Researching the types of white papers, case studies, and website copy we write at Dragonfly Editorial isn’t easy. It often involves interviewing subject matter experts in complex fields such as IT, engineering, and medicine. And when these experts are passionate about their topic, they talk fast.
We take notes, of course. But it’s nice to take down key points and know that the details are being recorded.
With the help of Ellen Henrie, one of our editors who specializes in transcription, we’ve nailed down the equipment that works best for copywriters.
Here’s what you need: a pro-quality recorder, a foot pedal, and Express Scribe.
Get perfect sound with a pro-quality recorders. There’s a large price range—about $50 to $250—between low-end and high-quality, professional dictation recorders. For a writer conducting interviews where every word matters, a professional recorder may be worth the investment.
Features of high-end recorders include better sound quality, more memory, and indexing. Indexing is used to “flag” an important part of a recording with a mark point—very valuable when navigating a long interview. Check out these models at Staples.
Take control with a foot pedal. Foot pedals allow you to play back your recording by pressing “play,” “pause,” or “rewind” with your foot—just like driving a car. Seem silly? Trust me, this hands-free method really cuts down on transcription time. Your fingers can be dedicated to typing—rather than clicking back and forth between windows, dragging a slider to arrive at the right point in an audio track, and so forth.
If you’re transcribing anything of length with any frequency, a foot pedal is a worthy—if not essential—investment at $60. We recommend the Infinity USB Transcription Foot Pedal.
Turn audio into text with Express Scribe. Express Scribe is the link between your digital recording and your foot pedal. It lets you listen to your recording, type away, and control the playback with your foot pedal. It has an easy-to-use interface and supports about 20 audio file types.
Cool features of Express Scribe include “auto-backstep”—when paused, audio automatically rewinds a fraction of a second so that you don’t miss a word. You can also speed up or slow down playback with minimal tonal variation (so your speakers don’t sound like Darth Vader—or Alvin and the Chipmunks).
Express Scribe can also be used with a “text expander,” software that allows you to program shortcuts for frequently used words and phrases. This software can be tremendously useful for copywriters in the medical and legal fields, who often have to type industry-specific terms repeatedly.
For example, a phrase such as “denies any history of loss of consciousness” could become “daholoc.” FastFox is the text expander offered by NCH, the company that makes Express Scribe.
Best news of all for copywriters? Express Scribe is free. The basic version is available on NCH’s website: http://www.nch.com.au/scribe/index.html.
Samantha Enslen runs Dragonfly Editorial.