Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

9 Editing Tips to Turn Your Transcripts Into Gold.

June 24, 2009 · Leave a Comment


In producing a book on someone’s life story, the work of recording the  interviews is just the beginning of the creative process.  You’ll need to make transcripts of the interviews and then edit them. Editing transcripts makes the story come alive. By removing the  extraneous words and tangled syntax and structuring the transcript into a coherent and interesting narrative, you’ll strike gold. Here are nine tips that will help you with your editing.

  • Tone and style: Make sure to keep the “voice” of the person you’re editing. Don’t rewrite the interview to the point where it sounds like you!
  • Repeated words: Watch out for words and phrases that are repeated. Readers will become bored.
  • Sentence length: Vary the length of sentences. Alternating long with short sentences makes it easier and more natural to read the completed story. As a rule, the shorter the sentence, the more energy it gives the writing. Research shows that twenty-word sentences are fairly clear to most readers. Thirty-word sentences are not.
  • Adverbs: People tend to use adverbs to give emphasis. The result is the opposite. All words ending in “ly” should be used sparingly.
  • Commas: People don’t speak with commas in mind so you will have to place them in your edited transcript. Many phrases, compound sentences, and most modifying clauses call for commas. Commas make a sentence comprehensible to the reader.
  • Eliminate “just” and “so”: Whenever you encounter these words, drop them. They’re not needed.
  • Vary the first word: Try to make the first word of each paragraph as well as the first word of every sentence different.
  • Compress and clarify: Think hard about every word you use. Is it necessary? Is there a concise way to say this? Follow the rule of one idea per sentence.
  • Logical order: The story needs to be written so that the reader can easily follow the narrative. Where does the story begin? What’s in the main body? And how does it end?

I hope these tips are helpful. Do you have any other tips you’d like to suggest?

Photo by stephweiss

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Categories: Editing · How to · Life stories · Personal historian · Tips · Writing
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