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When I need to write an e-mail where I need to get the content right (or want to start a blog post), I get very worried about making it come out right the first time. I spend all the time I’m supposed to spend writing wordsmithing the first few sentences, and it takes forever to get anything done.
One of the best ways I’ve found to get stuff written FAST is to close my eyes and dictate a first draft into the computer. Since I’m talking instead of writing, it does not feel as important to get it perfect. And since I look away from the screen, I get the entire first draft out in a single burst, without spending any time editing until I am done writing.
And best of all, you can do it for free, if you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7. Both these versions of Windows come with built-in speech recognition that is surprisingly accurate (about or better than 90% for me). Better yet, it integrates directly with Outlook, so you can draft email right inside Outlook with your voice.
To get started, just click your start menu, go to Programs—>Accessories—>Ease of Access—>Windows Speech Recognition. Go through the brief, 10m long tutorial, and then start writing a new email in Outlook. Turn on dictation, and say whatever you like. When you’re finished, just go back through to edit the handful of mistakes, and your email will be all set.
Windows Speech Recognition also lets you control your computer exclusively with your voice (for example, say “File Menu, New” to open the File Menu and click New). I find those features much less helpful than the dictation, but your mileage may vary.
One other place that dictation is even more helpful is when trying to write an email on a phone. Dragon provides a free dictation app for the iPhone that works really well. I find that, even with not-quite-perfect accuracy, it’s much faster to dicate emails than write them on the iPhone keyboard.
Dictation has come a long way since the 90s. Give it a try!