If you want to write a book, a blank page can be incredibly intimidating. Fortunately, there’s a tool you can use to shake up your creative process and successfully record your ideas: Dictation software.
Using dictation software to speak the words of your book, rather than write them, is an appealing option for all kinds of authors. In this guide, learn the benefits of using speech-to-text software to write a book, as well as some of the best dictation software options available for authors.
What Is Dictation Software?
Dictation software is a tool that converts speech to text in real time. In other words, as you speak, the software instantly transcribes your words. Dictation software may also be referred to as speech-to-text or voice-to-text software.
You may already use dictation software on a daily basis if you ever use the speech-to-text function on your smartphone to write text messages. However, you can also use it for much longer projects—like writing a book.
Why Use Dictation Software to Write a Book
To Ease Typing Difficulties
Typing isn’t easy for everyone. Whether you never learned proper typing form, you aren’t physically able to type effectively, or your typing isn’t particularly accurate, you may prefer to dictate your story. Plus, as a writer, you may need to type for hours each day—so if you don’t have that kind of typing stamina, dictation can be a good alternative.
To Record Thoughts and Ideas Quickly
For some writers, your thoughts may race faster than your hands can type. Dictation software allows you to record your ideas in real-time. In fact, research suggests that speech dictation is about three times faster than typing.
To Beat Writer’s Block
Staring at a blank page can be intimidating, and you can easily get caught up in wanting your words to be perfect—to the point that you completely freeze. Speech recognition software can help you record your ideas freely without agonizing over whether you’re using the right words or phrasing. It’s an easy way to shake up your normal process and jump start your creativity.
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To Work Anywhere
Writers are often tied to their laptops, which means they typically sit in one place for hours on end—which can be dull and uninspiring. Smartphone-compatible dictation software allows you to work from anywhere, inside or outside, and while you’re doing anything, from walking to driving to even grocery shopping. Bonus: Considering some studies suggest that movement boosts cognitive and creative function, you may find you’re more productive when you’re up and away from your computer.
As a Personal Preference
Of course, you don’t need a defined reason to use dictation software. If you prefer to use your voice to draft your story, that’s reason enough! Plenty of writers simply prefer to use dictation software rather than their computers.
Benefits of Speech-to-Text Software
You’ll Avoid Sitting for Long Periods of Time
It can take months to years to write just the first draft of a book—which can translate to hours of sitting in front of a computer every day. Dictation software can free you from your desk. Even if you don’t write your entire book with dictation software, it can help you reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.
You Might Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Research shows that typing for more than 28 hours a week puts you at increased risk for carpal tunnel syndrome—and book authors can easily hit that threshold, especially when working toward a deadline. Dictation can replace some of those hours, allowing you to keep your hands and wrists in optimal condition.
You Can Reduce Digital Eye Strain
Even the best blue light glasses can’t completely protect your eyes from digital eye strain. By doing some or all of your writing away from a screen, you can protect your eye health—which will need to be in tip-top shape for the editing process.
How to Use Dictation Software
Using dictation software is easy and intuitive. Generally, you start by opening the app or enabling the speech-to-text feature on your device. Once you turn it on, it will begin listening for your voice. As you speak, you will start to see your words appear on the screen. For the highest accuracy, it’s best to speak somewhat slowly and deliberately. This will ensure that the speech recognition software accurately captures your words.
Some voice recognition software works directly within your word processor. For example, if you use Google Docs Voice Typing, your words will be transcribed into a Google Doc.
Other software, however, won’t dictate directly into a word processor. If you use Dragon Anywhere, for example, you dictate directly into the app. Then, you can save it to a cloud storage program, like Dropbox or Box, email it to yourself, or open it in Microsoft Word. (You can’t, however, dictate directly into Microsoft Word.)
Using dictation to write a book can be quite a different experience, so here are a few tips for getting the most out of your speech recognition software:
- Don’t dictate punctuation: If you want to include punctuation in your dictation, you have to incorporate it into your speech, deliberately saying words like “period” and “question mark.” If you find that too cumbersome, try dictating without worrying about punctuation. You’ll get your ideas down—which is the important part—and can edit in punctuation later in the process.
- Focus on dialogue: If nothing else, try dictating the portions of dialogue in your book. Since you’re actually speaking aloud, this is a great tool to ensure that your dialogue sounds natural and flows effortlessly.
- Use a headset: Even with the best dictation software, background noise can get in the way. Try using a headset designed to pick up only your voice—especially if you plan to dictate somewhere noisy, like a busy park or grocery store.
Best Dictation Software
Different authors will have different preferences when it comes to dictation. If you want to dictate most or all of the time, you may choose a more robust program. Other authors, however, may opt for a free program. Fortunately, there are great options in either category to meet your needs. Here are a few of the best.
Google Docs Voice Typing
Google Docs offers a dictation feature called Voice Typing, which is available in the desktop version, as well as the Docs app for iPads, iPhones, and Android devices. You don’t have to buy or install any additional software to use it—you simply open a Google Doc, then select Tools and scroll down to Voice Typing. The voice recognition is highly accurate, but you may have to slightly slow your speech to make sure it records every word.
Dragon is one of the most well-known and robust dictation software programs available today. It boasts a 99% accuracy rating in voice recognition, and you can “train” it how to recognize your individual voice and speaking style, so that accuracy will only improve with time. Dragon also offers a wide variety of products, including a mobile solution that works on Apple and Android devices. This sophisticated program does come with a price tag, however. Dragon Home (a dictation program designed for PCs), for example, starts at $200, while Dragon Anywhere (the mobile solution) starts at $150 for an annual subscription.
If you use Apple products, you can use Apple Dictation for free. This voice recognition software comes built into your Apple devices. You can quickly access it on the keyboard of your iPad or iPhone, or if you’re working on a laptop, you can access the feature through the System Preferences menu. It doesn’t offer many extra features, but it is an accurate and convenient option for Apple users.
Braina Dictation Software
Braina’s speech-to-text capabilities are 99% accurate, but Braina isn’t only a dictation software tool. With Braina, you also get the benefits of a virtual assistant, kind of like Apple’s Siri. You can ask questions or give voice commands to aid in your book-writing process. There is a free version of the program, but it does not include speech-to-text capabilities; to use the software for dictation, you need to purchase the full program, which starts at $79 per year.
Dictation software is an incredible tool for authors. It allows you to work quickly and on the go, eliminating long hours sitting at a computer. And when you have the option to work from anywhere, you can leverage the locations that unlock your creativity and keep the words flowing. Try making dictation part of your creative process, and see where it takes you!
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