How to Use Speech Recognition Software – 5 Tips for Writers

Using speech recognition software is a great way to become a more productive writer. These tips for writing with voice recognition software will help you to get the most from this tool.

Before the tips, a quip:

“The good writer, the great writer, has what I have called the three S’s: the power to see, to sense, and to say. That is, he is perceptive, he is feeling, and he has the power to express in language what he observes and reacts to.” ~ Lawrence Clark Powell.

The beauty of voice recognition software is that it allows you to verbally express what you may not be able to put in writing. Dictating your articles or chapters saves time, and protects your wrists and fingers from the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome that many writers suffer!

This post was dictated using Dragon Naturally Speaking.

5 Tips on Writing With Speech Recognition Software

Busy writers are always looking for ways to improve productivity. One of the best tools for writing more efficiently is speech recognition software. These tips are based on my own experience with Dragon voice recognition software.

1. Select the Right Voice Recognition Software

When it comes to speech recognition software, apart from the tools a ready built into your home computer, there are two choices. They are Dragon Naturally Speaking and Dragon Dictate 2.0 Mac (formerly known as MacSpeech). Both use the same speech recognition engine. For most writers the standard version of the software is more than enough to cover every day writing needs. However, there may be some cases where you need to move beyond the basic version. For example, if your writing jobs include transcription you may need the Professional Edition.

There are also custom editions suitable for people who work with legal or medical vocabulary. You can see a feature comparison of voice recognition software.

2. Choose the Right Microphone

Once you have the right edition and have installed it on your computer, the second important thing to sort out his microphone choice. You may already have a microphone installed on your computer but this does not mean that it is the right kind for voice dictation. Choose a headset that you will be comfortable wearing for long periods of time, with a microphone that is sensitive enough to pick up your voice easily.

The Dragon speech recognition software has a microphone setup tool so that you can check that everything is working correctly. The reason for doing this is that it will affect the accuracy of recognition and therefore the amount of text you can produce within a day.

3. Take Time to Learn How to Properly Use Your Voice Recognition Software

Although Dragon speech recognition software works very well out of the box, it is worth investing extra time to train it properly. Training basically means getting accustomed to the sound of your voice and you do this by reading selected texts and having Dragon include your voice pattern within its database. Usually, this takes less than 20 minutes and it’s a good investment.

In some cases, if you have an unusual accent or happen to be dictating on a day when you have a cold, you might find that recognition accuracy suffers and you will have to train it longer. While you’re doing the training, check out the program’s commands to enable you to use it more efficiently.

4. Test It Out With a Mock Writing Scenario

Once the setup is complete it’s time to test Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Dragon Mac on a real life writing scenario. If you already know what you want to write, then fire up the program, put on your headset and start dictating. If all goes well, you will see a little yellow bar with the words it has recognized and these will appear on your screen. If certain words continue to give your difficulty, then you can train them individually through a tool in the toolbar. Dragon works well with a wider range of programs, including Microsoft Word and other word-processing programs. It also integrates with blogging software and can be used to dictate tweets on Twitter and Facebook comments too.

When you have finished with the day’s writing, allow the software to save your user files. Over time, the voice recognition accuracy will improve to almost 100%.

5. Proofread Your Writing

Voice recognition software will only write what it thinks it hears. While some writers (including me) edit as they go along, it is always a good idea to proofread your work at the end. Although Dragon can decide on the correct spelling of the word by the context (it works best when you speak naturally), occasionally it makes spelling errors. Proofreading would eliminate those errors so that you can deliver a perfect piece of writing to your client.

Writers, follow these tips and you will make the most of your speech recognition software! The benefits of using this software for writers not only include greater productivity (you can save about 15 minutes in each hour),  but protecting wrists and hands from carpal tunnel syndrome or RSI from excessive typing.

By the way – Dragon also offers free dictation apps for your cell phone, allowing you to boost writing productivity while on the move.

If you have any thoughts on writing with speech recognition software, then please comment below.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional web content writer and blogger. She runs Get Paid to Write Online, which offers tips and advice for freelance writers. Check out Sharon’s Google+ profile to connect with her online. You can see Sharon’s other Quips and Tips posts here.

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Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website or Google+.

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14 Responses

  1. Sven says:

    Didn’t now that this kind of software even exists. Great guide due, will follow your steps and try to learn.

  2. Lisa says:

    Loved it. Did I see the softwere with a headphone and a recorder that you wear? How does it work after I install it? Do I need to have my laptop with me? Because than I cannot have it when I walk.Thanks for this great blog.

  3. Sharon these tips are right on the money! I’ve been using Dragon for writing blog posts directly in WordPress (including blogs about using Dragon for blogging!) A good microphone for Dragon to work well and adequate “training” are critical. When I fist started using Dragon it was opening WordPress commands but that stopped being a problem (maybe I “trained” it??). Bottom line: Dragon saves soo much typing time when composing blogs. You still need to edit and definitely proofread for “Dragonisms.” I was writing about how much I like cocaine, and it kept typing “lycopene.” Just kidding! (Couldn’t resist after reading Patti‘s comment above :)

  4. Glad to see you have a sense of humor about the training process, Patti. The occasional errors are funny, and luckily they become fewer and fewer with time. :)

  5. Great tips, Sharon.

    I just bought version 10 last week and really like it. We will both need some more training. I have a southern accent, which is a bit dull and nasal, plus I have a partial plate that never gets in my way until I’m recording my voice—or dictating. LOL.

    As as example, I spoke the word “lycopene” and it typed “like cocaine.” That could be frustrating for some, but I found it hilarious.

    I’ve only done the ‘easy’ training. I need to go back and do some of the more advanced readings to train it more. It is a great product though. I like to get away from the computer and write by hand. I hate typing from copy, so Dragon is the perfect solution for that.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

  6. It’s a great thought-capturing tool, Emma. I also suggested that my budding writer daughter, who’s 8 and doesn’t have the patience to type (her thoughts move quicker than her fingers, lol), use it for that purpose. So far, so good!

  7. Emma C. says:

    Speech recognition software sounds like a good investment, sometimes I wish I could easily/literally capture my thoughts. I think this is the answer.

  8. I think editing is a better way to improve your writing skills than writing is. So, if you get the first draft on your computer via speech recognition software, then you’re ready to edit…and I honestly think that’s where the gold is.

  9. I haven’t found that, Marv. It’s just a different way of transferring what’s in my brain to paper.

  10. Marv C. says:

    Thanks for this interesting article, I’ve been thinking about speech recognition software for a couple of years now. But I hesitate because I think it doesn’t help my writing skills. In fact, I think it could be detrimental because I’m writing less and talking more.

    What do you think of that? Could Dragon actually “dumb down” your writing skills?

  11. Laurie, I use Dragon mostly for blog posts and articles where I’ve already done the research or know the topic well. If I’m researching as I go, I don’t use it as much. And the recommendation of the on-the-go software comes from a trusted writer friend, who uses it when walking or when sat in waiting rooms – it’s another time saver! My hubby used it to dictate his entire novel, so I’d say it’s definitely worth the investment.

  12. Sharon, do you use Dragon for EVERY article or blog post you write? Also, have you tried it when walking or driving? I’ve never tried it, and am curious how much you use it.

    Is it worth the investment? (Mind you, it’s not a huge investment :-)

  1. August 12, 2011

    […] How to Use Speech Recognition Software – 5 Tips for Writers […]

  2. August 19, 2011

    […] How to Use Speech Recognition Software – 5 Tips for Writers […]

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