Instead of typing on a keyboard, speak your words into a transcription program.

The medical and legal professions commonly use transcription–the work of turning speech into written words–to save and archive information. It was once the sole responsibility of human transcribers. A 2001 study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded that computer voice-recognition programs were almost as accurate as a human transcriber and much cheaper. Not all such programs are made alike. Compare the features of each one to find a program that works best for you.


1. Research the programs’ computer and operating system requirements. This is a quick way to narrow your search, since some programs only run on a specific type of computer or need a certain set of computer hardware features.

2. Review what word processing programs work with the transcription software. This is the program in which your words appear as you speak. Most transcription programs are compatible with Microsoft Word and have varying levels of compatibility with other programs. Individuals who use a specialty word processing program must ensure their favorite program is compatible with the transcription software.

3. Compare the software’s ability to follow commands. Some transcription programs simply convert your spoken words into text, word-for-word. Others have the capability to understand spoken orders, such as highlighting and copying text or inserting specific kinds of punctuation. A command-capable program is ideal for users who want a completely hands-free transcription process.

4. Check the transcription software’s level of customization when it comes to vocabulary. Some allow little to no customization, while others let you import new words and delete old words. Individuals who plan on transcribing specialty subjects that have unique sets of vocabulary, such as a specific medical field, will want a program with a customizable vocabulary.

5. See if the software has the ability to understand accents or calibrate itself to your style of speaking. Most programs will allow you to calibrate them by asking you to speak certain sets of predetermined words. Others offer additional features that adjust to major types of accents, such as the southern U.S. drawl. Opt for programs with the latter ability to ensure the highest possible rate of accuracy.