SpeechInk Quick Start Guide for Transcribing Recorded Insurance Interviews

This Quick Start Guide explains the basic guidelines for transcribing recorded insurance interviews. While this guide highlights and summarizes the most important formatting rules, it is only an overview. For more information, we encourage you to refer to the Insurance Formatting Guide.

Another resource at your disposal is our Community Manager, who can be reached by email at: manager AT speechink DOT com.

Guide Contents

Verbatim Transcription

In verbatim transcription, interviews are transcribed word for word, and sound for sound.  Every um, uh, laugh, and sound must be recorded for posterity. Examples of what should be in your transcription:

Every word you can understand.

A placeholder for every group of words you can't understand.

Slang words like 'cuz, 'em, 'til, y'all, gonna and goin'. See Glossary for additional slang words.

Non-word utterances such as um, uh-huh.

Sound of emotion or body sounds: [laughs], [crying], [makes sound], [coughs], [clears throat].
Use only if sound is made by participant.

Even pauses and silences should be noted.

What shouldn't be in your transcription:

Don't add words that weren't spoken, even to improve grammar.

Don't transcribe languages other than English.

Each of these cases is described in a section below.

Speaker Tokens

Use Q: for the Interviewer, and A: for the main Interviewee.

If there is more than one interviewee or participant, use B:, C:, D:, etc.

Use ATTY: for an attorney participant.

Use INT: for an interpreter. (See Interpreted Interviews section.)

Uh, Um, Mm, Hmm

Type all ums, uhs, and hmms that occur in the interview. ALWAYS set off these words with commas.

Q:     OK. Did you, um, well, did you have anything to drink before the accident happened?

A:      Uh, no. Uh, I don't, uh, drink or anything, ever.

These are the preferred spellings of typical utterances:

Affirmative: uh-huh, mm-hmm, yeah.
Don't use: um-hum, um-hmm, uh-hum.

Negative: uh-uh, hmm-mm, mm-mm, hun-uh, nuh-uh.

Other: um, uh, hmm, mm.


Use the version OK (capital letters, no periods) instead of okay, ok, m'kay and 'k.

Q:     OK. Could I have your full name, please?

A:      OK. It's Marge Simpson.

OK should almost always have a period after it rather than a comma.

If spoken, use the spelling okey doke, or okey dokey as stated.

A:      Can I call you back with my driver's license number?

Q:     Okey dokey.

You Know/Like

Be sure to set off the words "you know" and "like" with commas appropriately.

A:      It was, like, you know, like, I thought I knew where to go.

Note: "Like" does not always require commas around it.

A:      I like to jog in that neighborhood.

Repeated Words

Repeated words should be typed, but for readability, put no more than three repeats.

A:      Well, I, I, I thought that he, uh, she, she was going to turn left.

Incomplete Words/False Starts

When words are partially spoken but cut off by a participant, type the part of the word spoken followed by a hyphen and a comma.

A:      He hit my fe-, uh, fender. I saw his veh-, vehicle coming at me.

Q:     W-, w-, where was he com-, where was he coming from?

Inaudible Words and Phrases

Inaudible words and phrases are dealt with by inserting two question marks enclosed in square brackets [??].

It is also acceptable to use 8 underscores surrounded by parentheses (________) in the place of the unknown word or phrase. In some cases this is what the final transcript will contain. This change will not affect your rating.

Only use once for each occurrence.  Do not put more than one [??] right next to each other. If you have a word or two in between inaudibles, type the words you hear, then you would use another [??] for the words that you can't decipher, but do not put two [??] together.

Q:     [??] was [??] her name?

A:      Yes, [??].


Q:  [??][??] her name?

If there is no sentence structure when [??] is used, do not use punctuation.

A:      [??]

Spelling and [SP]

Spelling is important.  Some spellings, such as street names, can be looked up on the Internet on sites like Google.  Please use your word processing spell check program, but be aware that it doesn't catch mistakes like the misuses of there, they're and their or to, too and two.

A list of insurance industry terms and words, their proper spellings and usage can be found in the Glossary of Recorded Statement-Related Words found at the end of this guide.

