Guide To Better Dictation

No element of office automation can improve your personal productivity like dictation equipment. The Guide To Better Dictation is designed to help EVERYONE, including those in a non-office environment, get the most out of the dictation process.

If you a beginner, this information will save you the frustration of endless trial and error. For those with previous dictation experience, it will refine the skills you already possess. The guide is centered around 12 easily understood and implemented tips essential to better dictation. You'll learn everything from overcoming the fear of diction (commonly referred to as "Dictaphobia"), to the professional way to edit copy for utmost effectiveness.

You'll soon discover that by experimenting with these proven techniques, the benefits of dictation such as highly effective time management, increased organization, improved idea capturing and clear, concise business documentation, can be realized to their full potential.

As you make your way through the booklet, you should follow your instincts, discover which tips work best for you and stick to them. You'll definitely improve your dictating and the Guide To Better Dictation will have done its job.

The 12 Tips Of Good Dictation

There is no single element of the dictation process overlooked more often that transcription. The easier you make it for your transcriber to comprehend your dictation, the better and faster the results will be. The following techniques will help make the process as effortless as possible. Soon you and your transcriber will be working as a team with smoother dictation the result.

Another factor often overlooked is proper preparation BEFORE beginning dictation. Take some time to study and perfect the first three techniques. It will make the subsequent tips all that more effective.

How To Beat The Fear Of Dictation

At the heart of the problem, as with any situation where our words are open to scrutiny, is an overriding feeling of self-consciousness. We all have a fear of exposing personal weaknesses in front of others and in this case it's your transcriber. Here are some tips to overcome this problem:

Relax - you can always change anything you've said later. In fact, today's advanced dictating equipment allows you to stop, back up and correct mistakes on the spot.

Practice - tell yourself it's all just practice. Then recite a previously written piece straight into the mike - it will help you become comfortable with the dictating process and how the equipment operates.

Speak Simply - use a relaxed, normal conversational tone, use everyday words, It makes for dictation that's easily understood and a pleasure to transcribe.

Pace Yourself - think in one sentence at a time, not too fast, not too slow. Discover a pace that's right for you and your transcriber and stick to it.

1. Organize

Perhaps no one tip presented in this guide will improve the results of your dictation more noticeably than organizing BEFORE you begin. List the items you want to include in your document in point form. Now assign each a number according to their importance as they relate to the subject of the piece. Write out every point you believe pertains to the message required. Now review these points and eliminate those that are not essential - it will clean up your document and let your message come through loud and clear.

2. Visualize Your Audience

The key is to keep in mind the audience or the person who will receive your document. Obviously you would speak in a different manner to a fellow worker that a company president - speak appropriately. Ask yourself: Is the audience familiar with the subject of the document? Is an informal or formal tone the correct approach? In either case, speak simply! Since improved communication is the desired result, pay particular attention to your vocabulary and style.

3. Set Priorities

Too many beginners dive into dictation without sorting out the priority of the documents they wish to complete. Failing to do so diminishes one of the major benefits of dictation itself - improved time management. Take the time to sort through your requirements. For example, organize your mail according to the time in which a required response is necessary. Begin with those that need an answer immediately and finish with those that require a meeting or a little research before a response can be made. The result is a dictation process that makes the most of your time as well as the transcriber's time.

4. Identify Yourself

Always try to identify yourself at the beginning of each tape or document. Keep it short and simple - name, job title, department or whatever you feel is necessary. You might also find it helpful to include a date and time as well. In addition, a simple "Hello" to the transcriber can help give the process a personal warmth that will pay large dividends over the long term. Never forget that a person, not a machine, is doing the transcribing.

5. Clear Instructions

Clear instructions can separate weak dictation from strong dictation. Make sure any instruction has a distinctly different sound from material that is part of your document. Simply stating "Instruction" will do the trick.

As you begin each new document, identify it as a memo, letter or report as required. If a special letterhead or form should be used, be sure to point this out to your transcriber. You might also leave instructions on distribution, copies and so on. When you are beginning, you should probably ask for a rough draft first. As you become more efficient, and the transcriber more familiar with your style, this draft step can be eliminated.

6. Clear Dictating

Depending on the equipment, you should keep the microphone about four to eight inches from your lips. Try not to breath into the microphone, it tends to produce a rough sound that will soon irritate your transcriber. Above all, don't chew on pencils, cigars, fingernails or gum as you dictate. Lastly, be aware of background noise that can be distracting to your transcriber.

7. Set Your Pace

It is important to know how your transcriber will listen to a dictated message. He/she depresses the foot pedal and listens to a comfortable set of words, usually between 15 and 25 in total. That much of the sentence is typed and the tape is started forward again by stepping on the pedal. The key to pacing is a proper rhythm, not too fast or too slow, with clear enunciation and phrasing. By concentrating on these elements, your transcriber will quickly become familiar with your style and be able to set a clean, unbroken tempo.

