On speech recognition

I was interested to read this week that Microsoft have bought a company that produces speech recognition products and they now plan to incorporate the technology into the latest versions of Windows and Office.

My current favourite speech recognition software is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, now up to version 9. I must say that if I was Nuance, the owner of this product, I wouldn’t be very happy with what Microsoft plans to do. However, if it brings speech recognition to the masses and speeds up the way we write, then that can’t be a bad thing.

If you read my article “Why can’t you type?” earlier this month, you’ll know that I advocate thinking about what you want to say before you type or write it. And the same goes for speaking it too. Speech recognition software works best when you know exactly what you want to say. If you try dictating something straight off the top of your head using speech recognition, you’ll find it a frustrating experience: um, er, scratch that, no, delete, umm…

The latest version of NaturallySpeaking can transcribe your words into text at up to 160 wpm. That’s almost 100 wpm faster than I can type, and nearly double the speed that the winner of our typing contest managed. It’s also 99% accurate, which is probably better than I can manage when I’m typing.

So I can definitely recommend this product. It will increase your writing output significantly, provided that you follow this technique:

Write a detailed outline, broken down into headings, sub-headings, and a sentence representing each paragraph. Now pick one of those sentences and think about it for 5 minutes, expanding it into the full paragraph that you want to write. When you’ve got it sorted out in your head, turn on your microphone, or say [microphone on] dictate the paragraph at up to 160 wpm, then say [microphone off]. Cross that sentence off on your outline and move on to the next one.

Provided that your outline is detailed enough and well organised and you always mark the bits you’ve done, you can write your book – or any piece of writing – in any order you like.

For writing away from your computer, try NaturallySpeaking mobile edition, which comes with a good quality digital voice recorder that you can carry around with you. Follow the same technique outlined above to dictate your writing. When you get back to your computer, plug the voice recorder into your computer and watch the text appear on your screen. You might have to correct the odd word here and there, but it’s a lot faster than having to type it all out yourself.

If you already have a high quality voice recorder with a headphone socket, you should get on perfectly well with the standard edition of NaturallySpeaking. Just link the headphone socket to your computer’s microphone or line in socket, and press Play. You might need to experiment with volume levels to get the best results.

For over 300 more ideas for speeding up your writing, take a look at my book “The fastest way to write your book”. You’ll find the link in the column on the right.

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