Dictating to Word

In addition to giving Word commands by voice, you can dictate to Word; Word processes the text you speak and inserts it in your document.

To begin dictation, display the Language Bar by right-clicking on the Restore icon in the Windows taskbar. If Voice Command is selected, click the Dictation button to switch into Dictation mode. Then begin speaking.

Try to speak naturally: Don't speak in the stilted "one-word-at-a-time" tone that early speech-recognition software demanded. Word actually does somewhat better with "natural" language, in which phrases run together.

As you speak, Word inserts a series of colored dots at your insertion point. As Word processes the text you've spoken, it replaces the dots with the text it believes you spoke. Depending on the speed of your computer, Word may be several seconds behind you at any time, or even further behind?don't let that distract you.

When you're ready to stop dictating, either click Voice Command to switch to voice commands, or click the Microphone button again to shut off the microphone.

When you start working with Word's speech-recognition feature, it's unlikely that you'll find it sufficiently reliable, even though you've already run through Word's Speech Recognition Training Wizard. There are, however, several ways you can make Word's speech recognition more accurate over time, as discussed in the following sections.

Making Speech-Recognition Corrections On-the-Fly

If you've just spoken a sentence or phrase and Word has misheard it, you can tell Word what you meant immediately, and Word generally improves its performance the next time you speak that text. To correct a word or phrase, select and right-click on it. A shortcut menu appears, listing the first several alternatives Word considered in addition to the one it chose.

If one of these is correct, select it, and the correct text is inserted in your document. To view still more options, click More (or click Correction on the Language Bar). Word replays the word as you originally spoke it and at the same time displays a list of all the options it considered (see Figure 7.5).

Figure 7.5. Choosing from among all the possibilities Word considered when it recognized what you spoke.


In many cases, you'll still find that none of these is what you actually said?even when Word displays as many as 20 options. What then? Add the word to Word's speech-recognition dictionary manually.

Adding Words to the Speech-Recognition Dictionary Manually

To add a word to the speech-recognition dictionary manually, select the word in your document that Word interpreted incorrectly, and choose Tools, Add/Delete Word(s) on the Language Bar. The Add/Delete Word(s) dialog box opens (see Figure 7.6).

Figure 7.6. Adding or deleting a word in the speech-recognition dictionary.


With the word selected in the Word text box, click Record Pronunciation and speak the word aloud. The word or phrase you spoke now appears in the Dictionary window. To hear it read back to you, double-click on it.


In some cases, you can tell that the problem is a phrase, not a single word. For example, Word may misinterpret the last syllable of one word as the first syllable of the next.

If the problem is with a phrase instead of a single word, don't select the phrase; just open the dialog box and type the phrase there.

If you want to add another word or phrase, you can. If you want to delete a word or phrase from the dictionary, select it and click Delete.


Usually you'll want to delete a word when, even after you recorded it, Word still gets it wrong. You can try recording it again to see whether you can speak more clearly and get better results.

Training Word from an Existing Document

As emphasized, when you begin working with Word's speech-recognition feature, your results are likely to be no better than fair?and quite likely, poor. One reason may be that Word's generic training doesn't reflect the types of content you actually create or the kinds of words you actually use.

To help solve this problem, you can "feed" Word one of your existing documents. It identifies words that aren't in its dictionary and adds them. The result: Word may now recognize these words.

Open an existing document that is representative of the work you normally do. Next, from the Language Bar, choose Tools, Learn from Document. Word builds a list of all the words in the document that do not also appear in the dictionary (see Figure 7.7).

Figure 7.7. The Learn from Document dialog box.


Select the words you want to train Word on and click Add All. Word reads each word aloud in its "text to speech" voice and adds them to the dictionary.

Training Word by Reading Additional Passages

Word provides one more tool for improving the accuracy of speech recognition: You can read additional passages that are different in content from the one you read when you first ran the Speech Recognition Wizard. These excerpts range from Aesop to Bill Gates, The Wizard of Oz to Edith Wharton. Click Next to begin training; as in the original wizard, Word displays a series of screens for you to read aloud.


These excerpts are longer than the excerpt you read to begin training Word. Set aside at least 10 minutes for each excerpt you want to read.

Adjusting the Trade-Off Between Speed and Accuracy

Speech recognition is one of the most computing-intensive tasks your computer is likely to perform, and there's a direct trade-off between speed and accuracy. Because correcting errors takes a lot of time, if you're running a fast computer you may want to adjust that trade-off, improving accuracy at the expense of speed. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. From the Language Bar, choose Tools, Options.

  2. Click the Settings button. The Recognition Profile Settings dialog box appears (see Figure 7.8).

  3. In the Accuracy vs. Recognition Response Time area, drag the slider to the right, toward High/Slow; then click OK twice.

Turning Off the Microphone

You may find that Word hears voice commands and dictation when you're speaking to someone else, or not speaking at all. To temporarily turn off speech recognition, click the Microphone button. If you're in Voice Command mode, you can also speak the words "Microphone Off."

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word