Creating a Transcription

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 29, 2022)
This tip applies to Word Word in Microsoft 365 and 2021


Tanya has heard that Word includes a tool that will transcribe audio files. She's not sure how to use it, and she's not even sure if it is available in her version of Word. She is looking for an idea of how to start it, if anything special is needed, and how accurate it is.

The capability to transcribe audio—either from a microphone or from an audio file—has been in Word for about two years, since late 2020. It was first introduced in the version of Word provided with Microsoft 365, and is now available in Word 2021. What has changed over the last two years, though, is how the tool is used.

On the Home tab of the ribbon you'll see, near the right side, a tool called Dictate. If you have a version of Word that is installed on your system—such as with Microsoft 365 or Word 2021—then Word immediately tries to access your microphone so that you can start dictating. If you are using a version of Word that is cloud-based—which means Microsoft 365 Premium—then you're presented with a choice to use the microphone or transcribe an audio file.

If you upload a file, it can take a few minutes for it to upload and process. (Those "few minutes" will, of course, depend on the size of the audio file, its length, and the speed of your Internet connection.) When the transcription is complete, it will appear in a task pane at the right side of the document. You can make edits directly in the pane, or you can copy information from the pane into your document. If you are dictating using your PC's microphone, whatever you dictate will appear directly in your document.

It should be noted that the cloud-based version of the tool used to have a limit on how many files and aggregate file length could be transcribed, but Microsoft has recently removed those limits. Subscribers report that the transcription (or dictation) quality is quite good, with the normal need to double-check and do a final edit on whatever is produced.

Theoretically, if you don't have the version of Word that allows you to upload and transcribe an audio file, you could turn on the dictation tool that uses the microphone and play back the audio file through an player, like an MP3 player. As far as the tool is concerned, the audio playback would simply be someone speaking into the microphone.

If you have a version of Word that doesn't include either the dictate or transcribe tools, then you will need to look for a different solution for your transcriptions. There are many different online solutions, including the following:

There are also a plethora of other services to convert audio files to text, and you can find them by doing an online search for "convert audio to text" (without the quote marks). Different services charge differing fees, as well as having differing quality.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11838) applies to Microsoft Word Word in Microsoft 365 and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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2022-10-29 05:50:41

Robert Love

I take it this tip ("Creating a Transcription") is US-centric and describes features that you have only tried out in English. Have you any information about the quality of the support for dictation and transcription in other languages? Thanks.

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