How to Select a Word, Sentence, or Paragraph on iPhone & iPad with Gestures

Apr 2, 2020 - 8 Comments

How to Select on iPhone with Gestures

Want to master selecting words, sentences, and paragraphs on iPhone and iPad? Then you might want to learn how to use the text selection gestures in iOS and iPadOS, which allow to easily select text on the devices for copying, cutting, editing, correcting, deleting, or whatever other purpose you may have.

Are you interested in trying out the text selection gestures on your iOS device to edit quicker? This article will be discussing how you can select specific words, sentences, or paragraphs using gestures on iPhone & iPad.

How to Select a Word, Sentence, or Paragraph on iPhone & iPad with Gestures

So far, you might be used to selecting texts by pressing the cursor, then tapping “Select” and dragging the cursor accordingly before you use the cut or copy tools, that trick continues to work fine but the gestures method detailed below may be even easier for you. Follow the steps below to learn the gesture approach:

  1. Open any app where you can select text, like Safari, Mail, Messages, Notes, Pages, etc, we’re going to demo this tutorial with the “Notes” app, so open the Notes app to get started

    Notes icon in iOS
  2. Tap anywhere in the paragraph once to place the cursor. (Type a paragraph or copy and paste it from somewhere else if you don’t have text to select for demo purposes)

    How to Select on iPhone with Gestures
  3. Now, if you double tap on the cursor, the word that’s right next to it gets selected. You can also double tap any word in the paragraph to select that particular word.

    How to Select on iPhone with Gestures
  4. Moving on to the next step, if you want to select a particular sentence, triple tap any word in the sentence that you want select to modify or edit. The sentence would be highlighted in yellow, as shown below.

    How to Select on iPhone with Gestures

  5. Lastly, if you want to select the entire paragraph, tap any word within the paragraph four times in quick succession. Once it’s highlighted, you’ll have access to cut, copy and paste tools located right above the selected portion.

    How to Select on iPhone with Gestures

And that’s how the gestures for quick selecting texts on your iPhone and iPad work.

This is one of those features that’s best to try out on your own to master, so don’t be shy to open up an app where you can select text to give it a go yourself.

The 4 Text Selection Tap Gestures on iPhone & iPad

To recap, the following tap gestures are for text selection:

  • Tap once to place the cursor if the text is editable
  • Tap twice to select a word
  • Tap three times to select a sentence
  • Tap four times to select the entire paragraph

The text selection gestures are very simple gesture to use, perhaps in contrast to the new copy and paste gestures for iPhone and iPad that were introduced with iPadOS and iOS 13 that requires some time getting used to, and a bit more practice to perfect. In most cases, text selection is followed by the usage of cut, copy, and paste tools to edit typos, rephrase a sentence, or remove it altogether.

In addition to the gestures that we discussed for quick selection, Apple also offers various other gestures to perform editing actions like undo/redo, copy/paste and more that makes text editing seamless on iOS. This way, it’s a lot easier and you get to save a couple of seconds in the process. Once you start using these, we highly doubt you’d want to go back to the conventional way of tapping the cursor to access the selection tool and then dragging it accordingly.

Similar to the gestures that are used for text editing, iOS features plenty of other gestures for improving the usability of your iPhone or iPad. For example, you could select multiple photos quickly within the stock Photos app with a drag & slide gesture, or you could zoom in and out of a video with a pinch-to-zoom action.

Mastering text selection on iOS and iPadOS is useful for anyone who types a lot on the devices, particularly if you make a lot of typos while typing, emailing, or texting on your iPhone or iPad, but of course text selection is handy for copying and pasting too. With the text selection gestures, you won’t require the tap-and-hold for Selection tool, backspacing, or other approaches for selecting text and editing your mistakes.

Admittedly gestures are a bit hidden, but once you learn them and memorize them, you should really grow to appreciate how well they work for working with text blocks on Apple mobile devices. Some users find these hidden gestures within iOS to make text editing a lot faster and easier than the traditional text selection tools, too.

Hidden or not, gestures have been a major feature of iOS ever since the introduction of the original iPhone. They’ve evolved as an integral part of Apple’s ecosystem, and with each new iteration of iOS, Apple often adds even more gestures or improvements to gestures that could be used across their iOS and ipadOS device line-up, all aimed at improving usability of the devices. These particular gestures were introduced with iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 and later, so if you’re running earlier system software you won’t have the text selection options available through these tap gestures, though earlier versions of iOS did have a somewhat similar two finger tap paragraph selection method.

What do you think about the gesture controls for text selection that the latest iPadOS and iOS brings to the table? Do you plan on taking advantage of this nifty text selection gesture trick on a regular basis? Make sure you let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section down below.


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Posted by: Hamlin Rozario in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. sam says:

    if you hold down the space bar, it lifts up and you can move it to any point within text.

  2. Mike McGraw says:

    I find it impossible to place the cursor in the middle of a word. When all I want to do is correct a misspelled word, Apple forces me to delete and retype or select and then retype the entire word. These tap gestures also don’t deal well with punctuation. A major aggravation!

  3. Dee says:

    Has anyone got any answer to what Chris said, above? I can confirm I am seeing the same behaviour with the triple tap, it selects the whole paragraph and not the sentence. I’ve tried this in large paragraphs with multiple sentences that are formed with correct grammar. Any info would be gratefully accepted.

    Thanks for taking the time to put out content in these difficult times, I hope this message finds you and yours, safe and well.

  4. Steve says:

    I find that press and hold after the last word then select select all works better that the quad tap!


  5. Gelphyn says:

    Thank you for this valuable information.
    I am currently having problems Sending eMail on my Mac and have to use the iPad.
    It would be great to learn how to Attach/Insert Images within the Body Text in appropriate places.
    The best I have managed so far is to tack them on afterwards, or effectively C&P Text into a Document containing Images.
    Stay Safe out there, bast wishes.

  6. Jan says:

    Thank you!
    Steps 2,3,4 very useful for me.

  7. Chris Luebkin says:

    Thank you for this tip. I love it. However, I’m finding that when I triple tap, the whole paragraph is highlighted instead of just the sentence with the word I’m tapping. Is there perhaps something in setting that will allow me to make this work properly? Thank you! Be well, be safe, and God Bless!

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