Dictate Your Writing with Google’s Voice Typing

Blue Snowball mic

by C.K. MacLeod

Dictation has become popular with writers who are interested in improving their writing productivity. Google recently introduced “voice typing” for Google docs, so writers can dictate their writing while on-the-go.

As a writer and editor with achy wrists from too much typing, tapping, and mousing, I decided to take voice typing for a spin.

From the get-go, Google Voice Typing is dead easy to use. Open Google Docs, go to the Tools menu, and click on Voice typing. An orange microphone icon pops up in the left menu bar. Click on the icon and begin speaking.

Google Voice Typing

Voice typing had no problems picking up my Canadian accent. In fact, I was surprised to discover that it produced far fewer pronunciation errors than I had expected. If there were any errors, they were mine.

I am, admittedly, less fluent when my writing is produced by mouth, instead of with my fingers. But I remember a time when keyboarding felt disfluent to me, so dictation may be a skill I can learn with practice.
Here’s my quick review of Google’s Voice typing:

Pros

  • Free for anyone who has a gmail account
  • Easy to use
  • Surprisingly accurate from the first use—at least for my Canadian accent
  • Cloud-based

Cons

  • Doesn’t recognize commands for open and closed quotes, ellipsis, and semicolon
  • No spoken editing commands (e.g., delete that, go to)
  • Works best with a decent quality mic (I use a Blue Snowball)
  • Potential privacy issues — who has access to your dictation?

Conclusion

If you’re a writer, and you want to give dictation a try, Google’s Voice typing is a nice, basic tool to begin with.

If you’re an editor who’s trying to ease your wrists, you could use Google’s Voice typing to write margin comments (which you can then feed into a text expander) or client emails, but you may prefer a dictation tool with editing features.

Not sure how to begin with voice dictation? See 5 Tips for Dictating Your Writing.

Do you use voice dictation? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Image by Vincent Diamente

Dictate Your Writing with Speech Recognition Software

Microphoneby C.K. Macleod

Have you tried dictating your writing with speech recognition software? Dictation is another tool in your toolkit for easing repetitive strain injury (RSI).

If you use a PC, your version of Windows likely comes with Windows Speech Recognition (WSR). This dictation software has been compared to Dragon Naturally Speaking, the gold standard of speech recognition software.

Tips for Getting Started

1. Complete the tutorial. The first time you launch WSR, it takes you through a 15-minute tutorial. I'd recommend taking the time to work through the tutorial because it'll help you learn commonly used voice commands while training WSR to listen for your voice. All speech recognition software requires training, so don't skip this step.

Note: You may need a microphone in order for WSR to work.

2.  Decide how you'll use WSR. You can use speech recognition software for a variety of purposes:

  • to write an article
  • to compose email messages
  • to open and close applications and navigate your computer
  • to surf the internet

To reduce my use of the keyboard and mouse, I decided to use WSR to dictate email messages and to navigate my computer. I initially attempted to write an article in Scrivener—my preferred first-draft software—but I encountered two road blocks:

  • WSR only works with Microsoft products (e.g. Word, Windows Live Mail, Internet Explorer); and
  • learning to talk out your writing is an acquired skill.

So, I cut my WSR teeth by dictating email messages to a recipient who would be gracious about my learning curve. (Bonus: I won't be at all surprised if WSR helps me to improve my speaking skills.)

3. Learn a short list of voice commands. This is easy enough to do if you work through the WSR tutorial (see step 1.). There are hundreds of voice commands for WSR. Here are the ones I use the most:

Tip: If, while using WSR, you say "How do I say," WSR will pull up a menu of voice commands for you.

By using WSR in my workflow, I reduced my keyboarding and mousing enough to ease the pain in my wrist. Learning WSR took time, but it was well worth the effort.

Image by Grant