Ethno/CA News:
last changes: 5 May 2014

Resources for transcription

Typing transcription in various wordprocessing programs

The following table summarizes some suggestions which are based on my own experiences, which are, or course limited.
Symbol Example WordPerfect 5.1 (1) WordPerfect 6.1, 7 MS-Word 7
degree sign soft Alt-248 Ctrl-W, (6,36) Input>Symbol
high point ·hh Alt-250 Ctrl-W, (6,32) Input>Symbol
up arrow high key Alt-24 Ctrl-W, (6,23) Input>Symbol
down arrow low key Alt-25 Ctrl-W, (6,24) Input>Symbol
? and , combined mild rise Shft-F8,4,5,1:,? 'overstrike':,? not available


When transcribing episodes in which one participant's talk overlaps with that of another, indicated by the use of square brackets, it helps to align the portions of simultaneous speech as precisely as possible. This creates special difficulties with modern words processors which tend to use 'proportional fonts' (also called: 'variable-pitch fonts'). With such fonts, the horizontal space a letter is accorded on the line varies with its size, 'w' getting more than 'l', etc., and with the number of letters in relation to the length of the line. This implies that the exact place that a point of overlap start or finish can vary when something is added or when the margins are changed, or when a different font is chosen. As a solution one can try using a 'fixed-pitch' or 'monospaced' font, but it may require a bit of experimenting with one's word processor's. fonts as well as one's printer. An alternative method is suggested by Charles Goodwin (1994), who will put a TAB before the bracket and adjust the TAB-stop using the 'Ruler Bar' (2).

Another suggestion of his (cf. Goodwin, 1994) is that it can be useful to use a word processor's table feature to type the transcripts. One can define columns of different width for different purposes such as 'line number', 'time', 'arrows', 'speaker', 'utterance', and 'notes'. A 'landscape' format may be helpful so that each row can be longer than usual. This 'notes' column may be used to add 'observations' on hard to transcribe details, such as tone of voice, or - in the case of video tapes - visual aspects. Alternatively, or in an additional column, one might add 'analytic' comments, pointing out remarkable phenomena that deserve attention in a later phase, etc. In presentations or publications, such non-transcript columns can be deleted and the table lines can be hidden (by changing the preferences for line display in the lay out menu to 'none').

Literature on Transcription

see also: Website: "Transcription in Action: Resources for the Representation of Linguistic Interaction", mainained by Mary Bucholtz

Ashmore, Malcom., Darren Reed (2000) 'Innocence and nostalgia in conversation analysis: The dynamic relations of tape and transcript.' Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1 (3). Available at:

Bonu, Bruno, coord. (2002) Transcrire l'interaction. cahiers de praxématique 39: 1-159

Bucholtz, Mary (2007) 'Variation in transcription', Discourse Studies 9: 784-808

Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth; Dagmar Barth-Weingarten (2011) ‘A system for transcribing talk-in-interaction: GAT 2', Gesprächsforschung - Online-Zeitschrift zur verbalen Interaktion 12: 1-51 []

Duranti, Alessandro (2007) 'Transcripts, like shadows on a wall', Mind, Culture, and Activity 13(4): 301–10.

Goodwin, Charles (1994) 'Recording human interaction in natural settings', Pragmatics 3: 181-209

Duranti, Alessandro (1997) 'Transcription: from writing to digitized images'. in his: Linguistic anthropology Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 122-61

Edwards, J.A., & M.D. Lampert, eds (1993) Talking data: transcription and coding in discourse research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Have, Paul ten (2002) 'Reflections on transcription' cahiers de praxématique 39: 21-43 [text in PDF]

Hepburn, Alexa (2004) 'Crying: Notes on Description, Transcription, and Interaction', Research on Language & Social Interaction 37:251-91

Hepburn, Alexa; Galina B. Bolden (2012) ‘The conversation analytic approach to transcription’. In: Jack Sidnell, Tanya Stivers, eds. The Handbook of Conversation Analysis. Wiley-Blackwell: 57-76

Jefferson, Gail (1985) 'An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter'. In: Dijk, T.A. van, Handbook of discourse analysis. London: Academic Press, Vol. 3: 25-34

Jefferson, Gail (1989) 'Preliminary notes on a possible metric which provides for a 'standard maximum' silence of approximately one second in conversation'. In: Roger, D., P. Bull, eds., Conversation: an interdisciplinary perspective. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 166-96

Jefferson, Gail (1996) 'A case of transcriptional stereotyping', Journal of Pragmatics 26: 159-70

Jefferson, Gail (2004) 'Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction'. In: Gene H. Lerner, ed. Conversation Analysis: Studies from the first generation. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins: 13-31

Laurier, Eric. (2014)  The Graphic Transcript: Poaching comic book grammar for inscribing the visual, spatial and temporal aspects of action. Geography Compass, 8/4: 235-248

MacWhinney, Brian; Johannes Wagner (2010) ‘Transcribing, searching and data sharing: The CLAN software and the TalkBank data repository’, Gesprächsforschung - Online-Zeitschrift zur verbalen Interaktion 11: 154-173 (

Mondada, Lorenza (2007) 'Commentary: transcript variations and the indexicality of transcribing practices', Discourse Studies 9: 809-821

Ochs, Elinor (1979) 'Transcription as theory'. In: E. Ochs and B.B. Schiefelin, eds. Developmental Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press: 43-72

O’Connell, D.C., & S. Kowal (1994) ‘Some current transcription systems for spoken discourse: a critical analysis’, Pragmatics 4: 81–107

Psathas, George, Tim Anderson (1990) 'The "practices" of transcription in conversation analysis', Semiotica 78 (1990): 75-99

Traverso, Véronique (2002) 'Transcription et traduction des interactions en langue étrangère'  cahiers de praxématique 39: 77-99


1. Using the Numeric Key Pad

2. Consult your word processor's 'Help' for how to use TAB-settings and the Ruler Bar