[SP] is used after words, places, or names that we are not sure how to spell.  Capitalize SP.

Use [SP] only after the first occurrence of the unknown words, place, or name.  Do not use [SP] each time the name is used.

Q:     What was your passenger's name?

A:      John Milecki [SP].

Q:     Do you know Mr. Milecki's phone number?

If the word, name, or place is spelled later in the interview, remove the [SP] from its first occurrence and make corrections as necessary.

Punctuation should follow [SP] in the text of a transcript.

Q:     Did you say his name was Juan Escoban [SP].

A:       I believe it was McKenzie [SP], not McDonald.

When a participant of an interview spells out his/her name, a place, etc., indicate this by typing the letters that are being spelled in all caps, and separate them with hyphens.

Q:     Please state your full name and spell your last name.

A:      My name is Susan Miller, spelled M-I-L-L-E-R.

Using Letter Identifiers. When a participant uses letter identifiers (M as in Mary) while spelling a name, separate spoken letters with hyphens, write out information for letter identifiers, and follow with a comma.

My name is Scott Smith, S as in Sam, C-O-T-T, S as in Sam, M as in Mary, I-T-H.

My name is Scott Smith, S-M as in Mary, I-T as in Tom, H.

My name is Scott Smith, S-M-I-T as in Tom, H.


Use standard punctuation as much as possible, keeping in mind the following rules of thumb:

Do not use any type of bolding, italics, underlining, or exclamation points.

Do not use parentheses.

Use ellipses for short pauses and interrupted sentences. See sections below.

The following should virtually always be set off with commas: um, uh, um, like, you know, stutters and repeated words.

OK should generally be followed by a period rather than a comma.

Polite requests should be followed by a period rather than a question mark. See section below.

Quotes Within Recorded Statements

Single quotes are used versus double quotes because the entire statement is quoted material.  Use single quotes within a recorded statement sentence to reflect a direct quotation, that is, the exact words of the speaker.

Q:     Did she say, 'I am at fault for the accident?'

A:      She said, 'It was my fault.'

Bracketed Items

Bracketed items are used in recorded statement transcripts to give as much information about the recording as possible.  A few examples of these are:  [laughs], [makes sound], and [crying].  Do not capitalize the word inside the bracket.

Recorded Voices/Messages

When a recorded voice or message is included on the audio file, do not use a separate speaker token.  Place the recorded message on a separate line, inside brackets, with Recording: at the beginning.

                  [Recording: This call is now being recorded.]


Silence is indicated in the following ways:

Use [pause] in a transcript to indicate any amount of time over 10 seconds when there is nothing spoken on the recording.

An ellipsis can be used to note a short pause of 3 to 10 seconds or to indicate when an incomplete thought might otherwise be difficult for the reader to make sense of.  Be careful not to overuse the ellipsis as an abundance of them can affect the readability of the transcript.


Ellipses are written as three periods with a space between each period and one space before and/or after the ellipsis.

Ellipses are used to format interrupted speech patterns and brief pauses of between 3 and 10 seconds.


A:      Um, well she hit him and kind of T-boned him, and so the front of her car on the driver's side, I think has the most . . . sorry I'm on a bus so it is getting really loud.

Q:     OK. And you, you said you couldn't tell if he'd stopped or not . . .

A:      No . . .

Q:     . . . but he did have a stop sign?

A:      He did have a stop sign, but I didn't see his car fast enough, um . . .

Q:     OK . . .

A:      . . . to see if he had stopped.

Interrupted Speech Patterns

Interrupted speech patterns are common in recorded statement transcripts. These can occur in the middle of sentences or when numbers are being provided.  Interruptions typically create three types of situations:

Trailed-off thought:  When a sentence trails off before it ends, indicating uncertainty or suggesting an abrupt suspension of thought.

Q:     Were you hurt in the accident?

A:      No, I guess not.  I mean, I was shook up, but it wasn't anything serious, so . . .

Leading Questions: When one speaker (usually Q:) prompts another speaker to complete the sentence.

