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