How to Learn Dictation


Dictation is when one person speaks and another writes down the words as they are spoken. The person talking is dictating and the person writing, often in shorthand, is taking dictation. There was a time the ability to take dictation was a major requirement for employment if one aspired to become a secretary or administrative assistant. While few secretaries still take dictation, the practice is still in use in some professions, such as courtroom reporters and medical transcriptionists. Courtroom reporters or stenographers are required to transcribe a high volume of testimony at a high rate with no errors. Doctors often dictate patient notes onto a digital recording device, which are then transcribed into patient's files by a transcriptionist.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital recording device
  • Steno-type machine (if you are court reporting)
  • Computer with a modern word processing program
  • Buy a shorthand workbook at a bookstore or online seller such as There are plenty of shorthand workbooks available from online book sellers such as or The top-selling shorthand workbook on currently is "EasyScript I: Learn to Take Fast Notes in a Matter of Hours," by Leonard Levin.

  • Go online to the many free dictation and shorthand course websites, and practice using common shorthand techniques. Among the more popular sites are and

  • Take a college-level shorthand class. Local community colleges usually offer courses in beginning and continuing education shorthand and dictation. Because of the instruction level and the curriculum, taking a class is the best way to learn to take dictation in shorthand.

Tips & Warnings

  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management lists a requirement of a clerk or stenographer is the ability to transcribe dictated words at a rate of 80 to 120 words per minute

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  • Photo Credit notebook with pencil image by Ana Blazic from
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