Writers and voice recognition software: deadly enemies or best friends?

Having had a fierce hatred for voice recognition software for years, I was finally calmed down by the charming and erudite Neil Sleight at a business networking do recently. He told me to stop spitting fur and feathers about it because today, there is voice recognition software that actually works. I asked Neil to tell us more. Here he is… 

Writers and voice recognition software: deadly enemies or best friends?

All you need to do is to dictate your work and as you speak, you will see your words appear in your document on the screen in front of you.

If you regularly create documents using Microsoft Word or send and receive emails, you may have considered using voice recognition software, or may even have tried it in the past.

If this is so, you may have found that it wasn’t transcribing your speech accurately and was more trouble than it was worth.

However all this has now changed dramatically … and it is a genuine productivity tool. You will be surprised by how good it is now, and what you can do just by talking…

What was wrong with earlier voice recognition software

If I’m being honest, voice recognition software was very frustrating for users up until about 6-7 years ago. Everyone could see the potential, but it wasn’t quite good enough.

But of course technology is advancing all the time. And not only are computers more powerful, but also for voice recognition software, the speech engine driving the transcription of what you say is now more accurate and reliable.

In addition, the quality of the microphone and sound system that you use is also greater than in the past.

The latest versions are using technology called Deep Learning, which is a precursor to artificial intelligence, and it really gets to know how you talk!

Do writers feel naked when you take their keyboards away?

This is a different way of working in that most people are used to using a computer keyboard, and some find it difficult to adapt working without one.

I was talking to a client of mine recently who is now using voice recognition but was finding it difficult.

He said “I find it difficult to talk and think at the same time,” to which I replied, “but that’s what you’re doing now, just by speaking to me!”

In reality, many people find using a computer keyboard difficult initially and the average typing speed is 30-40 words per minute.

On the other hand, people learn to talk naturally from a young age and some people find it very easy to talk for long periods of time. (Note from Suze: even speaking very slowly, you’re likely to achieve at least 100 words per minute when you’re talking. Do the math.)

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So, in practice, all you need to do is to dictate your work and as you speak, you will see your words appear in your document on the screen in front of you.

However, if for any reason the accuracy is low, this will lead to frustration and a vicious circle where you try to improve it but just make matters worse.

Although it might sound daft, there is a ‘proper’ way to speak to your computer to make it work well from the first five minutes.

So how do writers (and business folks who write) make friends with voice recognition software?

Windows computers provide a free version of voice recognition but by far and away the best and most well known of the applications is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which has been around for 20 years or so.

It is now very accurate and as well as dictating text or emails, you can virtually control your computer using voice commands if you wish.

This is extremely useful for people who have disabilities such as RSI, arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome because they no longer need to use either a keyboard or a mouse.

It is also brilliant for people with dyslexia who often say to me, “I know what I want to say but cannot write it down – however I CAN talk about it.”

One feature that is not well known is the ability to ‘store’ frequently used text such as a standard paragraph and call it with a single voice command.

Another is the ability to create blog posts and other documents using your mobile phone or a digital recorder whilst working away from your office.

I often use my phone to dictate something that will later go in a document, send this recording via Dropbox to my PC and have Dragon transcribe it when I am still out and about.

There is then a Microsoft Word document waiting for me when I get back to my office.

Finally, you can quickly edit text within your document and define whether text should be formatted in bold or underlined, all with simple voice commands


Writers and voice recognition software: deadly enemies or best friends?

Neil Sleight

Neil Sleight is an accredited trainer for Dragon and has been using the software for 20 years.

For his clients in central England he offers a no-risk guarantee with his training, so if you are not satisfied that it will help you, he will take it away at no charge to you. For more information email him on neil@talkingtypist.co.uk or call him on +44 (0)7973 171668.

Needless to say, this article has been written using Dragon