I used to primarily write spec fic novels, then, because of health issues in my arms, I began exploring shorter form, like poems and short stories. It’s often not awesome to type– if I’m typing I’ll use a tilted ergonomic keyboard over my flat laptop keyboard, or if I want to forego typing altogether, that’s where voice dictation comes in. I now write a lot using voice-to-text, and it’s helped significantly with not feeling like a bad day can halt my writing.
If anyone is thinking of exploring voice to text for similar reasons, I promise the switch is not insurmountable or doomed to feel unnatural forever. And it doesn’t produce innately ‘rougher’ or ‘worse’ work– that’s a myth! Around two weeks in it began feeling as natural to me as typing, and my prose quality hasn’t suffered for it.
My Voice Dictation Software:
I use a free downloadable software called Talon Voice https://talonvoice.com/. I prefer it a lot more to Microsoft Word’s voice-to-speech, or Google Docs’, which I both used when I was starting out. Talon is primarily marketed as a tool for programmers who for one reason or another want to control their computer and type using voice. But it’s not just wired for coding and putting parentheses, though– you can
- type in most any text box (Google, Word, Scrivener, Twitter, the url bar)
- dictate sentences or paragraphs ( “Say I like roses period” will write out I like roses.)
- specify types of capitalization (“Title red yellow” will write out Red Yellow)
- spell out words letter by letter by utilizing keywords for each letter, like that Alpha Charlie radio alphabet system (“harp air trap” will spell out hat)
- verbally insert spaces, paragraph breaks, periods, parentheses, hashtags etc etc.
- backspace, select, and delete words (“delete” will backspace one character, “delete tenth” will delete the ten characters previous to your cursor, “clear line” will delete the line of text you’re on)
- verbally control where your cursor moves through a document (“go left fifteenth” will move your cursor fifteen characters to the right, “go down” will move your cursor to the line below it, “end” will move your cursor to the end of the line you’re on)
- scroll up and down a page (“wheel up” and “wheel down” or, if you want a continuous scroll, “wheel upper” and “wheel downer”)
- wherever your mouse is, left click and right click (“touch” for left click, “right click” for right click)
- verbally prompt copy and paste selected text (“copy that” and “paste that”, or if you want to copy all text, “copy all”)
- if you’re really needing to click somewhere without using your mouse, you can verbally prompt a mouse grid and say out loud which area of the screen to click
- if you’re a bit savvy or motivated you can personalize by adding new keywords to do new things, by doing a bit of coding yourself, which is great for programmers looking to personalize or streamline
- and more!
I want to add that these commands and capabilities are not just the base Talon Voice install, but the base Talon Voice install plus the knausj_talon download. The documentation will direct new users to download knausj_talon under the Getting Scripts section anyway.
So Talon has this flexibility and versatility I really value. It just makes my life easier and better. And because of its strong capability for precision and control, I can write for long periods of time without taxing my arms on a keyboard or stopping every two seconds to correct typos, in contrast to GDocs.
My History of Using Voice-to-Text (Compare and Contrast):
I started voice-to-speech writing using GDocs, then moved to Microsoft Word’s inbuilt one, which is pretty good if you’re just starting to get used to voice-to-text, but I grew tired of saying everything within the word document and than copying and pasting places. Talon allows you to type wherever is typeable, basically. The url bar in your browser, Moksha, your e-mail, wherever. You also don’t need an internet connection after you download it, versus Word and GDocs where you do.
I also find Talon is more accurate at picking up what I’m saying and translating it to the correct word. (GDocs was worse than Word, so worst overall of everything I’ve tried. I’d rank it Talon > Word > Gdocs.) There’s also a Slack community of Talon users where you can ask for help if you’re having trouble with it, and documentation for new users on the Talon website.
One thing to be aware of, I would say, is that Talon has a higher learning curve than, say, Microsoft’s built-in speech-to-text, where you don’t need or have as many keywords. But Talon has a higher learning curve because of its more diverse functionality, and once you begin learning and get some things down I’ve felt like it starts coming pretty naturally, like riding a bike and glancing at documentation every so often, so I haven’t minded it.
If a writer is looking for a dictation option that’s kind of grab-and-go and requires very little of a learning curve, or they want to start with a software to try voice dictation before moving on to a more capable software, I’d recommend Word. But yeah. I prefer Talon!
(Also, my version of Word is Microsoft® Word for Microsoft 365 MSO (Version 2204 Build 16.0.15128.20210) 64-bit. A pretty recent and upkept version, basically. I got it through my college. I don’t want to assume that everyone has the same version of Word, so I’m popping this in here.)
(And maybe GDocs improved significantly since I last used it, but I don’t know– I was active on it around March-June 2021.)
(And on the voice dictation landscape– there’s an expensive (hundreds of $) voice dictation software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking that gets advertised that some people use. I was thinking of shelling out for it once, but then I found Talon and I was like. Okay this is zero dollars and unarguably great.)
So yeah that’s all! Had this written up and thought I’d slap this onto ye olde blog in case its a helpful resource to anyone out there. If you have chronic pain that interacts or interferes with your writing process, you are not alone at all. I know there were periods of time I felt alone, but you aren’t.
I hope that was helpful!