Start Page: Use Voice Memo and Drafts to transcribe dictations

Start Page: Seth WilsonOne of the best features of an iPhone is voice dictation. For a legal professional, the ability to turn talk into text is a great feature. Lawyers have generally been good at leveraging dictation and transcription services. Typically, that was done with a standalone dictation device, expensive transcription software and someone to do the typing. Now, your iPhone can do most of that process for you, thanks to the Drafts and Voice Memo apps.

Set up Voice Memos

Your iPhone has a voice recorder built in called Voice Memos. It also appears on the Mac/iPad and syncs using iCloud. Find and open the app. Press the big red record button. Talk. Press the record button again to stop the recording. If you want, you can name the recording. If you ever used a traditional Dictaphone, you will be familiar with this process. The difference is that you don’t have to download the file created by the iPhone to your dictation software.

Note, when recording, include any punctuation commands (e.g., Dear John “comma”). It is best to speak clearly and somewhat slowly so that the iPhone can accurately transcribe what you were saying. That said, try to speak as naturally as possible. As dictation has gotten better, it will “read” the correct context of your words and make corrections as you go, with pretty accurate results.

Set up Drafts

If you don’t have Drafts, search for it in the App Store. There is a premium/subscription version of the app, but the free version should be fine for the use described in this article (at least at the time of writing).

Once the app is downloaded, simply open it and start typing a note. According to its App Store description, the app is summarized as: “Drafts, where text starts. Quickly capture text and send it almost anywhere!”

At its core, Drafts is an app that allows you to start typing text as soon as it is opened. Then, once that text is written, you can do something with that text (e.g., send a text message). It is available on iPhone, iPad and/or Mac. There is not enough space in this article to highlight all of Drafts’ features, but the more you use it, the more it will make sense to you and the more you will see what is possible.

In a recent update, Drafts added the ability to transcribe voice recordings you share with it from Voice Memos.

Transcribe your Voice

Go back to the Voice Memo app. On the voice recording you just made, find the “…” surrounded by a circle symbol. Tap and find the Share button. Tap the share button and find the Drafts app. Note: If Drafts does not appear, scroll the list all the way to the left and tap “More.” Tap “Edit” and add Drafts to your favorites. Back at the “Share” screen, tap Drafts and Drafts will ask if you want to transcribe the recording you just did. Tap “Transcribe” and let Drafts turn your voice into text.

Once the transcription is complete, click “Create” and the note appears. You can edit the text and then do whatever you need to do with your note.

Suggested uses

One way I use this feature is capturing ideas/doing a “brain dump.” I may record a Voice Memo using the Bluetooth system in my car, separating ideas by using the phrase “new line” for each idea. As an example, I might say “buy milk,” pause for a second, and then say “new line,” pause, “email client regarding contract,” along with the text of the email. I try to visualize how the text would appear if I were using voice dictation on my device.

One of the benefits of using the voice recording instead of voice dictation is that I don’t have to look at the screen while I’m recording. I can simply talk and am not interrupted by other notifications or trying to edit the voice dictation as soon as it appears.

Another benefit is that I have the recording to reference if the transcription is not clear. I can listen to the recording again instead of guessing at what I was trying to say.

Additionally, it saves my team from having to transcribe my dictations. Now, I have the text of what I said and can send that wherever it needs to go. This can be really helpful for time-shifting work. I can record whenever and wherever and then use Drafts to send to my team easily. My team has my thoughts in text form that can be copied and pasted, better using their time. Win win!

Try this feature to take your dictation game to the next level.•

Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Attorneys in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. He writes about legal technology at and is a frequent speaker on the subject. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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