Monday, 2 September 2019

Talking it in

I have written before about talking it in (here): that instead of keyboarding, I use speech recognition software to get the bulk of my thinking into a document, then do the fine-tuning and editing later. This is because my words per minute - uncorrected - measures somewhere in the late 40s, yet when I talk it in I speak at about 180 words per minute (also uncorrected). When using speech recognition software, I talk around four times faster than I keyboard. To work that out, I read in a blogpost in using Dragon, and used my stopwatch function on my phone to see how long it took me, including punctuation commands. 

It means that, if I have already got a fairly good idea of what it is I want to say, that I can get the bones down before I lose the thread of an idea. Using speech recognition software is also very useful for marking, when I have standard things that I want to say to a student.

I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking for many years now. There are a number of different options, which I've gone into elsewhere (here). There is no 'normal' speed when it comes to transcribing data: you just want to talk at as fast as you possibly can, while the software continues to recognise your voice. Elision, where we run our words into each other, as one of the main enemies of clear transcription. After you have been "talking it in" for a while, you will get to know your software package, and be either able to create micro-pauses between those words that you elide, or create AutoCorrects (if you are using Word) so that you don't have to slow down; instead the software corrects your elisions as they happen.

Interestingly, the average for US English speakers is around 150wpm, with American presenters or podcasters slightly higher at 160wpm (National Center for Voice and Speech, n.d.; Williams, 1998). I would imagine that the Australians are roughly the same. In New Zealand, people tend to speak more quickly. For example, when an Australian company - Grundy Productions -  was writing the scripts for the Kiwi soap opera, Close to Home, they would script 25 minutes of dialogue, and then find that the delivery was consistently a few minutes short. The scriptwriters had to add close to five minutes of dialogue for each show in order to fill the time. 

I would like to get statistics on just how quickly New Zealanders can talk it in. I have not yet been able to find anywhere online where you can record yourself to find out... but surely there must be somewhere.

If any of you know, please share it with me!


  • National Centre for Voice and Speech (n.d.). Voice Qualities. Retrieved from 
  • Williams, J. R. (1998). Guidelines for the use of multimedia in instruction. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 42nd Annual Meeting, 42(20), 1447–1451. Los Angeles CA, USA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

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