Has this ever happened to you? You say something that you think is pretty awesome, and you realize that you made a mistake.
Maybe you got confused reading your outline, or you’re simply trying to speed through the dictation process.
Whatever the case may be, you know that what you just said is wrong.
Usually, dictation bloggers or dictaphone writers would edit themselves on the fly. They would repeat the same sentence with some variation at the end. This action usually is enough to take care of the problem.
But as you know, when you are dictating your content, ideas come to you rapidly from all directions.
It seems you have so many ideas coming to you, and when you make a mistake, you get thrown off track.
At the very least, you get so confused that you don’t know where you left off, and, worse yet, you don’t know where you’re going.
It doesn’t matter if you have your outline in front of you or how clear the earlier parts of your dictation are.
If this has happened to you, don’t beat yourself up. You are in good company.
You are by no means an exception. It happens to everybody.
The good news is that self-editing does not have to be confusing. As you improvise verbally, you can take the following 7 steps to ensure your transcript comes out fantastic.
It doesn’t have to be gibberish, nor does it have to have rough spots.
Step #1: If in Doubt, Leave It Out
If you’re not sure about the correction for the apparent mistake you just dictated, leave that stuff out.
Don’t feel that you’re just obligated to plug up your mistakes. Nine times out of ten, you’re just making things worse.
You go from a slightly off or a little bit confusing sentence or a paragraph to complete disaster. Don’t throw gasoline on burning embers.
If you are in any way unsure about how you’re going to fix what you just said, leave it out and then think of something better today.
Don’t feel that you have to rush out some “instant” patch to your mistake. Your chances of making things worse go up tremendously the more desperate you feel.
Step #2: If Something Goes Wrong, Slow Down Enough to Fully Understand It
The great thing about dictablogging or vocal writing is that it helps you develop a tremendous sense of discipline.
You learn early on not to give in to your emotions. Instead, you train yourself to think through everything logically.
Frequently, when we dictate something that seems off, we assume the very worst.
Sure, something did go wrong, but a lot of the time, it’s not as bad as you feel it is.
It’s not the end of the world.
Sadly, many dictation writers panic and they end up talking excitedly to try to patch up their errors.
What started as a small mistake or a slightly awkward or poorly developed phrase or string of words turns into a wholly incomprehensible mess.
It happens because the speaker didn’t slow down enough to fully understand what went wrong.
Don’t give in to your sense of panic. Worse yet, don’t let the temptation of “being perfect” get the better of you.
When you’re talking, slow down a bit. Give yourself space to think about what you just said as you’re speaking.
Try to put things together to have a better picture of what went wrong and if you need to fix it.
You have to be disciplined to do this.
Step #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Yourself While Making Changes
Many writers believe that it’s a mark of failure or lack of competence when they dictate pretty much the same thing repeatedly.
One fundamental reality that they don’t get is that nobody cares.
The person manually transcribing your dictation audio knows enough to focus on the last iteration of the sentence you’re trying to get out. They understand what you’re going through, so you don’t have to worry about “an audience” that you risk disappointing.
Think of the dictation process as you talking to yourself. In this context, there’s no one to impress or disappoint.
Just relax and talk into your voice recorder like you do normally.
Just repeat yourself while making changes. Think through the alternative changes as you dictate them and be clear about the direction of your speech.
Step #4: Don’t Block Yourself From Thinking of Alternative Sentences or Lines of Thought
What makes the whole self-editing process so paralyzing is this heavy sense of desperation that you get.
You tell yourself: “There is only one way to fix this. I feel that I screwed up. I know that to save time because I’m speaking at the rate of 200 words per minute. I have to stick to one solution.”
When you think along those lines, you’re not getting anywhere close to the solution. Instead, you’re making things worse.
You’re blocking yourself off from thinking of alternative sentences or, better yet, lines of thought.
You already made a mistake by trying to ram a square peg into a round hole. That square peg is not going to fit in that round hole no matter how hard you try.
When you don’t give yourself permission to think of alternative sentences or even starting the sentence in a completely different direction, you’re just continuing to try to make the impossible happen.
It doesn’t matter how many times you keep pushing. It’s not just going to happen.
Allow yourself to think of alternative sentences because there is no fixed solution.
Step #5: Be Clear of Alternative Lines of Thought and Pick One
Now that you’ve permitted yourself to edit your previous mistake, be clear on what alternatives exist.
Feeling that you have alternative lines of thought is one thing. Actually identifying them and using them is another. Know the difference.
This is where clarity is crucial. Don’t just feel optimistic that you will “come up with something.” You’re not doing yourself any favors thinking along those lines.
Instead, focus on how many different ways you can say something or how many alternative ideas out there.
Which ones best fit the things that you’ve said before? Which ones help bring to life the outline item that you’re focusing on right now?
Step #6: Be Ready to Pivot or Backtrack if Your Pick Falls Apart
I wish I could tell you that the alternative ideas or sentences you have in mind will always be correct once you pick one.
Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way. In fact, in some cases, you just draw a blank. It’s as if you hit a wall.
If things are going well, you feel good with your choice because it would clarify or outright fix the mistake you made earlier.
But what if it turns out that it’s not very good or worse than the error you dictate?
At this point, it’s tempting to get emotional. You feel let down and disappointed that you want to quit.
That’s just going to drag out your dictation.
Instead, be ready to pivot. This is just a simple case of emotional willingness.
Understand that things don’t always fall into place, and that’s ok.
If your pick falls apart or somehow doesn’t fit, change directions. Be ready to not just make one pivot or two.
Get ready for several dozens in the course of a typical dictation. It happens.
What’s important is that you’re prepared for it.
Step #7: Nail the Point and Move On
Once you have picked a revised version of the mistaken sentence or several sentences, be as straightforward as possible.
You will know if you have hit the nail on the head. It’s relatively easy to just compare what you said to the error that you’ve identified.
A lot of these are emotional and subjective.
But once you feel sufficiently confident about the replacement or the different track you’re on, claim victory and move on.
There’s no need to talk in loops.
The whole point of dictablogging or dictaphone writing is to avoid the common mistake of writing in circles.
When you are typing your content by hand or by pen, it’s very tempting to just write in circles because there are always better versions of what you just read.
When you’re writing with your voice, just nail the point, allow yourself to feel good, and quickly move on to the next point.
This is the big advantage you get when you use a voice recorder to write books, blog posts, or articles.
The Final Word on Self-Editing During Dictation
Self-editing is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the whole dictaphone writing process. It’s the reason why many people who were previously excited about this form of writing get frustrated and give up.
They feel that once they get thrown off track, they just get so confused that the whole thing becomes impossible.
They automatically assume that whatever they’re going to dictate will not make much sense, or it will be so uneven in quality that they would be better off typing things out by hand.
That’s too bad!
With a little bit of perseverance and patience, you will be able to build up the kind of mental focus and discipline you need to self-edit at a high level.
I’ve been dictation blogging for over 9 years now and it’s truly changed my life. I teach fellow bloggers the ins and outs of voice blogging so they can take their productivity to a whole new level.