Transcribing is the process of converting audio formats into text. This should include any significant background noises and auditory information.

The following information has been adapted from the Described and Captioned Media Program's Captioning Key


Speaker Identification

  • Two chevrons are used to indicate each new speaker and when a speaker changes.
    • >> I went to the park

  • Speakers NOT appearing on screen must be identified, preferably by name or title, in parentheses followed by a colon and space.
    • >> (Narrator): She went to the park.
    • >> (Announcer 1): It was around the lunch hour.
    • >> (Sally Smith): We had a fantastic time.

  • Multiple speakers require group identification and three chevrons.
    • >>> (All):
    • >>> (Both):

  • Speakers appearing on screen do not need an identification.

Descriptive Captions (laughing, outside noises, silence, etc.)

  • Use square brackets, no chevrons
    • [applause]
    • [laughing]
  • Speech that cannot be discerned should be indicated with a descriptive caption.
    • [muttering under breath]
    • [inaudible]

  • Silence that lasts longer than five seconds should be indicated with a descriptive caption.
    • [sil.]
    • [no audio]


  • Music styles are indicated in brackets, similar to descriptive captions.
    • [soft music]
    • [“Help!” by The Beatles plays]

  • When applicable, indicate the style of music, song title, and artist.
    • If any of these are unknown, [music] is sufficient as long as it does not detract from the context.

  • Instrumental music lasting longer than five seconds should be indicated.
    • [music]
    • [upbeat music]

  • You do not need to caption background music with a duration under five seconds.

  • Nonessential background music should never be captioned at the expense of dialogue.


    • Spell out whole numbers zero through nine, use numerals for 10 and above.

    • Use numerals for:
      • Fractions
      • Ages
      • Heights
      • Measurements

    • Decimals
      • Always written in numerals.
      • When spoken as "point ___," include a zero before the decimal.

    • Do not start a sentence using a numeral, spell out the number.
      • UNLESS it is a year.
        • 2020 has become an interesting year.

    • Time should always be written numerically except when said as “noon” or “midnight."
      • 9:30 or 1:00
  • Sums of money may be written with either a dollar sign or the word “dollars”.
    • $25 or 25 dollars

  • Temperatures should be written as spoken.
    • Minus 13 degrees Celsius.


  • Spell out nonmetric measurements: feet, inches, pounds, ounces, yards, etc.
    • UNLESS using teaspoon (tsp) & tablespoon (tbsp)

  • 8 centimeters squared - 0.8 sq cm

  • 22 millimeters of mercury – 22 mmHg

  • 40 liters per minute – 40 L/min


  • When only the date and month is mentioned (no year), it is necessary to use “th”, “st”, or “nd”.
    • Their anniversary is May 22nd

  • If day, month, and year are all spoken, only use numerals
    • Their anniversary is May 22, 1986.
  • Years should be expressed as follows:
    • Decades:
      • If referred to as “sixties”: Sixties or ‘60s
      • If referred to as “1960s”: 1960s

    • Single year:
      • If referred to as “Ninety five”: ‘95
      • If referred to as “1995”: 1995


  • Four to five: 4-5
  • Four by four: 4 x 4
  • Twenty-twenty vision: 20/20 vision
  • BP 120 over 80: BP 120/80
  • A positive: A+


  • Numbers with four or more whole numbers should contain commas.
    • 86,753.09

  • Abbreviations should contain periods.
    • S.A.
    • UNLESS it is an acronym pronounced as a word
      • SCUBA

  • A double hyphen (or em dash) is used to illustrate an abrupt interruption
    • >> You see, I said—
      >> No, that’s not right.
  • Ellipsis are used if a person trails off leaving an unfinished sentence.
    • Use these sparingly


  • Do capitalize:
    • Names of races, peoples, religions, and languages.
    • The first letter of chemical symbols.

  • Do not capitalize:
    • The spelled out names of chemical elements
    • The seasons of the year
    • Generic drug names


  • Transcribe using clean verbatim.
    • Clean verbatim as defined by Opal Transcription Services is a style of transcription that omits or adjusts the following:
      • Stutters
      • Filler speech, including “um,” “uh,” etc.
      • Repetition of words, unless useful for emphasis
      • Speaker idiosyncrasies such as the repetitive use of “like,” “actually,” “sort of,” “kind of”, etc.
      • Interjections made by the interviewer, such as “yeah” and “mm-hmm”
      • Most non-speech sounds, including coughing and throat clearing (laughter may be left in if it helps the context)
      • False starts or redirects
      • Run-on sentences

  • For any instances that are not covered in this guide, please consult the DCMP's Captioning Key.

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