Can You Write A Whole Article Using Voice Dictation on the Mac? Well I Just Did (And This Is It)

Bakari Chavanu 13-09-2013

What you’re reading right now is an example of Apple’s dictation and speech program in action. This in the next paragraph [and the following paragraphs] will be written using [voice] dictation, and will be left on edit it [unedited]. For clarity purposes, anything I manually correct or change will be put into square brackets, while comments made outside of dictation (like this) will use italics.


For the most part as you can see, the sentences are pretty much grammatically correct, and all the words are spelled correctly. However, it is very difficult to compose sentences using the feature. If you have ever used Siri on the iPhone, you understand how dictation works on the Mac. Asked with [Like] voice dictation on the iPhone or iPad, you’re not able to see what you’re dictating until you press the Done button. So it turns riding long complicated sentences, That the dictation feature. so writing complex sentences It’s very challenging. It’s even more challenging because you have to think about what you going to say before you say it. So in terms of writing long, complex sentences and paragraphs, Apple’s voice dictation program makes it nearly impossible.

Dictation feature 12

Apple’s voice dictation feature also requires that you be connected to Wi-Fi or hey [a] cellular network. [W]hen you dictate, your words are sent to Apple’s server and converted to text and sent back to your device. The conversion process scratch that The text conversion process mixed-use up a large dictionary of words and phrases that Apple uses to convert your dictation to text. I have read that Apple is most likely using Or the Dragon-based speech recognition technology for its voice dictation feature. I will demonstrate the use of Dragon Dictate in the following paragraph[s] below.

Voice dictation

More [A]bout Dictation and Speech

In the above subheading, I issue[d] a Command That As You Can See Didn’t Quite Work As It Was Supposed [command that didn’t quite work as it was supposed to]. But notice when I use[d] the [Caps on] command in the last minutes [sentence, it did capitalize the first letter of each word the way I wanted it to in the subtitle]. 


With voice dictation, you need to speak the punctuation marks and deliver commands for ” ” And Z  [that you want the program to type.] [Y]ou also cannot speak more than 30 to 40 seconds before the dictation process automatically in [ends].

I think by now you get a sense of what Apple’s voice dictation [program] How To Dictate Writing On Your Mac: Apple's Dictation vs DragonDictate For a long time if you wanted or needed to use a speech-to-text dictation program on your Mac, your only choices were MacSpeech Dictate (now defunct) and Nuance's DragonDictate. But with the release of Mountain... Read More can and cannot do on the back, so let me try [turn] to Dragon Dictate.

Using Dragon Dictate

I am now writing using Dragon Dictate ($159.99) for voice dictation. You will notice that there are less mistakes simply because I can actually see what I’m dictating as I speak. When I do make a mistake, or when the program mis[-]recognizes what I dictate, I can issue the command “Scratch that”, “Scratch word”, or “undo dictation,” to correct what it types.

Note: I also spoke the punctuation, quotation and parenthetical marks, and numbers dictated in the last two sentences.


Ideally, Dragon Dictate works best and [when using] its built-in text editor, Microsoft Word, and in [or] Apple’s TextEdit, Mail, and Notebook. The program’s built-in text editor works best because it cachet’s [caches] your dictated content as you speak, and thus to [it can] keep track of the corrections you make, and sometimes it [can play] back to you what you said. Actually though, the program works pretty well in some other text editors, such as Mars Edit, which is what I am using to write this article.

Dragan Dictate 1

Dragon Dictate also has a voice recognition window in which you can use to edit words that it missed recognizes [mis-recognizes]. So for example if I say “make use of”, I can correct that using the recognition window. The recognition when do [window] also gives you a list of alternative words, phrases or sentences that it thinks [you] dictated, and you can choose the correct one.

Note: The best feature of both Dragon Dictate and Apple’s voice dictation program is that they never misspell words. They both mis-recognize words, but whatever they end up typing will be correctly spelled.


Does Voice Dictation Work?

What you need to understand about [voice] dictation technology is that it doesn’t necessarily improve your writing skills, nor can it correct grammatical errors, or write complex sentences for you. Apple’s dictation program and Dragon Dictate can only capture what you say, and type it for you.

