Teach Siri Dictation How to Spell Proper Nouns

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Kelly Heffner Wilkerson

Categories: iPhone | View Comments

If you use voice dictation to type on your iPhone, you might have noticed that Siri/dictation uses the "common" spelling of proper nouns. If you use a less common spelling often, you might also be irritated by the constant misspelling. This post (and the included video) show you how to setup a contact to "teach" Siri/dictation how you want to spell that proper noun. In my examples, I make a new contact, but you could also adjust the existing contact to add the "Phonetic" field if your proper noun is a person already in your contacts.

Here is a breakdown of the steps in the video:

  • Add a contact in your iPhone Contacts app with the first name of the word how you want it spelled. If it's a word that should always be capitalized, make sure it is capitalized here. If it shouldn't, make sure the name is written in lowercase.

  • After typing in the first name, scroll to the bottom & tap "add field" then tap "Phonetic First Name". Scroll back up and you'll have a new field under the name of phonetic first name.

  • Tap that phonetic first name field and dictate in the word. This will tell the voice capture how the name "sounds" then tap done to save it. (It could be typed, but dictation ensures you get the spelling matched precisely.)

  • Update November 2017 for iOS 11: After setting the phonetic first name, make sure Siri is enabled, and then go to Settings > General > Keyboard. Turn off Dictation, and then turn it back on again (presumably this is needed to force the new name customization to be picked up). You can see reader David Ernst's comment with this tip below - thanks David!

  • Double-tap the home button to bring up the app switching screen. Swipe up over the Contacts app to force close it. Also, swipe up over whatever app you want to use voice dictation with immediately, to close that too. This forces the apps to reload the settings for dictation ASAP so your fix is ready for use.

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  • C_Chauchat

    C_Chauchat September 9, 2019

    Still doesn't work at Apple Watch. Works on my phone but Apple Watch refuses to spell any names correctly, even names that work perfectly fine with dictation on my phone. My daughter's name is Milly and I have tried every single trick I've ever read about online, followed these steps exactly, turned the watch off and on a few times, restarted all of my apple devices. Still I get Milly (ha I can't type it with an -ie because I have the keyboard setting to autocorrect Milly with an -ie to Milly with a -y) to show up in dictation on my phone. Ridiculous. She's eight years old and Ive been at this with my apple devices her whole life.

  • Babs January 1, 2019

    Absolutely amazing! You’re a genius. For some reason when I’d say Nick, Siri decided it should be spelled nyc in all my texts. No clue how she got there...Nick is a pretty common name, AND I had a person named Nick in my contacts. I did what you said, creating a new contact for the word (First Name) Nick, added field for phonetic, voice dictated the name Nick...which she again spelled as nyc, so it says nyc phonetically, which makes NO sense...but who cares because all that matters now is when I say Nick she writes Nick! Not nyc. That drove me nuts for a year!! I DID have to do the keyboard setting to turn dictation off then back on for it to work, so thanks for that HUGE detail too!

  • Jodie Peloquin Lerner

    Jodie Peloquin Lerner April 4, 2018

    Thank you so much! Even people at the Apple store could not tell me how to do this !!!

  • David Guretzki

    David Guretzki March 3, 2018

    Thanks for the great work-around. I looked far and wide to get this fixed and this was the first page I found that gave me a working solution.

  • Ke Ks

    Ke Ks January 1, 2018

    Is there a way to save the proper spelling without having to save the name as a contact on the phone list? I had hoped I would not have to save on the phone list, the names of young children whose names are spelled a unique way. I deleted one child's name from the phone list and Siri returned to spelling it wrong. Thanks

  • Dan Meblin

    Dan Meblin December 12, 2017

    Let's be clear...this isn't "teaching" siri. This is a clunky work-around that a very clever person figured out to work around an EXTREMELY poorly coded AI.

    • Jodie Peloquin Lerner

      Jodie Peloquin Lerner April 4, 2018

      Agreed! Lol Siri sucks!! Google is much better

      • Jodie Peloquin Lerner

        Jodie Peloquin Lerner April 4, 2018

        Well I am finding it does not work for every word or every time

        • Kelly HW

          Kelly HW April 4, 2018

          Hi Jodie - If you want to email us a sample of what isn't working, I can take a look and see if I can update this blog post with some new techniques!

          You can send us an email here: https://deciphertools.com/s... and mention Kelly so I see it asap :)

    • Steven Strain March 3, 2019

      I agree I’m not fond of loading up my contacts list with miscellaneous words/etc that Siri can’t recognize because Apple won’t provide a straightforward way to fix this.

