Dictation Commands for Mac OS X & iOS

Jan 24, 2013 - 57 Comments


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.)

List of Dictation Commands for iOS & Mac 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)
  • “All Caps On” to turn on caps lock
  • “All Caps Off” to turn off caps lock
  • “Caps On” to format next words in title case
  • “Caps Off” to return to default letter casing
  • “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
  • “Tab Key” pushes the cursor forward like hitting the tab key

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 in Mac OS X & iOS

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 !
em dash
underscore _
comma ,
open parenthesis (
close parenthesis )
open square bracket [
close square bracket ]
open brace {
close brace }
semi colon ;
back quote
single quote
end single quote
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.


Related articles:

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


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  1. ruskin says:

    Apple is unbelievable. They have features that they refuse to document. Dictate will randomly (seemingly) delete the last ENTIRE sentence. Must be some command. I found it once googling, as there are a BUNCH of commands for delete this and that, but could find nothing about how to get it back in case Siri thinks you spoke one of these mystery commands. This DELETE LAST SENTENCE mystery command is the single reason why this perfectly fine feature is unusable. Thanks again Apple, you improve things every release buy always find a way to make them suck.

    • Lorne Brandt says:

      I have the same frustgrating problem. I try to get around it by stopping and starting again before it happens, which is a bit of a nuisance.

  2. Miriam says:

    The more I use it, the worse it gets. None of the text formatting commands work. When I say “caps on” it simply writes out “caps on.” Also, dictation has taken to randomly capitalizing words in the middle of sentences, which I assume is because it thinks I have paused long enough to indicate a new sentence. But if it thinks that, why doesn’t it add a period after the word before it? It doesn’t, so the capitalization is just completely random.

    Not impressed.

  3. JIM QUINN says:

    Accessibility dictation commands need a command to enter individual letters. Words spelled out.

  4. RK says:

    I read this through and didn’t see the command “spacebar.” My apologies if I missed it. It works on iOS.

    • Kera says:

      I cannot insert a space with “space bar” for the life of me. I’m Going crazy trying to find A way.

  5. paul says:

    It’s really annoying that it adds extra spaces when you correct words

  6. Sara says:

    How do you indent or create ‘tab’ for new paragraphs?

  7. Brian Foley says:

    Still haven’t found the “select (this word)” command if I need to correct something. Have I missed it?

  8. Jeff says:

    Not right. ‘Caps On’ capitalizes the first letter of the next words spoken; it doesn’t lock Caps on. There’s a bunch more here that are incorrect.

  9. Mia says:

    How do I ‘speak’ Tab command? Also Caps Lock. Thanks in advance.

  10. James says:

    Speaking ‘Numeral’ allows you to type numbers.

    Sort of important and pretty common!


  11. Kate says:

    Is there a command to dictate a numbered list? Many thanks

    • vienstein says:

      Dictation can’t create a list. But Siri can.
      “Hey Siri”, “Create a list”.
      Siri Says “what do you want to call the list”
      Name your list.
      Siri says ” Ive created it, would you like to add an item…

      This works on iOS and OS X 3

      However in Dictation, you can say “Numeral 1″, (say your item1) say ” New line”
      say “numeral 2”, (say your item2) say “New Line”
      and so on

  12. Carlota says:

    How can I do dictation in Spanish on my Mac?

    • vienstein says:

      1 Goto System Preferences | Keyboard | Dictation.
      2 Turn Dictation On, and check “use enhanced dictation”.
      (( Enhanced Dictation allows you to use dictation, offline.))
      3 From Language, select ” Add Language.

      Now you can select either English or Spanish using the dictation UI, easily bouncing between the two.

    • vienstein says:

      Go to System Preferences | Keyboard | Dictation.
      Select the Language drop down, and select Add Language…

  13. John Doe says:

    . = “Period”
    Delete word/whatever you said = “Undo”

  14. Scott Amsden says:

    I would like to know if there are any editing commands that can be used. Such as, “delete the last three words” or simply “delete that” to delete the entire last thing you said. It would also be helpful if you could say select and then state the word. Or something as simple as being able to say “backspace” to back the cursor up. Now I don’t think the iPhone needs to have the fancier commands like select third paragraph or anything like that but being able to select portions of text and delete them with voice commands would be very very helpful is that coming anytime soon?

    • DeAnne says:

      It’s 6 months later, and you may have already found it, but in case not: Preferences > Accessibility > Dictation. Press “Dictation Commands” for a list. Note the + at the bottom of the list to create a command; for an action, you just need to know the keyboard shortcut. Big hole, though. It lists “Press Return Key” but I can’t get it to respond in any way. Try to add it, pressing the Enter key just kills the text box. Anyway, I hope this helps.

