manual vs automated transcription

Manual vs Automated Transcription: Which Option Is Better?

December 4, 2023
5 min read
Home Blog Manual vs Automated Transcription: Which Option Is Better?

Transcription has long been done manually, by trained humans who listened to each word and then typed it down. However, technological advancements have introduced automated transcription software as another option across a variety of industries. This software leverages artificial intelligence (AI) so it can transcribe audio and video data far more quickly and more efficiently than it can be done by humans.

But is it truly a better option? Given their efficiency and speed, are automatic transcriptions more beneficial than manual ones?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both manual and automated transcriptions, and today’s article will provide you with answers to these and many other questions, so dive in!

What’s Manual Transcription?

Human transcription is the process of converting a file to written text by a trained expert highly skilled at creating reliable transcripts of video and audio recordings. They type swiftly and revise quickly to ensure the transcripts are 100% accurate, and their innate ability to identify the speaker’s tone of voice makes them extremely valuable.

However, due to the increased demand for audio and video transcription, finding truly experienced human transcriptionists has become challenging. With the lack of manual transcription experts, automatic transcribing is becoming more common and a more cost-effective way of transcription. Still, it may not be suitable for transcriptions where accuracy is critical, such as legal recordings, government files, and specific corporate documents.

What’s Automatic Transcription?

Automated transcribing involves AI-powered automatic speech recognition (ASR) tools to generate precise, readily available written texts from audio or video sources. With its unrivaled precision and speedier turnaround times, automatic transcribing is transforming the industry. Not only can such tools save money, but they can also transcribe hour-long audio or video files in a matter of minutes.

The main disadvantage of automated transcribing is that it may not recognize background noises, foreign accents, and mispronounced or unclearly uttered phrases, resulting in an erroneous transcript. This can have severe consequences and, therefore, is not suited for businesses and government agencies where transcribing accuracy is critical.

How Does Automated Transcription Work?

Manually transcribing speech to text frequently necessitates splitting the source recording into numerous files, which are then distributed to multiple persons to transcribe them. In contrast, automated transcription software (e.g.,, Sonix, Riverside) does all this with a single file. It listens to the recording and then uses speech recognition technology and natural language processing to match the sounds uttered by the speaker to the corresponding words in an extensive dictionary and stitches those words to a particular moment in the audio or video recording. When the conversion is over, the file is presented for export and post-editing.

Main Differences Between Human-Generated and Automated Transcribing

Human-generated transcription involves human interpretation of the file, which increases the transcription’s reliability as human intelligence is much superior to an AI’s. On the other hand, automatic transcriptions provide exceptionally speedy delivery, giving it a significant advantage over manual transcriptions.

Now that you know the basics, let’s make a quick comparison of both of the transcription methods:


  • Automatic Transcribing: AI can do wonders in terms of speed. It can transcribe hour-long audio and video recordings to text in a matter of minutes.
  • Human Transcribing: Such a transcription method is much slower and can take hours to transcribe a long file, requiring a human expert to carefully listen to the recording and write down each word spoken.

Data Safety

  • Automatic Transcribing: This transcription method is prone to data breaches and highly insecure unless the software uses a safe cloud platform that encrypts all data and adheres to the highest industry standards.
  • Human Transcribing: The most significant advantage of human-generated transcription over automatic one is the ability to protect confidential data through ISO standards and NDAs. Professional transcribing and typewriting services provide a safe portal to their clients to safeguard the processing and storage of transcribed files and make sure no data is disclosed to third parties.


  • Automatic Transcribing: Automatic transcribing is not only much faster than manual, but it is also much cheaper. However, the transcription can be highly inaccurate, especially if the input file is low-quality.
  • Human Transcribing: Compared to automatic transcribing, human-generated transcription will cost twice or even thrice as much. But if you aim for a high-quality, error-free transcription, this method should be your first choice.

Quality of Transcription

  • Automatic Transcribing: When it comes to transcribing, nothing can come close to human precision. While AI is constantly improving, it still fails to distinguish the accents and slang words of non-native English speakers and other speech nuances.
  • Human Transcribing: Human transcriptionists have an advantage over AI in understanding foreign accents and filtering background noise and other distractions, making them indispensable for transcribing important audio and video files.

Reliability and Accuracy

  • Automatic Transcribing: Even though automated software is programmed with state-of-the-art technology, it is less accurate than human-generated transcription. It cannot correctly interpret specific voices, vocal tunes, words, and phrases.
  • Human Transcribing: A transcriptionist can sense different voice fluency and toning and recognize slang words and other nuances that automatic software may miss. This makes them a perfect choice for legal agencies and government bodies that require highly accurate transcriptions for record keeping.

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So, Which Transcription Method to Choose?

Deciding between manual or automated transcribing mostly boils down to the way you plan to use your transcript. If you need an audio or video file quickly turned into written text for personal use and prefer a low-cost solution, then you can consider AI transcription services. However, if your priority is a high-quality, error-free transcript for public use, a professional human-generated transcription service like is definitely the way to go.

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