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Voice Recognition Software: Necessity for the Writing Habit

Updated on March 20, 2011

As I am still relatively, new to HubPages, I find that I'm frequently pondering over what topics I will write about next.

One night, while cooking dinner, I was going over some ideas for topics in my head - one after another - and dividing them by interest and how they might go in sequence. At the same time, I was chopping vegetables for the stir-fry I was making. The oil in the wok was sizzling away.

Then, a completely different and rather sharp topic that I had never thought of before suddenly introduced itself to me. Immediately, the title came to me as well which was “OUCH!” It was succinct, to the point and very close to home. Or perhaps, “How not concentrating in the kitchen can lead to bloody mishaps.”

I rushed to the sink and ran cool water on the inspiration gushing from my index finger. The cut was nice and deep. It was intended for an onion.

Of course, at this point, the throbbing had not yet kicked in but I was getting woozy just from the sight of the blood. “Did I need stitches?” No. “Was I being a baby?” Probably. I just needed pressure and a bandage to stop the bleeding. It was a momentary distraction from the cooking and an interesting conclusion to my brainstorming session – one which I do not recommend.

A couple of hours later after dinner, I was back at the computer only to discover that my desire to keep writing was hit with a new challenge – a pesky little bandage making it difficult to type. It had been a few hours since the incident. I thought my finger should have stopped bleeding by then. Was I ever wrong! As soon as I took the pesky bandage off, it was like I had just cut my finger again. And, with the wooziness back, there was no debate. The bandage stays on – at least for a couple of days.

This finger cut is one of those nuisance injuries. It is not acute enough to get medical attention, but just that amount big enough to interfere with things in a small, but very annoying, way.

When I am writing, I find there is something about sitting at the keyboard and typing on the keys that is so satisfying. I don’t know what it is but I love it. The feeling and sound of the keys tapping away is very grounding and even inspiring. I love watching the thoughts in my head come to life on the page (or screen). I can see why some writers still like to use old fashioned typewriters for that reason.

However, while my index finger is out of commission, I cannot type.

But, there is a solution.

First, for the cut, there was the antiseptic wash, then the antibiotic ointment and the pesky bandage to stop the bleeding. But in my writer's first aid box, I have another remedy. Not being able to type was a good excuse to dust off my computer headset and warm up the speech recognition software. You are seeing it in action here - Dragon Naturally Speaking. Mine is not the latest and greatest version of the Nuance range but it does the job and it is pretty darn accurate.

I began using this software when I was doing interviews for my job. As I usually recorded the sessions, I thought the speech recognition software would make it easier to transcribe the audio recordings into text. My Olympus digital recorder is an older model which is very good in many ways. The digital recorder and the Dragon software are supposed to work well together. But, unfortunately, I never had that much luck using the Dragon software to transcribe the interviews. This is probably because there were too many voices involved. But using it for single voice dictation, it works very well.

What I like about Dragon Naturally Speaking

The way I normally use Dragon Naturally Speaking is via microphone and headset, speaking directly into the computer (as opposed to the recording device). For the assessment projects, I used it primarily to develop my reports and to group together the data I gathered. I also used it a great deal when I was writing my project for my Master’s degree.

When you are doing a lot of writing at one time, it takes the burden off your body such as posture effects and the risk of repetitive movement injuries when spending a great deal of time at the computer. A lot of people use speech recognition software to avoid or to help alleviate the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome.

I do not know how Dragon compares to other software such as ViaVoice or MacSpeech Dictate. I only know what I like about it.

I like that it is smart. After you have used it for a while, it “remembers” your patterns of speaking and becomes increasingly intuitive and more accurate over time.

When you first install the software, you need to spend time training it. Giving this the time it needs is a good investment because it means that the software will hit the ground running when put to to the task and will be 80%-90% accurate the first time you use it for real. The difficulty for me in training was choosing among the delightful range of excerpts to read from. I chose the Dave Barry excerpt which meant my reading was interspersed bouts of laughter – as it should be.

The software is not perfect and does require some time proofreading what you have dictated. However, this is par for the course – no matter what method is used to the words get onto the page.

Another feature of the Dragon software I like is that it uses documents on your computer that you have already created to understand your writing style. This helps to assist in its most intuitive elements.

If you're serious about writing, speech recognition software is a must have.

For a writer, there are three great advantages to owning a speech recognition software.

First, I like the ability to go away to a café and write on paper and then dictate from handwritten notes onto the computer.

Second, if you have or get a digital recorder, you can keep this with you and record your thoughts and ideas as they come to you. I don't do this enough. Also, you can keep it by your bedside to record the creative thoughts which may come to you at night time. Or, you can record your dreams in the morning. Then, have the speech recognition software transcribe these for you rather than spending the hours that it takes to do so manually.

Finally, one of the best reasons to own speech recognition software (whichever one you choose) is that, no matter how much you might enjoy the physical act of typing, sometimes you just want a break. Or, if you suffer an injury or other physical limitation and cannot type, the speech recognition software is always there, always ready to take dictation and give your fingers a rest!

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