    • KENNETH KIV says:

      Dear Scott,

      I found it out. All you have to do is turning on Voice Control in Accessibility in iOS 14. Hope that helpful.

  15. I’ve compiled a list of the commands shown in the El Capitan version of OS X’s Dictation into the following .PDF file. You’re welcome to share it with your friends. Just don’t curse me if you find errors in it.



    • MRW says:

      THANK YOU! Who knew.

    • Amanda says:

      HUGE thank you! Much appreciated.

    • Sandy Annala says:

      Is there any actual documentation . . . e.g. a formal set of PDF files describing the commands, functions, etc of OSX Dictate?

    • Dan Casali says:

      Thank you so much. Why why why isn’t this in the IOS User Guide?

    • August says:

      Thanks for the very useful list.

      There is a LOT more possible than I would have thought just by my experimenting. Why do you suppose that Apple does not document this?

    • Jennifer Scott says:

      Dear Bill,

      Could I please have the list of commands for dictation that you did so long ago? It is deleted. I am trying to find a more complete list as I need to dictate a lot, and I especially need to find out how to dictate so that the new string of words I am dictating inserts a space. (So that there is a space between the last letter of the last word previously dictated and the first letter of the first word I am dictating. Like: blah blah wah wah wah instead of blah blahwah wah.

  16. TJ Avatarici says:

    Errors are made. Wrong words are selected.
    Where are “delete word”, “delete sentence”, backspace. delete

  17. GumBoocho says:

    For some reason dictation has no space command to insert spaces between words where Dictation runs them together. I have that problem when doing dictation with Word for Mac, though I could not duplicate the problem here! At any rate, one would think there would be a voice command that inserts spaces between letters. It has been a matter of correct style to use double spaces between sentences, but dictation does not do that. Here is an example it put only a single space not a DoubleSpace and for some reason I kept a lot of double space here above. And it ran in together devil and space and they called double Devil here ha ha.

    • MRW says:

      “It has been a matter of correct style to use double spaces between sentences”

      Nope. Only applies to text written on typewriters because typewriters were monospace. So a doublespace made sentences clear to proof-readers and copy editors.

      Typesetting always, and now, use a singlespace. Always, always, always. Check any printed book from pre-computer days. There were no doublespaces. The type might be justified, instead of ragged-right, but there are still NO doublespaces between sentences.

  18. Piecevcake says:

    Delete previous word would be even better

  19. Piecevcake says:

    Where are the text selection, correction, and movement commands? Even just backspace would be good.

    Navigation commands would be particularly useful since iPhone does not have any navigation keys on the keyboard

  20. jeremiah118 says:

    the Mac dictation is recognizing my words wonderfully well; however, i have a problem with it not putting spaces between the words –extremely often [in Mic Word 2011]…..does anyone else have that issue? Any thoughts about how it might be corrected? Thx for any info

  21. allseasonradial says:

    BTW, I can’t thank you enough for this article, whoever thought to write it! This was the most comprehensive list on how to use Dictation I have found yet, and I have been looking! LOL, I hope they’re paying you enough!

  22. Astrid says:

    How do I remove something?

  23. Craig says:

    What if you want to dictate this sentence?

    The Oxford comma is the right way to punctuate, period.

    I haven’t figured out how to get “comma” and “period” to come out as words.

    • allseasonradial says:

      I first tried Dictation in Mavericks last night, was really impressed with it (I’ve never used any such software on the computer, although I have used Samsung’s phone stuff as well as Google’s).

      Still, this is a revelation to me. Like @Craig, I tried to get Dictation to spell out the word, “ellipsis” but all I could get was the punctuation mark …

      I’m sure there is a way to spell out different punctuation marks, does anyone know how?

    • Deb says:

      Slow down and pause for a second between each word then it doesnt treat them as a command

  24. Cecily Haywood says:

    you forgot FULLSTOP

  25. Kalen Howell says:

    How do you make corrections?

    Dragon dictate allows you to say “scratch that”, which removes the last characters or words that you just dictated.

    There doesn’t seem to be any features like this and iOS dictation.

  26. 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?

  27. Jeff says:

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

  28. 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.


    • 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.

  29. Murgatroydal says:

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

    Perfecting the product may take awhile.   :)

  30. Tomm Matthis says:

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

  31. Avenged110 says:

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

  32. 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!

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