Using Dictation in Office 365 Apps


Sometimes it takes much less time to dictate something than it does to type it. That doesn't mean that typing isn't important or shouldn't be a learned skill, but occasionally there are situations where dictation on a computer is necessary or saves significant amounts of time. This tip is going to focus on how to activate, utilize, and deactivate dictation in Office 365 apps.

Dictation can be performed in OneNote, Outlook (desktop version only), PowerPoint, and Word. It can also be used when running a screen reader, which has not always been the case.

Using the built-in dictation tool may not have every single bell and whistle that is available within products such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or J-Say, but it certainly has its place.

Is my Computer Set Up to Use Dictation?

To use dictation, you’ll need to make sure that your computer station has a microphone either within the monitor or plugged in externally.

The first time you use dictation, you may be asked to set it up. Follow the prompts in the setup assistant. If you need further support, please contact the Help Desk. There is also a link in the resource portion of this document.

Starting and Stopping Dictation

The key command to start or stop dictation is Alt + Grave Accent. The grave accent is located to the left of the number one in the number row.

There is also a dictation icon on the Home Ribbon that resembles a microphone. It is about two-thirds of the way across the top of the ribbon area on the right side.

Once dictation is started using either the key command or clicking the icon, you will hear a sound that indicates that dictation is active. At that point, as you speak, text appears across the screen.

You may stop dictation three different ways. Regardless of which method used, dictation will play a sound indicating it has stopped listening and will not respond until you enable it again.

1. Say “stop dictation” and a sound will play indicating dictation has stopped

2. Press Alt + Grave Accent. Dictation will pause until you enable it again.

3. Click on the microphone icon in the Ribbon or the icon in the dictation toolbar at the bottom center of your screen.

How can I Interact with Dictation?

Individuals not using a screen reader may interact with text as it is being dictated. For example, if a word is underlined in red to indicate a misspelling, the user may click on that word and correct the error without stopping dictation. The user may elect to stop speaking while visually re-reading the text that is entered and make necessary changes with the mouse and keyboard.

If a screen reader is being used, it is advisable to pause and resume dictation if changes are needed. While listening to the user speak, the words being spoken appear across the screen, but the screen reader does not echo them back as though they were being typed. Therefore, it isn’t necessary or possible to edit the dictated text and speak text simultaneously.

Access to the Dictation Toolbar

The Dictation Toolbar is visually located in the bottom middle area of the screen. It can be easily accessed with the mouse as the toolbar is always located at the forefront of the document.

Those using screen readers may use F6 to jump to the Dictation Toolbar. Once the screen reader is focused there, the user may use Tab to navigate the different areas of the toolbar such as settings, help, dictation button, and the close button If dictation needs adjustments such as the language being recognized or the user wants to enable the Profanity Filter, this is where those could be accessed to make the appropriate changes.

What can I say When Using Dictation?

There are a number of useful things you can say during dictation that will assist you with punctuation and formatting.

It is important to keep in mind that saying the exact required phrase is very important or the command you have given will not execute properly.

Following are a sample list of commands you can use.

  • New Line – Inserts a new

  • Period or Full Stop – Inserts a period and capitalizes the next word spoken

  • Comma – Inserts a comma

  • Question Mark – Inserts a question mark and capitalizes the next word spoken

  • Exclamation Point – Inserts an exclamation point and capitalizes the next word spoken

  • Open or Close Parenthesis – Inserts the parenthetical markings

  • Bold – Enables or disables bolding of text

  • Delete Specific Word – Deletes a specified word no matter where the curser is located

  • Backspace – Backspaces over the previous character

  • Delete Last Sentence – Deletes the previous sentence

  • Backspace X Times – Backspaces a specified number of times

  • Delete Last X Words – Deletes a specified number of words

A more complete list is available in the first link in the resource section. Note you will need to be sure to select a language from the drop-down menu before the table will load.

Key Takeaways

1. Dictation is available in Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook (installed app only)

2. Dictation can be performed with a screen reader running and access to the Dictation Toolbar can be performed by using F6.

3. The first time Dictation is used, there may be some setup required. Follow the prompts given the first time you activate Dictation.

4. The key command to start or stop dictation is Alt + Grave Accent

5. Simple formatting what you’ve dictated can be done simply by speaking the correct words


Dictate in Microsoft 365 – Microsoft Support

Dictate in Word on the Web

Dictate in Word 365 Desktop App

How to Dictate Text in Microsoft Office (includes information on setup)