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See also: Main Style Guide | Editor Supplement | Rare Situations & Word List | Sample Transcript

Rare Situations Supplement & Word List

Updated September 2017


1 Rare Situations
     1.1 Two (or more) speakers have the same name
     1.2 Someone is spelling out a word
     1.3 Long quotes
     1.4 One-sided phone conversation
     1.5 Memo dictation
     1.6 Speaker labels for spliced-together footage
     1.7 Speaker labels for children
     1.8 Math, coding & other technical content

2 Word List

1 Rare Situations

1.1 Two (or more) speakers have the same name

If two or more speakers have the same name but different spellings, such as Chris and Kris, no adjustments are needed. Follow the normal speaker labeling guidelines.

If two or more speakers have the same first name, spelled the same way (or if you don't know how they spell it), then use those speakers' full names, if known, in their speaker labels throughout the transcript.

If you don't know their last names but have initials (and the initials are different), use first name plus initial in their speaker labels throughout the transcript.

If you can't use last names or initials, use roles instead of names for their speaker labels. Follow the normal guidelines if you need to add gender or numbers to distinguish between people with the same role.

If you don't know last names, initials, or roles, use numbered Woman or Man labels.


The above guidelines apply whether or not the speakers with the same name are the same gender as each other.

Follow the usual guidelines when choosing labels for other speakers in the audio.

Be sure to leave a comment to explain the situation any time your work departs from the standard style guidelines.

1.2 Someone is spelling out a word

Spelling out names or other words in conversation

Spell the word out in your transcript, too. Use all caps, and separate the letters with hyphens, but no spaces. If more than one word is spelled out, separate them with a comma.

My name is Jack Sprat, J-A-C-K, S-P-R-A-T. I eat no fat.

If the same word is spelled out multiple times in the same sentence or paragraph, treat it as a false start; spell it out once and omit the repetition.

If the same word is spelled out in different parts of the document, treat each case separately and spell it out again.

Spelling out email addresses or websites

Type the website or email in its correctly spelled form, without spelling it out letter by letter. The address or URL will be converted to a live link in the delivered document.

1.3 Long quotes

If a direct quote goes on for more than one paragraph, insert paragraph breaks as needed. Open quotes at the beginning of each new paragraph, but only close them at the end of the whole quote.

"This is a long quote, a very long quote. It's so long it goes on for more than a paragraph. Surprisingly, we don't close the quotes at the end of this paragraph, but we do -- and this is the tricky part -- put new opening quotes on the next paragrah. Weird, right?

"Most people find this surprising, but it's actually standard English punctuation. My personal theory is that we don't close them mid-quote because that would indicate that we're done quoting, when we're not. I think we reopen them on the next graph to remind the reader that she or he is in fact sill reading a quote."

1.4 One-sided phone conversation

Very Important Note!

The guidelines below ONLY apply when the phone conversation is an "aside" to the real content. If you have a job that contains a one-sided conversation in any other context, that is a red flag for a technical problem that must be addressed by support. See the Main Style Guide section 7.2.4 "One-sided conversation" for details.

If someone interrupts a conversation to take a phone call or speak to someone in another room, and you can only hear one side of the conversation, tag the pauses where they are listening and insert a paragraph break when they change from addressing the person on the phone to the person in the room (or vice versa).

Interviewer: My last question...

[phone rings]

Chris: Sorry, I have to take this.



Chris: Hey, good to hear from you. Listen, I'm in the middle of something. Can I call you back in 10?


Chris: Good deal, thanks.

Sorry about that. Your last question?

1.5 Memo Dictation

Unless otherwise requested in customer notes, label the speaker according to the usual style guidelines.

If they dictate headers, treat each one like a paragraph; caps on the first word, terminal punctuation, with a blank line between each.

It is tempting, but do not use a colon followed by a space in dictated headers. Use commas instead. It is OK to capitalize the word after the comma in this case.

Memo to, Same crew.

Re, Construction in Abu Dhabi.

September 17th.

If the customer notes say not to spell out words, then take note of any spellings provided (and verify if possible) and just spell the words correctly without giving the letter-by-letter.

If the customer notes do not mention spelled-out words, then transcribe according to the instructions in section 1.2, above.

If the speaker requests a new paragraph, insert a paragraph break at that point. You should still break paragraphs elsewhere as needed, if the speech is running long.

If other instructions are included, follow them if possible. Do not transcribe these "stage directions" (including "begin memo" or "end of memo").

1.6 Speaker labels for spliced-together footage

Sometimes an editor will cut together brief statements from many people into a single rapid-fire series of responses.

For example, we may hear five one-liner testimonials in a row, or the responses from a series of interviewees who were all asked the same question.

When a series of pre-recorded responses are cut together into a single piece of footage, it's not really a group discussion, but it's also not possible to identify each speaker individually.

In that specific situation, the various speakers usually all share the same role, and that role, plus gender, can be used as a generic label for the rapid-fire speakers. Other speakers in the piece should be labeled according to the usual guidelines.

