How to Use Voice Dictation on the iPhone and iPad

Talk to your iPhone or iPad instead of using the on-screen keyboard

If using the on-screen keyboard of your iPad is inconvenient when typing more than a line or two, use voice dictation instead of buying a wireless keyboard for the iPad. Voice dictation also makes the iPhone a viable alternative to a laptop for sending and replying to emails. Even if you need multiple paragraphs and punctuation, voice dictation can handle it. However, older devices may require an internet connection to do the heavy lifting.

These instructions apply to iPads and iPhones running iPadOS 14, iPadOS 13, or iOS 14 through iOS 9.

How to Use Voice Dictation on the iPhone and iPad

One of the most powerful features of iPadOS and iOS is also one that is easy to miss: voice dictation. Siri may get all the press for being a great personal assistant, but voice dictation may be at its best when it's taking notes, and it's available for both the iPhone and the iPad.

Follow these directions to get your iOS device listening to you.

  1. Display the on-screen keyboard by tapping a field that accepts text (such as an email or note) and then tap the microphone.

    Dictation button on an iPhone

  2. The first time you tap the microphone, you may need to tap Enable Dictation.

  3. Start talking. The device listens to your voice and turns it into text as you talk. Use keywords to insert punctuation or paragraph breaks as needed.

    Using voice dictation on iPhone

  4. Tap Done or the keyboard icon (depending on the iOS version) to stop dictating.

    Finishing voice dictation on iPhone

  5. Make adjustments to the text as necessary with the keyboard.

Voice dictation is available any time the on-screen keyboard is available, which means no hunting around for it when you need it. You can use it for text messages, email messages, or taking notes in your favorite app.

Voice Dictation Keywords

To get the most out of voice dictation, speak these keywords to add punctuation or line breaks:

  • Period: The "." is the standard way to end a sentence.
  • Question Mark: The "?" punctuation mark.
  • New Paragraph: Starts a new paragraph. End the previous sentence before beginning the new paragraph.
  • Exclamation Point: The "!" punctuation mark.
  • Comma: The "," punctuation mark.
  • Colon: The ":" punctuation mark.
  • Semi-Colon: The ";" punctuation mark
  • Ellipsis: The "..." punctuation mark
  • Quote and Unquote: Puts quotation marks around words or phrases.
  • Slash: The "/" symbol.
  • Asterisk: The "*" symbol.
  • Ampersand: The "&" symbol, which means "and."
  • At Sign: The "@" symbol found in email addresses.

Voice dictation automatically adds spaces after punctuation that needs it—periods, commas, and closing quotation marks, for example.

Other punctuation marks are also available, so if you need one of the rarer ones, say it. For example, say, "upside-down question mark" to produce an upside-down question mark ("¿").

The Voice Memo app, available for the iPhone and the iPad, is handy for making quick audio notes.

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