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  • Writer's pictureColleen R. Carpenter

10 Easy Steps to Dictating Like a Pro

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

Hopefully, you’re helping the environment by “going green” whenever possible. If you are using a hand-held digital recorder for dictation rather than reaching for your standard writing pad, that’s a great start. If you are an attorney or a person who relies heavily on written content, digital recorders are one of the best things since sliced bread.

If you’ve been using a digital recorder for a while now, I’d be willing to bet there is absolutely no way you would ever part with it and return to writing everything down on paper. They’re easy to use, reasonably priced, and always at the ready-as long as you keep it loaded with fresh batteries.

Here are a few tips to encourage you to try out a digital recorder and possibly make the switch:

1. Use the right equipment.

Gone are the days of large, bulky, cassette recorders. Now you can find digital recorders so small that they fit in the palm of your hand and you can take them where ever you go. And guess what? You can whip out your smartphone and record on that too!

2. Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.

If English is not your first language, it may be necessary to slow down a bit while dictating in order to be clearly understood. When your transcriptionist constantly rewinds the audio to decipher what you have said, it may significantly increase the time required to get the job done.

3. Keep your lips free.

While dictating your audio, please do not chew gum, eat food, or slurp soup. (Having a nice cup of coffee or tea is fine.)

4. Eliminate as much background noise as possible.

This means no dictating while driving your car with the windows down, while music is playing, or when other people are speaking in the background. If you're working from home, this includes babies crying, dogs barking, or roosters crowing. A quiet, peaceful, environment will allow you to focus and be more productive.

5. Be as organized as possible.

Have a clear plan regarding what you will be dictating to avoid “dipping in and out.” This is the practice of completing your dictation and re-visiting an item sometime further down the road. (“Oh, return to that letter I dictated 10 minutes ago and stick this in.”)

6. Give instructions on your desired layout.

In order to assist your transcriptionist with the desired formatting of your document, be sure to indicate whether it is a letter, memo, proposal, etc. Also, formatting features such as boldface fonts, underline, center, or new paragraph should also be mentioned.

7. Take a breather.

Creating shorter files are easier and quicker to transcribe than longer files. Rather than creating one very long dictation, split it into two files (or more, if necessary).

8. Let your transcriptionist know when it’s over.

When you have finished dictating on a particular matter, please say something to indicate that this is the end of that file. Not doing so can create confusion for your transcriptionist, as it can be hard to decipher when one file ends and another begins. Simply saying “next” works great.

Also, let your transcriber know when you are done dictating for that session by saying “end of tape,” “that’s it for now,” “peace out,” or whatever phrase works for you.

9. Allow proper time.

Allow your transcriptionist a reasonable amount of time to complete your dictation. Remember, it takes an average of approximately 4–5 hours to transcribe 1 hour of clear audio. Poor audio quality and multiple speakers can increase the time frame for completing your dictation.

10. Don’t get sloppy with markups.

When marking up your printed copy for edits, please write legibly. Illegible handwriting is another deterrent to productivity. Clear penmanship helps your transcriptionist work more efficiently in processing amendments and finalizing your documents.

If nice penmanship isn’t your thing, gather up your printed copy and digital recorder. Go through your document and dictate exactly what your amended text should be and specifically where it belongs. Your transcriptionist will love you for this!


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