One of the first questions I’ve seen people ask when they are considering dictation is, “Is it faster than typing?”
That’s an important question for most people, especially when just setting out on the journey of dictation. For most people, they are going into dictation and transcription to avoid repetitive motion injuries, or because they already had some sort of injury. Maybe they aren’t very good at typing in the first place. But then there are those of us that are not going into dictation to avoid an injury (maybe we should) and who type quickly.
We say, “I can type at [x] words per minute and I type much faster, and more coherently, than I can talk. Is dictation going to be faster than that?”
When you first start looking at what dictation can do, the numbers can be baffling and misleading. I’ve been tracking my dictation for two months now, minus dead air, and found that I dictate an average of 61 words per minute. I have 18 work days in January so far, and let’s say 2 hours of commuting (it’s closer to 2.5-3 hours, but 2 is easier), so two 1 hour sessions per day. So on the surface, my stats should look like:
Total Sessions: 36
Total Words: 131,760
That’s 1.5 books! Wow! On January 1, that looks amazing, but by January 30th the story becomes clearer.
My actual stats are:
Total Sessions: 25
Total Words: 20,320
Total Time: 5 hours, 35 minutes
That is really depressing. I mean, super depressing. What happened? Not counting the days I didn’t dictate due to heavy rain and high winds (don’t dictate and drive in bad weather conditions), I didn’t actually dictate non stop for 60 minutes each session. My sessions are an average of ~13 minutes long with an average of ~813 words per session.
Why? Because we writers don’t just sit down at a keyboard and type nonstop for 60 solid minutes either. We write a little and then stop to think, to compose, and to daydream. We do a lot of not-writing during our writing time.
For many writers, pulling off 400-800 words in an hour is decent. Terry Pratchett wrote his first book writing 400 words per day after work. Rachel Aaron wrote that she was getting ~2k words a day just writing for 3 hours before work: ~666 (lol) words per hour.
So when I hold up my average of ~813 words per commute hour against that I realize that my numbers are right in the zone. That’s not depressing at all!
These results are spot on to what I’d be pulling off if I were sitting on a computer. So even if dictation hasn’t improved my speed, I haven’t lost anything.
Is dictation faster than typing? I’d say no, but your mileage may vary. In fact, there is a learning curve which will slow you down significantly until you get the hang of it.
If it’s not faster than typing, why do it? If you already type fast, are not trying to avoid or recover from an injury, and have plenty of writing time, then there’s really no reason to pick up dictation. However, I was writing 0 words per day in November, 2016. Taking up Dictation has revitalized a languishing writing career and put me back into “normal” hourly word counts. It’s also done other things, like deactivate the inner editor and reduce writing procrastination.
So, if you find yourself with little time, or chronic procrastination problem, dictation into a voice recorder might be your ticket to regaining your creative mojo.