Q:     You were traveling north or . . .

A:      No, I was traveling south.

Q:      You were traveling south, OK.

Interrupted sentences and/or numbers: When participants speak simultaneously, but you are ABLE TO HEAR AND/OR DECIPHER ALL OF WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, indicate it in the text of the document by formatting the interruption AND the beginning of the continuation with ellipses.

Q:     So the car was . . .

A:      It was red.

Q:     . . . red?  OK.

Speaking Simultaneously

When participants of an interview speak simultaneously and you are UNABLE TO HEAR OR DECIPHER WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, indicate it in the text of the document as follows:

. . . [SS] . . . (space ellipsis space [SS] space ellipsis space).  Always place an ellipsis before and after the [SS].

Before using . . . [SS] . . . the following TWO criteria must be met:

1.            There are words you cannot decipher.

2.            The inaudible words are caused by two or more participants talking at the same time.

Always try to pick up the words being said by each party, and do not overuse . . . [SS] . . .

Only use . . . [SS] . . . if you cannot hear or decipher the words for a particular participant. If you can hear all the words for the other party, put them in.

Separate each speaker as clearly and accurately as possible.

Do not use . . . [SS] . . . in the middle of a sentence. New speaker tokens should be created and the . . . [SS] . . . is placed for the person whose words are inaudible.  

Q:     So, you're saying that the car was black, or . . .

A:      . . . [SS] . . .

Q: . . . was it red?


Q:     So, you're saying that the car was black, or . . . [SS] . . . was it red?

When one party interrupts another and you hear/understand all of the first party's exchange (simple interrupted sentence):

Q:     Did you know where you were going to park when you . . .

A:      No.

Q:     . . . arrived at that area?

When one party interrupts another and you do not hear/understand all of the first party's exchange:

Q:     Did you know where you were going to . . . [SS] . . .

A:      No.

Q: . . . arrived at that area?

When one party interrupts another and you do not hear/understand all of the second party's exchange:

Q:     Did you know where you were going to park when you . . .

A:      . . . [SS] . . . didn't know for sure.

Q:     . . . arrived at that area?

When one party interrupts another and you do not hear/understand all of either party's exchange:

Q:     Did you know where you were going to park . . . [SS] . . .

A:      . . . [SS] . . .  

Q:     . . . arrived at that area?


For dates expressed as numbers, use the month/day/year format and separate the components with slashes.

Spoken                                                                  Typed As

seven eight eighty                                                    7/8/80

seven eight                                                  7/8

seven eight nineteen eighty                           7/8/1980

For dates expressed with month names, spell out the month name and format the date as follows:

Spoken                                                                  Typed As

July eight nineteen eighty                                          July 8, 1980

July eighth nineteen eighty                            July 8th, 1980

July eight eighty                                                          July 8, '80


Time is always expressed with figures separated by a colon (without a space before or after). Formatted correctly, time should resemble a digital clock display.

Spoken                                                                  Typed As

"The accident happened at ten o'clock"      =          The accident happened at 10:00.

"I arrived at five."                                       =          I arrived at 5:00.

"It was nine thirty."                                     =          It was 9:30.

"I think about five, oh, five, p.m."                =          I think about 5:05 p.m.

a.m./p.m. is always typed with lower case letters separated by periods.

A:      It was 10:00 a.m. when the accident happened.

If a.m. or p.m. comes at the beginning of the sentence, capitalize the first letter but not the second.

Q:     Was that a.m. or p.m. when the accident happened?

A:      P.m.


The key to writing numbers in recorded statements is to make sure you indicate exactly what is being said.

Unless other rules as listed below apply, use words for numbers from one through ten.  Use figures for numbers over 10.

ALWAYS use figures when referring to AGE, DISTANCE, SPEED and sometimes HEIGHT.

Do not mix numbers and figures. When mixed numbers are spoken, use one style or the other, as appropriate and following the Age, Distance, and Speed rule noted above.

A:      There were 10 or 12 kids in the van with me.


A:      There were ten or 12 kids in the van with me.

