Why Writers Love/Hate VRS (Voice Recognition Software)

Posted on April 18, 2014


images Here’s a little information about voice recognition software…

Voice recognition software is about recognizing speech patterns, not just understanding the words—  at least not at first. Besides requiring that words be spoken clearly and coherently, the software needs  time to grow accustomed to a particular way someone speaks. Once the software learns the voice and  can comprehend it, then the words can flow freely from both the speaker and the software.

This is one of the main reasons some writers shy away from it.  They do not want to take the time to  get used to the software, and vice versa.  They want instant gratification.  Practice makes perfect  when  it comes to this type of software.

There are a number of places and people that use voice recognition software (VRS).  You may have  seen them in the movies and I, Robot-type labs. You’ve probably seen them in your own homes.  That’s right, some of that crazy stuff you’ve seen in action and sci-fi TV shows truly exist. Sure, most  of the time it’s a Hollywood ploy and 85% of what you’re watching is fake, but VRS is the real thing.    VRS can be used for anything from verifying someone’s identity or accessing restricted areas/information—kind of like that spy stuff everyone goes googly eyes for in the Mission Impossible movies—to simply writing a book or checking email.

Because I did a lot of writing growing up, oftentimes, when I had a sudden plot bunny or spark of inspiration, my hands couldn’t keep up with my brain and they hurt.  I even bought tension gloves from my local arts and crafts store to help with the pain (I also did a lot of crafts, which didn’t help things).  At one point, I took a very long break from writing (try a whole year or so).  It was that bad.

That was when I thought about using VRS myself, especially after hearing about Dragon’s software. I thought, “Well, instead of getting carpel tunnel and having to flex my hands every half hour, I’ll just wear out my vocal cords instead.” Dragon is a newly-developed VRS that has gained a lot of attention over the past few years.  It not only recognizes the voice and understands what it says, but also can complete tasks for you, such as bringing up browsers to search the Internet or sending emails. It is a lot more interactive than most VRS out there. However, running around $200 for the Mac version, it is not cheap. Due to the fact that I could not afford it, I chose to stick with traditional writing methods and began to take more frequent breaks.

Some writers have come to find VRS useful.  Kim Hensely Owes, an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island who is known for writing articles about how people and technology interact to write material, faced similar problems with the physicality of writing.  She has acute tendonitis, which means she can barely write, let alone type.  Her colleagues recommended VRS to her. In her article, titled “Look Ma, No Hands”, she talks about the uses and lack of recognition that VRS gets, especially in scholarly environments. She also mentions how she utilized it to write the majority of that particular article.

For writers, such as myself, there’s a good and bad side to using VRS.  For instance, I love constructive criticism, but that doesn’t mean I want to voice my work out loud, for all to hear.  I’m shy like that.  In his article “Do Novel Writers Use Speech Recognition Software?” Carl Taylor lists a number of reasons why VRS doesn’t work for novelists and how others find it very beneficial.  Some novelists like that they can talk and not be interrupted trying to correct things, while others may get drunk, use the software and then have to go through it sober and horrified by what they wrote (people are brutally honest when inebriated).

Some writers find the software convenient because it can be faster than typing or writing.  They are able to let everything flow freely without having to pause and correct any grammatical errors while typing (I do this and it can throw me off balance sometimes).  It brings a whole new light to the term “free writing.”  It’s especially useful to those who cannot physically write but are able to voice everything they want to.

Others, who like to write or type because they’re old fashioned or simply prefer that medium of getting their thoughts down, don’t step foot in the VRS world.  That’s fine, because everyone works differently.  After all, if we all worked in the same way, there wouldn’t be a need for different methods of writing.


Further Reading:

“Look Ma, No Hands”


“Do Novel Writers Use Speech Recognition Software?”


Dragon by Nuance



Chauncey Watson, Writer and Editor, Asta Publications


Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.


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