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RWS Style Guide


1) Absolute verbatim – Do your best to type everything you possibly can.

2) Video editing verbatim – All words written exactly as spoken; significant background noise marked as [NOISE]; significant “um” and “uh” as well as [COUGHS], significant word repetitions and stutters.  As always, it is much more important to type all spoken words and only ums and stutters that stand out.

3) Legal verbatim – Write every single word exactly as spoken, including verbal tics such as “you know” and sentence false starts, but no “um” or word repetitions or noises and stutters.

4) Standard – Light editing for readability, okay to omit some verbal tics or filler phrases such as “you know” or leave out sentence false starts.  Do not alter diction or syntax.



[ph] – Use this mark after transcribing any spoken words or phrases of which there is a degree of uncertainty in proper representation.  Of course this should be used after unverified proper nouns and difficult terminology; however, it is also necessary to put this mark after mumbled/slurred words that sound odd.  This mark is very important and represents text in the transcript that may not be the words actually spoken.


______ - A “blank” is a short series of underscores used to represent a single word or slight utterance that cannot be properly transcribed.


[INDISCERNIBLE] – Use this to mark an entire phrase or series of words that cannot be properly transcribed.


[INAUDIBLE] – This represents comments that cannot be heard.  The listener can tell that speech is occurring but cannot transcribe what is being spoken or give speaker attribution.  This mark can represent multiple speakers talking for an extended period of time.


[OVERLAPPING] – This represents indiscernible comments caused by people speaking over each other.  Embed this mark within a speaker attribution’s text when the primary speaker is obscured by interruption but the comments from that interruption cannot be discerned.

Use this mark following a long dash “—[OVERLAPPING]” when a speaker is interrupted and spoken words are obscured, then type the speaker attribution of the interrupting party and their comments below. 

[OVERLAPPING—INDISCERNIBLE] – This represents a general uproar or cacophony due to a group of people speaking all at once.  This mark should only be used on its own line to represent the duration of this uproar, and not embedded within speaker attribution text.


[TECHNICAL COMMENTS] – These are comments that typically occur in video editing work and pertain to lighting, sound, camera direction, hair/makeup, or directing/coaching interviewee comments.  They are comments that are not going to be used in the finished product, typically a promotional video or documentary.  Any comments that have even a remote possibility of being interesting to the client should be typed, even off-topic material.  If you are uncertain whether or not an exchange constitutes technical comments, go ahead and write it out.


[LAUGHS] [LAUGHTER]– “laughs” is singular, as in one person laughing in the midst of speech; “laughter” is plural and represents a group of people laughing together.  The plural [LAUGHTER] mark can be embedded into an attribution’s comments and should only be on its own line when it occurs between speaker attributions.


[CRIES] [CRYING] – Same guidelines as laughs/laughter.  Only use this mark when somebody audibly sobs, not when they just sound choked up.


[COUGHS] – This can represent all coughs, throat clears, spit-ups, and general unsavory noises.  Use only in video-editing and absolute verbatim transcripts.


[NOISE] – Use this for significant and disruptive background noise (door slamming, etc.).  Use only in video editing and absolute verbatim transcripts.


[AUDIO BREAK] – Use this mark if there is a very abrupt and significant change in the audio (e.g., if a speaker is suddenly cut off midsentence and it sounds like a different part of the recording begins).


[APPLAUSE] – Use this mark for any significant clapping and/or cheering.  This mark can be embedded within an attribution text or on its own line.


[END RECORDING] – Use this mark at the end of all transcripts.


How do I know whether to use _______, [INDISCERNIBLE], [INAUDIBLE], or [OVERLAPPING—INDISCERNIBLE]?

