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This chapter is from the book

Correcting Siri

Siri always gives you a second chance. To fix what you said or correct Siri’s interpretation of your speech, just tap the words that represent what you said (see Figure 1.14). Siri reinforces this capability by showing the words tap to edit underneath your most recent query. (You don’t see this in Figure 1.14 because the words have already been tapped and Siri is in Edit mode.) When you tap, an edit cursor and the system keyboard appear, enabling you to make changes. At this point, edit your request directly or tap the microphone button on the keyboard to add words or redictate your request. Tap the blue Done key on the keyboard to finish.

Figure 1-14

Figure 1-14 Tap your interpreted speech 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. Either dictate a replacement or select the correction you want to use or edit.

You can also speak to correct text messages or emails 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.)
  • “Cancel.”

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, tweet, 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 on 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 for all.” Siri has misinterpreted the last word as from but flagged it with possible variations. It shows this flag by underlining the word with a dashed blue line.

Figure 1-15

Figure 1-15 With 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. In Figure 1.15, it suggests for all. Tap that word or phrase to choose it. 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 the contextual menu you see in Figure 1.15 (bottom). The alternate interpretation is listed at the top of the menu. Select it to confirm and replace, look up the word “from” in the dictionary, or search the word’s meaning on the Web with your default search engine.

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 using Siri to create 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

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-with-Siri skills.

Figure 1-17

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 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, the best thing to do is just tap the wave at the bottom of the display and let Siri attempt to figure out what you meant to say. If Siri’s choice is completely wrong, edit your current entry by tapping the text to edit. Sometimes it’s easier to just tap the microphone icon that appears and make your request again. On OS X, either click Done or press the designated key to show that you’ve completed dictation, then start over again.

Never worry about starting your request over. Siri doesn’t care, and you can save a lot of time that you’d otherwise waste editing or waiting on interpretations of flubbed speech that are bound to go wrong. Siri is a virtual assistant and does not judge you.

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 a note you just created. Siri does not enable you to delete notes directly by speaking your command, as you can see in Figure 1.18. That’s because, as an assistant, Siri focuses on creating new requests (notes, appointments, phone calls, dictation, weather checks) and not on editing or application control in general. Siri is not a full voice interface.

Figure 1-18

Figure 1-18 Siri can create notes but cannot delete them.

This tapping trick works with most Siri items, not just notes: Tap on contacts to view them in the Contacts app, tap on 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.

Multilingual Siri

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 (Settings, General, Siri, Language or just say “Open Siri Settings” and tap Language), and hop back in.

A workaround for multilanguage dictation exists, however. The Settings, General, International, Keyboards preferences allow you to add keyboards and enable the globe button, which lets you 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, for example, 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.

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