The Dragon, the Mouse, and Typos

The dreaded typo. It’s hard enough to catch all of the pesky little errors when I actually physically type a document. It’s always good for a writer to have someone else read their work in the proofreading stage. A new set of eyes will see a lot more than eyes accustomed to the words and their message. The process of proofreading is all the more important when I use dictation software. I haven’t figured out why yet, but I find it exponentially more difficult to catch all of the “typos” when I dictate than when I type. I’m not even sure what to call them. Dictationos?  Perhaps they’re harder to notice because when I type, I correct the errors as I go. If I do that when I’m dictating, my thought process is too interrupted.

I’ve experienced some horrifying moments in the past couple of weeks. A couple times, I’ve been ready to send an email, the mouse hovering over the send button, when I realize the crucial error. Email dictationos usually involve proper names. I cringe when I admit that I have almost sent uncorrected emails to professors with names that Dragon has a particularly difficult time understanding. The latest last-minute proofreads have saved me from sending messages addressed to Dr. Pretty and Dr. Mowgli. Yikes! Imagine the follow-up conversations. I shudder when I think about it.

My need to proofread is heightened when I dictate. It’s no longer a matter of catching a misspelled word or a “their” that should have been a “there.” It’s a matter of changing words that Dragon misunderstands, far more egregious (and humorous) typos than simple spelling mistakes. I was talking to a writer the other day who said he tried dictation software but didn’t like it because it so frequently resulted in nonsensical sentences. I think he gave up too soon. Dictating in short phrases can cause this problem and so can speaking unclearly or around other loud sounds. It’s true though that Dragon does produce multiple misunderstood words each time I sit down and create a document, even in the perfect dictating environment. That’s why I usually proofread once after I complete each paragraph and again once or twice when I’m finished composing. This prevents me from returning to my document only to find that I no longer understand my original intent.

While dictation software creates more work in the proofreading stage, it doesn’t do so at a high enough cost that I want to walk away. I’d rather turn into a super proofreader, one who reads each document carefully multiple times in order to ensure that only the highest quality leaves my desktop.

Question of the week: I’m looking for stories! What was your most embarrassing typo? What strategies do you have for full-proof proofreading?

The Dragon, the Mouse, and Tax Day

I don’t have anything terribly intellectual to offer this week.  My mind is tired after a long day of tax preparation, and so I thought I would write about the thing that occupied me most in the past 24 hours. This may involve a tiny bit of venting.

Tax day. Tomorrow. (Or if you’re not reading this late at night, then today.) I have a bad habit. I tend to wait to do my taxes until the last week (I’ve heard that I take after my dad in this way). On Saturday, when I heard an acquaintance mention that the accounting firm she works for had been quite busy lately, I experienced that all-too-familiar feeling of dread: “oh no! I still need to file.” taxman

Not to worry. I set aside the other tasks I planned to do today (which sadly meant not working on my dissertation) and went about using TurboTax to e-file. This is normally a relatively pain-free process, an hour or two at the most.  I think TurboTax is pretty great and my life is still simple enough that I don’t have many things to report. But this year, I wasn’t just filing taxes on my own. I was filing them with the help of dictation software. Last year I was still using an ergonomic keyboard when I would enter information into forms on the web, but in the last few months I’ve been learning how to navigate the web hands-free and input information with my voice.

It’s actually pretty exciting that hands-free filing is even possible. I have to admit though that frustration got the better of me. I started the process midmorning and quickly discovered that things were not going to go smoothly. I had forgotten my TurboTax login info which required me to open my email account, and then I needed to search for a record of a purchase I had made which required me to login to both my credit card and banking accounts. And then I needed to double check something about my student loans which meant logging into that account. Each login involved the use of at least 6 or 7 dictation commands (or more if I had forgotten my password which I did in a couple instances) and took approximately 10 – 15 minutes apiece.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I realized that Dragon was going to have a finicky day (which sometimes happens but not often). It failed at random times to enter numbers into the appropriate boxes and occasionally the mouse clicking commands didn’t work. I pulled out the actual mouse (or I guess I should say the actual computer mouse since I happily do not have access to the tiny white wiggly kind) and commenced clicking away. I took a break for the afternoon to eat lunch and attend two meetings at school and then was happily met in the evening by my fiancé who came to my rescue by offering to type the rest of the necessary information into my state tax form. Sigh of relief. My income tax forms have been filed.

Question of the week: I realize that this has nothing to do with dictation software, but I’m curious. Does anybody have any interesting tax filing stories to share? And on a topic more relevant to the theme of my blog, what are some tasks you’ve encountered that technology has actually complicated rather than simplified?