

A speaker label contains one or more capitalized words, then a colon, then a single space. It may also contain a number. See the Sample Transcript for examples.

Use the person’s name, if known. If you know their full name, use it the first time they speak. On the second and subsequent labels, use the first name only.

If you don't know the person's name, use their role (such as Interviewer or Interviewee). If you don't know name or role, use numbered Man or Woman labels. (Man 1 or Woman 1)

Use a speaker label at each speaker change, and after a descriptive tag. Do not re-label the same speaker on consecutive paragraphs.


Use a [xx] tag for inaudible or indecipherable words. A [xx] can replace one word or a whole phrase. Punctuate around the tag just as you would the missing words.

Use a [?] tag if you have transcribed a word or phrase but are unsure if it is correct. The tag goes before the word(s), and lets the editor know this spot needs extra attention.

Use a [sp] tag before a word if you know you have the right word but can’t verify the spelling, even after a reasonable attempt to do so.

Use descriptive tags such as [laughter], [applause], [pause], [background sounds only] to indicate sound events that are not words, but are needed for context. These tags go on a line alone, like a paragraph. Use a speaker label the next time someone speaks after using a descriptive tag, even if it's the same person who was speaking before.


Insert one blank line at every paragraph break, speaker change, and descriptive tag.

Keep paragraphs short (400 characters at most) where possible. Break long compound sentences into shorter ones where possible, but do not create sentence fragments.

Spell out whole numbers between zero and nine. Use numerals for decimals, negatives, and all numbers 10 and up.

If used, we prefer the spellings OK and all right, although be aware that these words may also constitute filler that can be omitted.

Do not put timestamps anywhere in the document.

Do not use a colon followed by a space anywhere except speaker labels.

Follow basic English rules for grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.

Research unfamiliar vocabulary and proper nouns to verify spelling and capitalization.