Imagine being invited to the White House for dinner and instead of using the proper fork for your salad, you use a spoon instead. It is obvious that a spoon would not be an appropriate utensil for a salad, and not to mention improper dinner etiquette. Then why do most attorneys use improper dictation etiquette? The answer is simple, many attorneys have not mastered the art of dictation. Legal documents are typically lengthy and involve very complex language. However, before you deem yourself a dictation misfit, the legal liaison has identified some helpful strategies to assist you.
Clarity is a major component when dictating your thoughts for others to transcribe. So locate a quiet space when recording. After identifying a quiet environment, it is important that you speak directly into the device at a slow, clear and audible level.
When you begin speaking, it is imperative that you indicate the type of document you have dictated. Let the word processor or secretary know in advance whether you have dictated a letter, complaint or agreement. Informing the word processor or secretary of the type of document in advance, allows him/her to determine the document format and style setup.
Punctuation is another dictation etiquette flaw that attorneys experience. Remember, the transcriber is not a mind reader and solely depends on the dictator’s explicit instructions. Here are some basic punctuation commands to help make the process smoother: new paragraph, open quote, close quote, comma, semi-colon, section break symbol, paragraph symbol, initial cap, all caps, bold, center, underline. In other words, you must indicate to the transcriber exactly how you wish the text to appear throughout the dictation process.
Spell out confusing names. There are various ways to spell many words, for example, Janis or Janice and Lee or Leigh. Spelling difficult or unfamiliar words will save you countless editing hours when reading the first draft. However, I would caution not to become an overzealous spelling enthusiast because it will slow down productivity.
Effective communication is the art of dictation. The ability to verbally communicate clearly, concisely and effectively will guarantee a finish product of high quality and professionalism. Mastering these basic dictation techniques will help the transcriber avoid unnecessary mistakes, while building a mutual understanding of how you expect your finish product.