8. Pause

Most of today's recorders have a one-button PAUSE feature - a tremendous aid to dictators and transcribers alike. Correct use of the pause function is especially helpful in facilitating your pacing. As an example, when you're just starting out, very often you'll find yourself at a temporary loss for words. Use the pause button here. Try not to leave long stretches of "dead-air" as it will destroy the rhythm your transcriber has established. Listen to some of your own tapes.

Practice using the pause function. This will help you get the hang of a well-timed pause and its overall effectiveness in the dictation process. Apart from the pause function itself, a well-timed pause in the act of dictating makes the document more fluid sounding to a transcriber. Remember, the ideal combination of pace, timing, phrasing and pausing allows transcribers to "put their foot down" and keep a comfortable pace all the way through a document.

9. Spell It Out

Master this tip and you're well on your way to becoming a true professional of dictation and a true friend of any transcriber. If you use an unusual word, or a word that sounds the same as another, spell it out. You may wish to familiarize yourself with the phonetic alphabet to make you "spell outs" less confusing. Important: Take nothing for granted. As an example, try to spell out any and all proper names, even those that appear very common such as Lewis or Louis, Johnson or Jonsson, Harvey or Harvie, and so on.

10. Please Punctuate

This tip, and how often it is practiced, depends on how familiar you are with the abilities of the transcriber. Some transcribers feel the need for constant punctuation, others find it more distracting than helpful. However, almost ALL transcribers appreciate the indication of more unusual punctuation marks (single or double), hyphens and dashes. Although paragraphs are not considered punctuation proper, it has proved beneficial to indicate the end of paragraphs with a simple "new paragraph" directive.

11. The End?

Particularly when you are dictating more than one document, it is important to specify the end of each piece. This will save the transcriber the hassle of searching through the remainder of the tape for more messages. Perhaps more important, it serves to keep the transcriber from missing any items caused by too much "dead air" between messages, leading to the assumption that there is nothing else on the tape. And speaking of the end, what dictating assignment would be complete without a simple "Thank you, you've been very helpful," closing note to your transcriber? Try it next time.

12. Editing - Be Ruthless

Save yourself time and trouble - check and edit the rough draft of a dictated piece before proceeding to final typing. If you have the draft typed in double space, you should have plenty of room to make corrections and additions as necessary. Here's a good tip for editing. Try to keep your message in the present tense whenever possible. Avoid "can", "could", "should", "have been" and other past and future tense sentence constructions. Also try to pay particular attention to how you refer to the subject of the document. If you initiate with "you" and "we", keep it consistent throughout. This is your chance to remove run-on sentences, faulty constructions, horrendous grammar and other equally heinous crimes against the English language for which we are famous. Remember be ruthless and don't be frightened to try again.

Dictating Without Support Staff

By now you've probably discovered that many of these helpful tips assume that a transcriber is at your disposal. Not everyone has a secretary to transcribe their work. So what is the individual without support staff to do about improving their dictation? Are these tips still effective? The answer is a firm YES! The techniques outlined are ideal for everyone using dictation. Here are some ideas to help those without support staff.

Commercial Transcribing Services

Check in the Yellow Pages under Secretarial Services, Public Stenographer or Typing Services. You should be able to find a business that offers expert transcribing skills. A word of warning - ask for the price.

The Unheralded Expert

This is probably your best bet. It is an undisputed fact that there are many individuals with secretarial skills that are either unemployed or employed on a part-time basis. They will likely be more than happy to help you out for a nominal fee.

A good source for these individuals is your local secretarial or business schools. Help Wanted sections of your local paper or the closest school or university with students eager to make a little extra cash on the side.

The Do-It Yourself Approach

Perhaps there is no quicker way to improve dictating than to do the transcribing yourself. Certainly this is the most cost effective alternative and if nothing else, it will ensure that you learn the tips presented in this book very quickly.

Better Dictation - Right From The Start!

We know you will find this information helpful whether you are a beginner or experienced with the dictation process. A most important piece of advice has been saved for last so you won't forget it easily. Please don't skip when you buy dictation equipment, whether you are buying for the first time or upgrading. Buy a dictation system that employs today's advanced technology - it will be worth it in the long run to avoid frustration and annoyance.

Out-of-date machines often break down under a heavy workload and do not include features that make the dictating process simpler and easier. Dictation is a time saving tool. We recommend that you purchase a system that delivers all the features you need. Quiz someone presently using dictation equipment - they'll point out that a dictation system offering a good combination of technology and price is your best buy.

Dictation Systems offer a full range of formats including standard, mini, our best selling micro cassette recording and desktop transcribing machines and the new digital products. You'll find that each format choice incorporates the state-of-the-art features you'll need to take full advantage of the helpful hints presented in this guide. In addition, Dictation Systems are completely compatible with any of your existing cassette equipment. No element of office automation can improve your personal productivity quite like dictation equipment. We encourage you to study and put into practice The 12 Tips Of Good Dictation. It will ensure you receive the maximum benefit from your dictating system.


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