Guide to Dictation on iOS

Contributed by: Randy Reed, MA, CVRT, CATIS


Guide to Dictation on iOS


When presented with an iPhone and an editable text field, the learner will:

  • Start and stop dictation with 100% accuracy.
  •  Insert appropriate punctuation with 75% accuracy.
  •  Apply simple formatting, such as capitalization, inserting line breaks, and creating new paragraphs with 75% accuracy.
  •  Detect and correct errors ¾ times.


  • iPhone running the latest version of iOS.
  •  Age-appropriate material for the learner to practice dictating.
  •  Six to ten sentences.
  • Three to five paragraphs.
  • The learner’s address, email address, and telephone number.
  • (optional) Headset with built-in microphone.


Can the student perform the following tasks? If not, provide the necessary instruction before proceeding.

  • Interact with their device efficiently, meaning they can locating e activate icons, text fields, and other controls.
  •  If the learner uses VoiceOver, can they use the rotor efficiently? Can they type three or four letters at a time without difficulty?
  •  Navigate within a textfield?
  •  Speak clearly?

Here are other questions for consideration.

  • Has the student ever used voice recognition before? If so, identify the softwares used.
  •  For what will the student be using dictation?
  •  Does the student have a basic understanding of the rules of grammar?
  •  Does the student have any physical impairment that would prevent them from being successful in using dictation as defined by these criteria?


What is dictation?

Dictation is an alternative method to using the onscreen keyboard for text input. It is not the same as Siri, because it only processes the speech into text, rather than recognizing commands and performing an action. A cellular connection or wireless connection is required to use this feature.

What are the Benefits of Learning to Use Dictation?

  • It can be a faster alternative to using the onscreen keyboard.
  •  It lets you focus more on the content of your message.
  •  It is a mainstream tool meaning it is not specific to blind and visually impaired users.
  • See author Vivien Ries’ discussion on the benefits of learning to use dictation.
  • Learning to dictate effectively can help you be a better conversationalist, increasing your comfort level for phone calls, job interviews, and public speaking engagements.

Considerations When Using Dictation

  • Environmental factors such as noise, strength of cellular connection, etc
  • Dictation on iOS times out after 30 seconds, so speak as efficiently as possible.
  •  When is the use of dictation socially appropriate?
  •  Is the text I’m dictating private?

Enabling Dictation

Have the instructor enable dictation by tapping the microphone on the onscreen keyboard and choosing “enable dictation” in the resulting dialog.

Positioning the Device

  • Have the instructor demonstrate the positioning of the device, approximately half an arm length from the user’s face and explain this position prevents the muffling and distortion of the speaker’s voice. If necessary compare holding the phone too close to the face to a hand covering the mouth to clarify the concept.
  •  Have the learner practice positioning the device until they can consistently position it to meet their comfort level and the instructor’s satisfaction.

How to Speak When Using Dictation

Speak clearly and naturally

Have the learner practice some or all of these phrases to become comfortable with speaking clearly and naturally. The instructor should take the opportunity to demonstrate while reading the phrases for the learner.

  •  Teacup and saucer
  •  Meat and potatoes
  • Before and after
  • Coffee and tea
  • Coffee or tea
  • Unique New York
  •  Above and beyond
  •  End over end
  •  Hand over fist
  •  Yours truly
  •  Turn back time
  •  Seventh inning stretch
  •  Downhill from here
  •  Stretch Armstrong
  •  Twisted twine
  •  I’m a little teapot
  •  Through the forest
  •  There they are
  •  Ham and cheese sandwich
  •  First Street

For a list of additional practice exercises, see the Dragon Professional Workbook.

Tips for speaking clearly and naturally.

  • Think about what you want to say before you say it.
  •  Avoid using unnecessary words such as “you know,” “um”, “uh”, “like”, etc., as the software is not able to distinguish between these and important text.
  •  Practice with well-known phrases such as movie titles, famous quotes, song lyrics, etc. to make this process feel natural.
  •  For longer messages and documents, remember to hydrate frequently.

Starting and stopping dictation

  • If the learner is using VoiceOver, have them find and activate a text field. VoiceOver will announce the label for the text field and that it is editing. Then, perform a two-finger double-tap to start dictation. VoiceOver plays a tone. Performing the same gesture stops dictation, and VoiceOver plays a lower tone, and speaks the inserted text.
  •  If the learner is not a VoiceOver user, have them use the microphone on the onscreen keyboard. The instructor should call attention to the visual cues associated with this process.
  •  If additional practice is necessary, the instructor can have the learner start dictation, speak when the featured has been enabled correctly, and stop when the learner correctly disables the feature.

