The Demise of Dictation #amwriting

The first flush of dictation enthusiasm! How little I knew….

Yeah, dictation didn’t work for me.

I still have the gaming headset and I’m glad I got it. But I wish I had the money back for Dragon Professional for Mac.

This venture into dictation… it sucked another six weeks of production time, and I have almost nothing to show for it.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Fool Proof Dictation method included 55+ minutes of warm-ups every single dictation session. Hello! ADHD here. I never made it all the way through. Not one. Single. Time. Without. Distraction. I don’t know why I thought I could.

It was mind-numbingly boring to read aloud ten minutes from a “best-seller in my genre” with punctuation in. Then dictate five minutes of “session goals.” Then do forty minutes of fiction dictation exercises (with punctuation in) not including five minute breaks in between.

The last was my downfall. A five minute break from one of the more boring things I’ve ever done? It was never five minutes, even if I remembered to start a timer. No, I didn’t start other apps, but so what? A half-hour of daydreaming later (or maybe an hour or more), I’d come back to this planet and realise that I’d lost momentum and I was no longer “warmed up.”

Sometimes I’d cheat and go ahead and dictate my scenes anyway. But there was a problem. I’m writing a historical-fantasy-mystery set in 19th century London. I want British spelling. My native accent is South Texan (perhaps it’s even a separate language.) Dragon Professional for Mac does not allow for the possibility that someone who speaks with a Texas accent might want to produce output with British spelling. It’s even worse with a speaker who inadvertently slips into bad British accents while dictating dialogue.

When it came time to transcribe the recordings I’d made (at last!) not even the simple exercises were transcribed correctly, not even to the level of typos I’d have made in typing it. I’d go back through the recordings, and yes my speech was clear. No background noise at all. But when I tried to train Dragon in transcription mode, it still made the same horrible transcription errors time after time.

I also had a problem with the lack of visual feedback using this method. I read very fast, so that reading is almost the only way for me to take in information without getting distracted. I really missed seeing my words appear on the screen. So, for about a week, I tried to dictate directly to screen.

In my favour, I’d largely gotten over the hesitation problem while dictating (the interminable reading from Conan Doyle did some good!) and Dragon is much more forgiving about pauses than the Mac’s built-in dictation. But the transcription errors persisted. I finally tossed in the towel last week.

Yes, it’s back to typing for me, or when the words are coming hard, back to a stylus and a handwriting keyboard. If I ever get carpal tunnel syndrome, I guess my writing career is over. Or I’ll use Mac dictation, because it’s too frustrating to use the best and get minimal traction.


5 thoughts on “The Demise of Dictation #amwriting”

  1. I’m sorry to hear that your experience with dictation was bad. I have been dictating for over 10 years. I now use Dragon Professional for Mac and Dragon Anywhere for iOS. The exercises that you described seem very boring. My experience is that Dragon is now pretty good right out-of-the-box. I dictate directly to the screen. I also added hundreds of custom words to Dragon. Since you want British spelling, did you set the app to English (UK)? Even Dragon Anywhere allows me to do this (but I have not tried it).


  2. I understand your problem. I have never come across it. But two workarounds come to mind: (1) Since the list of words that are spelled differently in British is finite, you can train Dragon to insert these words using Auto-texts. (2) You can dictate most of your thoughts, but type the British words. This workaround would require you to dictate to the screen.


  3. Hani, thank you for sharing your experience. 🙂 If I really need for any reason (like inability to type) to pick up dictation again, I’ll keep your advice in mind. But as it stands, it just doesn’t show enough potential—for me—to be worth any further deadline slippage. My entire motivation was to be able to put words into my manuscript faster. This is the opposite of faster.


  4. I have a disability so I use Dragonspeak quite a lot and have done for years. The accuracy rate it claims is not at all what it claims. However, If you set it to British and just choose an accent it will ‘naturally’ learn what your accent is. I found if I dictated the scene, then used that as a base, my verbal brain picked up really interesting ideas and jokes. Closer to my natural style than anything I write, but I didn’t find it was much of a time saver/


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