Accurate transcription depends on several factors, but refining your dictation is one of the easiest ways to improve. Good dictation practices result in higher-quality audio, which in turn helps transcribers create accurate transcripts. Here at Ditto Transcripts, we have hundreds of thousands of transcription hours under our belt and have compiled a list of the best dictation tips for improving your skills.
What is Dictation?
Before we get deep into the tips, let’s start by understanding what dictation is and what it means for transcriptionists.
Dictation involves speaking out loud, rather than typing yourself, and recording your words using a device with audio recording capabilities for later use. You can dictate for various reasons, including note-taking, writing letters or drafts, assigning tasks, or, for the most part, recording something that needs to be documented in text form at a later time. It’s a fairly straightforward process, and interested people have a few dictation options.
- Dictate audio content and transcribe it themselves.
- Dictate audio content and have a transcriptionist transcribe it.
- Dictate audio content into a dictation program with voice-to-text capabilities.
Doing transcription yourself can be costly (if hiring in-house transcribers) and time-consuming, so it’s not generally recommended.
Is It Good to Use Voice Recognition Software For Dictation?
Voice or speech recognition software is a form of digital dictation that uses artificial intelligence to recognize spoken words and produce transcripts in real-time. This type of transcription software is becoming increasingly popular as it is cheap, easy to use, and produces quick results—that is to say, it’s great when you’re in a pinch.
However, they’re not the best choice for day-to-day dictation for businesses and official uses. Automated transcription suffers from accuracy problems (up to only 86% in the best circumstances) and is susceptible to sound quality issues. It also cannot understand the nuances of human speech.
Any resulting transcripts from audio files will require a lot of editing and polishing by you before they can be used in a professional setting like law firms, hospitals, police departments, finance, universities, and other business organizations.
Using AI transcription will lead to an administrative nightmare, as people with better things to do are dragged away from their daily tasks to proofread wildly inaccurate automated transcripts to produce acceptable final documents.
When all is said and done, fast and cheap (or free) transcription comes with a higher price tag.
Your best choice is to have a reliable human transcription service provider like Ditto handle your dictation-transcription needs. This ensures 99% accurate transcription with fast turnaround times and affordable rates.
Useful Dictation Tips And Tricks
Below is a list of dictation tips compiled for anyone who wants to improve their skills. These tips apply to experts and beginners and will help you save time and effort.
Know Your Recording Tools
Choosing user-friendly recording devices or software simplifies dictation. Digital recorders and dictation software provide tools to optimize audio quality. Get familiar with audio settings like recording volume, playback speed, and noise cancellation. Testing configurations prevents distorted or inaudible recordings. Conduct practice runs in a quiet room first to identify any issues. Speak at different paces and volumes to ensure your voice is clear. It’s also important to know if and how your device syncs dictation files across devices for quick sharing and transcription. You can use this knowledge to configure automated backups so recordings are never lost.
Some companies use dictation apps that connect straight to a transcription company, smoothing out the workflow while simultaneously improving the quality of the resulting transcripts.
Record In a Quiet Environment
Background noise reduces dictation clarity and may cause distractions. Be sure to choose a quiet space with minimal disruptions for quality recordings. Close doors and windows to prevent outside sounds from interfering. Silence phones, computers, and other electronics in the room. Avoid dictating in echoey spaces and refrain from eating, drinking, yawning, chewing gum, rustling papers, or other distracting sounds. If recording in a shared office space, schedule recordings when co-workers are least active to prevent interruptions.
Room acoustics impact different microphones differently, so it’s better first to conduct test recordings in new spaces. Position yourself close to more sensitive microphones for best results. Consider investing in a high-quality noise-canceling microphone that actively filters out ambient noise during dictation.
In noisier environments, such as police stations or busy roads, you can increase microphone volume levels to overpower background noise, speak clearly, and project your voice more than usual.
Prepare Yourself Before Any Dictations
Organizing your thoughts boosts dictation clarity. Outline the information you must cover before recording and sequence key points logically to help transcribers follow along easily. Gathering relevant documents or visuals to reference and providing necessary context upfront so listeners comprehend the terminology is advisable.
Before attempting dictation, you must decide what formatting needs communicating, like headings or emphasis words. You can mark disjointed segments requiring rearrangement. If you’ll be reorganizing later, make verbal transitions between topics. Time yourself rehearsing to estimate the actual recording length and determine sections needing spell-out or clarification. If you want, you can create an outline or script to avoid rambling—but try to avoid sounding robotic when reading verbatim.
Declare Who You Are
First, clearly state your full name when you’re dictating. This should often be followed by the document type, such as “radiology report,” “legal memo,” or “research notes.” Provide the current date as well.
For instance, you can start with something like, “This is Eric Henderson, providing my medical report update on November 22, 2023.” Identifying details first prevents confusion later on, and it avoids the common mistake of forgetting the introduction, preventing transcribers from halting work and requesting clarification.
Reintroducing yourself periodically during long dictations with alternating speakers is a good way to ensure seamless transcript continuity. Don’t assume that the speaker’s identity is implicit or obvious, no matter how distinct your voices are. Despite the best equipment and circumstances, audio quality can fluctuate and confuse the transcriptionist working on the recording.
