Although the process of dictation and transcription has been around for a long time, digital machines and Smartphones with dictation apps have made it far more efficient and far more accessible. But wider uptake means that many individuals receive little in the way of training, before dictating important work and a few simple guidelines will help make transcription of their sound files easier and more accurate, saving them time and money.

It’s very much personal choice whether you choose a dedicated dictation machine or a Smartphone with the latest dictation app., but the advantage of the Smartphone is the fact you generally always have it with you, available for your thoughts and comments to be recorded.

Whatever the device, the first rule is the same and the simplest; don’t hold it too close or too far away. The microphone should be about six inches (15cm) from your mouth to prevent words becoming drowned out by other sounds if it’s too far away and muffled by other sounds, like breath sounds or the puff of air that hits the microphone when you use plosive words like ‘policy’ or ‘banking’, if you hold it to close.

Ensuring background noise is kept to a minimum is important for clear dictation and at the very least you should avoid shuffling papers or tapping away at the keyboard whilst dictating. It can be difficult in the modern open-plan office to get the peace and quiet required, but it’s better to find somewhere less noisy, than constantly having to re-record sections when interrupted by loud voices and ringing phones.

It is worth experimenting with the microphone’ssensitivity settings to reduce the distance at which the microphone will pick up sounds, to ensure your voice is the loudest thing the transcription typist hears. And remember after pressing record, pause before you speak (and again before you stop recording) to prevent your first and last words being clipped.

When dictating, the most obvious and most important point to consider, is the need to speak slowly and clearly; remember, the better your diction, the better the dictation.

If you send your dictation externally for transcription, it is worth bearing in mind most service providers will charge by the length of the dictation. So although you may be tempted to speak more quickly to save a few pence, it’s more important to know what you’re going to say and avoid as many ‘ums’ and ‘erms’ as possible – these will lengthen your dictation, cost you more and add nothing to its meaning, as good transcription typists will ignore them (unless you have requested a verbatim transcription).

Experienced, qualified legal transcription typists will only punctuate the transcription as directed by your instructions; an unwanted comma can significantly change the meaning to that intended, particularly in financial and legal transcriptions.

If you want to put something in brackets, say ‘open parentheses, dictate the contents and when finished say ‘close parentheses. It’s common sense really, but worth remembering that time spent on inserting punctuation into your dictation, is time saved on formatting the returned transcription.

If the final document requires particular formatting, you can add it to the dictation to save time adding it later. When you want to underline, italicise or bold elements of your text, say STOP and then issue formatting instructions for the next word, words, sentence etc.

For example, to bold something, say ‘stop, bold’ then continue dictating the passage that should be in bold type. To return to normal, when you have finished dictating the content to be bold, say ‘stop, end bold’ and continue with your dictation.

You should only need to spell out obscure words, technical terms, names and addresses, etc., as most experienced, qualified transcription typists will not only have a good working knowledge of the English language, but commonly used legal, commercial and Latin terms.

When spelling out words, the recommended phonetic alphabet to use is the easily recognised International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet:


Dictating numbers can be a problem, but made simpler if you are consistent throughout, allowing typists to get used to your style. It is recommended that years are dictated as spoken, so 1977 becomes nineteen seventy seven and the number zero is dictated as ‘zero’ or ‘nought’ and never as ‘oh’.

Whether you are outsourcing your transcription or utilising in-house resources, you should dictate any relevant reference numbers at the start to identify which client, case or order the transcription refers to. If you are utilising outsourced transcription services, the typists may have access to your system remotely, allowing them to complete work within the relevant files utilising existing templates.

Whether internal typists or outsourced service providers are to undertake the transcription, you should be able to speak directly to the typist and discuss any specific requirements.Dictation software will also typically allow youto include notes with your sound files, where typists can view any special instructions concerning your dictation.

An advantage of outsourced transcription service providers is having typists spread throughout the UK, allows them to match typists with dictators that perhaps share a particularly strong regional accent.

In simple terms the advice is mostly common sense, but to ensure you receive accurate transcriptions that can save you time formatting or correcting,the best advice is topress record, pause, then speak slowly and clearly.

Maxine Park
Maxine Park

About the author: Maxine Park launched DictateNow with husband Garry, to offer an enhanced and efficient transcription resource to businesses in a wide range of sectors including legal, medical, public sector, charity and parliament. Her experience as a solicitor and home-working parent directly led to the formation of DictateNow which currently employs a large pool of home-based typists in the UK, to provide fast, reliable and confidential digital dictation and transcription services.

A well-respected and published author, Maxine has a talent for delivering insightful, detailed and engaging articles covering topics of interest to owners, managers and individuals of businesses and organisations of all sizes across all sectors. She is able to shape articles to ensure they remain relevant to each audience and meet the needs of editors with regard to the originality and length of her articles. 

Related Articles