Summary: typing speed and voice recognition

Subject: Summary: typing speed and voice recognition
From: Dave Whelan <dwhelan -at- PANGEA -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 17:07:32 -0600

Earlier this week I asked the list:

How important is it for a TW to be a fast typist? and
Has anyone had any success using technology such as voice recognition
systems to overcome slow typing speed?

The reason for the first question is that although I am a successful
freelance technical writer, I m a very slow typist. I can get by with
fairly rapid hunting and pecking, but, try as I might, I have never been
able to teach myself to touch-type well. I constantly try to improve my
professional skills as a matter of business survival and I am rather
ashamed of this incapacity, so I was interested in knowing what my peers
thought about the importance of fast typing.

There was a mixed range of reactions to the first question, from "important
for everyone alive today in a postindustrial nation" to "only when I've
had to recreate electronic files of documents that exist only in hardcopy
on a deadline" to "I don't think it's important at all" to "if you have to
type fast, it's a typing job, not a writing job". Some speedsters purposely
slow down because "my poor little fingers weren't designed for what I was
doing, so I got injured". Overall, the consensus was that being able to
touch-type, that is, enter data without having to look at the keyboard, was
more important that typing fast.

The reason for the second question was to find out whether voice
recognition might offer me a way to enter data without having to look at
the keyboard, without being able to touch-type. I have been interested in
voice recognition for a number of years, as an interesting developing
technology that might, in time, offer a solution to my poor typing ability.
Apart from speeding up text entry, I thought it might enable me to use a
tape recorder to record input from interviews with SMEs, then simply plug
the tape recorder into my PC and have it convert the speech to type almost

I have some reservations. One is cost: until recently systems were
prohibitively expensive. Another is accuracy: I have a low, soft voice, not
good for electronic speech recognition. Before I shelled out any money I
wanted some input from people who has used such systems.

The second question had fewer replies than the first one. It seems that not
many posters have had experience with voice recognition systems, but those
who had tried them were impressed, so I decided to investigate further. I
found an information-packed web site at; and an active user's
group (write "subscribe voice-users-digest" in the body of a message to
"majordomo -at- flinet -dot- com").

I have now ordered a low-cost trial system and expect delivery next week.
If there is sufficient interest, I will report my findings to the list in
due course.

Thanks to all who responded to my questions.


David P. Whelan, Technical Writer
Whelan Technical Services (204) 334-1339
mailto:dwhelan -at- pangea -dot- ca

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