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One of the handy features of macOS is that you can dictate messages and documents on a Mac which saves time and increases productivity.

The Dictation tool in macOS is simple to activate and the accuracy has been improved significantly since it was first introduced in macOS.

If you’re going to be dictating regularly, we strongly recommend using professional dictation software which will offer greater accuracy than the dictation feature in macOS.

The reason for this is that dictation software learns to recognize your voice more efficiently and therefore the accuracy improves significantly the more you use it.

Dictation software also offers more features than macOS dictation which is pretty basic and relies on Siri to translate your voice into text.

However, he we show you how to activate voice dictation on a Mac to dictate messages and documents.

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Dictation vs Voice Control

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that macOS Dictation is different to macOS Voice Control.

Voice Control allows you to control your Mac and instruct it to perform tasks with your voice.

Dictation on the other hand transcribes your voice-to-text on the screen in word processing applications such as Apple Pages including Microsoft Office.

Note that when Voice Control is activated, Dictation will not work on a Mac because Voice Control will take precedence.

How To Activate Dictation On Mac

To turn-on dictation on a Mac, follow these instructions.

  • Go to the Apple Logo in the top left of your screen and then select Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation.
  • Click On and then Enable Dictation.

dictate on mac

To improve the quality of Dictation voice recognition, you may be asked if you want to share your recordings with Apple.

You can choose whether you want to allow Apple and Siri to save your recordings so that it can improve how Siri recognizes your voice by clicking on About Dictation and Privacy.

If you want to allow this select Share Audio Recordings but if you’re not comfortable with Apple using your dictations for improving the quality of Siri then click Not Now.

If you do allow your Mac to save and share recordings of your dictations, you can also delete your Siri dictation history by going to System Preferences > Siri and selecting Delete Siri and Dictation History.

Dictation Languages On Mac

  • If you want to change the language for dictation on your Mac click on the Language pop-up menu to choose a language and dialect. On M1 Macs, the selection of languages may not be as wide as on Intel Macs. You can also click on Remove a language by clicking Customize and deselecting languages that are not needed.

You can also dictate in multiple languages and switch languages by clicking the current language in the feedback window and then switching the language.

  • If you have an external microphone, you can also use it with Dictation in macOS by clicking below the Microphone icon and choose the microphone that’s connected to your Mac. If it’s set to Automatic, your Mac will choose the microphone that’s most frequently used for audio recordings on your Mac which may or may not be an external microphone.

macos dictation microphone

macOS Dictation will automatically switch itself off if it doesn’t detect any voice for 30 seconds but you can also turn off dictation manually on your Mac by going to Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation and click Off.

How To Dictate On Mac

Once you’ve activated dictation, you can then dictate on your Mac in any app that supports it such as Apple Pages.

To start dictating on your Mac follow these instructions:

  • Open a page in the app you want to dictate into such as Apple Pages.
  • Go to Edit > Start Dictation.

start dictation mac

  • You can then click on the Microphone symbol to start dictation and you will see the sound bar go up and down on the microphone as you start to speak.

As you dictate, words that Siri does not recognize or have not been interpreted correctly will be underlined in blue. You will have to correct and edit this manually.

One of the advantages of professional dictation software is that you’ll have to do less correcting of dictated text afterwards compared to macOS dictation.

Dictation Punctuation Commands On Mac

One of the things that takes some getting used to at first with dictation is that you have to speak all the punctuation and formatting commands.

Here are the most common dictation punctuation commands you’ll need to use:

  • For punctuation just say the name of the punctuation you want to use such as “exclamation mark” or “full stop”.
  • To start a new line say “new line”
  • To start a new paragraph say “new paragraph”

There are of course many more and you can find a full list of commands for Dictating text on a Mac here.

For information about setting up keyboard dictation for multiple languages, see Turn on keyboard dictation.

When you’ve finished, press the dictation keyboard shortcut or the Return key, or click Done in the feedback window.

Ambiguous text is underlined in blue. If the text is wrong, click it and select an alternative. You can also type or dictate the correct text.

Dictating Offline On Mac

If you want to dictate offline so that Apple can’t listen to anything your say the situation has become more complicated since the release of macOS Catalina.

If you’re using macOS Mojave or earlier, then you can instantly dictate offline simply by selecting the “Enhanced Dictation” box in Dictation preferences.

However, macOS Catalina onwards removed the “Enhanced Dictation” option and so if you want to dictate offline in macOS Catalina, Big Sur or Monterey, it now depends on what language you are using.

We recommend reading our guide to dictating offline on a Mac for more on this complicated issue.

Dictation On M1 Macs

Dictation on Apple Silicon M1 Macs can be done offline without an internet connection and you can dictate any length of text without it timing out.

If you don’t want your Mac listening to your conversations when you’ve finished dictation, you can switch off dictation manually although it will automatically deactivate if no voice is heard for more than 30 seconds.

Dictation on M1 Macs is available in most major languages although some languages are not supported yet.

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