Write it out loud: dictation for writing

I’ve always found it easier to put words into writing than to say them out loud, there’s something about the connection between my brain and my fingers that helps me find what I want to say, yet I struggle to access this level of coherence when I’m speaking.

My friend rocked my world recently by showing me how to use the dictation function on Word (I’m slowly making my way into the twenty-first century). My first thoughts were: amazing, now I’ll be able to write while I’m cleaning the toilet (yes, my life really is that glamorous). Yet my first attempt at dictating a blog piece (this one) was a little underwhelming.

Dictation starts now

It feels clunky, I’m not really sure what to say. There’s no flow and I’m full of of um’s and ah’s  (which came out as, open brackets rooms and ours). Whilst the command for a full stop seems to work, other punctuation is proving problematic, I can see some heavy editing on the horizon, though an article I read suggests the more I use Windows dictation the better it will get at understanding what I’m asking it to do.

This reminded me of a movie I watched recently called Her. It’s a futuristic sci-fi romance. The main character is a writer who dictates letters to an artificially intelligent computer which then handwrites them. His character seems to manage his flow with ease, so it’s given me something to aim for. I know that the late great Terry Pratchett dictated some of his books, so I’m determined not to be put off by my initial difficulties.

At the very least I think this tool will be invaluable for taking notes when I’m not able to sit and write properly, perhaps for getting those initial ideas down quickly before they drift into the ether in search of someone else to write them. I can see how dictation may help me to become better at expressing my more complicated thoughts verbally, and who doesn’t want to be a better conversationalist?

Pheasant Interlude

Oh my goodness there’s a pheasant in my garden! Now, had my eyes been focused on the keyboard instead of staring out of the window as I try to gather my thoughts for dictation, then I would have missed this beautiful bird. Now, how to stop dictating without typing stop dictating stop dictating

Dictation Stopped

Third time lucky. Overall I think dictation will be a useful tool. It’s not going to revolutionise my writing just yet, but I think it’s a technique worth developing, particularly as technology advances and dictation tools become even better at transcribing. I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to write purely through dictation, as the connection with the keyboard seems to allow me to tap into my thoughts at a deeper level, but then I probably once thought this about handwriting and I barely do that now, so who knows how things will change as technology advances? Perhaps one day we won’t even have to speak the words out loud, we’ll just be able to think them onto the page. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time.

Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

How about you, how do you write the first drafts of your blog posts, poems and stories?

Does the thought of a world where people rarely write using their hands fill you with dread, or is writing writing no matter how it gets to the page?

17 thoughts on “Write it out loud: dictation for writing

  1. Does the thought of a world where people rarely write using their hands fill you with dread? YES! Not to mention when I think of dictation I envision an old-timey office where the Boss records a letter into a dictaphone for the Secretary to type for him. It just seems weirdly antiquated to me.

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    • I hear you Ally, it would be so strange to imagine in the future writing and even typing could be as outdated as using a quill, but given the human propensity to pursue efficiency I can see it happening.

      I can see your image of dictation so clearly! Imagine replacing the dictaphone with a wireless earpiece and the secretary with an AI and we may be imagining the future (though I should add I’m no futurologist, this is pure speculation).

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  2. I think writing my thoughts down unlocks a flow of words that seem to get jumbled when spoken out loud. Maybe the time it takes to form the written words enables mindfulness and connection. ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right on the money there Mandy. I have heard that journaling by hand (which I don’t do as I can’t write quick enough 🙈) is good for that very reason, that it slows down the thinking and allows us to connect with what we’re really saying. It also gives is time to reflect on what we want to say, whereas I suppose speaking can come out all in a rush, and speaking to someone else is even harder! Formulating what’s in our brain and in our hearts in a way that someone else can understand free from their own perspective and biases often feels impossible!

      I listened to a TED talk the other day & scientists are developing a technology that will allow people to write from their brains straight to the screen to help people with locked in syndrome and physical disabilities to communicate, an amazing feat in itself (they’re already doing it) and they’re also imagining that once this is widely available they might also be able to use the technology with emotions…imagine being able to literally show someone how you feel by making them feel it!

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      • Oh my goodness, that technology is amazing. Imagine all the people with brain injuries that will be able to communicate again. I’m not so sure about someone being able to feel my emotions though…unless you can be selective about it !!

        Liked by 1 person

    • So it helps you connect more to what you’re thinking/ feeling?

      I shall have to give it another do. I do love the idea of a beautiful handwritten journal.

      In my last paragraph I wrote a line about thinking our words onto the page then last week I listened to a TED talk where they’re developing this very technology, I love a bit of synchronicity (I wasn’t searching for talks on that topic but there it was!)

      I think my thought words would be as messy as my spoken word though so perhaps I shall have to stick to typing (or perhaps writing).

      Thanks for your comments Tony and the follow, it’s nice to virtually meet you 👋

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