Addresses.  In writing addresses, use words for all numbered street names from one to ten and use figures for all numbered street names over ten.

A:      My address is 5030 First Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98011.

A:      My address is 4122 22nd Place Northeast, Tukwila, Washington 98068.


A:      We were on I-5. We were going to exit onto Route 3.

Social Security Numbers. When typing out Social Security Numbers, use hyphens to separate the components.

A:      My Social Security Number is 999-99-9999

Telephone Numbers. When typing telephone numbers, use hyphens to separate the components. Do not use parenthesis to set off the area code.

A:      My telephone number is 999-999-9999.

If the words area code are spoken before the telephone number, they should be included in the transcript.

A:      My telephone number is area code 999-999-9999.

Interpreted Interviews

The goal is to make the transcript understandable for the reader, while still transcribing verbatim.

For interpreted recordings, transcribe all parts spoken in English.

Type any English parts spoken by the interpreter under the INT: speaker token.

If the A: participant (interviewee) speaks English, type the English under the A: speaker token. (See exceptions below.)

Spoken                                                                              Typed As

Q: asks in English                                                               Q:      What is your address?

INT:  asks A: in Spanish;  A: replies in Spanish to INT:          INT:  My address is 123 Main.


Same response:  If A: responds in English and the interpreter repeats the same response, type only what the interpreter says.  Do not put in A:'s response.

Spoken                                                                              Typed As

Q:  asks in English                                                               Q:      What is your address?

INT:  asks A: in Spanish; A: replies in English;

    INT: repeats A:'s response                                              INT:  My address is 123 Main.

Different Response:  If A: responds in English and the interpreter interprets differently than A:, type both A:'s response and the interpreter's response.

Spoken                                                                              Typed As

Q:  asks in English                                                               Q:      What is your address?

INT:  asks A: in Spanish; A: replies in English,                       A:       123 Main Street.

but INT: interprets differently in English                           INT:  125 Main Street.

[foreign language response].  If A: responds in a foreign language, and no response is given by Interpreter in English, use [foreign language response] for A:

Spoken                                                                              Typed As

Q:  asks in English                                                               Q:      What is your address?

INT:  asks A: in Spanish; A: replies in Spanish

to INT: but INT: doesn't interpret response

into English                                                                         A:      [foreign language response]

Glossary of Recorded Statement-Related Words

The following is a brief list of words commonly used in recorded statements and their correct usage.

911                                                            NOT: 9-1-1

4 x 4                                                          refers to a four-wheel drive vehicle

2 x 4, 2 x 6, etc.                                         NOT: two by four, two by six

AAA                                                          NOT: A-A-A or Triple A

actual cash value

adjuster                                                      NOT: adjustor

affect                                                          (v.) to have an influence on

         effect                                                 (n.) result; intent

aftermarket                                                 (adj.) one word as in "aftermarket parts"


a hold                                                         two words

>airbag                                                         one word

all right                                                       two words

all righty                                                      two words

a.m. / p.m.                                                  lower case, separated by periods (capitalize if first   word in a sentence: A.m. / P.m.)

area code                                                   lower case, two words

ARMS                                                       acronym for "Automated Rental Management System"

axle                                                            NOT: axel, unless referring to a figure skating term

back seat                                                    two words

barrack                                                      lower case unless part of a proper noun

bear with me                                               NOT: bare with me

berm                                                          shoulder of a road or noise barrier

bodily injury liability coverage                      

borough                                                      an incorporated municipality smaller than a city

         burro                                                 donkey

         burrow                                              a hole made by an animal

         bureau                                               chest of drawers; office or dept.

brake                                                         (n.) device for slowing or stopping a vehicle

         break                                                (v.) to fracture or cause to separate into pieces

brand-new                                                  (adj.) hyphenated

bumper-to-bumper                                     hyphenated as an adjective (bumper-to-bumper traffic)

car length                                                    two words, not hyphenated

cater-corner / catty corner                          see kitty corner, kitty-cornered

Central standard time                                  capitalize Central only

CD                                                             acronym for "claimant driver"

CLUE                                                        Comprehensive Loss U/W Exchange

collision coverage

comprehensive coverage

contrib-neg                                                 short for contributory negligence

coverage                                                    synonym for insurance

'cuz                                                            NOT: 'cause, 'cos, or 'cus

CV                                                             acronym for "claimant vehicle"

declaration                                                  can be referred to as the "dec page"


disk                                                            NOT: disc

double-check                                             hyphenated

driveable                                                    NOT: drivable

drive-through/drive-thru                              either version is acceptable, just be consistent

dualie                                                         a type of truck

each other                                                  two words

eastbound                                                   one word

Eastern standard time                                  capitalize Eastern only

E-brake                                                      short for emergency brake

'em                                                            slang for them

e-mail                                                         email is also acceptable, just be consistent

ER                                                             acronym for emergency room

etc.                                                             rather than et cetera

first-party coverage

flatbed                                                        one word

fraud gap insurance                                     NOT: GAP or Gap

geez or jeez                                                both ways are fine, just be consistent

gonna                                                         slang for going to

gotcha                                                        slang for got you

gray                                                            NOT: grey

grille                                                           NOT: grill when talking about the part on front of a car

guardrail                                                     one word

ID                                                              acronym for "insured driver"

insofar as                                                    two words

its                                                               possessive form of "it"

it's                                                              contraction of "it is" or "it has"

IV                                                              acronym for "insured vehicle"

I-5, I-51                                                     hyphen between the letter and number when referring

                                                                  to a road or highway

jeep/Jeep                                                    jeep (n.):  a specific military vehicle.

                                                                  Jeep (n.):  trademark for a similar vehicle for civilian use

kitty-cornered / kitty corner                        see cater-corner, catty corner

lane number two                                         no initial caps, spell out number

left-hand turn                                              hyphenated

left-hand lane                                              hyphenated

left-hand turn lane                                       one hyphen


liability insurance/coverage

liability-only policy/insurance                       hyphenated

lienholder                                                    one word

limits                                                           maximum amount of insurance that can be paid for a            covered loss

LoJack                                                       stolen car security system


ma'am                                                        short for madam

meantime                                                    one word


MedPay                                                     a type of insurance coverage

MetLife Auto & Home                                capital M, capital L in MetLife

Mountain standard time                               capitalize Mountain only

MVR                                                         acronym for Motor Vehicle Report

no-fault                                                       (adj.) hyphenated, "no-fault accident" "no-fault


northbound                                                 one word

notice of loss

nowhere                                                     one word

OEM                                                         acronym for "original equipment manufacturer"

offhand                                                       one word

OK                                                            no periods; also OK'ing, OK'd

okey dokey, okey doke

off-ramp                                                     n. hyphenated

on-ramp                                                     n. hyphenated

out-of-pocket                                             (adj.) hyphenated, but "I paid out of pocket"

Pacific standard time                                   capitalize Pacific only

PACMan                                                    Progressive Automated Claims Management System

percent                                                       one word -- do not use %

PIP                                                             an acronym for Personal Injury Protection coverage

P.O. Box                                                    abbreviation for Post Office Box

prematic                                                     a type of insurance billing

rear end                                                      (n.) two words: "I hit the rear end of her vehicle."

rear-end                                                     (v., adj.) hyphenated "He rear-ended me." /

                                                                  "It was a rear-end accident."

rearview mirror                                           NOT: rear view mirror

right-hand lane                                            hyphenated

right-hand turn                                            hyphenated

right-hand turn lane                                     one hyphen

right-of-way                                               hyphenated


seat belt                                                      two words

sideswipe, sideswiped                                 one word

Social Security Number                              initial caps

southbound                                                 one word

States/addresses                                         Burbank, California (spell out state name)

                                                                   1045 Northwest Tenth Street  (spell out all words and

                                                                                 street numbers that are 10 or under)