First Dictation Exercise

Have the learner open the Notes app, create a new note, and activate the textfield. Then, have them use some or all of the phrases from the section on speaking clearly and naturally to apply the skills they have learned up to this point. Have the learner stop dictation after each phrase, and be sure to tell the learner not to worry about punctuation, as this will be taught later. If the learner needs additional practice, use the following phrases, or content from the Dragon Professional Workbook.

  • “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
  •  “Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories.”
  •  “A dream is a wish your heart makes.”
  •  “Where’s the cream filling?”
  •  “Our final frontier.”
  •  “It’s only logical.”
  •  “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Dictating Punctuation

Why You Need to Dictate Punctuation

  • The software does not punctuate based on inflection the way humans do.
  •  It makes your content easy to read and understand.

Learning When to Dictate Punctuation

  • A basic sentence has the first letter of the first word capitalized and a period at the end of the last word.
  •  Sentences which are questions have a question mark at the end of the last word.
  •  In a sentence with a comma, the reader breathes between halves of the sentence.

Exercise: Learning when to dictate punctuation

The instructor will read the following sentences. Have the learner say “period” at the end of the sentence, or comma when they hear the instructor pause and breathe. The instructor should speak naturally.

  • We have a tall tree in our backyard.
  •  The fish are in the bowl.
  •  I walk fast, but my friend walks slow.
  •  I will leave, but you will stay.

Commands for Basic Punctuation

  • period=.
  •  comma=,
  • Open quote and close quote=” and “
  •  Questionmark=?
  •  Exclamation point=!

For a complete list of punctuation and formatting commands, see this list.

Second Dictation Exercise: Working with basic punctuation.

Have the instructor read three to five sentences that are age-appropriate for the learner to dictate. Have the learner open the Notes app, create a new note, and activate the text field. Have the learner dictate each sentence, inserting punctuation where appropriate. Be sure that dictation is stopped between each sentence.

Correcting Errors

  • Just like with physical typing, mistakes occur in dictation.
  •  Errors can occur for many reasons.
  • Background noise.
  •  The speaker ran words together.
  •  The software does not always recognize context.
  •  Incorrect command.

Demonstration: It’s a Matter of Context

The instructor will dictate the following well-known sentence. Dictate all punctuation.:

Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.

The instructor should call attention to the incorrect apostrophe in “its” that results. If necessary, explain the difference between its and it’s.

Third Dictation Exercise: Correcting errors

Have the learner dictate phrases from the “speaking clearly” sections, and correct the errors. Then, the instructor should choose three to five sentences that are age-appropriate for the learner to dictate, making sure that corrections are made after each sentence.

Basic Formatting

Dictating formatting is similar to dictating punctuation. The following commands are useful. A complete list can be found here.

  • New paragraph inserts two line breaks.
  •  New line inserts one line break.
  •  Cap capitalizes the next word.

Fourth Dictation Exercise: Basic formatting.

  • Have the learner dictate a list, placing each item on its own line.
  •  Have the learner dictate the following sentences, capitalizing as needed and placing each sentence on its own line. Have the learner insert punctuation where appropriate, as well as stop and correct the errors in each sentence.
  • Hello, my name is ____.
  •  My instructor’s name is ____.
  •  My address is ____.
  •  My phone number is ____.
  •  My email address is ____.
  •  My favorite song is “____”.
  • My least favorite song is “____”.
  • Have the learner pick a multi-paragraph passage that is meaningful to them and dictate it. Have the learner punctuate where appropriate and correct errors.


Did the learner meet the criteria proposed by this lesson when completing the exercises?

Assignment: Have the learner

  • Dictate a note.
  •  Dictate and send an email.
  •  Dictate and send three text messages.


  • If the dictation is making frequent errors, insure that the language setting is appropriate to the learner’s dialect.
  •  Remember to explain that dictation and Siri are not the same, even though dictation is powered by Siri.
  •  If there are phrases that the learner uses frequently but dictation fails to interpret, try adding keyboard shortcuts.
  •  This lesson was written for an iPhone. If the learner is using an iPad, consider a stand that assists with positioning, or a headset with built-in microphone.
  •  If the instructor wishes, this lesson can be used for Android devices. Consult the documentation for Talkback, as well as that for dictation. Also note that dictation is usually available without a cellular or wireless connection on Android devices.

Created By: Randy Reed, MA, CVRT, CATIS

Lesson Plan_ Dictation on iOS PDF

One thought on “Guide to Dictation on iOS

  1. Thank you for taking the time to run a site like this, and for letting me share. For anyone reading this, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

    Thanks again,

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