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What Is Dictation Speed?

Dictation speed is the speed at which a person listening can transcribe words. Dictation is the process of reciting words put into writing by another person.


Dictation occurs when people speak and their discourse is transcribed. The person speaking the words is dictating; while another person listens and transcribes them or the words are recorded on a machine for transcription later. The rate at which the person transcribes the words is known as dictation speed. Dictation speed is the number of words transcribed per minute.


Dictation is used for many reasons, but most commonly in the courtroom setting or medical offices. Many courtroom jobs require workers with a relatively high speed of transcribing dictated words. Court stenographers use a specialized system to enable them to quickly take dictation during court proceedings. Doctors often dictate notes about their patients onto a recording device which are then transcribed into patients written files. Other jobs that use dictation are clerk-typists, clerk-stenographer, data transcriber and office automation clerks.


According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a requirement of a clerk or stenographer is the ability to transcribe dictated words at a rate of between 80 and 120 words per minute. Dictation can be performed live or is recorded on a machine.


Jennifer VanBaren started her professional online writing career in 2010. She taught college-level accounting, math and business classes for five years. Her writing highlights include publishing articles about music, business, gardening and home organization. She holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting and finance from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.