The Most Effective Study Tip for Writing a Paper Quickly

One of my favorite quotes about writing is, “Write with your voice.” The person who said that meant it literally.


I’m talking about speaking out loud. I think the most amazing gift every Macintosh or iPad owner ever got from Apple was the dictation software that Apple has recently added to both OSX and iOS.

It’s beyond cool to just talk out your ideas and then watch them appear on screen. I’m surprised that more college students don’t use this as the best productivity and time-saving tool of them all.

OK, I get it — talking to a computer is a little … weird. It’s easy to get stuck in mid-sentence as you’re composing your thoughts in your head. It’s not easy to try to make the sentences come out of your mouth perfectly the first time.

But I’m sure you’ve been told that the fastest way to a great final draft of any paper you’re writing is to get a crappy first draft out as fast as possible. So here’s my dictation tip: Instead of trying to make up a sentence in your head, then speak it out loud for the computer, just tell the story of what you want to accomplish.

Say for example you’re writing a paper for sociology. You’ve finished the reading and you have an idea of what you want to say in the paper. Start right there, turn on the dictation feature in your favorite word processor, and tell the computer what you want to the paper to be about.

Your result might look like this:

“First, I want to talk about the key concepts found in the reading, especially the quote on page 124. Then, I want to contrast that with the reading we’ve done in the textbook. And I also want to bring in the lecture notes, which I’ve highlighted.”

What you’re doing here is speaking an outline of the paper. It’s quick-and-dirty dictation, it will really help you get your thoughts out quickly, and then you can do the real work of writing, editing, filling in the gaps, and polishing.

Let me know how you like this technique in the comments below.

For Windows users, sorry … you’re going to have to buy dictation software. I recommend Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is the same software the Apple has licensed.


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