Creating Transcripts for Audio Files

Home Knowledgebase Accessibility & OER Creating Transcripts for Audio Files

What is a Transcript?

Transcripts are text-based accounts of the spoken word in a video or audio file, that also contain descriptions of sound effects, music or any additional explanatory content presented in audio.

They also include any non-audio content that is only displayed in a visual format (for videos only).

So, for example in a narrated PowerPoint presentation, you would have the spoken content in the transcript along with any slide content that was not repeated or described by the presenter.

While transcripts are technically only required of audio files, it is highly recommended to include them for video content as this would assist users who are deaf and blind.

Please note that YouTube includes a transcript automatically for videos (as long as the captions are correct).

Also remember these rules:

  • Transcripts are always required for audio files.
  • Captions are not required for audio files. Only video files.
  • Transcripts are encouraged, but not required for video files.
  • When creating a video, the only time a transcript is required is when you don’t describe everything that is visually presented. This is not recommended, as not only will you need to have a transcript, but you will then also need audio descriptions.

Why is a Transcript Required?

A transcript is required according to the accessibility standards that PPCC follows and that the Federal government requires. But, it is also to help with the following scenarios:

  • The student is deaf or hard of hearing and has difficulty hearing the content.
  • The student is a visual learner, and prefers reading over auditory.
  • The student is studying a topic they are unfamiliar with, or there is difficult vocabulary they would like to research.
  • The student is an English as a Second Language learner, and learns best when reading the text along with the audio.
  • The podcast or audio file is hard to follow (I.E. poor audio quality, speakers speak too fast).

The summary of all this is, that transcripts will benefit all of your students. Not just students with disabilities.

How do I write one?

There isn’t one way of writing a transcript per se. Generally though, transcripts have the following characteristics:

  • Follow rules for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Indicate the speaker and then the audio content associated with them. (I.E. Ron Burgundy: You stay classy, San Diego!).
  • Note any important sound effects or music by using brackets. (I.E. [Intro Music]).

These are the bare minimum requirements, how it is formatted varies from transcript to transcript. We will look at some templates and examples in the next section of this course.

In addition, some transcripts include images and other content to make it more visual, but this is mainly in transcripts used for videos (in addition to captions, which is always required for videos).

Examples of Transcripts

So, you might have a general understanding of how transcripts are created and formatted, but it is another thing to actually see some examples in action.

The following image was taken from an example of a transcript created by Penn State University:

Transcript Example
Screenshot of a transcript where each speaker is identified and a text representation of what each speaker stated.

Another example of a transcript can be found at Nature, an academic journal devoted to science. This transcript follows most of the same formatting as the example from Penn State, but it also adds an introduction that provides some context.

The final example of transcripts are from CNN, where they regularly post transcripts of their news casts and shows that you can freely view. You will notice the formatting is less polished and tries to have more of a “just in time” approach to how they are presented.


The following are some resources that provide information on writing transcripts, have examples of transcripts, or provide templates you can utilize:


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

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