High accuracy with dictation is the key to a successful voice typing session. It is the most important part of your dictation process and without it, you’ll get lots of headaches and spend so much time on corrections, that dictation won’t be worth your time.
I’m sure you already know about this. With dictation, errors are completely random and hard to spot – think the word “phone instead of foam” in the middle of a block of text which is not picked up by grammar or spell checkers.
Even with an incredibly high 99% accuracy with dictation, you get 1 error in 100 words or 10 in 1000 words. All of these errors are randomly scattered throughout your dictated text. This requires thorough proofreading to fix as every word on the page could be an error. I hope you now understand why it is necessary to improve accuracy to the best of your ability.
I’ve been dictating with Dragon professional individual (Link to Amazon for price and availability) – formerly called Dragon Naturally speaking – as a non-native English speaker for over 8 years and have found ways to produce dictated content that is 96%+ accurate most of the time. In this article, I’ll share these short and sweet tips with you, hoping that they help you get past your struggles with Dragon dictation. Let’s get right to it.
1. Get the right microphone and equipment
When I say, the right microphone or headset, I don’t mean go buy the most expensive microphone or headset out there. Getting the right equipment is just one part of getting better accuracy. It the part to cover to make sure that all other efforts you make will not be hindered by your hardware.
Any USB headset or desktop microphone will do well for you. Just get something comfortable to use for long sessions. You’ll find my reviews on some top headsets for dictation here and great desktop microphones for dictation here.
I recommend USB microphones because they usually have an electronic module that filters out background noise and any analog static signals – which interfere with the quality of audio Dragon receives. The less interference and noise, the better Dragon can interpret and transcribe your words into text.
2. Dictate in the right environment (as silent as possible)
Once you get the right microphones or headsets, the very next factor to consider is the environment you’ll dictate in. Try to dictate in a silent environment. Dragon needs to hear your words and your words alone – loud and clear. If you have loud surroundings or other people speaking, you’ll confuse the software and it will start to fumble words. If you are dictating with a laptop, take it to a quiet room, or to the car. Anywhere you can have some peace and silence will make you start your dictation a few steps ahead. You can dictate a lot of words in short sessions with dictation anyway, so just excuse yourself to somewhere silent for a while. You’ll greatly improve your results.
3. Dictate full sentences at a time.
There’s no rush to dictation. Unlike a human you are talking to, who’s waiting for your next words, Dragon has no problems with awkward silence. It will wait for you endlessly. That said, settle down and think about a full sentence and then dictate it all at once.
You won’t believe how much more accurate your dictation will be if you dictate full sentences in one go. Dragon’s software is able to understand words in a context better than single words. I’ve actually seen Dragon Professional Individual 15 automatically change a word mid-dictation because the context became clearer by the end of the sentence.
So remember, awkward silence is good while dictating, as long as you use it to think about a full sentence to speak out. You are free to put Dragon to sleep if it bothers you.
4. Speak slowly and clearly
As you are speaking to a software, which has been programmed to listen to certain sounds to make words up, you have to speak as slowly and as clearly as possible. Humans can understand mumbling, but Dragon can’t at this stage. The clearer you speak, the higher the chance of Dragon picking you up correctly. Think of how you’d speak if a tourist asks you for directions on the street and you need to explain slowly and carefully so they understand.
5. Try speaking like a Newscaster or TV story teller
Yes, as funny or strange as that sounds, if you are able to speak in the way a news presenter speaks, Dragon will love and reward you greatly. Newscasters or TV presenters learn how to convey words in a way that is clear for all to hear and understand. It will be totally unnatural to you in the beginning. However, once you see how much the accuracy of your dictated text will improve, you’ll keep doing it and it will become second nature.
6. Train specific words Dragon regularly makes mistakes with
Dragon has always had the option to add your own words to its vocabulary and train it to learn how to get them right. This can help solve issues of problematic words, but is very flaky and does not always work – no matter how much you train the word. In this case, use the next tip below if that doesn’t work.
7. Use “search and replace” for words Dragon just doesn’t get
Sometimes, Dragon just won’t understand a certain word, no matter how much you train it or how many times you add the word to its vocabulary. A nice trick here will be to proceed with your dictation using a specific word that is unique to your text and that Dragon has no problem transcribing to words.
