Consider Trying Dictation

January 22nd, 2023
dictation, tech, wrists
I started using dictation for entering text on my phone and computer when my wrists suddenly went really bad, but while my wrists are enough better that I can often type there are still a lot of cases where I dictate. Even people whose wrists are fine would benefit from trying it out:

  • It can be about as fast as typing on a real keyboard, which is great on a phone. I'm very good at swiping, but I can dictate faster.

  • On Android, at least, it does a good job even in noisy environments as long as I hold the phone close to my mouth. I can also speak very fast, faster than I can compose my thoughts, and it will still understand me. It even understands whispering!

  • I like having it as an option for composing thoughts, especially when I'm having trouble focusing. Sometimes it turns out I'm not in a good headspace for typing ideas out, but talking them through out loud works.

  • If your wrists do start hurting someday, being able to easily give them a break by switching some things to dictation can help them recover faster and make you less likely to hurt yourself. I suspect if I had been used to dictating as needed in 2020, I wouldn't have gotten to where I had to stop typing for a couple years.

There are some downsides, however:

  • The dictation built into Android isn't great with punctuation, and I often have to go back and fix things.

  • The error rate, in general, is higher. For note taking or casual texting where errors are no big deal this is less of an issue, but in dictating this post there were several places I needed to go back and fix something.

  • Because mistranscriptions look more plausible than typos I'm more likely to have errors that make it all the way through to posting: the mistakes are less likely to stand out as obviously wrong.

  • Fixing dictation errors is a little more annoying than when typing because you have to switch modes.

  • I like my dictated style slightly less than typed: it's just a bit too wordy. This makes it more important to go back over dictated posts looking for things to cut.

  • The dictation built into Mac isn't very good, and it's terrible unless I have a microphone right next to my mouth. If I want to dictate longer things (ex: this post) I'll dictate them on my phone and then edit on the computer.

  • I occasionally find myself saying "comma" or "semicolon" when talking to people.

Still, I do think most people would benefit from trying it out, especially on the phone. It takes a little getting used to, but mostly you talk and it writes things down. On Android it's just a matter of tapping the little microphone on the on-screen keyboard:

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