Microsoft Word: A simple solution to a new issue with Word's speech recognition tool

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I have used Microsoft Word's speech recognition tool for years, and I've been very pleased with how well it works. However, I've recently upgraded to a new computer and a new edition of Word, and now my speech recognition tool records voice into a dialog box rather than onto my Word document. This dialog box doesn't hold many words, and I must verbally repeat the command "Insert" frequently to send the recorded text to the Word document, which interrupts my dictation efforts. This seems like a step backward. Is there any solution?

A. By default, later versions of Microsoft's speech recognition tool record your dictation into a dialog box called the dictation scratchpad (pictured below), which, I agree, is annoying.

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You can solve this issue easily by right-clicking the Speech Recognition tool, and then selecting Options and unchecking the menu item labeled Enable dictation scratchpad, as pictured below. Thereafter, the speech recognition tool will skip the dialog box and translate your spoken words directly onto your Word document.

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For those who have never tried speech recognition, this tool has been included in either Office or Windows for more than 20 years. To use this tool, navigate to your Control Panel window (for example, in Windows 10, right-click the Start button and select Control Panel), and select Speech Recognition. Select the Set up microphone option and follow the instructions to ensure your microphone is set up properly. Next, select the Train your computer to better understand you option and read text to your computer so it can start to learn your voice patterns. Generally, I find it takes about 10 minutes of reading to a new computer (called voice training) for me to obtain fairly good speech recognition results, and 90 minutes of training to obtain very good speech recognition results. Without any voice training, the speech recognition tool does not typically provide satisfactory results. You should also be aware that the quality of your microphone and the acoustics in your office/workspace can affect the ability for speech recognition to deliver acceptable results. Microsoft recommends you use a headset with a boom microphone for the best speech recognition results. First-timers should also select the Take Speech Tutorial option to view a short video on using the tool. Finally, select the Start Speech Recognition option to turn the tool on, navigate to Word (or whatever program you want to use), click the microphone to turn on Listening, and then start talking.

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While speech recognition will work well almost instantly, it takes a little time to get used to using it. Your brain is conditioned to using keyboard to transfer your thought to the computer, and talking out loud may seem unnatural at first. With a little practice, most users eventually find speech recognition to be a fast and more preferred input method compared to typing on a keyboard in many situations.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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