Robin: Let's see what folks at the rally had to say about the candidate.

Male Supporter: She's got my vote.

Female Supporter: She really understands my concerns.

Female Supporter: She's great.

Male Supporter: She's looking out for the little guy.

1.7 Speaker Labels for Children

Speaker labels for children follow the same general rules as adults:

Use the child's name, if known.

If you don't know the child's name, use their role.

If you don't know the child's name or role, use Child as a generic label (like you would use Woman or Man labels for an adult). If you can tell the child's gender, then please include it (Female Child, Male Child). However, it can be hard to tell a child's gender based on their voice, so if you're not sure it's OK to just use Child.

"Student" is considered a role, and will be your most likely label in a classroom setting. If there are just a couple of students and you can track them individually, then follow the normal guidelines regarding gender (if possible) and numbers to distinguish between them. If it's a whole class and you can't track each voice separately, then use Student without gender or numbers, the same way we use Audience Member in an audience setting.

1.8 Math, Coding & Other Technical Content

Technical language should follow the standards or common practice of the relevant field or industry.

For example, a medical professional discussing dosages may say what sounds like "migs per kig," meaning milligrams of medication per kilogram of body weight. This is written mg/kg.

If transcribing a discussion or lesson involving computer code, it's worth searching on the terms mentioned, or if possible finding a general reference sheet of common terms. Coding often involves unusual capitalization and spacing, and these need to be researched and transcribed accordingly.

If a speaker gives a mathematical formula or equation, use numerals and symbols only; don't spell anything out. Symbols include:

Symbol Meaning
+ Plus
- Minus
* Times (never "x")
/ Divided by (also use for fractions)
= Equals
Square root of
^ To the power of (see exponent examples below)

Exponent examples

Five to the power of seven = 5^7
Three squared = 3^2
Four cubed = 4^3
Eleven to the seventh = 11^7

Type all variables in lowercase unless the speaker specifies caps.

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

Keep any individual variable consistent throughout the transcript; don't change from upper to lowercase in different places. If you need to change a variable's case, remember to go back and change it anywhere else it may be mentioned.

2 Word List

These are some commonly misspelled words, or words that may have more than one spelling in general use.

Capitalize any of these (except the Apple products) when starting a sentence. Aside from etc., if a full word is spoken don't type its abbreviated form.

Please note that any word may be spelled or styled differently if used as part of the name of a company, organization, event, etc. so do a search to verify spelling in those types of cases.

Word Comments
à la
à la carte
a lot Allot is a different word with a different meaning. Alot is not a word.
acknowledgment Use US, not UK spelling
all right Not alright or other variations
because Never 'cause, except on verbatim, and never 'cos or cuz no matter what
cache Temporary storage space on a computer, or in general speech a collection of hidden items
cachet Prestige
capex Capital expenditure, may be styled capex, CapEx, or CAPEX. If possible verify the style used by the organization in question; otherwise use lowercase.
color Use US, not UK spelling
coq au vin
correspondence Letters
correspondents People who send letters
crème de la crème
dialog Use US, not UK spelling
embed Not imbed
ensure To make sure of -- see also insure
etc. Not et cetera or other variations
faux pas
feng shui
fintech A portmanteau of finance and technology
foie gras
forex Foreign exchange
grateful Never greatful
gray Use US, not UK spelling
in lieu of
insure To cover with an insurance policy -- see also ensure
insurtech A portmanteau of insurance and technology. Sometimes also spelled insuretech, so if you know the company or organization in question, check to see how they spell it.
Internet Always capitalized
IoT Internet of Things
iPod, iPad, iTunes All Apple products have a lowercase "i" and caps on the next letter
its Possessive (the cat washed its face)
it's It is (it's time for dinner)
JavaScript All one word, two capital letters
Judgment Use US, not UK spelling
loose Opposite of tight (also, looser)
lose Opposite of win (also, loser)
MiFID Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. Also discussed: MiFID II, MiFIR
mm-hmm Means yes (omit in non-verbatim unless needed for context)
mm-mm Means no (omit in non-verbatim unless needed for context)
MOOC Massive Open Online Course
nouveau riche
OK Not Ok, ok, or okay
raison d'être
segue Transition
Segway A two-wheeled vehicle
Shih Tzu A dog breed
their Belonging to them
theirs This is already possessive; there's no such word as their's
there A place (also used in there is, there are)
they're They are
traveling Use US, not UK spelling
tsetse An insect, and the disease it transmits
turducken A poultry dish
Ubuntu Always capitalized when referring to the Linux OS distribution
uh-huh Means yes (omit in non-verbatim unless needed for context)
uh-uh Means no (omit in non-verbatim unless needed for context)
versus Spell out in general speech. Abbreviate to vs. or v. as appropriate for the names of court cases or in the title of a movie or other media
Web Always capitalized when referring to the World Wide Web
website Not capitalized
Wi-Fi Use caps and hyphen; this is a trademarked term