Dictation Tips


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been Tweeting and putting on our Facebook page some handy dictation tips for authors. So here they are, combined into one collective place for ease of reference:

Dictation Tip 1: Try to dictate in a quiet environment – not in the local coffee shop at lunch time or with the TV blaring. Sounds obvious right? You’d be surprised how many authors don’t think about this basic requirement!

Dictation Tip 2: DO spell words that are industry specific, jargon or unusual eg surnames. Might sound obvious – most of these tips do! – but your transcriptionist may not be familiar with your industry.

Dictation Tip 3: An hour of audio will NOT take an hour to transcribe. Class 1 audio has a ratio generally of 1:3 – ie 3 hours typing time – Class 1 meaning excellent quality, one speaker, clear (think dictating a letter). Classification depends on lots of things and goes up to Class 5 – which can be a ratio of 1:8 at the worst. It helps to keep your audios as clear as possible.

Dictation Tip 4: DO start your dictation with ‘hello’ and end with ‘thankyou’. Not only does this give your transcriptionist a clue as to when you’re starting and finishing the recording, it’s polite! Treat your transcriptionist like a person – after all, they are! It’s OK to use their name and speak as if they were with you.

Dictation Tip 5: No need to dictate punctuation – unless it’s a legal document which can be very specific. Qualified transcriptionists should be able to punctuate on-the-fly – and they may well know their punctuation rules better than you!

Dictation Tip 6: E-N-U-N-C-I-A-T-E. Believe it or not, 7, 17 and 70 all sound the same if you don’t.

Dictation Tip 7: Speak clearly and close to the mic (but not touching it) at even speed to improve audio quality and reduce transcription time. If you speak to close to the mic it sounds like an AV sound check – ‘1, 2, 1 tsooo, tsoooo’. It can be impossible to decipher actual words if you are speaking too close to the mic.

Dictation Tip 8: DO make sure you have your mic plugged in. This might be obvious but you’d be surprised how many forget!

Dictation Tip 9: Do NOT spell words in general use that your transcriptionist should know how to spell … like ‘grief’ or ‘two’. I realise there are a couple of ways to spell some words but past the 5th Grade they really should be able to differentiate without the author’s help. If they can’t, get yourself a new transcriptionist!

Dictation Tip 10: Don’t eat or drink while dictating. It affects quality of audio … and let’s face it, it’s pretty rude. Would you generally talk with your mouth full?

Dictation Tip 11: Do NOT shuffle papers close to the mic. The mic will pick up the papers over your voice and make it impossible to transcribe the words. It may not sound loud to you, but it will be deafening to the transcriptionist.

Dictation Tip 12: Your transcriptionist may not be in the same state as you – don’t assume they are familiar with local place names. If the name is difficult, doesn’t record well, or could be spelled a number of ways – like Wadbilliga, Mil Lel, Gnowangerup, Carrum, or Ebbw Vale – take a moment to spell it. However, if it’s a common name – like Perth, Sydney or Brisbane – it’s not necessary to spell. Common sense is best.

Dictation Tip 13: If you’re recording an interview make sure the recorder is closest to the INTERVIEWEE – not to you. Also, make sure you’re in a quiet room – not a café at lunch time. If the transcriptionist can’t hear the responses the transcript will be useless to you. PLUS it will cost a lot more.

Dictation Tip 14: Transcriptionists are not typists – they are so much more. Get experienced, qualified support for your transcription needs.

Dictation Tip 15: Digital is far superior to tape recordings. You can get hand held or PC-based recorders. A digital recording is easier to transfer to your transcriptionist, and will be cheaper to transcribe in the long run because of the better quality audio. Go digital!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips. If you have any of your own, please feel free to add them!

© Lyn Prowse-Bishop, http://www.execstress.com/


  1. Lyn:

    Thanks for this wonderful list. My personal pet peeve is # 10 – Don’t eat while dictating. Had a boss once who thought lunch time was the perfect time to catch up on his dictation. You think papers being shuffled sounds loud to a transcriptionist? Try the chomping and munching one does when eating right next to the mic. Still makes me go ewwww ! 😉

  2. execva says:

    Absolutely! I’ve had apple-eaters! And they don’t stop dictating whilst they’re chewing either! I’m pretty sure “Don’t speak with your mouth full” was something we ALL learned as kids!

  3. Great tips Lyn! I quite often get asked for tips from clients and usually give them about half of what is on this list, so it’s great to see such a comprehensive list – fantastic!

  4. execva says:

    Thanks for commenting Toni! Feel free to share with your clients! 🙂

  5. Great – thanks Lyn!

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