Typing transcription in various word processing programs - Paul ten Have

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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’).


1. Using the Numeric Key Pad

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