Tools For Writers: Using Dragon Dictate

by Cat Rambo

Cat RamboFor a couple of months now, I’ve been experimenting with using Dragon Dictate for writing, both fiction and nonfiction. In fact, I’m using it to write this post.

It’s not perfect. I do have to go back and check what I have dictated, because errors do creep in, sometimes wonderfully funny ones (as well as the occasional expletive directed at Raven when he’s crawling on me). But, I find it is a faster way to write. It works very well when I know what it is that I want to say. For free writing, I’ll still stick with pen and paper, or sometimes the keyboard. It is, by the way, incredibly handy when you are transcribing stuff that cannot be scanned in.

It’s tons better than the dictation capability on my phone. Dragon Dictate can keep up with me as I ramble along, and doesn’t ever make me pause to let it catch up.

I absolutely HAD to finish up a story yesterday. Dragon Dictate was immense help with it, for several reasons. One, I can dictate aloud faster than I can write. Two, I used it to transcribe the notes that I’d made in various places and go over them, expanding as I went.

Generally, once I had spent a little time working with the software, and it got a chance to refine its profile for me, I have been very satisfied with the results, inconsiderate well worth the money, if only for the productivity boost.

It is odd, however, to be dictating what I say and need to put all the punctuation in. I find myself, at times, wanting to stick the punctuation in during regular speech. It makes me speak in grammatically correct sentences, compose the words in my head before I speak them, rather than just grabbing them willy-nilly and flinging them into the sentence.

I do find writing dialogue a bit of a pain in the ass. That’s because of the need to dictate the punctuation as well as the words. But I look forward to becoming more adept with the tool, and being able to edit with voice alone as well.

Before anyone asks if it’s available on a Macintosh, I am actually using it on a Mac. Have you tried any dictation software? What have your experiences been?

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Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches on the shore of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” appears on this year’s Nebula ballot and is from her latest collection, Near+Far.  Find a link to the story (and other online fiction) as well as her upcoming online classes on her website, http://www.kittywumpus.net.

5 Responses

  1. TL Morganfield

    I’ve used Dragon on and off for several years now. Don’t like the current version much because it doesn’t work in Word and have to use it in Notepad then transfer. I dictated the last draft of my novel with it and found it really useful…then my computer died and I had to start my profile over from scratch (I do wonder if you can back up your profile on back up disks. Something I should have looked into but didn’t).

  2. Kimberly Unger

    When it first came out for iOS I grabbed a copy of Dragon Dictate. I’d used an early version for Windows a number of years ago, but since then my environment has consistently gotten noisier (suffice it to say, the only “quiet” time around here is when everyone is sleeping… Well, the “quietest” time at any rate.)

    I was hoping the iOS version would allow me to dictate as I drive, but the constant need to sync to their servers every 10 sentences meant I had to watch out for lost signal, and I had to remember to pause regularly. Eventually, keeping track of the foibles of the software turned out to be more work than simply scribbling on my legal pad and transcribing later.

  3. L. Lambert Lawson

    I use DD for phase outlining, and I find it works well for that purpose. I’m trying to write as quickly as I can think, so DD helps me there. I still write first drafts, though, with the old clicky-clacks.

    Also, I use a Mac and it works fine in Word.