Less is better sooner.
Jose Santa Clara, Autohagiographer
by Joseph T. Sinclair
About ten years a go I investigated voice recognition software. I found it to be surprisingly accurate but still too inaccurate to be useful for writing by voice (dictating). Nonetheless, I wrote a short book by voice as I hiked in Colorado. It took about five long hikes (about 25 hours). Instead of using the software, I had it transcribed by a person.
Writing by voice worked out well for me. It was superior to typing and cut my rewrites in half as well as cut the original writing time. I was quite pleased with myself. As I hike almost daily for exercise, it was a way to make productive use of hiking time. But the cost of transcription by a person is high, even when a highly efficient transcriber does it.
After a nine-year hiatus from writing I decided to again pursue a writing and publishing career. Dragon (Nuance) had a sale on their latest software (Ver. 12.5) in the spring of 2013, which I happened to see online. And I thought, why not? So I bought it. This time I found it to be very accurate and indeed very useful for writing.
I dictated about 50,000 words in 2013, a lot considering I didn’t even write a book. In fact, I have so much writing to do now that I may run out of hiking time and may need to dictate directly into my computer sitting at my desk.
The software costs about $200 unless you buy it on sale (Dragon Naturally Speaking, http://nuance.com). But the equipment is now very inexpensive. I use a highly rated $45 digital recorder (Phillips DVT1000) and a cell-phone headset with a mini-boom mic featuring a windshield. (Plantronics MX500i, original price $70 and now available for about $20 online).
A $20 cell-phone headset works almost as well ( JBuds J6M). Of course if you work at your computer, you don’t need the recorder, just an adequate mic; that is, not a professional mic but a better-than-average mic. However, if you have professional equipment, you can certainly use it.
In lieu of using a separate recorder, use your smart phone. I’ve used my Samsung Galaxy 3 with both the Smart Voice Recorder app and the Easy Voice Recorder app. They work well. I use a separate recorder only as a matter of convenience; it’s easier to control outdoors in the sunlight than a smart phone app.
Having experimented considerably with equipment, I can vouch for the equipment I’ve cited. Nonetheless, there are many choices. The point is that you no longer need expensive or professional equipment to record adequate-quality dictation.
To make it easy to use the Dragon voice recognition software, I use only simple punctuation commands (e.g., Comma, Period, Colon, New Paragraph, etc) to write. Dragon features a multitude of voice commands to control your equipment and the software. Someday I hope to learn some of those commands. In the meanwhile, I find the punctuation commands work just fine.
Writing by voice isn’t for everyone or every book. But give it a try to see if it works for you. You may find, as I did, writing by voice makes it easier to get your writing down on paper, so to speak, more quickly, smoothly, and coherently than with a word processor.
The author of this article, Joseph T. Sinclair, is the author of twenty How To books published by national publishers.
For low-cost non-exclusive reprints rights for this article, contact sales@AuthorsAndPublishersDigitalReview.
©2014 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.