I just received my Dragon® Naturally Speaking, Premium, Version 12 (© 2013 Nuance Communications, Inc.). The theory behind the software is that if I just speak my thoughts into my word processor, Dragon® will do all the rest. At least that’s the theory. For those of us who refused to take typing in high school because “that was for girls” (don’t judge me, we had peer pressure, too), and then spent our entire careers developing computer systems using two-finger typing, Dragon® is for us! (Yes, there were guys in the typing class in my high school, but they weren’t there for the typing.)
As I began to use Dragon®, it reminded me of when I first started using personal computers and word processors. Prior to then, I would write out my memos, articles, or documentation in longhand and send it to the typing pool for word processing. When I got my first PC with its rudimentary word processing program, I would do much the same. I would write out my memos, articles, or documentation in longhand; but rather than sending them to the typing pool, I would key them into the word processor two-finger style.
Why did I do this? Because over the years, in school and in college and in the office, I had trained myself to express my thoughts on paper, writing them out longhand. But now that I had a word processor and no typing pool, it didn’t take me long to figure out that if I continued to write longhand, and then key those same documents into the word processor, I could never keep up. So I forced myself to key directly into the word processor. In that process I discovered something about myself. I discovered that I had to relearn how to express my thoughts through the keyboard, after all these years of longhand. It took practice to learn to “write” again.
Which brings me back to Dragon®. I am now learning how to express my thoughts through the microphone, after all these years of keying into a word processor. You would think that “talking” out my thoughts would be very natural, but no! Through this process, though admittedly it’s only been for a very short time, I am once again discovering something about myself. Although I write fairly conversationally, I’m now finding that as I dictate into Dragon®, “conversationally” now means “incompletely”. As I express my thoughts using the microphone, and then print out the document for proofing, I’m finding that I’m leaving out meaningful detail for the reader.
So for the short term, until I become proficient using Dragon®, I will be using a combination of microphone and keyboard. The final proofing will be all keyboard. But the experience has taught me something, and it’s worrisome. If in my “writing” using the microphone I am leaving out meaningful detail, am I doing the same when communicating in meetings, or with client executive, or with project staff? Conversationally, as thoughts and ideas flow, we do often take shortcuts for the sake of brevity. But are we leaving significant details unexplained?
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