Top tips to voice dictate content to text like a pro [Content Workflow]

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Through not even four months in 2020, I’ve blogged and published almost 90,000 words. For context, my latest book on content performance cultures had about half that. It wouldn’t be as easy without the ability and technology to voice dictate blog posts, articles and other content. I often voice dictate my posts and sometimes I write them with my thumb while riding a stationary bike at the gym. Sometimes, I use my wireless keyboard and my iPad. It all depends on what I’m currently doing and which content creation method works best for the current situation.

Related: iPhone blogging: Would I recommend the slider function to write blog posts?

While I usually voice dictate in the WordPress app or web interface these tips can also be applied to other areas where voice dictation works. I’ll share some of those as well. Voice dictation in the WordPress app allows me to simply dictate my post directly into the app on my iPhone. It then gets transcribed automatically. Such an awesome feature. I can talk much faster than I can type.

David yarde
David Yarde

Branding expert David Yarde also voice dictates as often as he can. “Thoughts tend to flow together better,” he said. I agree with David and one way to be more conversational in your writing is to literally have a conversation with your audience. To voice dictate can do the trick.  

Scot Westwater
Scot Westwater

Scot Westwater added that “we wrote an entire book this way. It’s a great way to get your ideas out quickly.”

 

Listen to an audio version of this article here

Downfalls of voice dictation

There are some downfalls. For example, when I say “quotation mark paragraph quotation mark” it actually writes all that out instead of adding quotation marks and the word paragraph in between. Some editing is still needed. Paragraph breaks also can’t be prompted: Parts of this article for example were written through the dictation and I should note that the TV was running in the background and my family was nearby as well. With all this ambient noise going on the app still transcribed my dictation very accurately.

There are places where we likely shouldn’t voice dictate. Sitting in crowded and public spaces for example. It can be rude to voice dictate when others are around us. Granted some content voice dictated is destined to be published for the public to see anyway. So there might not be a problem with confidentiality. Remember you may not know who the people sitting near you are.

Read next: Rideshare diaries: What stories should I share with my Uber driver and who is my Uber driver anyway?

What apps and devices allow voice dictation?

On desktop, anyone can voice dictate to transcription inside Google Drive. That’s been around since at least 2017 and I used to file blog posts for a project in the SaaS field that way. What’s nice about voice dictating in Google Docs is that you can easily share the draft with others by giving them access. That’s the easiest laptop way that I’m aware of. And it’s free. Turn on voice dictation on iphone

On iPhone, it’s not by app but it’s an iPhone function. You can voice dictate in any app, including:

  • Safari
  • WordPress
  • Notes
  • etc.

To make sure you have the function turned on go to: Settings … Keyboard … Enable dictation You can also enable it for other languages that you can speak. Simply add keyboards for other languages and it’s ready to go. For example, I’m fluent in English and German and when I write emails to partners in Germany I just switch to the German keyboard and then voice dictate my email.

The flow of voice dictation and editing

When I start writing, I like to file the section headlines (H2s) of the article first. This is my outline so to speak. I file it directly in the editor. I can use voice dictation for that as well:

  • I speak the headline
  • Click enter (when I say “paragraph break” it types those words and does not start a new paragraph)
  • Then I go back and voice dictate the different sections

It’s easy to just keep talking without looking at the screen. Remember that this isn’t a podcast, though. I would recommend to look at the screen to catch obvious mistakes rather quickly. Letting dictation go on too long without at least looking can lead to not remembering what a sentence was supposed to mean.

Technical setup

I usually voice dictate with my iPhone headphones or AirPods in. That seems to work well. Once you have voice dictation enabled a microphone shows on or near the keyboard when you get ready to type, like this: If you voice dictate in Google Drive on your computer I would recommend an external mic, like the Snowball mic, but there are other options available as well.

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I used the Snowball mic for my Google Drive dictations and simply place it in front of me and start talking while keeping an eye on the screen.

How to make sure capitalization works on iPhone while voice dictating

It was quite frustrating when my voice dictation was lower-casing everything. Even at the beginning of the sentence. I just fixed it manually, but that’s a hassle. Then my 12-year-old was voice dictating an email during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic while everyone was at home.

She said: “I turned capitalization off.”

Huh?

“Yes, you can turn it off and on.” I’m feeling old, but at least I learned something new. Here’s how you turn capitalization on – or off, though I’m not sure why you’d want to turn it off.

Go to: Settings…Keyboard… Auto-Capitalization

Should I save while voice dictating?

That depends on what app you are using.

In Google Docs, it auto-saves constantly on its own. I think there’s no manual save button actually.

In the WordPress app, it does not automatically save. Save the post as a draft and keep saving it manually.

If you are voice dictating in Safari or any other web browser WordPress often pulls auto saves of what’s in your browser, but that’s a gamble. There appears to be no auto saves besides that. Just keep clicking the Save Draft button to save.


Voice dictation can help us create content more efficiently. It certainly takes some practice. One of my favorite apps that I use is the WordPress app. If you are running on WordPress the next section might be of interest to you.

