Filler Words in Legal Transcription: Why They Should be Included

Filler Words in Legal Transcription: Why They Should be Included
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Filler words in speech such as "um," "ah" and "you know" are a part of verbatim transcription. Including these can sometimes enlighten a reader to a deeper understanding and insight to what was going on in a respondent’s mind when they were answering a question. For example, if we were to ask a defendant on a charge of theft, verbatim transcription really adds to a different level of understanding to what is going on. Any fumble or words of hesitancy in the answer would reflect in the verbatim transcript. It also gives us a clearer picture of the character of the speaker. While intelligent verbatim transcription has a professional touch to it, it may not convey the nature of the respondent so well as verbatim transcription.

Filler words cannot be ignored in the more precise world of legal transcription, as such for court hearings. While filler words could be simply placeholders when a speaker doesn't know what to say next, they often need to be included for the following reasons.

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Paraphrasing May Raise Questions

If the final document is not verbatim text of the actual speech, someone might accuse the transcription of being subjectively edited. Furthermore, certain terms or phrases that you may consider just filler words, such as "maybe," can be crucial to others. To be on the safe side, always include the full text for legal transcriptions. It's even wise to include descriptions of non-verbal communication, such as pauses, interruptions, vocal tone, facial expressions, hand gestures or other body language.

Researchers Prefer Verbatim Transcriptions

Analysts and researchers of court documents - whether they are legal colleagues or media personnel - tend to want access to an exact replica of actual quotes, regardless of how innocuous filler words can be. Even stuttering or coughs can still count as communication, which actually may have subtle relevance to the subject matter. While run-on sentences or accidental contradictions are considered errors in the academic world, they may reveal a rambling lack of focus that can be interpreted as evasive or convoluted.

Timestamps May Be Required

If timestamps, which are audio time markers that appear in the "[00:00]" format, are requested, then the text needs to align with exact times. Removing filler words can alter the timeline of the speech, particularly when there is more than one speaker. You will eliminate confusion or complaints about inaccurate timestamps by making time and text match perfectly.

Also Read: 3 Key Tips for Effective Lawyer Time Management

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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.