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Talk to me: Using dictation software to write

How often do you talk to your computer?

Last month I discussed the growing sophistication of programs that read your writing aloud from word processing programs such as Word or Pages.

Now, let’s look at the programs that allow you to speak your words into your work without using your fingers. Some might be old school enough to remember the first clunky dictation software. It involved a CD-ROM and lots of instructions and commands. Well thankfully the industry has greatly improved while becoming infinitely easier to implement.

Before you seek an outside solution, look towards your laptop and smartphone. All of the major operating systems and word processing systems come with built in dictation software. And let me tell you, they work really well. The ones to consider are:

  • Microsoft Word Speech to Text,

  • Apple Dictation,

  • Google Docs Voice Typing.

These features have their limitations, in which case you might wish to turn to outside software. By far the longest serving and most sophisticated is Dragon or DragonSpeak. It has been around since the late Nineties and has developed an incredible suite of products.

Others to consider include:

  • Otter,


  • Speechnotes.

I have found dictation software works great for texts, emails, memos, reports, first drafts of writing, and more. They work best when you have composed your thoughts, considering what you will say, as opposed to freeform composition. When you are “making it up as you go along,” it can come off as rambling and require significant editing.

Technical language was a hurdle in the past. No longer; as the industry has adapted to the medical field, all other areas have benefitted with specific vocabulary it recognizes or you can add.

Likewise, non-English language words were an issue. Also, this has been solved as well as most of these products offer versions in many other languages.

Years ago, there were a lot more keyboard commands and vocal commands to know. In my opinion, the whole industry has gotten a lot more intuitive and easier to use. When you get started, it is best to invest some time and understand the way the software works. “New line,” “new paragraph,” “scratch that,” and more may come naturally but there are so many other editing and formatting options. A bit of patience at the beginning will increase your output and efficiency.

If you are skeptical, start small with your laptop software. Play around with it. It can be a big time and productivity tool.

This blog post was composed with Word’s dictation software and read back to me with its read aloud function (with a bit of old-fashioned typing in between). Let me know about your experience.


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