With a Siri and/or Alexa in every household, it’s no surprise that nowadays you can even write a book using your voice. The basic concept is nothing new. Writers like Dan Brown, Henry James, Barbara Cartland and Winston Churchill have all used standard dictation to write their novels. Though while we might not all have secretaries to write out our works, speech dictation software is an appropriate substitute to carry on this ‘oral tradition’.
How does it work?
The concept is simple. Rather than typing your work out on the page, you speak into your device. The software listens and transcribes your speech out for you as a substitute for typing. While specific commands differ between different software, dictation software is intuitive and can be used to both write and edit text.
How can it help you and your work?
Are you the type of author that is daunted by the blank page? You have the ideas, but you can’t quite get them down on the page? Speaking out loud can help you override some of your writer’s block. Dictation is often formulated at the same pace as the thought process and is therefore more intuitive. Choosing to work this way can overcome the need for perfectionism, helping increase momentum during your writing process.
While writing it’s important to get into the mindset of your characters. Not sure how? See our previous blog on Finding Your Voice. Doing this often means finding a muse to draw inspiration from--be it an environment or a person. Speak dictation software is a great way to maintain your connection to your muse because you are unencumbered by the need to type, allowing your work to sing with authenticity.
Speech dictation software is also particularly convenient for writing in situations where it would be too awkward to type or do a manuscription. For example, you might find inspiration when out on a walk. With speech dictation you don’t need to wait to get home and hastily jot your ideas down because you can perfectly document them on-the-go by talking into your phone. Likewise, your inspiration might be a conversation, which you can engage with more easily without the distraction of manually transcribing! As for simpler benefits, dictation software removes the burden of accurate spelling, as the software does this for you, and is in most cases quicker than typing.
If you’re a technophobe, speech dictation software may serve as an ideal compromise. Many publishing companies and literary agents require you to submit digital manuscripts, and having your work transcribed will prevent you from being excluded from consideration. However, if you are truly married to the pen or typewriter, Rowanvale’s scanning and typing service offers yet another way to avoid those exclusions of non-typed work by digitally transcribing your physically written text for you.
Most speech dictation software claims to have 95-99% accuracy, availability in different languages and comprehension of most accents. However, some proper nouns, colloquial terms or technical terminology can be open to misinterpretation. If you struggle with proofreading, Rowanvale offers a proofreading service to catch any typos or grammatical errors.
The biggest problem with dictation software is encountered during formatting and editing. A mouse cursor is more easily moved with your hand than your voice. This makes it difficult if you like to jump between multiple written sections rather than writing purely chronologically. Dictation software may make your text much harder to structure or restructure throughout development.
Likewise, it is much harder to go back and edit small mistakes for any given line, as you need to either work with the software to pinpoint and switch out specific words--which is much easier with manual typing.
These drawbacks can largely be overcome by a hybrid approach where the speech dictation software is used to get the initial ideas on the screen, which can then be reformatted and edited manually.
What software is available?
There are many speech dictation software providers, but these are Rowanvale’s top recommendations for both free and paid software:
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