The mobile WordPress app

Content creation might be one of the most overthought workflows. Maybe some people do it because it feels safe or comfortable. “I could never write on mobile. I need a keyboard.” I hear this so often that I wonder how anyone ever let go typing on an actual type writer and moved to a computer. I still use computers and keyboards but the WordPress app and voice dictation have helped me produce more, participate more and share more. If I’d wait for a computer, I might wait forever. Here’s how I currently produce my content with the app:

Save ideas

I track ideas in the Notepad of my phone and then pick a story here and there. You can also save a draft in the WordPress app – which you can download for free in the app stores for the major platforms.

The home screen

Once you’ve connected your site or sites this is each site’s home base. You can check stats from here, start posts and pages. You can also access the media library – which didn’t used to work, but has been a nice fix. The stats are linked to Jetpack so I would recommend that you add that plugin.

Keynote/workshop/consulting: Book me here to talk about WordPress tools that help you grow audience

Once added, you can see your stats somewhat live and over time: The app also pings you when hourly views are higher than normal: I’m not a huge fan of the hourly metric but on the best day ever with 14,000 views it was nice to be alerted and to be able to see what was resonating with the audience.

Creating content in the WordPress app

Creating content in the app is pretty straightforward and I usually:

  • Type with my thumbs
  • Voice dictate

Some people choose to add a keyboard which is fine but is also just another thing to carry around. I love that I can do so much with just my phone.

Click the three dots to see your current word count. While size isn’t the only factor of a good article, longer seems to be better because it’s more in-depth. I try to hit at least 1,000 words with all of my blog posts nowadays. It used to be 500. But when I get to 1,000 or longer they certainly have more meat to them. Once you click new post (or the plus at bottom), this is the editor:

From here you can simply write. Sure, it takes some time to get used to, but so did typing.

Current bugs

One current bug I’ve noticed is that when you add a bullet list, it keeps adding bullet code ahead of each next paragraph moving forward. The easiest fix is to switch to HTML (far right on the bottom toolbar) and remove the extra LI code. Or don’t use bulleted lists. ?‍♀️ Another bug is pictures not sizing correctly. Once uploaded here, I size them to medium, which is set to 300 by something pixels and to centered. Once the article is published, I log onto mobile Safari to update the settings. When I don’t have images this isn’t a problem, of course. Yes, you are allowed to publish articles without lame stock art images.

The block editor is another option in the app

As I was traveling I opened the app on my iPhone and was greeted by the announcement that the block editor was now turned on.

Ugh. That was my first reaction. The block editor was first rolled out when I was speaking at WordCamp LAX in 2018 and I was a vocal non-fan (Opponent seems strong) and even shared how easy it is to not have to use it. Simply use the classic editor plugin.

I have been avoiding the block editor on Safari but thought why not give it a try in the mobile app.

A nice popup after all asked me to. ?

How the WordPress block editor works on mobile

In a nutshell: You create content in chunks (blocks) as opposed to one continuous piece.

Every time you push enter, that’s the sign for a new block, which can consist of the following:

    Page Break
    Paragraph
    Heading
    Heading
    Image
    Video
    List
    Quote
    Gallery
    Separator
    Short code
    Media and text
    More

So there are options. As you type – or voice dictate – here’s how that looks: It’s kind of strange to get a new block every time I push enter, but okay. Getting the options for a quote, image and so on is kind of helpful. To get those options click the plus sign in the bottom left. If it’s not there scroll left.

Advantages of creating content in blocks

At the simplest level I can see advantages the more we atomize, categorize and use content in different formats.

As we are not just creating blog posts but content assets that can be reused in other places, atomizing articles like this – if that’s the intent here – can pay dividends downstream. It can make content pulling for other channels potentially easier down the road.

Positives

The above is one. Ease of use is another. It seems to work well and may even make content creation easier.

My biggest pushback in 2018 was that it was too hard to use. What content creator has time for that? ??

Without blocks, code could bleed over to other areas and sometimes make for funky display of pretty simple content. This may take care of that as code doesn’t appear to be able to bleed over – at least theoretically. Content pieces – or atoms – seem to be content to blocks.

You can easily move individual blocks by the push of a button. No copying and pasting of text necessary.

This can come in handy when you want to rearrange the story flow. That happens and copying and pasting chunks of texts and images can be messy. This concept may make that easier.

Negatives

There’s no word count in the block editor. But it’s easy enough to switch over to the classic one to see your word count. I like to see the number of words written as I set goals for writing. 

From there you can also switch to the HTML editor. The transitions seem to work flawlessly.

It takes some getting used to. I’m not sure there are other negatives and it appears the block editor has come a long way from when it first launched. Hat tip (HT) to the development team.

The reason I wasn’t a fan of the new editor when it first launched was that it didn’t feel very easy to use. It was clunky.

This quick test on the mobile app – 1-plus years after the initial launch – showed a much smoother experience.

As long as something helps content creators be better at and more efficient with creating content, I’m all for it.

It seems like it’s on the right track and I would recommend that you try it. It can help make our content more skimmable – which matters today with many people mostly skimming.


Please feel free to send me your thoughts after using it.


 


This article was newly written in April 2020 while the section about the WordPress mobile app was previously written and published. It has been updated and republished here.



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