The distinction between ______ and [INDISCERNIBLE] is that the [INDISCERNIBLE] mark constitutes a longer portion of speech/text that is incomprehensible, perhaps a whole phrase or an entire sentence, whereas the ______ is place marker for single words or very brief utterances that cannot be transcribed.  The [INAUDIBLE] mark is used much less frequently and it should always be on its own line rather than embedded within an attribution.  [INAUDIBLE] marks a prolonged sustainment of conversation that cannot be heard either because the parties are whispering or not close to any microphone or recording device.  Therefore, [INAUDIBLE] means that it is very possible that more than one person is speaking or having a conversation; the transcriber can tell that there is speech occurring but there is no way to even form attributions of any sort or transcribe any words.  [INAUDIBLE] can be for a very short duration of time or for a fairly long period of time.  Note: if an [INAUDIBLE] mark is placed for a duration of time longer than a few seconds, it is helpful to mark the approximate duration of time (e.g., “[INAUDIBLE 3:20-6:00]”).  In a sense, [INAUDIBLE] is both the same and the complete opposite of [OVERLAPPING—INDISCERNIBLE], in that the [OVERLAPPING—INDISCERNIBLE] is very audible as it is a loud uproar of people yelling over each other but, just like with [INAUDIBLE], this mark is not embedded within an attribution as it signifies multiple parties speaking and no attribution placement is possible.




Please highlight and place time stamps after significant blanks, indiscernible marks, [ph] marks, and other areas of interest.  It is not necessary to insert an additional time stamp if one has recently been placed within a minute or two of prior audio.  Highlighting is only necessary when there is a time stamp present; all editorial marks do not need to be highlighted. 



Time-coded transcripts contain a constant series of time reference points throughout the document.  Time code format is distinct from the regular Rogers Word Service format.  Be sure to use the Rogers Word Service time code format template for all transcripts that are instructed to contain time codes; a sample document and specialized time code template will be sent with each assignment that requires time codes.  Time codes are inserted in the left-hand margin of the page.  Codes should be inserted at speaker attribution changes and new paragraphs within attributions.  There should be at least two codes per page; the average elapsed time between each code should fall between 30 second and one minute, and there should never be much more than approximately one minute of time elapsed between each code.  All coding should be done in “hh:mm:ss (with leading zero)” format in Express Scribe.  Here are instructions for setting up a time capture hot key in Express Scribe:


To set up a hot key for coding in Express Scribe, go to the Options menu in Express Scribe and click on Display.  Here you will see section that says Time Format, and under the subheading of Position, make sure that the format entry reads “hh:mm:ss (with leading zero).”  Now, also under the Options menu, go to System-Wide Hot Keys.  Click on the Add button.  Under the Command heading in the window that pops up, click on the arrow and find the command titled “Copy Time.”  Then click on the Change button and you will now be prompted to set your hot key that will allow you to copy whatever time you are at in the recording onto your clipboard.  Choose whichever hot key is convenient for you.  I believe the default is CTL+ALT+T, but I think this is cumbersome.  I use CTL+X because I don’t like to use the cut command anyway.  When transcribing and you come to a point where you need to insert a code, simply press whatever hot key combination you have chosen and this will send Express Scribe’s current time position to the clipboard.  Then hit CTL+V to paste the time into the document in the appropriate margin space used for coding.


To offset codes in Express Scribe, right click on the name of the file where it appears under the “Dictation Name” heading of the Express Scribe interface, then select the “Dictation Information…” option that appears on the menu.  A Dictation Information box will appear on the screen.  The third field from the top should say “Time offset:”—whenever you have to change the timer to reflect the burn codes, simply enter the appropriate time in this field.  Please be diligent in checking for code adjustments to reflect the video burn codes.



For interviews use a “Q:” attribution for interviewer and “A:” attribution for interviewee.  If the interviewee is identified by name, please use their name as an attribution (e.g., “Smith:”).  For non-interview material (boardroom meetings, focus groups, etc.) attribute speakers by last name if possible, then by first name if the last name is not known, and otherwise use “M:” attribution for male speaker and “F:” attribution for female speaker.  Use “M/F:” for a group speaking in unison or if the gender cannot be easily determined.  In some focus groups we use a gender-neutral anonymous attribution of “P:” for participant, and “Q:” is used for group moderators.


Transcribing assignments will often require identifying speakers by using last names as speaker attributions.  When there is a large group of people, it is helpful to keep track of when an identified speaker occurs.  If you are using Express Scribe, it is strongly suggested that you use the bookmarking function to keep up with speakers.  When a speaker is positively identified, go to the Bookmark menu in Express Scribe and choose Set Bookmark (CTL+B).  You can then view the bookmark list to easily navigate between different parts of the recording.  So when an unidentified speaker comes along later in the recording, you can set a bookmark to save your spot and then reference your saved bookmarks of speaker identities in order to compare and match the speaker’s voice.



