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Writing and Publishing

The Benefits of Using Dictation Software to Write

I’m a huge fan of dictation and use it for all my writing, not only my first draft but even as I edit. Using dictation, I can write about two thousand words an hour—compared to about five hundred words typing. My dictated words come out in pretty good shape, about 90 percent of the way there. 

Although some people claim five thousand words an hour from dictation, I’m not one of them. Yes, I talk fast and could dictate ten to fifteen thousand words per hour, but those words would require so much editing to make them worthless. Therefore, I slow down, think about what I want to say, and say it. I’m pleased with the results and the speed.

I pursued dictation for two reasons. One was to write faster. The other was to protect my aching wrists. Despite doing the recommended exercises and taking frequent breaks, my wrist often throbbed after writing several hours a day, day after day.

Thanks to dictation, my wrists don’t hurt anymore, but now I need to protect my voice. Drink lots of water when dictating. Avoid carbonated beverages, milk, and coffee.

By the way, I’m a poor candidate for dictation. First, you should dictate in complete sentences, but I don’t. Most of the time, I don’t know how a sentence will end when I frame the beginning in my mind. Therefore, my dictation gushes out as a disjointed hodgepodge of sentence fragments and phrases. 

Second, I don’t enunciate well. And I often pronounce the same word in two ways. This trait makes it hard for the dictation software and requires a critical eye to catch errors, which are sometimes comical, albeit infuriating. As a result, my dictated work needs a bit more editing. Though my overall production speed using dictation isn’t four times faster, it’s certainly more than three times as much.

For full disclosure, using dictation has had unexpected side effects. It has resulted in a slowdown of my typing speed and has been a further hit to my spelling challenges. Still, dictation stands as a more-than-equitable trade-off, more than tripling my production speed, while avoiding carpal tunnel surgery.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Using Dictation Software to Write Fiction

Speaking your punctuation when dictating slows you down, but it is possible to do

So far I’ve only used dictation to write nonfiction. My next step is fiction. This becomes a little bit more complex because we must speak our punctuation. And dialogue requires much more of it.

For example, here is how I would speak a line of dialogue when using dictation software. (To make this display for you correctly, I will pause the dictation and type this out.)

Here’s what I would say:

“Open quote would you look at that question mark closed quote she asked period”

This would result in the following appearing on my computer monitor:

“Would you look at that?” She asked.

If you never tried dictation, I’m sure this seems convoluted to you. However, I recommend starting with easier things that only require basic punctuation, such as periods, exclamation points, question marks, and commas.

The sentence-ending punctuation came to me quite easily, and I mastered them within a few minutes. However, for commas. I needed some practice before I could remember to speak to them.

Using parentheses, quotation marks, hyphens, and dashes require a bit more thought and a lot more focus. However, with practice, these things almost become second nature, and over time they can begin to flow with ease.

However, I recommend starting with the basic commands and then gradually adding others as you become comfortable writing using dictation. Of course, if something doesn’t display as you intend, you can always fix it in the editing phase.

Although you can use dictation software to edit your work, too, I don’t recommend it. In fact, I’ve never heard any writer who did. They use dictation to create their first draft and then go old school by placing their hands on the keyboard. However, the knowledge that you can use dictation software to edit your work will give some writers a cause for celebration, because typing is either difficult for them or impossible. Being able to control their computer with their voice will empower them to write with greater ease.

Editing aside, I encourage anyone who writes a lot or is serious about writing faster to give dictation a try. I suspect that, like me, you will quickly embrace it is a key technological tool you won’t want to do without.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Use Dragon Speech Recognition Software to Write Faster

Celebrate the benefits of using your voice to produce your first draft

A couple of years ago I heard about authors using dictation to write the first draft of their books. Although intrigued by the idea of using speech-to-text software to write, I dismissed it as impractical. However, as more and more writers extolled the virtues of speech recognition software, I decided to test dictation for myself.

Aside from the promise of being able to write faster, there’s also the realization that by using my voice instead of my fingers for my first draft, I save my wrists from the hint of strain that sometimes plagues me.

