Dictation Guide

How To Dictate

When using a Dictation unit, one of the key-criteria is often a desire to improve productivity. As an author it is important that in doing so – you do not decrease that of support people around you.

These simple rules will assist the speedy and accurate completion of transcription:

  • Position the recorder level with your chin and approximately the width of your hand outwards
  • Try to hold the position relatively constant (movement away will cause your voice to become fainter, holding it too close will cause excessive breath noise when speaking/breathing)
  • Speak in a clear and natural way, state the name of the client (and client reference if applicable), date required and whether a draft or not.
  • Dictation is team-work. Be pleasant while dictating and remember that there is a person at the other end of the recording. Speak clearly –no mumbling, chewing or background distractions - and try not to cut off words. Listen to yourself if you are in doubt.
  • Clearly state what you expect back; is it a letter, memo, report, form etc. and on what kind of paper – letterhead, memo, plain paper etc.
  • Beware of “sound-alike” words e.g..: accept/except; affect/effect; advise/advice. Confusing words should be spelled when dictating. This will help secretarial accuracy and produce better first results.
  • For difficult technical or once-only terms, consider using the International Spelling Code:
A Alpha J Juliet S Sierra
B Bravo K Kilo T Tango
C Charlie L Lima U Uniform
D Delta M Mike V Victor
E Echo N November W Whisky
F Foxtrot O Oscar X X-Ray
G Golf P Papa Y Yankee
H Hotel Q Quebec Z Zulu
I India R Romeo    


  • Spell out proper names and difficult words.
  • Identify and list those people who are to receive copies of the document.
  • If a final document, state how the document is to go; Email, Post, Fax etc and if there is a specific deadline when it must be ready.
  • State Paragraphs, Headings and Sub-headings. The technical nature of some work makes this difficult for secretaries to guess.
  • Remember it may not be your secretary who types your work and other support staff may not know your ‘style’.
  • Indicate punctuation, particularly commas. Be sure to say “open” and “close” for quotes and parentheses.
  • At the end of your letter state if enclosures are attached.
  • Do not leave large pauses and always say when you have ended dictation.


Quick-Guide to dictation:

  • What? (email / letter / memo / fax?)
  • Whom? (company / person / title)
  • Subject
  • Action By?
  • Deadline?
  • Enclosures?
  • Copies to?
  • Send by: Email / Post / Fax / Courier?

Fundamentals of Successful Speech Recognition

  • Familiarise yourself with Microphone control and ensure the Cursor location is known.
  • Follow Dictation / Transcription workflow & habits for good dictating
    • Speak as naturally as possible (DO NOT speak slowly; speak in entire sentences not words)
    • Make sure you speak confidently and enunciate clearly in sentence structures not word by word. Try thinking about what you want to say before you start speak, this will help you speak in longer, natural phrases
  • Review transcribed text for misrecognitions and grammatical mistakes
  • Correct mistakes using one of the proper speech recognition correction process
    • Mouse control
    • Voice control
    • Keyboard control
  • Learn the difference between issuing Commands vs. Dictation
  • Utilise self created voice commands for the greatest productivity and efficiency gains

Things speech recognition does poorly:

  • People's names and physical addresses are so unique and numerous in spelling you may need to specifically train in frequently used names / spellings
  • Single word entries – speak sentences or paragraphs to maximise accuracy.

For answers to Frequently Asked Questions please visit our blog SBS Update  

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The idiot's guide to dictation
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