How to Use Voice Dictation on the iPhone and iPad

iPad Voice Dictation button screenshot


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

It may not be the best choice for those who need to write lengthy emails or create large documents. For people who find the on-screen keyboard a bit unruly when typing more than a line or two, however, voice dictation works well enough to skip buying a wireless keyboard for the iPad and make the iPhone a viable alternative to our laptops when composing an email.

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 the iPad Pro and iPhone 6S and later.

How to Use Voice Dictation on the iPhone and iPad

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

  1. Tap the microphone button on the on-screen keyboard.

    Dictation button on an iPhone
  2. The device will listen to your voice and turn it into text as you talk. You can use keywords to insert punctuation or paragraph breaks as you need.

    Using voice dictation on iPhone
  3. Tap the Done button to stop dictating.

    Finish voice dictation on iPhone
  4. Make adjustments as necessary with the keyboard, or continue with what you're doing.

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

The Voice Memo app is available for the iPhone but not the iPad. You can use it to make quick audio notes.

Voice Dictation Keywords

To get the most out of voice dictation, you should remember these keywords to add punctuation or line breaks.

  • "Period": The "." is the standard way to end a sentence.
  • "Question Mark": "?"
  • "New Paragraph": This keyword phrase starts a new paragraph. Remember to end the previous sentence before beginning the new paragraph.
  • "Exclamation Point": "!"
  • "Comma": ","
  • "Colon": ":"
  • "Semi-Colon": ";"
  • "Ellipsis": "..."
  • "Quote" and "Unquote": You use these to put quotation marks around words or phrases.
  • "Slash": the "/" symbol.
  • "Asterisk": the "*" symbol.
  • "Ampersand": the "&" symbol, which means "and."
  • "At Sign": the "@" symbol you find in email addresses.

Voice dictation will automatically add spaces after punctuation that needs it, like periods, commas, and closing quotation marks.

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