Is Text-to-Speech Really Better for Writing Articles?


I recently wrote a couple of articles using dictation to help me write them faster and on-the-go:

It was an interesting experience to say the least. We are so used to mainly using writing as the way of getting our thoughts onto “paper”. I mean everything is digital now right? We are under a lot of pressure and time constraints to produce information and content even faster than before. The need to rank on Google with high quality and insightful articles requires us to be more efficient with how we use our time to produce good information. See the tie in? This is an article about how to produce information faster via just talking to your phone. However, after writing the previous two articles noted above, I do have some things to share about the experience. The goal of this article is to demonstrate how dictation is a useful tool in creating content, but still does not quite hit the mark on replacing actual writing. I actually thought that speaking could replace writing but there is a reason why everything has its place in life. Sometimes it is more about leveraging tools rather than replacing them. Let us start with describing what dictation is.

What is Dictation?

Dictation means the use of speech to translate spoken words into text. As we use our phones more to inititate voice commands, we have started to replace typing. It only makes sense that this trend continues because we have such a high demand to get answers to our questions. This is why I mentioned in a previous post that we have such fast access to information today that we can use speech for even faster information retrieval. We already have such a vast pool of information with Google. Now we can just talk into our phones and not even type a single word anymore. We have gotten to a point where information retrieval truly has become instantaneous. I would like to move to and talk about the pros and cons of dictation.

What I Like About Just Talking to Your Phone to Create Articles

I became really excited using Google Documents to write these articles. I can access them at any time on my phone and it was great. I never needed a keyboard or anything to write an article. The idea that I can just pull my phone out and just talk to it was just intriguing. I probably became a little overly anxious at the thought of being able to write articles at any time. This really helps when you are there on-the-go and will not use a laptop anytime soon. The idea here is to be efficient with my time and at least produce something until I have an actual keyboard to write with. 

What I really like about just speaking the words out is that I can get my thoughts down without overthinking at the moment. These are thoughts straight off the top of my head. They are very deep or insightful. These are the kinds of thoughts if someone were to ask you a question and you had to respond right away. In this case, when you speak your answer, you quickly come up with pretty much the first thing that pops up into your mind. When you have a conversation with someone, you have very little time to think of something thought-provoking to say. You need to keep the conversation going, which is why what we think of first is typically our first response. The same idea works for dictation. Since talking happens very fast and constantly, we have to keep talking and talking to express our opinions. There is very little pause in between which is why it is hard to have something down that really came from deep within our minds. So dictation is very good at writing something that sounds more like a conversation between two people rather than a formal publication for academia. Depending if you are going the casual or formal route, dictation can serve you well.

The Problems with Dictation

Whenever I would speak into my phone, the translation of my words onto “paper” were not always correct. I just checked my transcription for this article and there are a lot of typos in it. Some sentences were mis-translated so poorly that I had to return and figure out what I was saying. I tried a couple of different methods to get the translation to work well. I tried speaking the same thoughts over and over but that wasted time. Even when I spoke slower and clearer, longer, more technical sentences did not exactly translate as well as I thought. In fact, I have decided to just use dictation as a way to write notes down but never actually publish them without severe editing. I found editing dictation to be too much and it conflicts with what I actually want to write. So I recommend that you start out with dictation, then flesh out your thoughts in writing. Even though I could have just written the last two articles by hand like usual, I wanted to try something new. We get stuck in our old ways for so long that we do not even consider new methods of doing things better and faster.

Tips to Make Dictation a Little Easier: Try Wearing Some Earphones and Using Voice Commands

I have to stay, trying to do this outside has its perks as you are able to “jot” ideas down by just talking. There is a lot of noise and distractions that can make it hard for the phone to hear you clearly. Try wearing a pair of earphones so that the mic does not pick up any outside noise. This will make it easier if you want to dictate without holding the phone, keep it in your pocket and keep everything hands-free. The earphones will also block out some of the external noise that can distract you when you are talking. This might help you clear your thoughts better if you have something that can help you focus.

I tried Google Doc’s voice commands and I have not used this feature enough to try all of the commands. Again, I said that dictation is good for just getting some ideas down. Only the most basic of voice commands might be useful. Like with everything else in life, just learn what you need to know at the moment. If you need to learn more to be more productive then go right ahead. I would not try to learn all of these voice commands if you never actually use them. I like the idea of voice commands though because it allows us to perform actions that are similar to a mouse cursor. For example, many of those commands allow you to move the cursor around the document. This was something that I was learning to get used to. The ability to move the cursor around as I was speaking. Sometimes I wanted to start a new paragraph or re-speak a sentence. It was tricky when I would say something and then had to move the cursor with my hand. So there was a mixture of speaking and typing that led to an awkward workflow. I understand that the voice commands are meant to alleviate this issue. I just have not used them enough to resolve this problem.

