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Talk it Out with SRS

By Mindy Starns Clark

“I could hear the sound of Travis’s breathing.”

That’s what I said, anyway, into the headset for my voice dictation program. As sometimes happens, it didn’t quite get that. Instead, it typed, “I could hear the sounds of Travis breeding.”

Uh oh! Not in the CBA!

Occasional gaffs aside, I’m a huge fan of writing by speaking, or speech recognition software (SRS). As an author, I couldn’t do my job without it. If you spend much time writing, you may need it too.

The way SRS works is simple: You speak into a headset (which is usually included with the program) and as you talk, the words you say type onto the screen. You just have to watch for mistakes, for example, when it puts “ominous children” instead of “Amish children,” or “Celine poisoning” rather than “saline poisoning.” Yes, those are mine; I actually keep a log of my funnier SRS errors.

Most people who resist the idea of SRS do so because they doubt they could ever “write” by talking. They think their brain just couldn’t work that way. That was my biggest holdout, but when so many of my writer friends insisted it really wasn’t that hard to learn, I finally took the plunge. Much to my amazement, within an hour I had found my “voice” through my voice, and SRS has been an indispensable tool for me ever since.
That’s not to say I use it all the time. It’s sporadic. I may go a month without–and then need it every day for six weeks. The three most common reasons I find myself reaching for that headset are:

1. Wrist pain
SRS is a must if you have wrist problems. Whether carpal tunnel, cysts, or something else, if you’re wincing at the keyboard, give yourself a break and type with your voice instead.

2. Writer’s block
I also love SRS when I’m stuck. I don’t know if talk-writing pulls from a different part of the brain than type-writing does, or if it’s just the jolt of something different, but when my productivity grinds to a halt, I always switch over to SRS-and most of the time, that simple change will get the words flowing again.

3. Mental urgency
Sometimes, I have the opposite problem. My mind is racing a mile a minute, and I need to get thoughts down on paper faster than I can type them. When that happens and I’m a pot that’s about to boil over, SRS is the best way to keep up.

As for those inevitable errors, many can be eliminated by “training” the program to understand your voice. (See user manual.) And if you do get the occasional guffaw, the more the better.

Like recently, when I said, “Hadn’t he forsaken them?”

In response, perhaps proving that the devil comes from the South, it typed, “Having tea for Satan and them?”

Uh oh! Not in the CBA!

Mindy Starns Clark is the award-winning author of 19 books, both fiction and nonfiction, including the #1 CBA/ECPA bestseller The Amish Midwife (co-written with Leslie Gould) and the perennial favorite The House That Cleans Itself. Mindy lives with her husband and two daughters near Valley Forge, PA.

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