What Happens When You Exhaust Word Online Transcription Minutes

Microsoft is providing dictation and transcription in Word Online. word online is part of the Office 365 or Microsoft 365 package offered by Microsoft for a monthly subscription fee. 

I recently began using dictation and transcription in Word Online as a replacement for Otter.ai. I like Otter, but I was already paying for Office 365, so why not use it and see how well it does for dictation and transcription. 

I do a lot of writing via transcription. I carry a Sony ICD-PX370 voice recorder when I walk daily. I record articles, journaling, and ideas while I am walking. I try to walk two miles a day at a minimum and I am not the fastest human on earth, so I take around 35 to 40 minutes round trip. If I were to transcribe every one of my walks, I would require about 900 minutes per month for transcription. 

Otter.AI provides 600 minutes per month through a free account. They do not allow the uploading of audio for transcription without paying for a Pro account. A Pro account costs $12.99 per month but provides up to 6000 minutes of transcription. 

I wanted to find out what would happen if I went over my monthly allotment of minutes using Word Online. Below are some screenshots of what happens.

Word Online Transcription Audio Greyed Out

As you can see, Word Online will transcribe over the 300 minutes if it is currently working on an audio file. Once it passes the limit, it will no longer allow you to upload audio until the next month. Notice the “Upload Audio” button is greyed out.

I have found Word Online to be decent, but not great. People who use dictation and transcription are likely familiar with Dragon Dictation know it’s the best of this category of software. Dragon allows you to train words so that people who are writing fiction can use made up words while dictating and transcribing. It learns your voice and voice to text becomes more accurate over time. It provides robust correction of documents. 

By comparison, Word Online has many faults and drawbacks. Dictation mode, when you are speaking directly into a document, allows you to turn off a profanity filter and you may select whether it will do auto punctuation.  

Transcription does not allow you to turn off the profanity filter and does not allow you to do your own punctuation. It seems to put periods wherever it feels best regardless if it makes sense. How it breaks paragraphs in line breaks doesn’t appear to have any consistency. 

Otter.ai’s target market is in transcribing meeting notes. Zoom has exploded since the pandemic started and it is still used heavily. Microsoft’s Teams application is used heavily in the same manner. Word Online is clearly targeted toward people who are transcribing meeting notes.  

We can hope Microsoft makes their dictation and transcription offerings more robust. They recently acquired Nuance, the company that owned Dragon Dictation. It’s clear they required that technology because Dragon owns the healthcare and legal software segments where people are using dictation quite heavily.  

Microsoft may not care enough about the individual user or organizations to roll Dragon’s technology into their Office 365 offering. 

Time will tell. 

Perfection – A Writer’s Scourge

Perfection is the enemy of good.

Have you heard that phrase before? I suppose you have. It’s the idea you’ll never complete something because it’s never good enough.
It is a big problem for me when writing.
I find it difficult to write a first draft of anything.
The process should go like this. (Notice, “should”.)
Come up with an idea.
You can decide whether you do an outline ahead of time. I have to begrudgingly admit an outline lets you know where you’re going, unless you’re a pantser who’s writing fiction. I’ve always thought of myself as a pantser, a person who makes it up as I go, but I find that way more difficult to do now because of TBI-related memory problems. It used to be I could remember everything I wrote. Now? HA! I use an application called Xmind to do mind mapping to help lay out longer material.
Write a first draft as quickly as possible.
Decide whether it’s poop or not.
If it isn’t, check “flow” – how well the writing flows from one concept to the next. Perhaps from one scene to the next.
I’m sure my problem with perfection came from a book I wrote years ago, in the early 90s. About Novell networking was a 600-page book. I finished it in three months. I worked full time as an IT consultant as I did it. I worked about 20 hours a day, seven days a week. I was exhausted all of the time.
Over the Memorial Day weekend before the deadline, Heidi took the kids and went on a short vacation. I sat in a chair and wrote all weekend with pages of printed manuscript all over the floor beside me. I fell asleep at one point and woke up writing my dream. I still remember it. It was just a short passage. It was something out of the Monty Python Holy Grail movie, where a Knight was riding a horse coming up over a hill at me. That’s what I wrote in the text of this book – how there was a knight wearing dark armor. I described him and his horse. Then I woke up, still writing.
Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t have time to write a first draft, and then edit it. So I tried to be as perfect as possible going through the first time. I edited as I wrote. I think it set the stage for me doing that for everything for the rest of my life, and nonfiction writing, which is comprised magazine articles, which are short, and blog posts, which are short, are easier to do. Books, not so much.
I learned another important writing and life lesson from writing that Novell book. The publisher was a German company – Weka Publishing. Working with them, I learned how beneficial it is to write in a clear, concise manner that the widest audience can understand. Don’t use the word, “vituperative” when the word “bitter” will do. Don’t use phrases only people in your part of the world understand. People who speak English as a second language won’t understand what you’re saying. And honestly, you sound like a try-hard. (Notice how hard I am trying to keep from using profanity there.)
I’ve concluded that if I’m going to be successful at writing books, I’m going to have to figure out how to let myself be less than perfect. I need to write faster. That means you need to write it, and then throw it away and in doing so you can throw it out of your mind.
Sometimes when you write, you give birth to something that takes on a life of its own. Other times, it’s just poop. You flush it down the toilet and go on. Part of success is understanding the difference.
The other part – allowing yourself to be less than perfect. I’m still trying to figure this out.

I was going to entitle this piece – “Perfection – A Writer’s Bane“, but that would have meant I’d used the word “bane” in two headlines in a row. That would not seem writerly of me, would it?