Speak Clearly and Concisely
Clear enunciation enhances comprehension during dictation. Project your voice slightly more than in normal conversation, and speak in clear, complete sentences. Articulate each syllable distinctly. Avoid excessive pauses when organizing thoughts. Limit filler sounds like “um,” “uh,” and “ah,” which clutter audio.
Brief, purposeful silences are fine, but consistent verbal tics make speech difficult to follow. Similarly, avoid redundant phrases that bring nothing new to the dictation. Be concise and eliminate convoluted language when a simpler, uncomplicated word will suffice (Ah, the irony.) Favor short, direct sentences that convey the message rapidly. If you must backtrack or self-correct, do so quickly and clearly. Announce sections that need to be deleted or rearranged but resist over-editing live dictations.
Spell Out Unfamiliar Words or Nouns
Spell words out when using industry-specific terminology or proper nouns. State each letter distinctly for uncommon medical conditions, pharmaceuticals, or procedures. Spell out patient names, geographic places, or product brands, which may sound alike if spoken. Use the NATO phonetic alphabet for easily confusable letters like M and N. After spelling a term, restate it normally to confirm. This is also great for indicating your spelling preference for words on the final transcript, i.e. if you want organise instead of organize.
Additionally, state the full phrase before shortening it with acronyms. For example, say “American Medical Association or AMA” in the first instance. Familiar abbreviations like DNA may not require spelling out, but prioritize clarity when dealing with terminologies prone to being misunderstood. Providing spelling eliminates guessing by listeners unfamiliar with the subject matter. It prevents mistranslation of key details, avoiding dangerous errors in sensitive documents.
Though minor, dictating punctuation enhances document formatting for transcribers and adds clarity. Clearly say “period,” “question mark,” and “semicolon” at appropriate intervals. Use inflection to indicate the end of a sentence before saying “period.” Announce when a colon or set of parentheses is needed. Say “new paragraph” or “new heading” to break a continuous text. It ensures documents follow conventions without guessing paragraph and sentence divisions.
Take care with abbreviations containing periods, like acronyms. Clarify whether the letters represent a true sentence end. For example, “N.A.S.A. period” or “N.A.S.A. comma.” Indicating commas, periods, and paragraph breaks as you dictate improves accuracy. It saves transcribers’ work determining where formatting belongs.
Mitigate Microphone Issues
Position yourself near mics to prevent distortion. Highly sensitive models require more distance to avoid peaking levels. Check manufacturer guidance and test various positions during setup. Generally, keep about 8 inches between your mouth and the microphone. Avoid speaking directly on the top as it increases air sounds from your mouth. Off-axis positioning at a slight angle captures natural speech more accurately.
Keep your voice strong through the ends of sentences rather than trailing off. Modulate volume intentionally for clarity, not due to proximity changes. You can listen to test recordings to identify areas for improvement while using high-quality headsets. Refine your positioning until you find an optimal balance of comfort and quality.
Dictate at a Steady Pace
Adopt a measured speaking cadence for comprehension. Avoid rushing through sentences or talking unusually slowly. Instead, model your pace on news anchors who deliberately enunciate each word. This steady tempo may feel strangely slow at first. But it significantly boosts intelligibility for transcribers, especially with unfamiliar accents.
Pause briefly between sentences to allow transcribers to catch up, but avoid excessive verbal fillers as they reduce clarity and may affect transcription quality. While it is best to pause intentionally instead of losing one’s train of thought, it can occasionally happen. For variety, incorporate both shorter and longer sentences. Speaking slowly is excellent if your natural speech is rapid-fire or tangled.
Declare When Dictation Ends
Always conclude your dictation clearly by stating “end of dictation.” This simple phrase indicates to the transcriber that you have finished speaking and provides a definitive signal that no sections remain to be documented. Transcribers may waste time second-guessing silence without a clear ending. They cannot assume a recording has ended unless directly stated.
For instance, you can end your dictation with something like “This is Eric Henderson, end of the dictation.” Declaring an ending removes ambiguity. It gives transcription services the confidence to finalize transcripts for delivery or review promptly. This clear completion statement improves turnaround times and efficiency. For long group dictation with multiple speakers, restate your name and end of dictation after your portion.
Review and Request For Feedback
You can request constructive criticism from transcriptionists on clarity, pacing, and organization. Their professional insights identify areas needing improvement. You can also share feedback on document accuracy and completeness. Provide additional context if terminology usage appears confusing to smoothen out the editing and proofreading process.
Remember, open communication strengthens working relationships between dictators and transcribers. Discuss challenges arising and troubleshoot ways to prevent recurring issues. Reviewing transcripts builds trust and establishes best practices. The goal is fluent, effortless dictation and transcription tailored to your needs. Treat skilled transcribers as partners; their input will sharpen your abilities in the long run.
Ditto Transcripts is a HIPAA- and CJIS-compliant, Denver, Colorado-based transcription company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcription services to companies and agencies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial. Visit our website for more information about our transcription services.