Questions about our Audio Transcription Services

What is your guarantee policy for 1-day and 1-week orders?
The money-back guarantee applies to high-quality audio only. Please read our Terms of Service for complete details. Also, check out the FAQ on difficult audio as well for more information on what makes audio difficult.
Is the price really per minute of audio?

Yes. We price on the length of the audio file we receive - not the amount of time it takes to complete the transcript. This length includes silence, as our workers have to listen to it all, so trim what you don't want to pay for. When you choose the "Bill me for the exact file length upon completion." we bill for this length on order completion, after pre-authorizing your card for the amount estimated. When you choose "Exact durations" we will contact you, and ask for suplimentary payment if the file lengths you provide are incorrect.

Please keep in mind that we differentiate price-wise between good and bad quality audio. See What quality of audio does CastingWords accept? for more details.

Do you have a sample transcript?
Yep. We had our How to use FTP video transcribed - the web page is here. Also available are the text and MS Word versions.
What influences turnaround?
Many things. If you need a file transcribed quickly use our 1- or 1-week services. We also offer a "difficult audio" option which speeds up turnaround as well.
The biggest influence here is audio quality. Even if your audio meets our minimum quality standards, lesser quality audio still takes longer to transcribe than better quality. Audio with heavy accents, background noise, and/or highly obscure or technical content usually takes more time to transcribe and edit than crisp, clear audio. Long files, of course, generally take more time than short ones. Once files reach the 2 hour-plus mark, turnaround slows dramatically.
What format are the finished transcripts delivered in?
The finished transcriptions are delivered in plain text, HTML and RTF. RTF is a Microsoft Word friendly format. If you have the URL for a transcript change the file extension (e.g., .txt) at the end to download the other formats.
What is the notes box for?
It's a way for you to communicate with both CastingWords and the transcriptionist. The box may be used, for example, to list the names of podcast speakers, or to point out potentially tricky technical terms, acronyms, or spellings of words. It is helpful to include a link to the site of the original podcast, audio file, and/or relevant websites. Also, please include notes on anything in the audio file that does NOT need to be included in the transcript (please note if you DO want commercial breaks transcribed). Keep in mind that the quality of the notes included will directly affect the quality of the final transcript. A good set of notes can substantially reduce the time it will take you to edit the transcription once you receive it.
Does CastingWords skip the ads in the audio file?
Yes. Our policy is that all breaks from programs are to be noted but not transcribed. This includes ads, promos and songs.
If you want that content transcribed, please detail that it in the note box for our transcriptionists.
How many speakers are too many?
With each additional speaker the chances of mislabeled speakers increases. In addition, changes in speaker may not be identified with larger numbers of speakers, or speakers with similar voices. If you don't need to distinguish between every speaker, but want to use something that is more inclusive (such as Moderator and Panelist), please include this in the notes. This helps speed up editing quite a bit.

If an uploaded audio file is tagged "Focus Group," "Panel" or "Round Table," speakers will not be identified by name or number. Instead, they will be labeled "Facilitator," "Female Participant" and "Male Participant."

We generally accept audio files with large numbers of speakers - but set lower standards on the resulting transcript quality, especially if speakers tend to talk over one another. As a general rule, transcripts with 3 or less speakers -- or with one main speaker and some "Q&A" are of good quality. Other transcripts may require significant editing on your part.
What quality of audio does CastingWords accept?
Audio quality affects transcript quality. We need audio sampled at least 44.1 kHz, with adequate volume, and very limited background noise, to produce transcripts of a reasonable quality. We may turn down work if we feel the audio quality is poor. We don't currently offer audio engineering services to improve audio quality.
What is meant by difficult audio quality?

Difficult audio is audio that is harder to transcribe. Some factors that might make audio difficult include: noise (background, foreground, etc.), speakers talking over each other, many speakers, specialized terminology (including technical, legal, scientific, and medical), muffled or quiet recordings, talking fast, and accents. If more than one of these characteristics are present in your audio, it most likely is difficult audio. This is not a comprehensive list but covers most cases.

Recordings in public places (cafes, restaurants, etc) are almost always difficult audio. Phone calls and focus groups are often difficult audio quality.

1-day transcription, 1-week transcription, and podcast subscription are meant for high quality audio. Podcast subscriptions must have high quality audio or we will return your order. 1-day and 1-week orders can be placed if you pay for difficult audio. We will get your transcript back to you as quickly as possible, but we do not guarantee turnaround. It all depends on just how difficult the audio is - most of the time it gets done close to the timeframe.

