In days of yore — the days of shorthand, secretaries and typewriters — a manager would dictate a letter. The secretary would write it down on a pad in shorthand and then go and type up a copy.
These days most of us type our own material into a computer. I don’t know about you, but I’m a poor typist and also a bit lazy. I find typing long things to be quite hard work.
That’s why these days, when I have quite a lot to say, I quite often actually dictate it straight into my computer. In fact, that’s how I’ve written this tip.
And it’s something you could do too as the software has become very effective and not too expensive.
I don’t know if other products are even available, but the acknowledged leader in the field of dictation software is Dragon Dictate from Nuance. The software is available for both Windows and Mac for around US$200. If you earn money with your writing the software may well pay for itself in time saved within a few hours.
To get the best from the software you need two things: to do a little bit of training so that the software is able to recognise your voice, and a good quality microphone. On their website Nuance recommend microphones that work well with Dictate.
In earlier times the software needed a great deal of training and was not always very accurate. I’ve been using it off and on for years now though and can definitely say that these days it is very accurate and very easy to use.
In some ways the hardest thing about learning to use it well lies in the switch from typing to speaking. Really you need to marshal your thoughts and keep track of what you were wanting to say and the best way to say it — it really is very different from typing.
You may well find the other problem is that you say too much. It becomes so easy that you can just ramble on. At least when you’re typing, well for me anyway, I get tired and want to stop. That does tend to keep my written documents a bit more concise.
If you write a lot I recommend that you check out this software. If you have a quiet environment and want to save your arms and wrists from the risks of excessive typing this may work for you.
Just as a note, I dictated this whole tip and only a few things needed fixing: a typo, a couple of dashes, the URL for Nuance and some edits I wanted to make after the fact.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, May 2011. This article has been modified for publication here.