Bite-sized Tips No. 20: Watch out for the Dragon

Hampton Court 7If you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) or another dictation software, you’ll probably have realised by now that it sometimes has a life of its own. That’s why you need to pay attention to spelling and that you are being faithful to whichever style manual you are following (either your own personal decision or dictated by the client), especially as the spellchecker in Word might not highlight spellings as wrong that are not consistent with your style guide. Regular readers will know that I base my work on the New Oxford Style Manual. From now on in this series I’ll be highlighting terms that DNS can get wrong.

Please read my post Why All the Fuss about Spellings and Style Guides? for an explanation of why I think it’s important to be consistent in our work and be aware of the types of details I focus on in the Bite-sized Tips series.

1. One pitfall to watch out for with DNS is possessives. In my experience, DNS often fails to add apostrophes when they are required, or adds them when they are not, so you need to revise carefully to make sure none are missing or have been placed where they shouldn’t be. Here are a couple of examples from recent jobs.

DNS typed: teachers perception, but I actually wanted to say teachers’ perception. Of course, if I had wanted to say teacher’s perception it would be just as wrong.

DNS typed: SME’s when it should have been SMEs

DNS typed: It’s capacity to tackle social problems, when it should have been Its capacity

And similarly, DNS typed: which is why it’s results instead of why its results

2. Another major problem is homophones. Has DNS written would instead of wood or vice versa? Their or there instead of they’re? Rights instead of writes? To instead of two (it does this for me all the time)? Jim instead of gym? Key instead of quay? Four instead of for (another DNS favourite)?

Given that I use DNS with Wordfast Classic, it actually types quite slowly, giving me time to reread what it’s writing and correct these errors immediately (and also change my mind about how to translate the sentence as well, but that’s another story!).

3. Punctuation. DNS is not going to add any for you unless you tell it to, so when you revise your translation, include a check for full points and commas, etc. You might find you forgot to add necessary punctuation when you were busy in the throes of creative dictating!

4. Singular or plural verbs? DNS writes what it thinks you have said. I find that it sometimes adds an “s” onto a verb, thus making it singular in the present tense, even though it should be plural. And the opposite can happen as well (no “s” when there should be one).

5. Singular or plural nouns? As above, DNS can fail to hear if you’ve added an “s” onto the end of the word to make it plural, or it can add one for you even if it’s singular. Perhaps I don’t always make the right sounds when I’m dictating. Regardless, the singular/plural issue is definitely another point to add to the checklist during the revision stage.

Below are six words/terms that DNS has typed incorrectly for me, given that I base my work on the spellings that appear in the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors (as recommended by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders). If I cannot find the word I’m looking for in either of these books, I then turn to the Oxford English Dictionary online.

1. Quebec = no accent. I was surprised when dictating with DNS that it wrote Québec with an accent and that this was neither corrected nor highlighted as wrong by the Microsoft spellchecker in Word (which I have set to UK English).

2. power train = two words. DNS writes this as one word and the Microsoft spellchecker agrees, but according to the OED, this term is written as two words.

3. wind farm = two words. DNS writes this as one word and the Microsoft spellchecker does not highlight this as being incorrect. However, according to Oxford, this should be two words.

4. pretest = no hyphen according to Oxford. Both DNS and the Microsoft spellchecker prefer to write this term as pre-test

5. under-represent = hyphenated according to Oxford; however, not only does DNS type underrepresent for you, the spellchecker in Word (mine is the 2013 version) does not mark it as incorrect.

6. mid-sentence = hyphenated according to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), but in The Chicago Manual of Style it appears as midsentence. The latter one word option is also what DNS types out for you.

If you enjoyed today’s tips and want to read more, you’ll find a complete list of all the past entries in the bite-sized tips series here. I have checked them all recently against the new editions of the New Oxford tomes to make sure they are still correct.

Bite-sized Tips No. 19: Spellings – Part 15 – Another Ten

Bite-sized Tips No. 21: Spellings – Part 16 – Getting Trickier Every Time

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