By Joseph T. Sinclair
About ten years ago I investigated voice recognition software, which I found to be surprisingly accurate but not accurate enough to be useful for writing a book by voice (dictating). Nonetheless, I wrote a short book by voice as I was hiking in Colorado (eBay Inventory the Smart Way, published by Amacom). It took about five long hikes (about 25 hours) to complete. And because I hike almost daily for exercise, this was a way to make productive use of my hiking time.
Writing by voice worked out well for me. It was superior to typing and cut my original writing time, as well as my rewrites, in half. Instead of using the software, however, I hired a transcriber; the cost of transcription is high even when the transcriber is very efficient.
After an eight-year hiatus from writing, I recently decided to again pursue a writing and publishing career. Dragon (Nuance) had a sale on their latest software (Ver. 12.5) in April 2013. I thought, why not? So I bought it, and this time I found it to be accurate and indeed very useful for writing.
I had dictated about 35,000 words by summer and have done much more since, with great success. In fact, I have so much writing to do now that I’m running out of hiking time and may need to dictate directly into my computer while I’m sitting at my desk.
The software is about $200 (Dragon Naturally Speaking). But the equipment is now inexpensive. I use a highly rated $45 digital recorder (Phillips DVT1000) and a cell-phone headset with a mini-boom mic featuring a windshield (Plantronics MX500i, original price $70, available for about $20 online).
A $20 cell-phone headset ( JBuds J6M) works almost as well. Of course if you’re at your computer, you don’t need the recorder, just a better-than-average mic. However, if you have professional equipment, you can certainly use it.
In lieu of using a separate recorder, use your smart phone. I’ve used my Samsung Galaxy 3 with both the Smart Voice Recorder app and the Easy Voice Recorder app. They work well. I use a separate recorder only because it’s easier to see the controls in sunlight.
Having experimented considerably with equipment, I can vouch for the items I’ve cited. There are many choices. The point is, you no longer need expensive or professional equipment to record adequate-quality sound for accurate transcription via software.
Go to the Nuance website (http://nuance.com), the Speech Recognition Solutions website (http://www.speechrecsolutions.com), or the Speech Technology website (http://www.speechtechnology.com) for more information on proper equipment.
To make it easy to use the Dragon voice recognition software, I use only simple punctuation commands (comma, period, new paragraph, etc.). Dragon features a multitude of voice commands that I hope to learn someday, to control the equipment and the software. In the meantime, I find that the simple punctuation commands work just fine.
Writing by voice isn’t for everyone or for every book. But it’s worth a try. You may find, as I did, that writing by voice makes getting your writing down on paper, so to speak, quicker, smoother, and more coherently than if you use a word processor.
©2013 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.