Physicians Dictating for the First Time

We all want to sound coherent and intelligent when we dictate.  The reality is that, like all skills, dictating is something that you need to practise to get good at.

From a medical transcriptionist’s perspective, the best dictators do the following:

    1. Speak clearly
    2. Speak at a reasonable speed (not too quickly and not affected)
    3. Make sure there is no background noise
    4. Dictate from a landline, not a speaker phone or cell phone
    5. Keep digital recorders from touching their lips or face when dictating
    6. Spell names/drugs using the phonetic alphabet where necessary (see
    7. Give clear instructions, including:
      1. New paragraph
      2. Indicate punctuations (comma, period is dictated as ‘stop’, semicolon, etc.)
      3. Indicate open quotes, close quotes, i.e. “xxx”
      4. Indicate open parenthesis, close parenthesis, i.e. (xxx)

And they’re organized and prepared.

Before you begin to dictate:

    1.  Organize your notes, which includes identifying
      1. Referring physician information including address and/or fax number
      2. Patient demographics
      3. Who to copy to on a report and how to send the report (mail or fax)
    2. Develop a template.  Most of your dictations will follow a pattern, either for a letter to a referring physician, a consultation letter or a letter to a third party (e.g. WSIB).  Keep your template outline in front of you as you dictate; it will help to keep you organized as you dictate
    3. Learn how to use your dictation software or your digital recorder settings.  Try out your telephone dictation system before using it for a ‘live’ dictation.  Begin by saying that it is a test and to not transcribe it.  If you have any questions, contact your transcription company or your digital recorder provider.
    4. Learn how to pause the system so you have time to organize your papers and thoughts as you move from one section of your template to another.  Remember that some systems have time out limits and you may be disconnected if you pause the system for too long (180 seconds for 2Ascribe medical transcription dictation program).  If this happens, make sure you identified the next dictation as a continuation of a previous dictation and clearly state (and spell) the patient’s name again.
    5. Consider reviewing some articles on dictating such as one on dictation commands at or one on proper pronunciation and word differentiation at  There are a number of articles on to help you develop your dictating skills.
    6. When you start dictating, state your name and location if it’s relevant, and what kind of report you are dictating, especially if you have more than one template.
    7. If you have to interrupt a dictation, tell the transcriptionist that you will be completing the dictation in another file.  When you start the second half of your dictation, make sure you state at the beginning that this is Part II of a particular file.
    8. When you’re finished dictating, say “End of dictation.  Thank you”.  It’s amazing how this simple act is appreciated. 
    9. Ask for feedback.  And give feedback to the transcriptionist.  The best way to do this is to print out the document and mark it up with any changes you would like, or highlight any errors.  Fax it back to them so they have specific examples of how they can improve.

And most importantly remember, the better the quality of the dictation, the better the quality of the transcribed document.


2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada and the US.  Having recently introduced WEBscribe, a client interface portal for document management, 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers.  As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists and office staff, as well as of general interest.  Additional articles may be found at

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