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Beyond Siri: Dictation tricks for the iPhone and iPad

Kirk McElhearn | Sept. 24, 2013
Tired of trying to type on your iPhone or iPad's tiny keyboard? Try these tricks for dictating.

You'll find dictation in noisy environments works much better with an iPhone, because it's easier to speak close to the microphone. The iPhone also has a noise-canceling mic, which filters out background noises. You might find that the Apple earbuds that come with an iPhone—which have an inline mic—offer better speech recognition, as do third-party headphones with mics, as long as you hold them fairly close to your mouth.

Dictate when connected to Wi-Fi: Dictation to an iOS device requires that your voice be sent to a server, where it is recognized and transcribed, and then sent back to your iOS device. For this reason, dictating to an iOS device works best when you're using Wi-Fi; it also works well with a 3G connection; but anything slower is hit or miss, in my experience.

Dictate efficiently

If you're familiar with dictating into software such as Nuance Software's $160 Dragon Dictate, you already have an idea of how to dictate into an iPhone or iPad. But some desktop techniques don't work. Here are a few tips to make dictation more efficient.

Speak clearly: You don't need to speak especially slowly, but speaking too quickly will lead to errors. The general idea is to talk like a newscaster: Enunciate, but don't exaggerate.

Don't say too much: Your voice has to be sent to a remote server, so keep your dictation segments under 30 seconds. (Longer than that might be too much for a 3G connection.)

Take advantage of autocorrect: While you can't correct mistakes in iOS dictation by voice, you will occasionally see words that iOS thinks might be incorrect. They appear with dotted blue lines underneath them. Tap an underlined word or phrase, and you'll see one or more options you can choose from.

Speak punctuation and symbols: To include punctuation in your dictation, you need to say "comma," "period," "hyphen," and so on. Watch out for language differences. For instance, if you're using British English, you need to say "full stop" instead of "period."

You can say "new line" to dictate a return character, and "new paragraph" to add two returns. You say "apostrophe" for a possessive noun, such as "Jerry Garcia apostrophe guitar," for Jerry Garcia's guitar.

You'll also say things like "dollar sign," "euro sign," and "pound sterling sign" to get type the corresponding symbols.

When you want to capitalize a word, say "cap." If you're sending a message to someone about a movie preference, for example, you might say "I'd like to watch cap lord of the cap rings."

Use acronyms with care: You can dictate some acronyms, but not all. You'll find over time which ones work and which don't. When spelling acronyms, make sure to pause between letters just enough for them to be discrete.

 

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