Writing and Publishing

Have You Ever Used Dictation to Write?

Last week we talked about the importance of knowing how many words we write per hour. I’ve heard experienced fiction writers who say they consistently clip along at 2,000 words an hour. They write four or more books a year. This boggles my mind.

In the stratosphere of word counts, I’ve heard other writers claiming to push several thousand words per hour, which they do via dictation and speech-to-text software. In this way, these folks claim to “write” 5,000 words an hour. I’m intrigued, partially as a writer but mostly as a technologist.

What they don’t say is how long they can keep this up. One person does this in bursts, which never approaches an hour, so his 5,000 words in an hour is a misleading outcome. Another admits that an hour is about all he’s good for.

They do say this requires careful prep work, but they don’t factor that time into their speed claims. It also requires cleaning up the recording since the software is only about 95 percent accurate at best. Again they also don’t factor this into their calculations. And, as with all writing, they still have normal re-working, editing, and proofing to do. I wonder how much time they actually save.

This may work fine for writers who have also accomplished speakers, especially if they don’t require much prep work before they talk. Some people are like that; I am not. I also know that clear diction is key. That’s another strike against me. Plus my speaking style is the opposite of my writing style.

In my first contract job, I needed to write an hour-long presentation. Then I would have my presentation videotaped in a studio as I read from a teleprompter. The timeline was short and in an effort to streamline things, I made an outline of my talk and recorded me speaking from my outline. I paid for a transcription. Then I edited it. It required many edits. It seems I rewrote just about every sentence. It took hours. In the studio, I kept stumbling over my written words. I couldn’t speak what I had written.

Though arduous, they must have liked the outcome. They asked me to do a second recording. They wanted me to write it the next morning. We would group edit it over lunch, and I would record it in the afternoon. I still made my flight that evening. In the end, I spent far less time writing and editing my second talk then I spent on my first one where I tried a shortcut using dictation.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

6 replies on “Have You Ever Used Dictation to Write?”

I love your questions at the end of your Bylines! They give me time to pause and think. I haven’t used dictation to write before because . . .
1. I feel I am better at writing than speaking;
2. I’m not sure I like the extra step of listening to a recording. [Not wealthy enough to have it transcribed, ha.]
However, after reading your post, I might try it in 2016! It is quite possible that if I record myself, my personality might come out more in the blogs I write. So, it might be just what I need to bring the real me into my writing. It’s worth a try!
Thanks for the idea.

Patti. that’s a great though of being able to better capture your personality by recording yourself. I suspect that would be really beneficial to humor writers, Thanks for the great comment.

I do not think that most people who use dictation to prepare manuscripts do it to save time or boast about their word word count. They use it to put words to screen because their health issues don’t let them type as they formerly did.

Heidi, that is a great point. Though the people I have heard talk about dictation do so for the speed, I have wondered if it is means to allow writers to keep writing when their bodies make if difficult. It’s nice to know there are options.

Like Heidi, I’ve considered dictation for health reasons. Have been dealing with a hand injury, and also noticing that my body doesn’t like long hours at the computer anymore. In addition, I’ve used it in the past to capture ideas as I got them, particularly while driving. I’ve been considering some speech recognition software that would work well in the car and do a better job at recognition than my small handheld digital recorder. I guess I would come down with those who consider it for reasons rather than speed, but I do think it’s a viable form of ‘writing.’

Great question, Peter!

Yes, I agree. I would never expect dictation to give me an overall increase in speed, but I’m glad to know there are options that would allow me to continue writing should I need it.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!