Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You Speak It Types

I remember watching a science fiction show on TV back in the sixties that had this remarkable device. It was a typewriter with a microphone and the secretary just talked into the microphone and it wrote what she said. I thought  hat would be great. Well, as with much of the science fiction by youth, the future is here. And, it has been here for about fifteen years.

With Speech Recognition, a child could write before they
learn to read.

Back then, the recognition was not always too accurate. Most desktop computers just didn't have enough power or memory to process continuous speech. Much has changed since then. Today is a product like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, after training, can have upwards of 99% accuracy. Frankly, that's better than my typing.

Today, I am using Dragon NaturallySpeaking the 12th edition. I am currently looking at my screen, talking and watching the words appear in front of me. It's almost like magic. I don't use speech recognition for everything. Sometimes I'll go weeks without using it at all.

But, I am getting more into using it. For a variety of reasons. First, my fingers aren't as limber as they used to be. And sometimes long periods of typing can leave my hands hurting. Secondly, it is a little bit faster than my typing. I can speak at about 60 words a minute, but I type at about 30. So, I can theoretically almost double my writing speed. In actual practice, it is somewhat less than that. However, I can get about a 50% increase in words per minute.

Now, before you rush out and buy the latest edition of the software, you might want to consider a few things about speech recognition. It does change how you write.

First, speaking and writing are different types of communication. In normal conversation, you tend to be less formal than you are when you're writing. Use more sentence fragments, more slang expressions, clich├ęs, colloquialisms, etc., which are generally don't use in formal written work. That means that you are still thinking writing, but then essentially reading out loud what you have written in your head into the microphone.

Second, you have to get used to punctuating verbally. While Dragon NaturallySpeaking does have a built in algorithm that will punctuate your work for you, it isn't very accurate – yet.

Third, you have to be patient. While you can use the program right out the box, it will have only modest accuracy. To get the best accuracy, you will need to train the program. This "training" begins with you reading several pieces of text. As you read them, the program will compare the written text to what you say. It will use that information to build a profile of how you pronounce words. However, the training doesn't stop there. You can also run programs which analyze your written documents and your e-mails. This will give it an idea about common phrases that you use. An error that the program makes, that information is stored and is used to improve the recognition.

You really have to use the program for a few weeks before you get close to that 99% accuracy that we talked about.

I have to say that I really enjoy using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I think it is the best speech recognition on the market.

There is a speech recognition that is built into your Windows operating system. You can access it under accessories-> accessibility. However, I have found that it is not as accurate as Dragon. However, it can give you an idea about how speech recognition works. So it is something that is good to practice on.

I hope that maybe this will give you a little bit more information about how to use this type of technology. It is not flawless, however, it has made my life easier.


  1. Thanks Terri, years ago a doctor I worked for had voice recondition, but I do remember it didn't work well. It does intrigue me, but not sure if I would actually like speaking my books. They did say in a class I took this summer, that you can write your book so much faster by speaking it. I wonder if it would have the same quality of voice as your inner thoughts? Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. It takes getting used to, but once you do it doesn't change your voice very much. Eventually, you simply shift into writing mode in your mind. It's imply a matter of developing new habit patterns. The first few times you use speech recognition your very self-conscious about. Over time, though, it becomes habitual. Not much different thaan going from writing longhand to typing.

    When you start typing, you are very conscious of where every key is that and what figures you're using to hit but he's. However, over time it becomes habitual. You don't even think about the fact that you use your middle finger on your right hand to hit the "I" or "O" key. You just do it.

    The same thing happens with using speech recognition. The more you use it, the easier it gets. Just as setting down at a typewriter triggers your "writing mindset" now. Slipping on the headphones and mike will trigger that same mindset after you use speech recognition for a while.

  3. Dear Terri,
    Thanks for sharing about how you use Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is a great tool to help writers. Good point about punctuating verbally.

    Celebrate you today.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Thaks, Terry, for the info on voice recognition software. Due to some physical problems I can't sit at the keyboard like I used to. Plus I worked ten-finger typing for so many years that I'm frustrated I can't do that anymore...or only for short periods. So the voice software is something I have been thinking about for some time. Thinking is about it. Even though I have used computers since shortly after the demise of the dinosaurs, I'm a complete computer idiot and dealing with a completely new way of writing is scary. But something has to give so I will check out Dragon.

  5. Hi Terri,
    You made such a good point for the software that I went to look it up. But there are so many versions...have you bought the home edition or one of the premium versions?

  6. There isn't a huge difference for most writers between the home and pro version. When I got my last program, I went with the home version even though I had planned to buy the pro. The extra features just were no what I would use. Nor would I suspect most writers would. Pro is really designed for business.