Voice to text: on speech recognition software

P-in-C does Vader with a potato masher
When he wielded a potato-masher, Anco liked to think he was Darth Vader

Time to make a confession: I use voice recognition software. Not always, but often.

Technically it should be ‘speech recognition software‘, but – as often happens with language – the most common usage seems to have become the norm.

I’m writing a post about it because I think it’s going to become even more the norm for people to use it as we come to realise that “Tech=Normal”, and our bodies and brains can adapt.

Maybe some readers are considering the pros and cons, in which case this post might be helpful.

Which software do I use?

  • Dragon Dictate for Mac. I have a friend who uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for PC. Most reports suggest the latter is less buggy.
  • Inbuilt Voice to Text with Android OS on my Samsung Galaxy phone.

What do I use it for? 

  • Constructing SMS or other text messages.
  • Writing emails.
  • Blogging – initial ideas drafts. It’s not good for hyperlinking.
  • Writing fiction – again, for first drafts.

In a nutshell: when it is easy to think and write in a linear fashion, I use it. When I need to creatively edit and engage the Right Hemisphere of my brain, I write differently. So the software becomes cumbersome and any errors interrupt my train of thought. And then I start swearing. Which the program doesn’t recognise because I haven’t trained it to recognise expletives.

The cons

  • It takes time to train the program to recognise your specific speaking style.
  • You have to take time to train it to recognise specific names. But, even then, sometimes it gets stuck in a little loop, determined that you write, e.g. Japan instead of Dupin, for instance. (More mis-spelled swearing ensues.)
  • It takes time to tear yourself away from the patterns of work you’re used to: sitting rigid in the chair, staring at the screen while you type (or fingers, if you can’t touch-type). I have to occasionally envisage myself pacing the room with a commanding, corporate air about me. I can live with that.

See a pattern? 

Time. For someone of my idea-a-minute brain, the time it takes to train this beast is more than tedious.

On the other hand, it’s a sobering thought – for anyone who relies on their body to work and create – that we can easily wear out our shoulders and necks and arms from this affliction we call creative writing.

2 Comments

  1. This sounds fantastic! I’d love to be able to burble on to myself (normal state of affairs) and actually see some results. This sounds like an ideal route to filling that first draft reservoir. Plus there must be a whole masterthesis waiting to be written as to how ‘speak’ writers and ‘write’ writers differ. Fab post!

    1. Thanks Jill! I must say, the ‘speak’ writing process is rather odd after having been a ‘write’ writer for so long. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it changes my overall style. I’m dying to get my mitts on Scrivener and add that to the mix … Oh, how the process of writing has changed!

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