Although RWS does streamline mechanics and style during the editing process, our philosophy is to retain some of the individualism of our talented transcriptionists in each document.  This means that while we may issue occasional style requests, we will leave most subjective judgment calls in the hands of the transcriptionist.


Purdue University provides an excellent resource for punctuation/mechanics reference:  


One interpretive philosophical request we do have is to lean on the side of fully formed English words and steer clear of “gonna/wanna/coulda/shoulda,” et cetera.  Even in verbatim transcripts, we subscribe to the view that, in most instances, the full words are being spoken at a rapid clip.  However, the transcriptionist can reserve the right to use the slangy/informal forms if they feel that the use is particularly intentional or expressive.



Use written-out form for numbers one through nine.  Use numerals for 10 to 999,999.  Use a numeral followed by written-out suffix for 1 million and greater.  Exceptions:

1) Type written-out form for numbers that appear as the first word of a sentence.

                        2) Type numerals for one through nine if they appear in a serial with larger numbers.  Example: “The numbers on your list should be 14, 26, 3, and 8.”

                        3) Type numerals for any percent or dollar figure, and use the $ or % symbol with these figures.  Example: “The Q2 report shows 3% growth, amounting to a total gain of $6 million.”

Decade titles should be written in numerical form with an apostrophe preceding the numerals.  When referring to the 1960s, then ’60s is the preferred format; not sixties or 60’s.



Most acronyms should appear in all capital letters without periods.  Exceptions:

                        1) Two-letter abbreviations for major geographical entities and international organizations should contain periods after each letter.  Examples: U.S., U.K., U.N., E.U.

                        2) Abbreviations for academic credentials and degrees should contain periods after each letter, except for capital letters preceding a lower-case letter.  Examples: M.D., B.S., Ph.D.

                        3) Traditional abbreviations derived from Latin should be in lower-case letters with periods.  Examples: e.g., i.e., a.m., p.m., etc.

                        4) Initials present in a person’s name.  Examples: T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings.

Plural acronyms should end with a lower-case “s” without an apostrophe.  Use apostrophes in the case of possessive acronyms.  Single-letter abbreviations should always have an apostrophe, whether plural or possessive.



Please use quotation marks for implied dialogue created within a spoken narrative.  Use double quotation marks by default, and only use single quotation marks for internal quotes that appear within an initial quote.  Always place periods and commas before the ending quotation mark; place semicolons after the ending quotation mark; place question marks after the ending quotation mark if the quote falls within a given question, and place question marks before the ending quotation mark if a question falls within a quoted internal dialogue.



The following titles should always be italicized:

·  Books

·  Full-length plays

·  Long/epic poems

·  Music albums

·  Anything that has sections, like anthologies or collections

·  Newspapers/journals/magazines

·  Films/movies

·  Television and radio shows

·  Ships (with ships and other craft, the USS or the HMS is not italicized)

·  Airplanes/Spacecrafts

·  Trains

·  Full genus and species titles in scientific taxonomy

·  Court cases

·  Works of art

·  Operas, musicals, and other theatrical works

·  Computer and video games


The following titles should always be encapsulated with quotation marks:

·  Short stories

·  Short poems

·  Short films/movies

·  Book chapters

·  Songs

·  Essays

·  Newspaper/journal/magazine articles

·  TV/radio show episodes


Please do not use underlining for any title formatting.



Here is a good reference for capitalization guidelines:



The long dash or em dash (“—”) is indispensable in transcription—especially when it comes to verbatim transcripts where it is necessary to transcribe all sentence fragments.  Please use the long dash whenever necessary.  Please do not use the en dash (“–”), double hyphens (“--”), or ellipses (“…”) in Rogers Word Service transcripts.  There should be no space on either side of the long dash and the word following the long dash should not be capitalized unless it is a proper noun.



Please follow Oxford English Dictionary guidelines:



Here is a useful list of common English errors due to homophones and other misconceptions:

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