When we imagine writing, we usually think of hands on the keyboard. It just seems natural! Throughout the history of writing, humans have had to use their hands, whether that be with good old-fashioned feather and ink, a typewriter, or the keyboards we use today. So when we hear about writing through voice dictation, it may seem like “cheating”: how can I be writing if I’m just using my voice?
The truth is that writing through voice dictation can
actually be a great way to improve your writing routine. Many well-known
writers, such as Dan Brown, Henry James, and Barbara Cartland, have written
through voice dictation, as it is a convenient method of writing that reduces
body strain and makes writing easier. Read on to find out the ways that writing
through voice dictation can give your writing routine a breath of fresh air.
What is writing through voice dictation?
Before we get into the benefits, we should specify what
we’re talking about, right? Normally, writing through voice dictation simply
means using your voice to speak words into a device. In some cases, the words
you speak are transcribed automatically into text. This is the case with
Microsoft Word’s native Dictate function, for example, or the Voice typing
feature in Google Docs.
In other cases, the speaking and the transcription are two
separate steps: you speak words into a device like a handheld MP3 recorder, and
then you use a software program on your computer to transcribe the words into
text. It may sound like a bit of a hassle, but trust me: once you hear about
the possible benefits of writing through voice dictation, the small learning
curve will be worth it!
Health benefits of voice dictation
While writing is not typically thought of as a high-risk
profession, there are some occupational hazards that come with spending a
significant amount of time hunched over your keyboard. Our eyes get strained
from looking at a screen for so long. Our fingers and hands can develop
repetitive strain injury or even carpal tunnel from overuse. Backaches,
headaches, everywhere-aches, these are all issues for a lot of writers.
Fortunately, learning to write through voice dictation can allow you to write
more comfortably and relieve some of these common writer complaints.
While some speech-to-text functions, like the Dictate
function in Microsoft Word, require you to be close to your computer, they still
prevent repetitive strain injuries by eliminating the use of your hands to type.
Other methods of writing through voice dictation offer even more benefits – if
you use a handheld MP3 recorder, for example, you can write anywhere. You can
write from your backyard, you can write from a neighborhood park: the outside
world will be your new office!
Learning to write through voice dictation will allow you to
exercise your muscles while increasing your blood flow, as well as to decrease
all the repetitive movement of your hands and fingers that causes injuries like
carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injury. For these reasons, it’s worth
giving a try.
Writing benefits of voice dictation
We have gotten so accustomed to the self-censorship that
comes with typing on a keyboard. Between your brain and your fingers, there’s a
lot of room for error and miscalculation. When we struggle to find the right
word, we often get stuck, which can be demotivating and distracting.
Many experienced writers notice, as they get used to writing through voice dictation, that the words flow more easily. They often register a higher daily word count and complete drafts more quickly. Simply stated, you can write your book and publish it faster.
But first-time writers can also experience benefits. If
you’re a natural speaker looking to make your foray into the written word,
writing through voice dictation is a really great way to make that transition.
When you write through voice dictation, you remove all of
those physical boundaries between your thoughts and your draft so that your
words can flow without inhibitions. Though you will have to deal with some
editing later, of course, you’ll get to that stage much more quickly by
speaking instead of writing. Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn has some
additional insight into writing through voice dictation that sheds more
light on the benefits of the practice.
How can I get started?
If you’re convinced of the efficacy of writing through voice
dictation but are worried about the technical side of things, you should know
that voice dictation is just like any other skill – with time, you can get over
the learning curve and really master the skill.
When it comes to the equipment and software necessary, it depends
on your budget and preferences. Many word-processing programs that writers are
familiar with, such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs, have a dictation
function built in. If you don’t want to stray too far from your usual writing
routine, or if you just want to try out dictation first before jumping in with
full force, you can check out this
article to learn more about these functions.
The downside of using an already familiar application is
that you will likely need to stay tethered to your computer to use them, which takes
away the possible benefit of walking while dictating. If you’re looking to give
mobile dictation a try, you can download an app like Evernote or just use Apple’s
native Voice Memos program. You can also purchase a handheld MP3 recorder.
If you choose to use an app or a handheld MP3 recorder,
you’ll also have to look into how to convert this speech into text. Nuance
Dragon is one of the most common transcription software applications and has
both PC and Mac versions. Although you will have to take some time after
recording to correct some transcription errors, people who write through voice
dictation often report fewer errors over time, as they get used to the way the
software will recognize their words. If your text contains a lot of unusual
names that the software doesn’t recognize easily, you can always use the find
and replace function to correct all of those mistakes quickly.
As a whole, writing through voice dictation can be a great
way to get the most out of your writing routine.