Once you have finished your dictation session, you can then use the search and replace function of your text editor to replace all instances of that unique word with the special one Dragon had issues with.
This tip can help you save a lot of troubleshooting time with Dragon. It is like a software Aikido. You find a way around the issue and get results without the need to push back on a software that refuses to do what you want.
8. Learn to pronounce dragon problematic words the way native speakers do
I recently started trying to improve the way I pronounce words as a non-native English speaker, after years of trying to get Dragon to understand the way I pronounced them. You can do this very easily. Simply search on Google the word in question and the keyword “pronounce”.
If Dragon keeps typing “word” when you dictated “world”. You can practice your own pronunciation of the word by searching – on Google “How to pronounce WORLD”. Make sure to search this in your region’s language, US, UK, AU etc.
Preferably, look for the pronunciation in the dictionary website of your language region. For example, I dictate UK English, so I search for and listen to the pronunciations in the Oxford dictionary.
9. Use the Dragon feature that plays back your text in your own voice
Listening to your voice will open your eyes to the way you speak and the reason why your accuracy is not up there. You’ll be able to identify words Dragon is having problems with and strive to improve the way you pronounce them – using the tip listed above.
Simply select the words and then give the command “Play That Back”. Dragon will start playing back your voice the way you dictated that selected text. More info on how playback works here.
10. Don’t give up on dictation
I know, there is the temptation to pack it all up and go back to typing with your fingers. That feeling comes when you don’t see the results that you wanted. I can assure you that it will get better. Actually, YOU will get better at speaking. Not just to the software, but in real life.
My dictation journey has made me more aware of the way I speak. I have greatly reduced my mumbling to the delight of my family members who can now hear me clearly. All thanks to Dragon. The more you dictate, the better you will find yourself speaking.
One of the points above is to try to speak like a news presenter. This style will come out every time you dictate, but it will also make its way into your real life. You’ll start speaking more professionally the more you dictate, so don’t give up.
The benefits to getting better at dictation are not just more words created faster, but your personal development as well.
Keep the microphone at a consistent distance from your mouth.
With the latest versions of Dragon Professional Individual 15, the far-field algorithm greatly improves the sensitivity of the software to dictation spoken from farther away, but it’s not perfect yet. You can play around with distance till you get the best accuracy at a comfortable distance from your mic. That said, a headset remains the better option most of the time. With a headset’s microphone boom, the mic capsule remains beside your mouth throughout your dictation session.
Reduce the gain/volume on your microphone
Following up on the tip above, it is advisable you reduce the gain on your microphone either using the physical hardware knob on the device or using the software settings of the microphone to reduce the input volume. This will reduce the chances of your mic clipping – a phenomenon where the voice recorded is so high, that it spikes and hits the highest acceptable volume range. This causes distortion which dragon may misinterpret as an external noise rather than your voice.
Dictate your punctuation
Make a habit of dictating your punctuation. This will sound wired to you in the beginning, but dictating your punctuation will greatly reduce the time needed to complete your draft and also gives you the right flow to your dictation. You’ll speak slower and stop at the right times when you punctuate. It’s soon become normal, so make sure to incorporate this into your dictation if you haven’t yet.
Use voice to text daily and everywhere possible
The trend in tech is moving towards voice control. Computers, phones, digital home assistants and even modern cars can use voice control to perform commands. Try using your phone’s voice assistant to set alarms, set alarms, type out replies to messages etc.
Getting comfortable with speaking to get stuff done will make your dictation sessions more enjoyable and easy. If you are not doing this yet, give it a try. Use your phone’s voice assistant to set a reminder to “do something” on Monday next week at 16:00. You’ll be amazed at how fast it’ll be done, compared to manually having to do this on your phone.
These are some of the tips I’ve used over the years to get better at dictation and to improve my dictation accuracy. I’ve gone from dictating 1000s of error-ridden words, being happy to have produced these many words in a small amount of time, then sadly spending 3 times that amount of time editing and correcting.
I really hope they will work for you. I’ll keep updating this article with more tips as I find them. I wish you all the best with your Dragon dictation sessions and many more accurate words in future.
You’ll find some of my recent posts here: What’s the furry microphone cover and how to clean your microphone foam cover.