Here’s an interesting little fact: We speak much faster than we can type. The average person can type about 40 words per minute. But we can speak 130 words per minute on average (and even more if we are nervous). This raises a valid question: Can the use of voice-to-text writing tools increase your business writing speed and productivity? Should speech recognition software be in your business writing toolbox?
What Exactly Is Voice-to-Text?
Simply put, voice-to-text software is speech recognition technology—it turns your spoken words into written words. The software or app has built-in technology that learns to adapt to your specific voice, is infused with industry-specific terminology, and responds to custom voice commands.
Who Uses It?
Voice-to-text tools have been around for a while, and the software has continued to improve dramatically. Healthcare professionals use voice-to-text software to dictate notes directly into a patient’s electronic chart, thereby cutting out the middle-man—the medical transcriptionist. Business executives, journalists, editors, legal professionals, and students love the “hands-free” approach to writing emails, correspondence, reports, and more.
Choosing the Right Software
When it comes to investing in new software for voice-to-text tools to assist you in your business writing, use the following questions to help you determine which product is right for you:
- What will I primarily be using the software for? Dictating and transcribing correspondence or reports?
- Do I need the software to incorporate AI to act as a personal assistant? Will I use it to automate computer tasks such as setting alarms, playing videos, reading e-books aloud, and reminding me of events?
- Will the software seamlessly integrate with MS Office or other business applications that I consistently use?
Should It Be in Your Writing Toolbox?
You might be thinking: Of course! I need this. It will speed up my workflow and allow me to focus on other aspects of my business. But before you hit the “Buy Now” button, consider the following pros and cons to adding voice-to-text tools to your writer’s toolbox:
- Quickly transcribe your thoughts and dictation directly into a document. You can capture your speech quicker than you can type.
- It provides excellent access for those with physical disabilities that prevent them from typing on a keyboard and using a mouse. You can use voice commands to create documents, edit spreadsheets, search the Internet, and much more.
- Less time at the keyboard means your fingers and wrists get a well-deserved break (repetitive strain injuries are no fun!).
- If you can speak and write in another language but cannot proficiently type in it, then voice-to-text can be a powerful tool.
- Inconsistent editing. Some spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors will slip through. And be prepared to face a limited vocabulary in the software. If you plan on using it for specific terminology (g., medical or legal), you will have to consider upgrading to an industry-specific vocabulary version (which costs more).
- Pauses in transcribing happen when your voice tone or clarity changes, new words are presented that the software doesn’t recognize, or you try to use acronyms or abbreviations. Background noise can also present a problem. The resulting pauses in transcription can cause delays in productivity—exactly what you were hoping to avoid!
- It doesn’t make you a better writer; in fact, it can contribute to just the opposite—a lazy writer! The actual work of writing by typing the words yourself forces you to slow down and focus more on the process of writing, not just putting words on the page. You take the time to look up unfamiliar words and find the correct spelling and usage in an online dictionary and use a thesaurus for synonyms to replace those over-used words that you naturally fall back on. You actively check your work as you go to ensure it adheres faithfully to a particular writing style (g., AP, Chicago).
Avoid These Common Pitfalls
If you decide to use voice-to-text software, avoid these common pitfalls like you’d avoid Ebola:
- Not taking the time to proofread your work. Multiple spelling, grammar, and syntax errors will not lend to your credibility as a business professional.
- Not investing the time at the beginning for voice recognition training—depending upon your software or app, this may take a few minutes or a few hours, but it is well worth it.
- Falsely assuming the software will integrate with programs you already use. Before purchasing, research to determine if it will play well with the programs or apps you plan on dictating to. If you skip this step, you may be in line for a massive headache.
Is It Right for You?
Although the idea of writing with your voice may sound appealing, give it some thoughtful consideration before jumping in. Think about how you will actually use the software, how much time you have to invest in learning how to use it, weigh the pros and cons of how it will affect your business writing style, and do your research before purchasing.
Whatever decision you make, never forget that business writing is an art—cultivate your talent and actively work to elevate your writing skills to the next level.