Transcription Services Canada Dictating Numbers and Dates

Numbers can be a problem for dictators, and consequently for transcriptionists.  Developing a few good dictation habits can go a long way towards more accurately transcribed documents.  It’s easy to dictate numbers and dates so that there are no misunderstandings as to what value they have.  

It’s important that dictated numbers are easily understood by the transcriptionist.  The “teen” numbers can be confused with “ty” numbers, as in 13 / 30, 14 / 40, 15 / 50/ 16 / 60, 17 / 70, 18 / 80 and 19 / 90.  For example, when you dictate 14, say “Fourteen, that’s one, four”, or 50, say “Fifty, that’s five, zero”.

Canadian Social Insurance and American Social Security numbers have nine digits and are said in three phrases, as in 123 456 789.  You also say your phone number in three phrases, as in 555 555 1234.  You don’t say 55 55551 234, which would be confusing to the person hearing this.  Medical numbers and other numbers also have a pace or rhythm to them.  When you are dictating numbers, understand the pattern or “number pace” of the numbers that you are dictating, to help make them as clear as possible to the transcriptionist. 

When you are dictating long numbers, tell the transcriptionist how many numbers long it is, to ensure that it’s transcribed properly.  Pause between groups of numbers and try to keep a pattern.  If your dictating a 15 digit number, then dictate it in three groups of five, and not with random pauses.  And remember, the number ‘0’ is zero, not ‘oh’ which is a letter.  So 40, is dictating as “40, that’s four, zero” and not “40, that’s four, oh”. 

Decimal places, such as in lab results, are dictated as such.  For example, Serum Potassium is 4.6 mmol/L the numbers are dictated as “four decimal six”, and not “four point six”.

Dates can be confusing if the transcriptionist is not certain what format you are using.  While the standard in the US is month, day, year, in Canada the standard is day, month, year.  There’s also the international standard of year month date, which is often used on government documents.  There are also other formats such as numerical day, letter month, and numerical year (15 May 2014).  As well, years can be dictated with two or four letters.  Let your transcriptionist or transcription company know which format you prefer, such as 15 May 2014, 05/15/14 or 05/15/2014.     

Taking a moment to consider what numbers you’ll be dictating before you begin can result in a more accurately transcribed document.  Numbers – dates, laboratory results, identification numbers and so are – are difficult to remember.  The clearer they are when you dictate, the less of your time you’ll spend looking up and checking values and editing your transcribed documents. 


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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