If we can't handle the audio quality we will notify you and refund your order less our costs up to that point. Sometimes it costs us more than you paid, so in some instances there will be no refund. You can also get a partial transcript instead of getting a refund.

You can add on difficult quality audio with any of our products. We don't guarantee turnaround times with difficult audio as stated before. However, the more you pay, the more we pay our transcribers which gives them incentive to work on difficult audio transcripts.

What is CastingWords' standard transcription style?

Our standard transcription product is non-verbatim, i.e., we clean up the language, omitting “um,” “er,” “uh,” etc.; filler words and phrases such as “I mean,” “you know,” “like,” etc. (legitimate uses of such words are left in), false starts and redundancies (unless spoken with that intent). Quotations are an exception, they are transcribed verbatim.

We also may leave out conjunctions that are used to begin a sentence, e.g., “And,” “So,” etc., as they usually tend to be a distraction in written language. We never summarize or paraphrase. Our goal is a readable, well-written transcript.

What is a verbatim transcription?

Our verbatim transcription product retains every utterance, including redundancies; false starts; filler words like, "um," "uh," "er," etc., and "I mean," "you know"; all slang, e.g., "gonna," "kinda," "sorta," "cuz," (or "coz"), etc.

You may request a certain level of verbatim, by leaving special instruction in the notes box, e.g., “Frank stutters a bit - please remove stutters - but keep all the filler words, and make sure you catch Frank's use of ‘gonna,’ instead of 'going to' and his frequent use of ‘like,’ as we want to retain the speakers’ character/jargon.”

How do Corporate Accounts work?

Corporate accounts are designed to let a set of people share payment and billing information. They allow one main account to supply the credit card, prepay balance or invoicing for the order accounts. This account can access all of the transcripts, invoices and receipts for the accounts it supplies payment information to.

The accounts that receive payment access and operate exactly like our standard accounts, except they cannot add or edit payment information. They can view partial payment information, such as the card type, and cardholder's name, in order to allow them to choose a payment method.

When are timestamps placed?
Timestamps are measured from the start of the audio and are inserted at the beginning of each speaker change, and if appropriate, for instance in audio files with long monologues, at paragraph breaks.
What feed types does CastingWords handle?
Currently we only accept RSS 2.0 feeds with enclosures, or direct links to audio files. In the future we may handle other feed types. Please send any additional feature requests to if this is an issue for you.
What file types does CastingWords accept?

We handle MP3, MP4, and WAV, and most WMA/WMV files at this time. We usually can handle other types of audio and video but your order might take longer to process (including 1- and 1-week orders). See the next question for how to convert other file types into MP3 format.

We can NOT handle some proprietary formats. These include:

  • WebEx ARF files - WebEx does make an tool available to some of it's customers that will allow exports to WMA. If you can get a WMA exported we can transcribe that.
  • DVF files - Usually from Sony audio recorders. Most of these recorders come with software that will export to MP3 or WAV files.

We can NOT handle most streaming files at this time - these include Flash videos, and RealAudio Streams (.ram files and rtmp:// urls) and Windows Media streams (.wax, .wvx, or .asx files).

The exceptions to the streaming policy are videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, and a few other very popular video streaming sites.We convert the video to MP3 and transcribe it as we would any other audio file. Please make sure it is the direct link/URL for the particular video on the site (say that you want transcribed. In other words, don't link off of your channel page or a third party site, it will not upload properly, if at all.

Does CastingWords transcribe onscreen content in video?
At this time we do NOT transcribe, or otherwise use on-screen content in our transcripts. Our process uses a number of tools to make our transcribers more efficient, and at this time those tools require an MP3 file. As such all incoming audio or video is transcoded to MP3s, and our transcribers will not even see the video portion of your file. Customer demand is the main driver of when we implement this service - so if this is a requirement for you please write!
Do you accept downloads from third-party file sites such as YouSendIt?
No. We do not accept orders where we have to manually download the file from another website. The URLs you order with should lead directly to the audio file. If you aren't sure if the URL goes to an audio file directly, you can test using your web browser. Download the URL in your browser (usually this option is available if you right-click on the link, or control click on a Mac). If the file is successfully downloaded, then the link should work fine for us.
How do I convert my audio file into MP3?
WAV to MP3 on Windows or Mac using iTunes:

If you have a WAV file, you can easily convert it to MP3 using iTunes. Open it up in iTunes, then right-click (control click on the Mac) on the file. Choose "Convert Selection to MP3" in the Advanced Menu. To figure out where iTunes saved the new MP3, choose File - >Get Info, then look at the Where section at the bottom of the Summary tab.

