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Users have long been able to dictate text on their iPhones to create an email, text message, note, document or other piece of content. But, iOS 16 improves on the dictation feature. Users can now more easily switch between dictation mode and typing mode as well as dictate emojis. Plus, the feature tries to automatically add periods, commas, question marks, and other punctuation symbols based on the context of words and sentences.

Here’s a quick guide to dictating certain types of punctuation and formatting:

  • Quote: Add a beginning quote
  • End Quote: Add an end quote
  • New line: Start a new line
  • New paragraph: Start a new paragraph
  • Cap: Capitalize the next word
  • Caps on: Capitalize the first character of each word
  • Caps off: Stop capitalizing the first character of each word
  • All Caps. Capitalize all the letters in the next word.
  • Smiley: insert 🙂
  • Frowny: insert 🙁
  • Winky: insert 😉
  • Happy emoji: Insert smiling face emoji
  • Sad emoji: Insert sad face emoji
  • Angry emoji: Insert angry face emoji

SEE: iOS 16 cheat sheet: Complete guide for 2022 (TechRepublic)

How to use the new dictation features with iOS 16

To dive in, update your iPhone to iOS 16 or higher, if you haven’t already done so. Go to Settings, select General, and then, tap the option for Software Update. You’ll be told that iOS is up to date or prompted to download and install the latest update.

Next, make sure that dictation is enabled. Go to Settings and then General. Select Keyboards. In the section for your language, turn on the switch for Enable Dictation, if not already on. Also, turn on the switch for Auto-Punctuation to allow the feature to insert the proper punctuation on its own (Figure A).

Figure A

enabling dictation and auto-punctuation through the iphone settings
Figure A: Turn on Enable Dictation and Auto-Punctuation to use the iPhone’s dictation feature.

Now, open an app in which you want to dictate text, such as Mail, Messages, Notes or Reminders. When you’re ready to begin dictating, place the text cursor in the spot you want to start. Tap the microphone icon in the lower right below the keyboard.

As you dictate, try using certain punctuation and special formatting, including the phrases to insert emoji. But also allow the dictation feature to automatically insert periods, question marks, and other symbols based on the tone of your voice and the context of your words and sentences (Figure B).

Figure B

using the dictation feature to write a message
Figure B: Test out the dictation feature in Mail, Messages, Notes or Reminders.

Notice that the keyboard remains on the screen while you’re dictating. This means you can type a character or word at any time without leaving dictation mode. You can also use your finger to select a word, maybe one that needs to be changed, and then modify it either by typing the correct letters or speaking the correct word (Figure C).

Figure C

using the keyboard to adjust some of the text that had been dictated
Figure C: Use the keyboard to make any adjustments to the dictated text.

Dictation mode automatically turns off if you stop speaking for 30 seconds. But you can easily turn it off manually. Tap the microphone icon, either the one to the lower right of the keyboard or the one that now appears right next to the text cursor (Figure D).

Figure D

a message written in the Messages app using dictation
Figure D: Turn dictation off by tapping the microphone icon.