While these programs can type faster than you can manually, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will produce documents faster. Where the process slows you down is that you have to think about what you want to say before you say [it], and you also still need to rewrite and revise what you dictate, as you would do with manual typing and writing.

Can You Write A Whole Article Using Voice Dictation on the Mac? Well I Just Did (And This Is It) 2082535909 2015fda548 z

I primarily use Dragon Dictate when I don’t want to manually type. I especially use the program for writing journal entries, forum comments, pre-writing notes, and articles like this one that don’t require research as I write.


In my experience however, Dragon Dictate does not work well for editing your writing using voice dictation, especially when using non-supported text editors.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend trying to edit writing using voice dictation unless you have a handicap that keeps you from being able to type manually. Dragon Dictate can get very clumsy in non-supported writing programs when it comes to voice dictation editing, and it can end up making the editing even harder.

How to Learn Voice Dictation

As you can tell, I recommend using Dragon Dictate over Apple’s voice dictation feature for longer pieces of writing. Apple’s program works fine for dictating short sentences in an email for example, but it is counterproductive for longer pieces of writing on your Mac.

The best way to learn voice dictation is to practice it on a daily basis. A few years ago I used to dictate 750 word journal entries every day for an entire month. I didn’t focus on grammar or coherent entries, but instead focused on getting comfortable with dictating my thoughts rather than typing them. The month-long exercise also gave me the opportunity to learn the features and tools [of] Dragon Dictate so I can [could] use it more effectively with real pieces of writing.

What Microphone To Use

For voice dictation it is best to use an external microphone, preferably a wired headphone or tabletop variant. I use the USB 3-in-1 TableMike because it is built specifically for voice dictation, and it also allows me to play instrumental music in the background while I dictate. With other microphones, you need to dictate in a setting where there is little or no background noise interferences, such as other people talking.

Note: In order to dictate “3-in-1” I had to say, “numeral three, no space, dash, ‘in’, dash, numeral one.”


For Apple’s voice dictation program I suggest using the earphones that come with the iPhone. The microphone captures dictation pretty accurately, and you can also program the microphone for [use with] Dragon Dictate. You can also download the Dragon Remote Microphone [No Longer Available] and sync it with Dragon Dictate on your Mac, and dictate wirelessly using your iPhone. Nuance also has voice dictation iOS apps Dragon: Two Free Voice Recognition Software For The iPhone Read More .


Unfortunately, Dragon Dictate does not come with a free trial download, so my recommendation is that you try using Apple’s voice dictation program first, and if you like the advantages of not having to manually type, you might want to give Dragon Dictate a try. It does not solve all the challenges of writing, but it can be an effective use of advanced technology at a rather expensive price point of $159.99.

One thing’s for sure – writing long passages of text using Apple’s free dictation software is not the way to go.

Have you used Apple dictation much? Have you spent the money on a pricey solution like Dragon Dictate? Let us know what you think, and if you have any questions about voice dictation, write (or dictate!) them in the comment section below.

Image credits: Mic (Bill Selak)

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  1. John Hudson
    June 17, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Apple dictation, and Siri too i believe accepts "Undo" as a command, similar to the "Scratch that" Dragon uses.
    What i can't find are instructions for educating my dictation software. If you have a friend called "Teri" to whom, or about whom you write, it's annoying having to correct the dictation spelling "Terry" each time. There are many names and technical terms, acronyms etc. where the dictation software really needs to pay attention to the corrections you make and learn from them. This important feature seems to be lacking.
    Any comments?

  2. Joe
    December 20, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Interesting, I may give Dragon Dictate a try. I write all day and I have found that dictation can be a fun alternative to typing. Yes, it can be cumbersome to correct it all at the end, but sometimes it's nice to just be able to stream your thoughts out and have it captured.

    Note: I have had to tweak my accent a bit. Wait, no.. A LOT.

    If I dictate using my natural SE English accent it doesn't seem to be as accurate as to when I yank it up a bit and sound more American, which is rather annoying and embarrassing. So I only use it if no-ones around.