If you don't see the option to Convert Selection to MP3, you probably need to alter your Import Settings in your iTunes Preferences to "MP3 Encoder".

Can I use FTP?
We now offer FTP to registered users. If you have not already, please sign up for an account with us. After that, upload your files to, using your email and the FTP Password from your account settings page to login. Most FTP clients ask for a "username". Once your upload is completed go to My Uploads to view, manage, and create orders from your uploads.
What kinds of notifications will I receive?
We always email you. We prefer to use the email supplied with the audio file, but under certain circumstances we use the email associated with your payment method (i.e., PayPal). Be aware as well that sometimes email does not successfully make it through to your mail server. It might get marked as spam or be turned away by your mail server.

You can always log in to our website to download your transcripts and we encourage you to do that especially if you have ordered 1-day or 1-week transcriptions.
What kinds of payment does CastingWords accept?
CastingWords uses PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and American Express for payments.
Are you hiring?
Yes, we are always looking for freelance transcribers and editors - head over to the CastingWords WorkShop to get started.

What are your customer support hours?

CastingWords Support is available from

We handle customer support inquiries between 9am and 4pm Monday through Friday, U.S. Eastern Time. Support is closed on these holidays: Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday of November), Christmas Eve (December 24), Christmas (December 25th), and New Years Day (January 1st)

When we are able to we check in on the support inquiries at other times (off hours, weekends, holidays) for urgent requests (e.g., someone did not receive their one-day transcription on Friday.) We only provide email support as we are a small company and with limited resources (ie: we do not currently offer phone support). We we try to have responsive email support and have a goal of responding to all requests within 1 business day.

We have a support portal at, and a feedback form, which interoperate with our email support.

What is your refund policy?

If you cancel your order, we refund less our costs incurred. Be aware that sometimes our transcribers may be actively working on your transcript when you request to cancel. We do not have a way to tell them to stop working - we can only prevent future work from going out. We also need some time to read your email which for refunds we will use the costs within 4 business hours of your email.

If you want the partial transcript then we don't send a refund and send you what we have so far. This usually only happens in the case of difficult audio that takes too long to complete. If you have difficult audio and do not pay for difficult audio then be aware that we might not send you a refund at all as our costs might be greater than what you paid for the order.

See Also: Our Terms of Service

What does it mean that you crowdsource transcription?
CastingWords uses crowdsourcing to produce transcripts. This means that work (transcription, grading, editing) is distributed to our workers over the Internet. Source material and intermediate work are posted temporarily on the web so workers can access it.

Do you guarantee confidentiality/do you sign NDAs?

No, we are not able to guarantee confidentiality at this time. Work is posted on a website and while we take every precaution to keep your transcript secure, we cannot guarantee anything. We use a large pool of vetted contractors to do the work, and they understand that the work is confidential, and that they will never work for us again if they release it. Additionally, due to our workflow most workers see just small sections of the transcript, making tracking and penalties easy to enforce. If you need absolute confidentiality, then do not use our service.

We are considering adding this guarantee of confidentiality in the future using NDAs and a password-protected site to post jobs. We will make an announcement when this is available, but we do not have a date yet.

See Also: Our Privacy Policy

Can I speed up my order or add things like timestamps?

Yes. You can speed up the turnaround of your transcription order as well as add timestamps and/or difficult audio to your order on our website. If you login to your account, and go to Order Status, you will see an Upgrade link next to open orders.

What languages does CastingWords transcribe?

We transcribe English, primarily, but do offer French Transcription as well.

Does CastingWords skip the ads and songs in the audio file?

Yes. Our policy is that all breaks from programs are to be noted but not transcribed. This includes ads, promos and songs. If you want that content transcribed, please detail that it in the note box for our transcriptionists. Transcription of song lyrics may require the Difficult Audio upgrade.

Why can’t you guarantee turnaround on longer files?

The actual transcription of your file is the most labor-intensive step, but it can be split up and accomplished by many people working simultaneously. It therefore takes less time overall, no matter the file length.

However, editing can only be done by a single person working on the whole file, and can only begin after every single transcription chunk is complete (and some files receive more than one edit). An edit can take 2-3 times the length of the audio, and the same goes for time stamps if you order them. As a result, turnaround slows dramatically, and cannot be guaranteed for files of more than one hour in length.

Splitting longer audio into multiple one-hour files and submitting them each for transcription eliminates this problem, even if you order them all at once.