There’s ongoing debate between the best way to journal write, either pen and paper or digital app. But there’s even another way: voice dictation.
Personally I recommend that the method of journal writing that feels most comfortable for you, and what serves your purposes for writing.
As someone who types on a daily basis, it’s really useful when I can use Dragon Dictate for Mac (Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows) to voice dictate my journal entries. Sometimes my hands get sore from so much typing, and the same would be case if I were hand writing on regular basis. There’s been several times when typing actually got in the way of me expressing myself, because I was too tired to type.
With Dragon Dictate, can easily voice what I want to say in my journal app of choice, Day One. Dragon Dictate doesn’t work well in all text editing applications, but it performs with nearly 90% accuracy in Day One.
I’ve been using Dragon Dictate for well over six years now, and admittedly I don’t dictate most of the article writing I do on a daily basis. The reason for this, is that I’m usually researching and writing (typing) at the same time, so it makes it difficult to voice dictate.
When you voice dictate, you have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Dragon Dictate (DD) can’t read your mind. It can only type what it hears you say.
To be honest, DD can often misread what you say, but it will never misspell a word. The program works best in its default digital notebook that comes with the program. With the DD notebook, the program constantly caches your dictation so that you can more easily voice edit your writing as you dictate. So the program is more accurate in the notebook than it is when you dictate in a web browser, for example.
Advantages of Voice Dictation
However, the advantages of dictating in Day One is that I typically don’t have to research anything as I write. I’m usually dictating thoughts off the top of my head. I don’t have to stop and look up references or embedded quotes. I can simply talk as if I’m talking to an assistant who transcribes what I say.
I often write more when I voice dictate, because I don’t have to constantly correct typos, or hit the delete key to make to change what I’m typing. With voice dictation, you use the commands, “scratch that” to delete the last thing you dictate.
I don’t dictate everything in Day One, but when I’m too tired to type, or when I want to do some longform journal writing, I use voice dictation.
Voice Dictation Tips
1. Once you get the program set up on your Mac or PC, you need to do some daily voice dictation practice for at least a month. Daily practice is imperative. Challenge yourself to dictate 750 words per day using the default notebook. (750words.com is also another useful tool, but DD is not as accurate in that program as in the notebook.) In the practice, don’t worry about grammar or making sense in everything you dictate. Instead, focus on learning how to dictate your thoughts.
2. Read the manual that comes with the application, and practice using the editing commands and features for getting the most out of voice dictation. There’s also the Dragon Dictate Workbook which is useful to work through. I believe there’s a similar workbook for Dragon Naturally Speaking users.
3. Don’t expect 100% accuracy with voice dictation. You will still need to read back over what you dictate and edit it, as you do with typing, and pen and paper writing.
4. I find that DD performs better when I dictate in short phrases, instead of trying to dictate entire sentences at a time.
5. If you want to use voice dictation, you’re going to have to be patient with the process and the results. Again, it is not 100% accurate, but it relieves the task of manual typing everything.
6. Learn to use the command, “cache document,” when DD starts performing inaccurately. When you use this command, DD will select the text you have dictated so far, so that it can “see” what you have dictated, and then provide better results.
7. If you type in a quiet setting, also check out how to use Dragon Dictate/Dragon Naturally Speaking for using non-text voice commands on your Mac/PC. It will save you from constantly clicking and using keyboard shortcuts.
8. If you find yourself liking voice dictation, invest in the relatively expensive USB 3-in-1 TableMike. This noise canceling mic actually allows for playing music in the background while you voice dictate. Plus, it helps DD to be more accurate.
Voice Dictation on Mac
Yosemite for Mac also includes a voice dictation program, but it is not as good as Dragon Dictate. However, I do recommend trying it out if you have never used with dictation on your Mac.
Enable the program by opening System Preferences > Dictation & Speech. Select the mic and keyboard shortcut you want to use to activate the dictation. Similar to Siri on iOS devices, the Mac dictation program allows you dictate in any application. Press your keyboard shortcut and start dictating after the beep.
Voice dictation is not a tool for everyone. It’s best used by experienced computer users. And I can’t say enough about how it’s not 100% accurate. The main advantage to using voice dictation is that it saves you the trouble of typing by hand.