Dictation software

I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about dictation software these days. I was very interested in it when it first started becoming a real possibility 20, 25 years ago. Dragon NaturallySpeaking was the market leader back then as I recall and this hasn’t changed in all this time. I recall that it would do 75wpm way back when, which was fair, but not great: most people speak at 125-175wpm and I know that I speak pretty quickly, so dictation with NaturallySpeaking would be.




Even with this shortcoming, I knew that Dragon NaturallySpeaking would get better, smarter, and faster fairly quickly as faster generations of software came out and there were better codecs for processing audio. And it did. Checking out it’s capabilities for this post, I found a video of Dragon NaturallySpeaking handling 200wpm. It’s also very good with specialized vocabularies (such as medical and legal transcription), which makes it a godsend for specialized applications and fields.

And with all that wonder and power, I’m still not interested in using it to write books. The basic problem remains, and it’s not with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

I type.

I type for a lot of reasons:

  • I type because it’s fast. I can type at 120-130wpm when I’m really cruising (that’s because of decades of power typing and also these fancy-schmancy Avant Stellar super-clicky keyboards I buy). That’s nowhere near as fast as Dragon NaturallySpeaking can process these days–and good for it–but it’s as fast as I could probably talk comfortable for hours on end.
  • I type because I don’t have to think about it. My fingers are automatic. So automatic, in fact, that they become spooled devices, like a printer. I recall when I was writing my first book back in 1987 that I was thinking ahead a couple paragraphs while my fingers were running automatically to get things down on paper as fast as I could. I didn’t have to interrupt the creative flow at all: the process of getting things out of my head was not a real-time operation. (This is also why I hate using the mouse for things: it stops the stream of thought and kicks me into a real-time mode where nothing’s automatic.)
  • I type because I can listen to music or the tv or be talking on phone. When I’m working, I live for having background noise. I can also do a lot of pro forma writing while I’m talking about something else (that “spooled” thing again). Having background noise (music) or other voices (TV) or trying to talk on the phone while dictating (ha!) just ain’t gonna work. But the music, TV, and phone calls are all a part of the writing process for me.
  • I type because I simply cannot talk into a microphone for 12 hours at a time. I don’t think you can, either. And I don’t think you could do it for 4 months at a go. Your tongue would dry up and turn to dust.
  • I type because it uses a different part of my brain. This is a little hard to describe, but I know that I simply can’t listen to certain types of music or have the TV on when I’m trying to write specific pieces. It keeps feeling like the part of my brain that’s processing the words in the song or TV is the same part that I’m using for some very nitty writing tasks, and the two tasks keep bashing into each other. I usually have to put on Chopin or a Hearts of Space show or something. Trying to speak while I’m trying to create would be equally difficult, perhaps even more so: I’ve noticed that I frequently don’t like talking at all when I’m working on a section like this.

So far all these reasons and probably more, I type. I am very pleased that Dragon NaturallySpeaking has gotten to be such a monster product and I may find a use for it some day, but I type well and I type quickly, and I just don’t feel a need to dictate my books.

One Response to “Dictation software”

  1. ‘I type because it uses a different part of my brain.’

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m actually not even a very fast typist, and yet after only 2 days of trying Dragon, I realised that it just isn’t for me. I am a translator, and I found it impossible to just say what I wanted to write. Like you said, it seems to be a different part of the brain that speaks and types, and I’ve gotten used to writing with my fingers.


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