Dictation software is popular because it saves time. You can speak three times faster than you can type, so consider dictation apps if you haven’t tried them.
If you’ve tried them, and gave up, try again; it can take at least a couple of weeks to become comfortable dictating. The time you save over years is worth a little hassle for a couple of weeks.
Which Dictation Software?
Voice recognition software pops up everywhere. It’s part of both the Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. If you’re an iPhone user, the Siri personal assistant has been both praised and reviled. I’m in the haters camp. I turned off Siri; life’s too short.
If you’re a professional, and need voice dictation, you’ll get the best results from a commercial product. Over the years, commercial voice recognition software has devolved into the “Dragon” range of products from Nuance.
I’ve used both Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows) and Dragon Dictate (Mac.) Although the Windows product is superior, in its latest incarnation, Dictate almost matches it.
My production computer is a Mac; I haven’t used the Windows version of Dragon for a while, so everything in this article relates primarily to my experiences with Dragon Dictate.
These tips work for me; your mileage may vary. Dictation is intensely personal.
Voice Dictation Tips
* Take the time to train your software
Over time, the software builds up a voice profile for you. After installation, “train” the software the way you usually dictate. Unfortunately, mood, microphone, and time of day can confuse your profile, which leads to more errors in transcription.
For example, my voice is scratchy first thing in the morning, so I’ve learned that I can’t dictate early in the day; I need a coffee or two to lubricate my vocal cords.
Retrain occasionally, if you’re finding that you’re getting too many errors.
* Speak clearly, at a normal rate of speech
Dragon Dictate has fewer errors the faster I speak, so I’ve learned to jot a few notes before I open my mouth. Otherwise, I hesitate, and this leads to transcription errors.
Try to speak clearly, without over-enunciating. Take two or three deep breaths before you start speaking, and try to relax.
* Spell out errors while you’re dictating
Your software will make errors, some humorous. Take the time to correct obvious errors while you’re dictating, so that your profile is updated.
Occasionally Dictate will interpret dictation as a command; resist the temptation to throw your computer against the wall. I’ve found that sticking with the Notepad in Dictate, rather than dictating into applications like MS Word, helps with this.
* Take the time to proofread
Voice dictation software is far from perfect. You’ll need to correct sound-alike errors like “to” for “two” or “too.”
For me, the most common sound-alikes are “there” for “their”. Complete your dictation, then proofread on another day. Dictate will read your work back to you; this helps with proofing.