An Independent Review of the Way With Words Audio Transcription Service.

Paula Y, Writer, researcher, occasional translator, librarian, and general administrator, United Kingdom.

In the review below, I talk about my experience with transcription company Way With Words – the good, the bad, and the “needs development”.

Transcribing Options

As a science fiction fan, one particular technology has always bedazzled me: those gadgets that translate every language, dialect and accent in the universe into perfect written English, instantly – psychic paper, anyone? Some days, when I look around, it’s already like being inside a science fiction story. Everywhere I listen, there’s Amazon Alexa, or Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana or Google Home, promising me they can interpret my ramblings into a usable format. Having tried “do it yourself” software and automated online options with limited success, my need for timely, accurate documents ultimately led me to investigate the world of human transcription companies.

I’m a librarian, and contrary to theories that we read all day (I wish!), many tasks involve research. I’ve spent most of my career in healthcare, education and science, where libraries are generally supposed to be quiet study areas. Reference interviews have occasionally meant meetings in shared space, sometimes the canteen, so you can imagine the background noise.  As Smartphones and apps have become more widespread, it’s often easier to record notes rather than suffer fat finger syndrome on tiny virtual keyboards apparently meant for pixies; not to mention “predictive” text. I’ve also delivered information skills training sessions to students requiring transcripts for different reasons, including hearing loss or not being a native English speaker.

Mighty Speech To Text Technology

I’ve tried out various speech to text software which promised to make life easier. As long ago as version five, I attempted to train Dragon Naturally Speaking. My most recent dance with dragons is version fifteen, and it’s still baffling. Every Dragon transcription review I read suggested the software would provide a solution, but I soon discovered that was not entirely accurate.

If you’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking you probably know it’s really not intended for group speakers or environments with much background noise. The software is slow to recognise just one voice, even when asked to scan previous documents and specialist dictionaries. Even when Dragon does almost understand, its punctuation is somewhat questionable. In healthcare and science settings, incorrect punctuation or abbreviations can have very serious consequences, and for anyone unsure about the importance of punctuation, there’s a reason “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” is a runaway bestseller.

Many Dragon transcription reviews sing its praises. Recent versions have an “audio file to text” feature, but just try transcribing the average mp3 file. You’ll soon see how hard you’ll have to work to achieve a format that doesn’t read like a James Joyce stream of consciousness novel.

I also tried Google Docs voice to text software, but even the mighty Google was not perfect. After the first few sentences it became very slow and laggy; its punctuation functions were minimal. It also struggled with my (very slightly northern) British accent, and when a South African writer friend tried it on a novella results were even more unintelligible, despite selecting “South African English”. Automated speech to text agents initially appear to be a cheap solution, but be prepared for extensive editing and checking.

And The Search Continued…

I began searching for other audio transcription services reviews. Whether you call it AI, speech-to-text, automated speech recognition or speech recognition software, it sounds pretty alluring. I got very excited when I learned about the new software out there – all audio transcription services reviews suggested that Trint, Rev, GMR, Zoom and the rest could save me hours of time. After all, you get a near-perfect transcript in a fraction of the time it takes a human to do the job – right? It’s true that you get a transcript back, but it’s not flawless.

I’ve dealt with clinicians and students from all over the world, with varied accents. Some modern AI programs aren’t too bad with US and British Received Pronunciation accents, but struggle with others. In domestic settings this is amusing and a little irritating, but for business, medical, legal or entertainment settings it’s not what you need.

As a librarian, I like evidence, so before beginning my quest for transcription services reviews, I ran a quick literature search. Academic research confirmed my theory: humans provide the best transcripts.

Some transcription services reviews revealed new kid on the block Trint wasn’t always 100% accurate after all.

Rev transcription reviews were generally the most favourable, speaking highly of costs and rapid turnaround, but I still felt something was missing.

Checking Audio Transcription Reviews

My next step was to locate audio transcription services reviews, this time of companies offering human transcription, including daily transcription reviews. Pacific transcription reviews and Zoom transcription reviews were also pretty positive. GMR transcription reviews came close, and Rev again scored highly, but Way With Words stood out for me.

ASR and AI don’t cope well with “ums” and “ahs” either; something of a problem, whether you need intelligent verbatim, smart verbatim, or total verbatim. Once you factor in slang and local colloquialisms, error rates are high, around 20% or even 25%.  AI doesn’t cope well where someone has a health or speech condition affecting speech clarity; research shows even the recent AI agents only manage accuracy levels of around 60% in these cases. Even the most advanced AI cannot yet interpret facial expressions, lip-read, or make allowances or adjustments for accents or non-verbal cues. AI gets particularly bamboozled when speakers change.

Some automated transcription agents claim 95% accuracy, which may be true, in a perfect, sanitised environment, with speakers with perfect diction, with no background noise and the latest microphone technology, and where participants wait their turn before speaking. In the real world, however, for accurate transcription, you need the personal touch, which is where Way With Words came in.

My Review Of Way With Words

I liked the clarity of the website and the overall approachability of the company. I appreciated the sample standard templates, clearly showing who was talking, with regular timestamps to help with navigation. Most of all I liked the fact that the transcribers are real live people, all over the world. Way With Words was also happy to work towards B2B solutions. Since they state up front they’re fully compliant with GDPR legislation, I can feel completely secure any data I send is kept confidential, legal and safe.

I was also happy that Way With Words can handle so many file types and settings: audio and video; podcasts and webinars; TV, film, and media interviews; on-screen display; YouTube; group interviews and telephone calls. They cope really well with accents from any background. (And we all have an accent, even if it’s BBC 1950s English RP!)

A machine can’t work out that “fevorous” should be “feverish”; it might think “hypertension” and “hypotension” are the same word (potentially very serious in clinical settings); and it lacks the sophistication to understand that in medicine “ELISA” is a type of analyser, not a woman’s name.

For those who still think AI is the solution: last year, my Alexa, like many of her relatives worldwide, developed an unnerving tendency to cackle like the Witch of Wookey for no apparent reason – when she wasn’t switching on and off just for fun, that is. Meanwhile, in Japan, a landmark hotel with android staff has now gone back to – you guessed it – human staff, after robot receptionist Churi and her chums annoyed human visitors and regularly misinterpreted their requests. So those of us who might have been worried about a Westworld type scenario can relax, for now, and go back to actually dealing with people.

Way With Words Review – Pros And Cons

So what’s the ultimate verdict? Well, there’s no such thing as a perfect solution to anything in life, but the pros of using Way With Words far outweigh the cons. The good things? They’re a responsive, flexible company, with a straightforward and open way of doing things; they can cope with just about any file format you can think of; they have really high standards and a worldwide network of transcribers, most of whom give them a “thumbs up” as a company to work for. The bad bits? They’re certainly not the cheapest company out there. The “needs development”? I couldn’t find an App, although there may well be one in development. So, to sum up, if you’re looking for a well-presented, well-produced end transcript, though, they’re definitely one of the best solutions out there.

 

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