    Ohhh dictation. Hopefully down the road they can perfect the feature.

  3. Elise Ackerman
    December 20, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Is there a way to tell Siri to "delete that" similar to the "scratch that" command with Dragon? I've looked and looked, as well as tried and tried, and haven't found anything.

  4. Noelle
    October 16, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I have been looking at Nuance's Dragon Naturally speaking, which I think is the same. Currently the product is on sale for $74.99 - and I found it even cheaper on Amazon. At that price I am seriously thinking about it.

    By the description it does the same thing as you describe.

    Thanks for the comparison... seems like Google's dictation (that I have been using on my Android) has similar issues to the Apple ones.

  5. Daniel E
    September 15, 2013 at 4:04 am

    I don't normally use the computer to write my first drafts, I use pen and paper. If I were using dictation software, I'd read off my notes.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Daniel, if you dictate your notes, you'll probably experience better accuracy with Dragon Dictate, because you're not having to formulate your thoughts as you dictate. I use Dictate when I need to transcribe written text.

  6. Bakari Chavanu
    September 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Guy: "Moreover, to appreciate this tool, one must like to hear himself speaking."

    Lol, I should have pointed this out in the article also, because sometimes I don't dictate simply I don't want to hear myself speak out loud. I just want to write in a quiet place with hardly no distractions.

    Thanks for your feedback, Guy.

  7. Guy Deridet
    September 14, 2013 at 4:23 am

    [Where the process slows you down is that you have to think about what you want to say before you say [it]]

    Is this humor ? Or do you really use to speak without thinking before to what you are going to say ?
    Kidding apart, it's true that using voice recognition is not easy for everybody. Exactly because me must format our thinking before to express it vocally. Moreover, to appreciate this tool, one must like to hear himself speaking.
    Politicians are very smart with this exercise because they not only do that all the time, but they succeed in expressing correctly the contrary of what they really think. And of course, they like everything about themselves.
    Sadly, on the contrary of what most people think, it's not so easy to be a politician. Especially for women, because if it's possible to think and to speak differently, it's impossible to make-up two faces ;-)

    • Ex2bot
      September 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      Imagine composing a longer text by voice alone. I don't mean reading back your text after you've written it. You'll probably find that you take long pauses while thinking what to say next. Apple's dictation doesn't do very well with long pauses.

      [I dictated most of this to my iPad using Apple's dictation feature. I did make revisions and corrections manually.]

  8. Chinmay S
    September 14, 2013 at 2:21 am

    You don't use Mozilla Firefox on your Mac. You are the first one i have seen who has not even installed Firefox.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Chinmay, are you saying Firefox has a dictation program installed in it? Unfortunately I haven't used Firefox since I started using Chrome.

  9. Anonymous
    September 14, 2013 at 1:41 am

    It looks like OS X Mavericks will have an Enhanced Dictation option that allows offline use and continuous dictation with feedback. It may be more similar to Dragon when this feature is implemented.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      I think in order for the Apple's dictation program to be used offline, users would have to download the entire voice dictation library. But who knows, they may be working on it.

    • Habib Alamin
      September 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      @Bakari - Yes, when you check the option to use it offline, it asks you to download a ~700mb file. I'm not on Mavericks yet, but there are some screenshots around the Web.

  10. Bakari Chavanu
    September 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Lol, I have that same problem with my wife when I try to use dictation on my iPhone while in bed. I hate typing on the iPhone. Thanks for stopping by, David.

  11. David Allen
    September 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I use Dragon Dictate as much as I can. Not using now as my wife is asleep in next room and I don't want to get lynched. Just about every other opportunity I use dictation.

  12. Bakari Chavanu
    September 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Yeah, it's mainly the feature in Dragon that allows you to see and correct your dictations as you write. Dragon has its own set of problems, but it has gotten a lot better with version 3, and I especially like to using it, as I am doing now, when I get tired of manually typing.

  13. Justin P
    September 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    There's a pretty profound difference between Apple's offering and Dragon, apparently. Great experiment!