Google Docs: For my initial test, I sought a no-cost evaluation. Accessing Google Docs from a Chrome browser presents the option for “voice typing” under the tools tab. Its basic command set results in a short learning curve. Within minutes I wrote my first blog post using dictation. Even with my first attempt, I realized the time-saving benefits of dictation.

To achieve increased accuracy, I bought a USB headset, which helped quite a bit. For a couple of months I continued to use the voice typing feature in Google Docs to do my first drafts. Then I would copy the results into Word for editing and proofreading.

Dragon: My next step was to get serious with dictation, and I bought the highly recommended Dragon dictation software. All the basics I learned using Google Docs applied to Dragon. However, Dragon with its vast degree of power and flexibility also carries with it a more detailed command set and with it a longer learning curve.

Though I’m still learning some of Dragon’s more powerful capabilities, I’m already seeing great results with the parts of the software I am using. In fact, I like using dictation so well that it seems a chore to type out my words.

Overall, I have reduced the time it takes to produce a first draft by at least 50 percent, possibly up to 75 percent. I must point out, however, that I do have to spend more time editing the words when I dictate. Overall, I presently have about a 33 percent increase in output when factoring in the time saved with dictation and the time added for more editing.

I’m sure that as I continue to use dictation, my speed and efficacy will further increase. I can’t wait!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.


Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

UR Turn: Have You Used Dictation Software to Write?

Authors who use dictation claim a much higher writing speed

I’ve recently been experimenting with using dictation to write and bought a USB headset to reduce dictation errors. So far I’m excited about the process and anxious to get better at it. To accomplish this, I’ve bought Dragon speech recognition software and will begin using it.

What are your thoughts about dictation?

Have you considered it? Did you try it and give up?

If you do dictation, what software and hardware do you use? What are the benefits? What advice can you offer?

Please share your input in the comments below.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.


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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Why You Need a USB Headset for Dictation Success

A quality headset reduces dictation errors

Last week I shared my first steps at using dictation as an alternative way to write. To test dictation I didn’t invest any money in software or hardware, as I merely wanted to do a proof-of-concept before I spent any money.

I used Google Docs, a Chrome browser, and a cheap analog headset that plugged into the audio port on my computer. Though a less-than-ideal configuration, it did confirm that dictation was a viable solution to creating first drafts. Given this arrangement and the fact that I’m new to dictation, I wasn’t discouraged with my accuracy rate of about 80 percent.

Of course, I wanted better. The first step was to try a different headset. However, going from a wired headset to a wireless headset made things worse. So I ordered a mid-range priced USB headset. I’m using it today, and my accuracy rate is increased to the low-90s. I’m elated over this progress.

My next step is to buy Dragon software, a highly recommended dictation tool for writers. With this, and once I train it to my voice, I expect my accuracy rate to go even higher. Of course, my productivity will increase with it.

With dictation, I had to learn to speak my punctuation. Google Docs includes six punctuation phrases, which we need to speak to make them appear on the page. These are period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, new line, and new paragraph. (I understand Dragon software has a greater array of commands.)

I was amazed to see how quickly I got used to saying these punctuation codes. After only a few sessions, they flowed quite easily.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, the focus is on the headset.

I needed a better one. My old analog headset, which didn’t work so well, cost about $20 some seven years ago. The wireless headset I tried, which also plugged into my computer analog port, was even older.

The recommendation to minimize dictation errors is to use a USB headset. This has a digital interface instead of analog, which allows for better volume consistency for dictation.

With my analog headsets, I would frequently get warnings that the software was having trouble hearing me. When this happened my error rate increased or the recording stopped. Once I switched to the USB headset these problems went away.

The USB headset I bought was a mid-range product. With shipping, it cost less than $50. The result of my increase in dictation quality was worth the investment.

I’m now pursuing dictation with even more excitement, and the introduction of professional dictation software should help make the process go better and faster. I can hardly wait.

I’ll share more once the software is installed, and I begin using it.

Until then, happy writing.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.


Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.