Siri always gives you a second chance. To fix what you said or correct Siri’s interpretation of your speech, just tap the speech bubble that represents what you said (see Figure 1-14). When you do, the bubble turns white and the system keyboard appears. At this point, you can type directly into the bubble. You can edit your request directly or tap the microphone button on the keyboard to redictate your request. Tap Done to finish.
Figure 1-14. Tap your speech bubble to edit it directly or redictate your statement.
Sometimes Siri’s dictation processor adds a blue line under a word in the text you have spoken. When you tap that word, iOS presents alternative interpretations of your speech. Select the correction you want to use or edit, or dictate a replacement.
You can also speak to correct text messages or mail contents that you have composed. The following statements let Siri know that you’re not satisfied with what you’ve said. Notice how you can change the contents completely, add new material, and more:
- Change it to: Let’s meet at 3:00 p.m.
- Add: Can’t wait exclamation point. (You can use Add to extend items, even if Siri doesn’t mention it explicitly as an option.)
- No, send it to Megs.
- No. (This keeps the message without sending it.)
Before you send a text message on its way, have Siri read it back to you. Say “Read it to me” or “Read it back to me.” As with the Add feature, Siri does not tell you about this option. When you are satisfied with your text or email message, say something like “Yes, send it” to send it off.
Correcting Speech on OS X
The same dashed underlines appear on OS X as you see in iOS. Because OS X is centered on the mouse, not the touch, the methods for accessing variant spellings differ. Figure 1-15 shows the result of saying “I’m ready to dictate now.” Siri has misinterpreted the last word but flagged it with possible variations. It shows this flag by underlining the word with a dashed blue line.
Figure 1-15. Under OS X, you can either left-click just to the right of an underlined word (top) or right-click the underlined word (bottom).
If you move the cursor to the very right of the word in question and left-click, OS X presents a list of alternative interpretations. That’s now and while for this example. Tap either word to choose. OS X replaces the word with your selection and removes the underline.
You can also right-click (Control-click) the underlined word to bring up a contextual menu. The alternate interpretations are listed at the top of the menu. Select one to confirm and replace.
Alternatively, you can simply type to correct the text. Dictating and then correcting by hand offers a robust workflow for both OS X and iOS.
Enhancing Your Speech Recognition
On iOS, Siri responds to commands by creating appointments, setting timers, placing phone calls, and more. To see this in action, try creating a new note on your iOS device. Say, “Note that I spent $15 on lunch.” Speak steadily, but do not draaaaag ooooooout what you’re saying. Siri should reply, “Noted” or “Got it!” or something like that (see Figure 1-16). On OS X, you use the same approach: Use steady, clear sentences.
Figure 1-16. Siri can take notes to help you keep track of your expenses.
When talking to Siri, remain conversational. Try to speak with normal tones and inflections, although you’ll want to slow down slightly. Enunciate a bit more than you’re used to, like a pedantic teacher. The key to Siri is holding on to your standard speech patterns while emphasizing any words that help Siri understand you better.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions (with your voice rising at the end), make statements (with your voice dropping), or otherwise speak sentences as you normally do, including emphasizing words inside sentences (for example, “What does intransigent mean?”). Do not try to be robotic or lose normal sentence inflections. Your recognition rate will plummet if you do.
On iOS, this particular query should load up a definition, as shown in Figure 1-17. It’s actually a little hard to speak this request coherently and in a way that Siri understands, so it makes a good exercise to test out your speaking skills.
Figure 1-17. Use slow, careful speech to increase Siri’s recognition rate, as in this word definition request.
Siri likes to hear you speak slowly and clearly and prefers to have you e-nun-ci-ate your words, especially with word-ending consonants. This helps Siri differentiate between, for example, me and mean. This is an important distinction when defining words, as in this example with intransigent, because asking Siri “What does intransigent me?” won’t load the dictionary definition you’re looking for—but asking “What does intransigent mean?” does.
Don’t be afraid to add a little extra pause between words so that Siri can tell the difference between “Mike Rose” and “micros,” or “Mike Rose’s phone” and “microphone.”
If you add too long of a pause, Siri stops listening, but that does not happen accidentally. A good deal of usable range exists between your normal speaking speed and the extreme at which Siri thinks you’re not talking anymore. Explore that range and test longer pauses to see how you can improve your recognition.
Everybody fumbles words sometimes. If you find yourself stumbling over a tongue twister, either edit your current entry or cancel it entirely. On iOS, tap the microphone twice. The first tap ends your entry. The second cancels the current processing. The rotating purple “thinking” animation stops, and the microphone button returns to its quiescent state, letting you know that Siri is ready and waiting for your next command. On OS X, click Done and then Cancel.
Never worry about starting your request over. Siri doesn’t care, and you can save a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted editing or waiting on interpretations of flubbed speech that are bound to go wrong.
Viewing Items You Create
Earlier, you read about how you might create a note using Siri. You can jump from Siri to the Notes application with a single tap. Just tap any yellow Siri note item. That is also where you need to go if you want to delete the note you just created. Siri does not enable you to delete notes directly, as you can see in Figure 1-18. That’s because, as an assistant, Siri is directed toward creating new requests (notes, appointments, phone calls, dictation, weather checks) and not toward editing or application control in general. Siri is not a full voice interface.
Figure 1-18. Siri can create notes but cannot delete them.
The philosophy behind Siri is to offer a tool that enables you to accomplish simple creation and checking tasks hands free while on the go. But that’s where Siri’s capabilities end. Don’t expect to navigate through menus, search for information within documents, or otherwise treat Siri as a full artificially intelligent user interface. Knowing what Siri can and cannot do helps limit your expectations while using this tool.
This tapping trick works with most Siri items, not just notes: Tap on contacts to view them in the Contacts app, or text messages in Messages, and so on. Siri often gives you items to choose from and actions to perform as well; tap on these choices to select a contact or perform web searches. You can also instruct Siri by voice, specifying how you want to proceed.
Unfortunately, the Siri voice assistant cannot directly switch languages. The only way to change from English to French, for example, is to hop out, edit your preferences, and hop back in (Settings, General, International, Voice Control, Siri).
A workaround for multilanguage dictation exists, however. The Settings, General, International, Keyboards preferences allow you to add keyboards, enabling the globe button; when it is enabled, you can toggle directly between keyboard languages. You’ll find it between the number toggle (123) and the microphone dictation button on the keyboard when you’ve enabled more than one language on your device.
A simple tap takes you to the next language setting, including dictation. By tapping, you move from French to English and back as you dictate into any text-entry element on your iPhone. Hopefully, Siri will support “Speak to me in [some language]” requests in a future update.
Siri recognizes each language using specific dialects and accents. Native speakers will experience higher recognition accuracy.