  • Sean Lytle

    Sean Lytle December 12, 2017

    I can’t for the life of me get dictation to spell MY name correctly. While dictating, it spells it “SEAN” but as soon as I hit enter, it changes it to “SHAUN” or “SAHAWN”, depending on the day. I have tried everything to correct this. I’m obviously in the contact book and have added the phonetic pronunciation of my name. I have pronounced my name differently while dictating – “shorn”, “Shawn”, “Shown”, etc. This is really driving me crazy! It’s MY phone! Spell MY name correctly!

    Has anyone else run into this?

    • Dan Meblin

      Dan Meblin December 12, 2017

      Here's a fun one....try to dictate a conversation about the guitar player in Guns and Roses. You can talk about guitars, rock music, guns and roses...but as soon as you say SLASH, Siri thinks you mean "/". Siri does not read the rest of your sentence to look at the context of a word. Its unfair to call Siri "AI" because it uses zero intelligence to make decisions.

  • OU812?

    OU812? December 12, 2017

    Can you delete the contact afterwards and still have Siri pronounce the word correctly? Or do you have to fill your contacts with random words permanently? Also, in settings General>Accessibility>Speech>Pronunciation you are supposed to be able to teach Siri how to say/pronounce names/words but when dictating the word it does not work properly. The iOS 11 operating system (on my iPhone 7 anyway) is terrible and I should have never updated from iOS 10, at least until the bugs have been worked out. Thanks though for the video/info on how to get Siri to correctly pronounce nouns utilizing the contact’s app but should be able to do it correctly and not have to do it this way.

  • David Ernst

    David Ernst November 11, 2017

    This worked for me in older versions of iOS, but I couldn't get it to work in iOS 11. Finally got it working by setting the "phonetic first name" and then turning Dictation off and then back on again in Settings > General > Keyboard. (Made sure Siri was enabled before turning off Dictation, so it wouldn't delete my personalized data.)

    Hope this helps.

    • Kelly HW

      Kelly HW November 11, 2017

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the comment! I will definitely add the Dictation toggle into the steps for iOS 11!

  • Jim Wolff

    Jim Wolff July 7, 2017

    Okay, this sounds weird, but I have added the name "Khaleesi" to my contacts so that when I say the name, it will be correctly spelled in my messages. But instead, it puts (Khaleesi) with the parenthesis around it. Why? How do I resolve this? I also updated the contact and added the phonetic sound name as Khaleesi, but that didn't fix it.

    • Kelly HW

      Kelly HW July 7, 2017

      Hi Jim,

      Oh, that is weird! Can you try typing in Khaleesi into your messages app (or anywhere really), just in a normal way, pressing space after? I want to double-check that there's not a text replacement setting that is adding the parenthesis. (You can also check Settings > Keyboards > Text Replacement to see if you have any rules that may be triggering it.)

      • Jim Wolff

        Jim Wolff July 7, 2017

        Hi Kelly. yes, it is weird. And, it doesn't always put it in parenthesis. Sometimes it does, and other times it doesn't. I can chat with the same person (who also has iPhone) and sometimes it does it and other times it doesn't. So strange... I also checked settings->general->keyboard->text replacement and only one was the default "omw" (on my way). I do have, however, all the settings turned on like auto-caps, auto-correct, check spelling, predictive, etc..... As for typing it in, it always works correctly. Only when using voice recognition does it sometimes put the ( ) around Khaleesi.

        • Kelly HW

          Kelly HW July 7, 2017

          I've been looking around for an answer to this, but I haven't found one yet. If you notice any more patterns of when the excess parens are added, I am all ears (well, eyes really!) The siri dictation to parenthesize is "left paren" and "right paren", so that would seem hard to accidentally do...

  • Maria Mercer December 12, 2016

    Perfect, thanks!

  • Tom December 12, 2016

    I just put the first name only in contacts (no other info), saved that, then dictated. Finally Siri spelled my best friend's name correctly in texts and email. Thanks for the hint. I didn't follow this method exactly, but I got there. I have iOS 10.

  • Dee

    Dee August 8, 2016

    Still doesn't work.

    • Kelly HW

      Kelly HW August 8, 2016

      Do you have autocorrect on in your keyboard settings? This should make it so there is an autocorrect added for the contact name. But, we're having less and less success with this method, so it may be time for us to find a new one!