We live in a world where it feels like everything needs to be better and faster. Writers are also experiencing overuse injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, from typing. It's not surprising then, that dictation and speech-to-text have become popular methods of writing.
Many authors successfully use dictation and speech-to-text apps to achieve their daily word count goals.
Dictation and Speech-to-Text
Before we dive in, it's worth noting that dictation and speech-to-text aren’t the same thing. Dictation involves an additional step compared to speech-to-text.
When you dictate, getting your words into a software program is a two-step process. First you record what you want to say and then what you’ve said is transcribed into your software program.
With speech-to-text, you speak directly into the software program where you will edit your writing, skipping a step. With both dictation and speech-to-text, there is a chance that what you say won’t translate to the page the way you intend.
To dictate, all you need is a recording device. Smartphones work great and many transcription services have a smartphone app that makes uploading your recording to their website super easy. I’ve used Rev.com successfully and have heard good things about TranscribeMe.
Recording yourself talking then transcribing the recording can work quite well. I used this method for my first non-fiction book. Now that I’ve published more books, I like to save as much money on publishing costs as I can, so I use Google Doc Voice Typing, which is free. It works great on my phone and tablet. When I’m ready to edit, I use my PC.
There are many speech-to-text tools out there at a variety of price points ranging from free to $300 and up. Here are some of the more popular speech-to-text tools for you to investigate:
- Dragon Speech Recognition Software
- Apple Dictation
- Windows 10 Speech Recognition
- Google Docs Voice Typing
Some authors report having to try a few different programs before finding the one that works best for them.
Whether you are dictating or using a speech-to-text program, the pros and cons are the same. I’ve focused on speech-to-text because if you’re trying to save time, why not skip the extra step of having your work transcribed?
Cons of Speech-to-Text
Practice Makes Perfect
Not all speech-to-text programs are created equally and different people will have different results because they speak differently. Don't be surprised if it takes a bit of trial and error to get used to the program. You can make adjustments to most speech-to-text programs so they work better.
You also must learn to speak differently than you would if you were carrying on a conversation. Voice recognition software works best when you speak at a consistent pace, stressing syllables evenly. You need to remember to speak punctuation as well, unless you plan to put this in during the editing stage.
Some authors feel like having to make these adjustments takes away from their creativity and they can’t write as well as they could if they were typing.
There can be a steep learning curve to using speech-to-text. Getting your system set up and practicing how to speak takes time. Some authors feel like their time is best spent continuing to write using a keyboard rather than spending the time on a set up that may or may not work for them.
One issue I have is that I pause a lot when I’m talking so I can think about what I want to say. By the time I’ve figured out what I want to say, Google Docs Voice Typing has gone into standby mode so I have to press a button to turn it back on when I’m ready to speak. For me, this isn’t a big deal, but I can see how it could get frustrating.
I could look for a program that doesn’t go into standby mode, but I find I’m pausing less the more I use speech-to-text, so I’d rather keep working with Google Docs Voice Typing until I’m more proficient.
Depending on the setup you use, you could spend a lot of money to get set up with a speech-to-text program. There are software costs to consider and, sometimes, hardware such as a good microphone.
Increases Editing Time
When I first started using Google Docs Voice Typing, I spent more time editing my work, but as I became more familiar with how to speak so the app could recognize more of my words, that amount of typos I was fixing decreased. This is one of those things that depends on how you speak and which program you use.
Pros of Speech-to-Text
Once the initial learning period is over, you will save a ton of time by using a speech-to-text program.
According to Wikipedia, the average person can type 50–80 words per minute and speak 100–130 words per minute. That’s almost double! And when you consider that 100 words per minute works out to 6,000 words an hour, and most authors are happy to write 1,000 words per hour, the time to learn speech-to-text could very well be worth it.
Speech-to-text can be used by people with physical disabilities that prevent them from using a keyboard. It’s also well known that typing every day can cause damage to the wrists and hands, especially if your keyboard isn’t set up ergonomically. If you write every day for long periods, getting set up with a speech-to-text program could be good for your health and your writing career.
If you opt for a speech recognition program you can use with your phone, you can use it anywhere. No more hoping your inspiration will still be there once you’re back at home sitting at your keyboard. Whip out your phone the minute you think of something and start talking.
Like any new skill, writing using speech-to-text takes practice to do well, but you need to do what works best for you and your writing career.