Dictation Commands for OS X & iOS

Jan 24, 2013 - 11 Comments

Dictation

Dictation is a feature of iOS and Mac OS X that lets you speak as you normally would, transforming your speech magically into text. It’s impressively accurate, letting you easily crank out notes, emails, diary entries, or just about anything else with it just by talking. To really get the most out of Dictation though you will want to learn a few extra commands, they will help with things like punctuation, creating paragraphs, jumping to new lines, and setting capitalization.

These commands will work in both OS X and iOS, so long as the Mac, iPad, or iPhone supports Dictation and has the featured turned on (here’s how to enable it in OS X and how to enable it for iOS, though it’s almost always turned on by default in the latest versions of both.)

Dictation Commands for iOS & OS X

These are to be spoken when Dictation is active:

  • “All Caps” to capitalize all of only the next word (e.g. START)
  • “Caps” to capitalize the next word (e.g. Start)
  • “Upper Case [letter]“ for making a spelling out acronyms (e.g. SAT)
  • “Caps On” to turn on caps lock
  • “Caps Off” to turn off caps lock
  • “No Caps” to use no capitals with the word
  • “Numeral [number]“ to type the number rather than word
  • “New Paragraph” to create a new paragraph
  • “New Line” to insert and start a new line
  • “No Space” to prevent a space from being between the next word
  • “No Space On” to turn off all spaces in the next sequence of words (helpful for passwords)
  • No Space Off” to resume normal spacing between words

Adding things like periods and commas can be done automatically by pausing in speech, or, usually more accurately, by just simply saying aloud the punctuation needed.

Here’s an example of how to use Dictation to write a quick message that looks as if it was typed normally:

“Hey Homer [comma] [new line]
What time do you want to see a movie [question mark] I think the [numeral 5] showing is the [all caps] best [period] [new line]
Toodles [comma] Bart”

That would come out looking like this:

“Hey Homer,
What time do you want to see a movie? I think the 5 showing is the BEST.
Toodles, Bart”

There are a lot of other punctuation and special commands available, and even though most are common sense, you can find the full list below for convenience.

Punctuation & Special Character Commands for Dictation

Most of the punctuation commands are common sense, but here’s the full list of possibilities from Apple:

question mark ?
inverted question mark ¿
exclamation point !
hyphen -
dash
em dash
underscore _
comma ,
open parenthesis (
close parenthesis )
open square bracket [
close square bracket ]
open brace {
close brace }
semi colon ;
ellipsis
quote
end-quote
back quote
single quote
end single quote
double-quote
apostrophe
colon :
slash /
back slash \
tilde ~
ampersand &
percent sign %
copyright sign ©
registered sign ®
section sign §
dollar sign $
cent sign ¢
degree sign º
caret ^
at sign @
Pound sterling sign £
Yen sign ¥
Euro sign
pound sign #
smiley face (or “smiley”) :-)
frowny face (or “sad face”, “frown”) :-(
winky face (or “winky”) ;-)

Did we miss any particularly important commands for Dictation? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

11 Comments

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  1. The Left Hand Of Manti Te'o says:

    Dictation can also access your Address Book for correct spelling of peoples names! This is HUGE.

    You MUST do this if you have a difficult name or if you need to use others that are difficult to pronounce or spell.

    Those of us with non-anglo names, have the names typed out in Address Book (Contacts app on iPhone and new OS X) otherwise the apps will completely maul the spelling. Add them to Contacts and it will be perfect. DO IT!

  2. Avenged110 says:

    Ahh this actually helped. Always had issues with it spelling out numbers.

  3. Tomm Matthis says:

    The illustration for apostrophe is incorrect. Its showing as a single open quote.

  4. Murgatroydal says:

    Siri, find the address, numeral four Times Square New York City.

    Perfecting the product may take awhile.   :)

  5. Craig says:

    Doesn’t work for me. Press the hotkeys but icon immediately says “Done.” Press them again and the little circles move a few seconds, then stop. Never is any text typed in Mail. Checked my mike in System Preferences>Sound>input and it indicates clearly the mike (iSight) is working fine. Tried restarting, still no luck. Thoughts?

    • Nevin says:

      What does Console.app have to say about the attempts?

      Do you have speakable items on; I’ve noticed they don’t play well together.

      And finally, double-check your audio settings with Audio MIDI Setup.app under the Utilities folder in /Applications or the Other pull-down in Launchpad. If you have an alternative input source, you might wish to consider trying it.

      -nevin

    • John says:

      Craig, try left-clicking your mouse at the point in the document/app you wish to dictate, then activate dictation (fn-key twice), then speak.

  6. Jeff says:

    How do u correct a word when it gets it wrong ? Have I missed something ???

  7. The Graphicist says:

    [space bar] will insert a single space.

    [numeral one fourth] will insert a 1/4 sign.
    This works for all fractions, including [numeral five seventeenths] (5/17).

    These didn’t work before this past fall (2013), but now they do on Mavericks as well as iOS 6 and 7. I wonder what other Dragon Dictation commands now work for Mac/iOS Dictation that didn’t used to?

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