Transcript notation

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This transcription guide was originally prepared by Danielle Crecca to systematize the practice of transcribing interviews and conversations. It also includes notes regarding how this system might be effectively used given the constraints of the software and resource that our project implements. The following table includes a selection of notations that we use particularly often. Research assistants Tiffany Torma and Val Masters have added conventions as they became necessary. Transcription is conducted in F4Transkript.

Notation Description
(.) A full stop inside brackets denotes a micro pause, a notable pause but of no significant length.
(0.2) A number inside brackets denotes a timed pause in seconds. This is a pause long enough to time and subsequently show in transcription. When transcribing, be mindful of what speed you have the audio set to or there will be a systematic error in your timings.
CAPITALS Where capital letters appear, it denotes that something was said loudly or even shouted
[ Square brackets denote a point where overlapping speech occurs.
Underlined text Underlined text where overlaid laughter occurs.
(( )) Non-verbal vocal actions and events encased within two rounded brackets.
(unclear) Intelligible or unclear speech are denoted with a “unclear” placed within rounded brackets.

Tiffany and Val have been using the following to specify reasons and guesses for unclear speech: (#unclear, reason; “my best guess?”)

bold text Bold text for murmurs of agreement from the conversational partner while the speaker is talking (e.g. mhmm, yeah). Use ((Name of agree-er)) after the bolded text to indicate who was making the sound.
italicized text Use italics to denote words known or suspected to be Greek. Make sure to add (+spelling) after words of unknown spelling and add words of unknown meaning to the Transcription Glossary.
|irony| Use pipes to surround phrases said with irony.
{whispers} Use curly brackets to surround words or phrases that are intentionally low volume.

Things to consider


Tiffany and Val have chosen to use Arabic numerals (1, 200, 3,000) rather than spelling out spoken numbers in English.

Overlaps and simultaneous speech

Opening square brackets are inserted at exactly the point in speaking where the overlap starts, and closing square brackets, where it ends. In both Jefferson and GAT, the respective brackets are aligned with each other within the text, however this is fairly tedious to do in MaxQDA. Perhaps just the indication of overlap with the brackets is sufficient? Will need to discuss this further. Please refer to Selting & Auer page 13 for a fuller discussion of this.

Example Overlap:

Subject 1: Are you going too?
Subject 2: No, I have to [work.
Subject 1: How about a] drink to celebrate [the day?
Subject 2: That] would be great.

Interjections and Interruptions without Overlap

The GAT (Seltng & Auer page 13-15) indicates that interjections without overlaid words are meant to be shown by spacing out the words on the document to match where the interjections fall. Since it was decided rather to keep the text in readable paragraph format than track speech patterns between two people using empty space, interruptions without overlap will be indicated by em-dashes/two dashes on text edit (--) that terminate the original line and begin the interjecting line.

Example without Overlap:

Completing a sentence

Subject 1: Are you going--?
Subject 2: --to the store? No, I have to work.

Interjection to the sentence, no overlap

Subject 1: How about a drink--
Subject 2: --or five--
Subject 1: --to celebrate the day?
Subject 3: That would be great.


Kowal and O’Connell note two type of notation conventions for laughter. The first being what they term as “ha-ha laughter” where the approximate number and phonetic laughter syllables are transcribed, i.e. HA HA HA HA. The second being overlaid laughter, which occurs as an notation conventions: so-called ha-ha laughter was transcribed by an approximation to the number and phonetic constitution of laughter syllables; so-called overlaid laughter, overlay on spoken- word syllables. This is difficult to transcribe so it showed by underlining those parts of an utterance which were produced laughing.


Subject 1: What do you do?
Subject 2: HA HA HA HA HA AHH
Subject 1: I want to know, what do you do?
Subject 2: Transcribe music. Read books. Swim at the river. Go out at night.

Non-verbal vocal actions and events

Non-verbal vocal actions and events are denoted with two rounded brackets (( )). If the non-verbal action cannot be attributed to any one speaker the notion is entered as a new line in the transcript with its own timestamp.


Subject 1: Hello ((coughs)) I am ready.
((recording device beeps))
Subject 2: Great. 


