Using Transcription: Focus on Technical Writing

Technical writers face many challenges in bringing their documents to completion, though the biggest, by and large, is the gathering and organization of accurate information. John Hewitt, in his posting “Eight Common Technical Documentation Writing Problems“, lists the following hurdles in the process of turning raw information into worthwhile explanations: poor organization, inaccurate information, outdated information, irrelevant information, incomplete information, bad sentence structure, unexplained jargon and concepts, and poor word choice. Notice that five of the eight problems center around acquiring information and organizing it.

So, how do you get accurate and up-to-date information? You interview a subject matter expert. One of our technical writing clients suggested sending questions via email to the expert in advance of a telephone interview. This allows the expert time to formulate responses to adequately cover the subject. However, the amount of information on any given subject can be daunting and taking notes during an interview can cause the writer to miss important information. His solution? Use transcription. Record the interview either directly into a recorder or tie in to a dictation server and have every word the expert says transcribed.

Transcription is also a great tool for planning meetings between technical writers working on a project. Again, the amount of information exchanged at the meetings can be daunting, not only on subject matter issues but also schedules and production commitments. By recording the meeting and having the audio transcribed, each participant is free to exchange information without worrying about taking notes and missing important details. Within a few hours after the meeting, all of the participants receive a detailed transcript in their in-boxes and everyone is on the same page.

If you are in the business of turning raw data into worthwhile explanations, then transcription is a must-use to capture and organize all of your information.