                                                                   1045 Northwest 13th Street  (street numbers over 10

                                                                                 are numerical)

stop-and-go                                               hyphenate as adjective (stop-and-go traffic)

stoplight                                                      one word

stop sign                                                     two words


tail lamp                                                      two words

taillight                                                        one word

T-bone                                                       (n.), (v.) for an accident position; also T-boned

the 405, the 5                                             when referencing freeways in this manner "the" is not


third-party coverage

thruway                                                      throughway is not in the dictionary

'til or till                                                      both ways are fine just be consistent

tort                                                             a wrongful act resulting in injury or damage

total loss

tractor-trailer                                              hyphenated

two-door, four-door                                   (adj.) hyphenated, as in two-door car;

                                                                  BUT: the car had two doors

uh-huh, mm-hmm, yes, yeah                        affirmative responses

                                                                  NOT: um-hum, um-hmm, uh-hum

uh-uh, hmm-mm, mm-mm,

uh-uh, nuh-uh                                             negative responses


U-ie                                                           slang for U-turn


uninsured motorist coverage

voicemail                                                    one word


westbound                                                  one word

whatnot                                                      one word

whereas                                                      one word

workers comp.                                           no apostrophe

workmen's comp                                        apostrophe before the s

x-ray                                                          NOT: X-ray

y'all                                                            contraction of you all, NOT: ya'll

yea                                                             pronounced "yay" means hooray

yeah                                                           informal "yes"

your                                                           possessive form of you

you're                                                        contraction of "you are"

youse                                                         slang word

yup or yep                                                  either is acceptable, go by sound

ZIP Code                                                   ZIP -- all caps, Code -- initial cap

Sample Insurance Interview Transcription

[Recording:  This call is now being recorded.]

Q:        This is Andrew Clark, conducting a recorded interview by phone with Miss Claire Standish [SP].  Today's date is Friday, October 16th, 2009, and the time is 2:30 p.m.  We are also joined by Miss Standish's attorney, Brian Johnson.  This is regarding an accident that occurred on Wednesday, October 13th, 2009.  Miss Standish, please state your full name and spell your last name for me.

A:         My name is Claire, C-L-A-I-R-E, Standish, S-T-A-N-D-I-S-H.

Q:        Um, please tell me your date of birth.

A:         2/18/1968.

B:         Thank you.  Miss Standish, is your address 4418 North Vernon Street, Friendly, North   Dakota?

A:         Uh, not any more.  [laughs]  I've moved.

Q:        OK. What is your new address?

A:         5509   47th Avenue, Friendlier, North Dakota.

Q:        ZIP Code?

A:         55555.

Q:        Do you know your Social Security Number?

A:         No, uh . . . wait . . . 999-99-9999.

Q:        OK. And phone number, please.

A:         555-555-5555.

Q:        OK.  Thank you.  Miss Standish, do you remember the time of the accident?

A:         No, I don't.

Q:        Was it morning, afternoon, evening?  Do you . . .

A:         I think it was morning, right before 12:00.

Q:        Uh, could it have been closer to 10:00 a.m.?

A:         Um, I don't know.  I really don't . . .

ATTY:   She's already said she doesn't remember.

Q:        OK.  Moving on then. Miss Standish, where did the accident occur?

A:         It was at the intersection of Bender and Sheedy [SP].

Q:        Which street were you on and what direction were you traveling?

A:         I was on Bender going to the mall, so I was westbound, yeah, west.

Q:        In your own words, please tell me what happened.

A:         Well I was going down Bender and I guess the light changed right when I entered the intersection, 'cuz this guy in a, a blue Toy-, Toyota Matrix just T-boned me.  

Q:        Did he try to brake?

A:         [laughs] No, he was too busy talking on his cell phone.  That's against the law, isn't it?

Q:        Did you get his name or insurance information?

A:         They said his name was [??].

Q:        Sorry, what was that?  

A:         J-, John Smith, yeah.  

Q:        Where was your car damaged?

A:         My fr-, fr-, front end is, like, completely messed up.

Q:        What about . . . [SS] . . .

A:         . . . [SS] . . . messed up my mirrors, too.

Q:        OK, mirrors, too.

A:         He said, 'Lady, this is all your fault.'