Intelligible or unclear speech are denoted with a “unclear” placed within rounded brackets, (unclear). GAT has suggestions for uncertainties/alternatives in speech, however adding in assumptions may lead to bias.


Subject 1: Are you sleeping?
Subject 2: (unclear) I was.
Subject 1: Oh never mind then.

Jeffersonian notation

The transcription protocol is adapted from Jefferson notation, which is summarized in the following table.

Notation Description
[ ] Square brackets mark the start and end of overlapping speech. They are aligned to mark the precise position of overlap as in the example below.
↑↓ Vertical arrows precede marked pitch movement, over and above normal rhythms of speech. They are used for notable changes in pitch beyond those represented by stops, commas and question marks.
Side arrows are used to draw attention to features of talk that are relevant to the current analysis.
underlining Indicates emphasis; the extent of underlining within individual words locates emphasis and also indicates how heavy it is.
CAPITALS Mark speech that is hearably louderthan surrounding speech. This is beyond the increase in volume that comes as a by product of emphasis.
°↑I know it,° ‘Degree’ signs enclose hearably quieter speech.
that’s r*ight. Asterisks precede a ‘squeaky’ vocal delivery.
(0.4) Numbers in round brackets measure pauses in seconds (in this case, 4 tenths of a second). If they are not part of a particular speaker’s talk they should be on a new line. If in doubt use a new line.
(.) A micropause, hearable but too short to measure.
((stoccato)) Additional comments from the transcriber, e.g. about features of context or delivery.
she wa::nted Colons show degrees of elongation of the prior sound; the more colons, the more elongation.
hhh Aspiration (out-breaths); proportionally as for colons.
.hhh Inspiration (in-breaths); proportionally as for colons.
Yeh, ‘Continuation’ marker, speaker has not finished; marked by fall-rise or weak rising intonation, as when delivering a list.
y’know? Question marks signal stronger, ‘questioning’ intonation, irrespective of grammar.
Yeh. Full stops mark falling, stopping intonation (‘final contour’), irrespective of grammar, and not necessarily followed by a pause.
bu-u- Hyphens mark a cut-off of the preceding sound.
>he said< ‘Greater than’ and ‘lesser than’ signs enclose speeded-up talk. Occasionally they are used the other way round for slower talk.
solid.= =We had ‘Equals’ signs mark the immediate ‘latching’ of successive talk, whether of one or more speakers, with no interval.
heh heh Voiced laughter. Can have other symbols added, such as underlinings, pitch movement, extra aspiration, etc.
sto(h)p i(h)t Laughter within speech is signalled by h’s in round brackets
Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed). Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation. (pp: 13-31). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hepburn, A. and Bolden, G. B. (2013). Transcription. In Sidnell, J. & Stivers, T. (Eds). Blackwell Handbook of Conversation Analysis (pp 57-76). Oxford: Blackwell.

Additional notation for crying and similar ‘emotional expression’:

Notation Description
°°help°° Whispering –enclosed by double degree signs.
.shih Wet sniff.
.skuh Snorty sniff.
~grandson~ Wobbly voice –enclosed by tildes.
↑↑Sorry Very high pitch –represented by one or more upward arrows.
k(hh)ay Aspiration in speech–an ‘h’ represents aspiration: in parenthesis indicates a sharper more plosive sound.
hhhelp Outside parenthesis indicates a softer more breathy sound.
Huhh .hhih Sobbing–combinations of ‘hhs’, some with full stops before them to indicate inhaled rather than exhaled, many have voiced vowels.
Hhuyuhh Some also have voiced consonants.
>hhuh< If sharply inhaled or exhaled enclosed inthe ‘greater than/less than’ symbols (> <).
↑Mm:. hh (3.5) Silence–numbers in parentheses represent silence in tenths of a second.
Hepburn, A. (2004). Crying: Notes on description, transcription, and interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 37(3), 251-290.

Additional commonly used notations:

Notation Description
$funny$ Smile voice –laughing/chuckling between markers.
#sad# Talk between markers is croaky.
t, d, Boldface consonant represent a hardened sound.

See also: