How do you ensure your not being too wordy when writing formal documents with dictation?

I’m a teacher in special education and have to write some formal documents for students accommodations for class. I usually dictate my writing as it goes smoother and I’m able to get my thoughts on paper faster.

That said I was told by my instructional coach that my writing was too “fluffy” and wordy. I’ve been told that before especially as I’ve dictated. My thinking is that I can just dictate the document and then go over with a fine tooth comb proofreading. I’m able to get the document written and then fix it up is my thought. Otherwise I find myself slowly writing if trying to type it out.

Anyone have any insights or thoughts this?

Get your thoughts down with dictation. When you edit, do so with a purpose and a time limit. You may for example do the editing in stages

  • Correct mistakes quickly
  • Tighten phrasing in 15 min or less
  • Tie it up in 2 min

When the criticism is not about the content, limit yourself to how far you go to edit content after the dictation.

Perhaps also ask someone to volunteer to proofread your before and after results. Ask them to tell you whether you are going in the right direction.


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Not a direct answer, but once you have language you like you could save it as boiler plate in text expander or the equivalent.

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I think dictating the first draft is an excellent way to go about it. I wouldn’t change that.

Sounds like maybe you just need to devote more time and attention to the subsequent drafts and the editing. Which means you’re in the same boat as about 99 percent of people who ever write anything.

One other thing - it sounds like these are bureaucratic documents to secure accommodations for students, correct? In which case there are probably some key terms or phrases that need to be in the documents, and the rest may not matter much. Focus on student outcomes and don’t sweat the rest.


Yeah I think to that I’ll down the line create a list of phrases/terms to include that will be helpful.

In my experience the best advice is simple:

Edit ruthlessly.


Select the text and have you Mac speak it out for you.


Maybe jot down an outline before hand to help keep focus

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Outline first(nothing wrong with just dictating to find your thoughts either), dictate then edit. But, sometimes I find that I can make my “edits” faster, by making a second dictation with my corrections because dictation is so fast.

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Thanks all for the advice. Taking another crack at it today. I do outline according to the template that is used that prompts what needs to be answered by the document.

I found my biggest frustration is working on a multiple page document in Microsoft Word is overwhelming to me. As such I have decided to throw it over to Scrivener where I can break it apart and easily work on a section at a time. Allows me to focus on one aspect of it and isn’t as daunting.

My work wants me to write in Microsoft Word as I have it shared with my colleague so she can look it over before submitting. I get it in theory but I now know as a reminder I don’t work best writing multi-page documents in Word. As I finish stuff I will copy stuff over so my colleague can see it.


I despise Word. When collaborating with my PI, I write in LaTeX, create the PDF, open in Word for Windows and save as a .docx file. Pandoc is also decent at creating .docx files from LaTeX, markdown, etc. All to avoid writing in Word. Once (many times) burned, twice shy.

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That’s just your style. I’ve had people occasionally comment that I’m making up words etc. I tend to ignore them as I love to write and I write well (practice).

As you are wordy, the powers that be may have a tinge of envy. Most people find writing difficult. Writing to someone else’s “style” is frustrating and hard. Writing is a form of communication. If you are getting your point across then someone else shouldn’t be giving you such a hard time. Writing up Special Ed reports don’t warrant such micromanagement, IMHO.

Dictation I find to be a difficult skill. I’ve had very little practice. Maybe if you jot down key words beforehand- that might help.


It’s a habit to write and edit tight. Lots of info on the web to find. It also takes time, especially if you’ve spent your life writing more freely.

Lots of tricks, like killing redundant words, swatting over explaining, nuking anything that could be interpreted as ‘yadayadayada,’ pretending you’re being charged by the word.

I’ve learned a lot about writing from Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Institute. A decade ago he put out this still-available podcast of 50 writing tips, each just a couple of minutes long, which he later expanded into a book. (You can see a summary listing of the tips here.) He’s written over a dozen books on writing, but you might be most interested in 2014’s How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.