Writing Is Not Going Anywhere

I just discuss several issues with using dictation to write articles. Even though earphones and voice commands can help, there are still a lot of problems with actually writing full-fledged articles. Using dictation is not as intuitive as you would hope. This means that we have to return to writing our articles by hand again. There are many advantages to writing by hand. What I like about writing is that even though you are producing your words slower, there is more thought behind it. You can actually think in your mind as you type. Not that you cannot with speaking, but it is much harder to edit dictation as mentioned earlier. If you have to constantly switch between using dictation and writing, then I say that you might as well write. Writing is a lot better for articles because we are not conversing with someone. Therefore, the need to generate thoughts and opinions on-the-fly is not necessary. We are able to take the time to write something that requires pensive deep thought. Writing also gives you more control over editing.

When you write, you have a keyboard that allows you to move the cursor around your article much easier than with dictation. This makes editing faster since it is much harder to do so when speaking. Even with voice commands, you have to really enunciate clearly for the phone’s microphone to pick up your sounds properly. Something about speaking is that when we have conversations with someone, we talk fast. We talk fast because we are conversing in real- time with someone. With your phone, you have to slow down the rate of speech so that the phone can understand you clearly. This is unintuitive and goes against how we naturally carry on conversations with people. 

Native speakers cannot one-hundred percent of the time get dictation to work perfectly. That makes it harder for people with accents. Since accents make words sound differently, the microphone might have trouble picking up the sounds of the words and translating that into text. Since with writing, accents make no difference, writing is better used in the case with accents. So these are just some of the reasons why writing cannot be replaced with dictation. Even with the advent of brand new technologies, it is still very hard to supplant something old with something new. The reason why is because there will always be a slower than expected adoption rate of new technologies. Either people are not interested in change or the new technology has not matured to the point of mass use.

Writing does take a lot longer than speaking. So that is why fleshing out details must only be done while writing. There are times where you will just sit and think about what you are trying to say. These are times that we get lost in pensive thought. So the fast pace of speaking does not work here. 

Speak AND Write Your Articles

A common theme in my articles is the use of both options available depending on the situation. This is no different. I brought up when to use either speaking or writing a little earlier but I want to talk more about it. So I would start writing with dictation to get ideas out there if you are on-the-go. The idea is to use your time wisely and effectively to get at least something out there right now. Do not worry about editing, just get your thoughts down and start thinking about what you want to say later when you actually type your article out. Spend some time really thinking about the kind of information that you want to deliver to your readers and how you want to convey that. 

The Need To Produce Content Faster for Google

We are all trying to rank on Google for our niche. So I thought that dictation would speed up the process to get these articles out faster. Dictation can assist in producing articles faster, but it definitely cannot replace traditional writing. So I plan to continue to write articles by hand as usual. When dictation is useful, then I will use it. This is why I discussed in an earlier post  that we use information to make better decisions and produce better results. In this case, we are making better decisions on how to efficiently write articles. As mentioned before, good decision making and producing good results has to deal with how we consume information. In this case, we are “consuming information”, or rather learning about how to use dictation to write better articles. The information produced is an article. So I just used a previous post as an example of how it ties into this article.

Google has always been tricky as far as being able to rank for keywords. So I hope that this article has shed some light on how dictation in Google Documents can help you write your articles faster. I also wanted to write about this because one of the central themes on this website is information. So this was not just simple about using voice to write but also to relate it toward information. I hope to write a lot of different subjects and topics on information, as I find it simply fascinating. Of course it is, it is my profession after all as a programmer.

How Do I Feel About Dictation Writing After Using it For A While?

I wrote about Google Documents and made an update about how I feel about using dictation for writing articles after reflecting about it quite a while later. Come check out that article and see what my experience is after trying it out for a while. I also write more about how Google Office and OpenOffice are both better and free than Microsoft Office 365, which is now a paid subscription. Again subscriptions mean that it is time to find free alternatives. As we have all come to expect now in the digital age is that free alternatives are just as good if not even functionally better than paid options.

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