Today we’re talking about dictation and how to increase your word count while sparing your hands with my top 10 tips and tricks. So when I’m talking about dictation I’m talking about speech to text technology, not the dictation where you record something and someone else types it up. There are a lot of programs available for dictation, but I just use Google docs on my phone because that’s the most convenient for me, and also it’s free.

A lot of my reasoning for switching over to majority dictation is chronic pain. Typing, even with an ergonomic keyboard, gets painful quite quickly so I had to get creative. When I was typing I would get about a thousand words on average per writing session and I can do double that with dictation in a shorter time frame. I’m not sure if that’s because the low grade pain was affecting me more than I realized or if the dictation just makes the words flow easier. I’ve suggested dictation to several writing friends and the ones it works for came back and told me they’d doubled or even tripled their usual word count in the same amount of time.

With that all being said, let’s get into the tips and tricks I’ve figured out since starting dictation.

1) Work In A Separate Document

First and foremost, I highly recommend that you do your dictation in a separate document from your manuscript. This is for several reasons: 

1) It’s super easy to check on your word count to see how much you’ve accomplished in a writing session.

2) It’s super easy to do a search and replace as needed without fucking up anything in the main document by accident.

3) You will never lose your starting spot and have to worry about there being missed unedited lines.

4) A separate document is not going to cause any lag. If you’ve ever tried to open an entire book on your Google docs app you’ll know that it can take its sweet time, but if you’re just opening a document that’s blank because you’ve cut and pasted your last session of work into the main document then you never have to worry about that. 

2) Speak Slowly And Clearly

This might be obvious, but it is something that you will probably have to train yourself into doing. The faster you speak the more likely dictation is to misunderstand you. This won’t solve everything, because there are certain words that dictation will always misspell or censor depending on the program you’re using, but if you can help it along by pacing yourself and being methodical with how you speak until it becomes more second nature then you will have a much easier time.

Some examples of dictation errors are:

Splitting words into two, like something into some and thing.

Homonyms such as mat as in a floor mat or matte like a shineless surface.

Unnecessary censoring. Dictation will never write out clit for me no matter how many times I’ve corrected it. It will usually write out clipped or Clint instead. Some programs will use asterisks to censor profanity, but for the most part I don’t have any issues with other words you might find in spicy work, or it’ll be hit or miss depending on the writing session. 

Correcting the split words and homonyms will have to be something you do by hand, but the censoring is much easier to correct with a search and replace for most of them.

3) Learn Which Commands Are Available

Different applications will have different commands, and so will those apps between devices. Look up the voice commands that are available for the program you intend to use and then run through your basic punctuation and dictation commands to see what it does and how it works and then you can choose from there what you would like to do consistently and what you would rather add in by hand later.

Commands available with Google docs on my phone that work consistently are period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, semicolon, dash, en dash, em dash, ellipses, slash, ampersand, open quote, and end quote. 

The commands it most often gets confused about is colon, which it sometimes thinks is the name Colin or the word colon, and new line which it will sometimes just spell out instead of moving you to the next line. 

Commands that don’t work at all for me are parentheses, brackets, square brackets, and interrobangs.

4) Search and Replace Is Your Friend

Dictation is not perfect and will make mistakes. There are measures you can take to accommodate for this. Sometimes the dictation will learn and sometimes it won’t. There will be some words that it will fuck up regardless of how many times you say it and correct it, especially with names.

If there are names or words that dictation consistently spells wrong, you can choose a more generic version of it that it gets consistently correct and then you can do a search and replace at the end of your session for a quick and easy correction.

For example, in my Bloodline Series, one of the leads is named Caden, spelled C-A-D-E-N, and dictation will always spell it as K-A-Y-D-E-N, so it’s very easy for me to do a search and replace at the end of my session. But I have another character that is named Velda and dictation has not once spelled it correctly, in fact, it has about four different ways that it will spell it, so to make my life easier while I’m dictating I will change her name to Zelda because dictation always gets that right and I can search and replace easily.

5) Pick And Choose What Punctuation You Dictate

You’ll have to dictate your punctuation in the same way that you would have to type it. I don’t dictate all of my punctuation, in part because it’s annoying, but also because dictation doesn’t always do it correctly. For example, I’ll do the opening quote but I won’t do the end quote because half the time my dictation will do it backwards. 

Some of the dictation applications will attempt to punctuate things for you in a way that it thinks is helpful and it is not always. With Google Docs on my phone it will capitalize the beginning of your sentences, it will sometimes add commas and periods appropriately, but also sometimes you will have to go back and correct because it has put them in where they do not belong. I don’t know if there’s a way to turn that function off, so I just roll with it.

I do find that the experience of dictation is different on my phone versus if I try to use a microphone at my computer because they will utilize a different apps for the dictation process and my phone is always a lot better about clarity and punctuation. The last time I attempted to dictate at my computer with a microphone it would skip things like capitalizing at the beginning of sentences, and that was very tedious to go back and correct.

6) Get Your Thoughts Out

I always use a dictation for drafting and never for editing. I find it much easier to do a straightforward writing session with dictation, to get all of my words out in whatever condition they come out as, and then afterward, I will go and clean up the dictation mistakes and edit anything further that requires it.

I would also recommend doing your edits to correct the dictation errors as soon as possible after your writing session so that when you come across something ridiculous you’re much more likely to know what you said than if you leave it and come back.

7) Move Around Or Get Comfy

One of the big perks of dictation is that you are not constrained to your desk while you do it. I usually take the opportunity to get some steps in by pacing around my bedroom, or if my body is giving me some grief that day I can also sprawl out on the bed and get super comfortable. This is another reason that dictation has been a lot more comfortable for my chronic pain, because I have the option of sitting at my desk, walking around, or laying down and still getting my work done in a way that isn’t going to aggravate any of my existing issues.

If you are a person who needs to listen to music while you write, then you may have to find a different source of music besides your phone, because dictation will mute any other noise making apps going once you hit the microphone button.

8) Dialogue vs Narrative

One technique that can be helpful for people just getting into dictation is to approach it by doing only the dialogue of your story. Using dictation in this way can really help the flow because you are essentially just talking for both characters and you can carry out the full conversation and then go back and add narrative later. I don’t do this personally, but I know other authors that do tend to write dialogue first and then add in the narrative, so that could be a viable technique for you to try out.

9) Stay Hydrated

You’re going to be talking for extended periods of time, so it’s important that you have a drink handy because your throat is going to feel it. I will usually dictate for around an hour at a time, but you can always do shorter or longer sessions depending on how it suits your style. I would not recommend eating while dictating though because that could impact your clarity.

10) Get Sneaky

If you don’t have a space to dictate where other people can’t interrupt you or overhear you then one tool that I’ve heard works really well is a stenomask. It’s essentially a microphone that fits over your mouth so you can whisper or speak quietly and it will still record everything with excellent clarity, but it is a bit pricey and a little bit weird. I will include a link to the one that was recommended to me by a friend who has used it regularly in the past if you would like to check it out further. 

I hope that these tips and tricks will be helpful to you. There are multiple varieties of software that you can use for dictation, but when you’re just starting out, there’s nothing wrong with a free option of Google docs.

That’s all for now. You can find all of my books and platforms in the description below. If you have questions or suggestions for future episodes, please do let me know. And if you’d like early access to these you can join my Patreon where I share them with people as soon as they’re ready to roll. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you soon for another episode!



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