Automated or Manual Transcription Service: Which Is Better?

Automated or Manual Transcription Service: Which Is Better?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Although speech recognition technology has improved considerably, it is still no match for a human transcriptionist in achieving accuracy.

Speech recognition software that are commercially available show an average error rate of about 12% while transcribing phone conversation.

Thus, the following two questions arise:

  1. Is it time to fully embrace automated transcription?
  2. Is manual transcription still the best option when it comes to industry-specific transcription needs?

Read on to learn more.

What is Automated Transcription?

Automated transcription is a process where an audio and video file is converted into a written format using voice & speech recognition technology.

Like most AI streams, artificial intelligence for transcription works in the same way, training specific software with high-quality datasets or examples.

When more and more datasets are fed to the software, it gains more experience and builds a better algorithm.

When it comes to the current state of AI applications in transcription work, some of the largest and smartest AI companies in the world, like Google, Microsoft, and IBM, have spent several years to improve automated speech-to-text transcription.

Yet, they have managed to achieve an 88% accuracy at best.  

Downsides of Automated Transcription

The downside with AI tools is that they do not recognize language context.

Therefore, the transcribed content is bound to have some errors. Apart from this, the tools can have a difficult time catching words from speakers with heavy accents. 

While speech technology solutions have significantly improved today, they still have some flaws:

  1. AI struggles to detect if there are different speakers, especially if there is a fast discussion between multiple speakers.
  2. The software can mix up the names of people and places.
  3. Words that are not in English can also be difficult for transcription software to spell out correctly.
  4. Functionality is also a major problem with AI tools as most of them lack the in-built capability of discerning context.

What’s the outcome of using automated transcription solutions? A rambling transcript that has to be proofread before use.

Should You Use Automated Transcription Tools?

This depends on how you’d like to use the transcripts. 

Will you be distributing the transcripts to your customers, employees, or shareholders? Or would you simply be referring to them while listening to your recordings?

You can use automated solutions for the first draft for raw footage, video content, or interviews for your content. 

What is Manual Transcription?

Handing over the task of transcription to a specialist is always the most convenient thing to do.

Manual transcription is the process of converting spoken words into the most comprehensible and legible text format or vice versa by professional human transcriptionists. 

Industries like academics, business, legal, and several others require high-quality services with high accuracy, speed, and timeliness.

Though conventional, manual transcription still remains the only way to guarantee top-quality output with an accuracy rate as high as over 99%.

Upside of Manual Transcription

Manual transcription can be used as the final process of cleaning and polishing up content before presentation to your audience.

Brands and businesses that need high-quality transcripts, or have to adhere to various compliance guidelines should choose manual transcription.

Moreover, the accuracy of the transcription makes it the ideal method of capturing information to be used in medical, legal, or scientific papers.

Manual transcription is a little more expensive than the automated option. However, with a real person going through your content, you can avoid costly transcription mistakes.

Also, revising automatically transcribed content can end up taking a lot of time. You can save time by opting for manual transcription.

When the content you are producing will be consumed by another party and has the likelihood to affect their lives, choose manual transcription. The transcription is perfect for legal, marketing, education, media, research, and enterprise projects.

Should You Use Manual Transcription Services?

Human transcriptionists have an advantage over automated transcription software in the following areas:

When the audio recording has specialized and complex terminology, like legal, medical, engineering etc. These are best handled by human transcribers. 

  1. When the audio has background noise. Unlike automated transcription services, human ears can discern and filter through background noise and still deliver accurate transcripts. 
  2. Human transcriptionists can handle different accents and dialects better. 
  3. Human transcriptionists can easily differentiate between homophones. 
  4. Human transcribers can identify any number of individual speakers in an audio recording. 
  5. A human transcriber has the ability to adapt to different templates and follow special guidelines that may differ between transcripts. 
  6. Lastly, verbatim versus non-verbatim is also a huge factor. A software will transcribe word to word, including the verbal nods, false starts, and the filler words. Most people will want non-verbatim so that the transcript is easy to follow. And for the people who want strict verbatim, automated software won't be able to notate things like laughter and other noises. Only a human will be able to decipher what the different clients want as their end product. 


Even with recent technological advances, automated transcription services still require the hybrid model of a human editor checking the entire transcript to correct mistakes and inconsistencies to be able to achieve 99% accuracy.

If you are looking for accurate, high-quality texts, manual transcription would be your best option.

The transcription service is recommended when you have large files with multiple speakers, audio challenges like background noises, fast talkers, or speakers with difficult accents.

Manual transcriptions are also secure. Most business transcription service providers will sign a confidentiality agreement with you before starting the project.

Finally, manual transcriptionists can insert timestamps on your content so that you can easily determine when a sentence is spoken. Timestamps are particularly important when you need to insert subtitles in your video content.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.