In an earlier post I explained how to enable and use dictation, in this article go over some simple tips and tricks as well as some other features that really bring out the functionality of dictation on a Mac. For those of you who don’t know what dictation is, it is a tool built into your Mac that automatically transcribes your speech into words.

In fact, everything you are reading right now has been “written” with dictation.

“Writing” this post with dictation could go either way, it could be fun and useful or just an outright pain, I’ll let you know how it goes at the end.


Dictation Tips

  • By default dictation is activated by pressing the “fn” key twice.
  • Talk at your own pace (preferably slowly), take the time to get your wording right before you say it.
  • The better you e-nun-ci-ate, the better the result.
  • If Dictation has trouble picking up what you’re saying, talk slower. (finding this out for myself right now).
  • Dictation records up to 30 seconds of what you say before it has to be transcribed.
  • Dictation is smart, as you continue to use it, it learns your accent and how to better understand what you’re saying.
  • When you finish saying what you have to say the recorded audio gets sent to Apple’s servers, translated and then sent back to your Mac. This means you need an active internet connection on your computer to use it.
  • The purple meter on the mic signifies the volume of your voice, the higher the volume bar the better the chance of it being translated correctly.
  • If you don’t want to yell your computer move the mic closer (or your face closer to the screen). Actually, I’m speaking with my normal voice and it’s working just fine.
  • Dictation also uses the contacts in your contacts app to correctly spell names.
  • A high-quality mic works better than the built-in Mac mic (although the built-in mic is actually pretty good).
  • Don’t expect dictation to get everything right, proofread everything!
  • You can change the default hotkey by going to Settings -> Dictation & Speech.
  • You can also change the language settings by going to Settings -> Dictation & Speech.
  • Make sure you are ok with its privacy settings, a lot of information gets sent to Apple. To view the privacy settings open Settings -> Dictation & Speech -> “About Dictation and Privacy”.


Dictation “Tricks”

  • To insert a punctuation mark, simply say the punctuation mark you want.
  • Use it when you don’t know the spelling of a specific word.
  • Dictation understands basic text commands.
  • To have dictation emulate pressing the enter / return key, simply say “new line”.
  • To make it capitalize everything, say “all caps”.
  • Dates and dollar amounts are automatically entered correctly. For example, saying three dollars and 45 cents will automatically be adjusted to $3.45.
  • To add a temperature just say the temperature. For example, 13°C [13 degrees Celsius].
  • If you want to add a single number as a digit, in that case the number 8, then say “numeral 8”. If you just say the word “eight” it will show up as “eight”.
  • Math equations work by just saying it. Example [eight plus eight equals sixteen] will automatically translate to “8+8 = 16”.
  • Creating a new paragraph is easy, just say “new paragraph”.
  • Dictation even understands measurements. Example: 2′ x 4′ [two feet by four feet]
  • Call a sign what it is. + [plus sign], = [equal sign].
  • If you don’t want dictation to automatically turn something like [plus sign] into an actual “+”, then pause between the words. Example [plus (pause for a second or two) sign]
  • Dictation even picks up on things like smiley faces (emoticons). For example :-) [smiley face].


Full Dictation Command List

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”) ;-)
cap (for example, “this is a cap Test”) Capitalize next word
all caps (for example, “this is a all caps TEST”) Type in all caps
caps on Caps lock on
caps off (for example, “this is caps on A VERY IMPORTANT TEST caps off tomorrow”) Caps lock off
no caps(for example, “what time is my meeting in no caps boston today”) All lowercase
new line Insert new text line
next line Go to the next text line
new paragraph Begin new paragraph
next paragraph Go to the next paragraph
no space Do not insert a space after the next word
no space on (for example, “the new car is no space on reallyreallyexpensive”) Do not insert any spaces between words
no space off Resume inserting spaces between words
space bar (for example, “this restaurant is first space bar class”) Type a space
numeral (for example, “he starts from position numeral 5″) Type the numeral, such as 5 instead of “five”
Roman numeral (for example, “in January it’s Roman numeral MMXIII”) Type the spoken as a Roman number



Final thoughts on using Dictation

dication dictation mac tips tricks hidden feature speech to text mac


Well this was a fun article, I’d say around 80% of everything written here was done through dictation (excluding the Full Dictation Command List). Around half of the 20% that I wrote with my keyboard was words that dictation couldn’t get right, mainly minor things though. For example, when I said “mic” it would transcribe it as “Mike”, this isn’t really dictations fault though. The remaining half was fixing grammar and other minor things.

There is even currently construction going on outside, however it is doing well at filtering out that noise and listening directly to my voice. It also had no problem cutting out the long gaps in my speech. If I took a couple of seconds to figure out what my next word was going to be, it would simply glide over that pause with no issue.

So will I continue to use the built-in dictation feature to write these posts? Probably not, while it was different and somewhat fun, I could see those aspects wearing off eventually. However that’s not to say that it is useless. For things like sending tweets, or short messages it works great. However if you are planning on writing long emails or even lengthily articles like this, it’s just easier (in my opinion) to type on the keyboard. Maybe this is just me though, in my younger years I did get fairly quick and good with my typing skills thanks to Mavis Beacon.

What are your thoughts, do you have any hidden tips and tricks for dictation that hasn’t been included above? Do you even use it, or are you content leaving it turned off?