What is the Phonetic Transcription of Words?

Verbatim transcriptions are considered some of the best for detail and accuracy as they create a literal transcription of spoken words with nothing missed out. However, did you know that transcriptions can be taken one step further and we can account for the tone, emphasis, and pronunciation of words?

Enter the phonetic transcription. In this guide, I look at the phonetic transcription of words including how it works, why it’s used, and popular use cases.

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What is Phonetic Transcription?

At its base definition, phonetic transcription involves producing a transcription that reflects not only the content of a piece of audio (such as a live meeting, an audio file, or video footage) but also the intonation of the speaker.

The aim is to provide an accurate transcription while also detailing language features such as tone, pronunciation, and emphasis of the individual words spoken. As a result, phonetic transcriptions are usually much longer and more detailed compared to verbatim or non-verbatim transcriptions.

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IPA Symbols and Their Importance

Phonetic transcriptions are achieved using the IPA – the International Phonetic Alphabet. This is an alphabetic system originally devised in the late 1800s that aims to provide a standardized representation of speech patterns and the qualities of speech, not their content.

I can’t teach you the IPA in this guide as it is relatively complicated and requires additional learning and understanding. However, you can find the current version of the documents on the official IPA website .

To summarize, the IPA contains approximately 44 diacritic symbols which show the various sounds a speaker will make when pronouncing words. These diacritics are then used to show tone, pronunciation, and emphasis and help give spoken passages more context.

Phonetic transcription allows language nuances to be understood and to give context to industry jargon, for example.

Techniques and Tools for Phonetic Transcription

Phonetic transcription has come a long way since the IPA was initially developed and there is now a range of software such as our transcription tool that automates the process.

You can simply download the current version of the International Phonetic Alphabet and create manual transcriptions but this is time-consuming. Instead, automated software that is pre-loaded with the IPA can do the job instantly and produce complete phonetic transcription of words in a fraction of the time.

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Practical Applications for Phonetic Transcription

With a clearer understanding of the phonetic transcription of words, we can now look at some use cases including interviews, legal hearings, and business branding.

Live Meetings with Global Participants

Did you know that approximately 89% of employees are now part of a global team? This obviously creates language barriers and difficulties with translation. Questions can be misunderstood, answers can be taken in the wrong way, and things can get messy. Phonetic transcriptions of things like live meetings, video conferences, and training sessions can help greatly and make sure everything is understood properly.

Business Interviews

In today’s multicultural and global business environment, interviews are often conducted via video calls or with people who may speak a different primary language. Phonetic transcription in scenarios like this can help boost communication and make sure that the interviewer can ask questions in the right way.


Business branding is essential and this has to remain consistent across your various marketing channels and media. Oftentimes you can find that branding becomes inconsistent when a company has a global market.

For example, people from a different country may pronounce the brand name incorrectly which could have negative connotations. Creating phonetic transcriptions of your branding and producing brand guides can therefore eliminate this and make sure your marketing is consistently understood.

Legal Hearings

Transcriptions of legal hearings are vital to produce a written record of things like testimonies and defense cases or initial witness interviews before trials. Creating a phonetic transcription of words during these scenarios can provide additional value and insight. Not only do you get a written record of what’s been said, but tone can also be deduced which can be critical in assessing the trustworthiness of a witness for example.

Sales Calls

Businesses often record sales calls for training purposes to improve their techniques and to develop strategies to deal with different situations and types of customers. Phonetic transcriptions are invaluable in these training scenarios as they can help improve communication between the seller and customer, but also eliminate language barriers when global clients are involved.

Phonetic Transcription of Words Can Take Your Understanding to the Next Level

If you work in a multicultural environment or a global business where people whose primary language often differs, the phonetic transcription of words is invaluable. The IPA allows the meaning behind spoken words to be understood and things like language barriers or differences in pronunciation to be bypassed. A transcription can take on a new level of meaning and be infinitely more useful as a result.