The Pros and Cons of Dictation
To use dictation or to not use dictation? That is the question.
If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve your writing. At times it’s not directly related to the craft itself. Sometimes it just has to do with your own efficiency and time management. One thing I like to do in order to save time is utilize dictation software to increase my writing pace.
This could mean turning out a rough draft a little quicker. Other times I use it to draft a blog within a matter of minutes. Thirdly, I use it to transcribe handwritten notes or drafts onto the computer, because it’s more efficient to dictate than to write it again.
Dictation is a fantastic tool. However, it’s not without its downfalls. If you’re considering getting into dictation to quicken your writing pace, here are a few pros and cons that you may want to be aware of in order to better determine if dictation is truly for you.
1. It can make editing a bear, especially when it comes to writing fiction.
If you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, chances are your characters have names very unlike Bob and Sally. When you say an unusual name, the dictation software will try and form it into a common word or phrase that it sounds similar to. When going back to edit, this can prolong the editing process because you constantly have to replace “coal” with “Cole.” And that’s not even a weird name!
Now I know what you’re thinking—just use the find and replace feature, right? Wrong. It won’t hear you the same every time, and may slightly alter the phrase. Also, if it sounds like something that’s in the middle of a longer word it will replace that too and just make things even more of a headache. (Example: If you say to replace all "coal" with "Cole" the words such as "coalition" become "Coleition" ... which isn't a word).
While I find that it’s easier to use dictation for things like essays or blog posts, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for fiction. I do use it for rough drafts. Sometimes I have to read over a sentence that makes absolutely no sense—read it out loud—to try and figure out what I was really trying to say.
2. There is a slight learning curve.
When you have to say punctuation out loud such as, “comma, end quote, he said, period” it takes some getting used to. Some people choose to skip over punctuation during the initial phase and put it in later. You also have to think out loud. This is a challenge for me, because a lot of my brainstorming and writing happens internally. Also, it may not be easy for everyone to lock themselves in a room away from family to get enough time to think out loud.
1. Whether you’re a fast or slow typist, either way, you can speak faster than you can type.
I know that I can dictate up to 6000 words per hour. That is, if I don’t stop and take breaths. Obviously, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re going to write. Even if you get 4000 words in an hour with dictation, it’s better than typing at 1000 words for hour.
It can double your word count, or it can cut your writing time in half so that you have more time to do other things such as reading or editing or whatever else you want to do. Maybe something that doesn’t involve writing?
2. If you have carpal tunnel, arthritis, or any kind of hand or wrist injury, this can save you a ton of pain and grief.
Typing all day for hours on end takes its toll on your joints. Not to mention you’re either sitting down with butt in chair, or standing still to do it. I personally don’t have the desire, nor muscle coordination to work on my novel while walking on a treadmill, but some people can manage it. The headset I use has a cord long enough to allow me to pace my office while dictating. It also allows me to shut my eyes, lay down on the floor, and put myself in the scene, talking openly about what my imagination sees.
3. It improves your voice and public speaking skills.
With practice, you become more clear in what you want to say, and how you’re going to say it with less thinking. If you’re looking to become a better public speaker, dictation may just be the ticket.
4. Using an app on your phone it becomes much easier to take notes anywhere, at any time.
Granted, if you’re in a crowded train station it may be hard for your phone to pick up your voice among all the noise. But most often, if you’re dictating notes into your phone, a quick memo will be recorded, and you can come back to it later.
I’m not normally one to write just anywhere. It’s usually either a quiet coffee shop, a local writers center, an airport, or my home office. However, in attempts to be more prolific, it helps when I can dictate a quick note or idea into my phone. We all have those ideas at strange times or in strange places, and then we think, “Oh, I’ll remember this later. I don’t need to write it down.” Raise your hand if you’ve had this thought—then lost the idea.
If you can think of any other pros or cons, please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you are already an avid dictator, please let me know which software you prefer, and where you do most of your dictating.