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An Apple Shortcuts Workaround when Siri Interrupts Dictation

I had been using a simple Apple Shortcut to have Siri take my dictation, transcribe those words to text, and email me a note (see my article Idea Capture: An Antidote to Forgetting). The problem with this solution is that Siri is a notoriously impatient listener. Once I start talking, any pause in my speech—even the shortest silence—causes Siri to abruptly conclude the dictation. What arrives in my inbox is a half-finished, unintelligible note. My only recourse was to start a new dictation.

I performed some online sleuthing and found most of the web recommendations lacking. Some users suggested stretching the vowels abnormally when speaking. Others suggested holding the Siri button on the home screen down—this does work, but it defeats the goal of handsfree operation. I did find one solution submitted by Cusumar9 on the website StackExchange that looked promising and ultimately inspired the solution below.

Here’s my revamped solution for getting more time to dictate with Siri. It doesn’t make Siri more patient, but it does give the person giving the dictation more opportunities to ensure Siri captures whatever needs recording.

Some thoughts explaining the rationale behind the Shortcut:

  • I’ve named the script “Jot This Down” for one practical reason: there are a number of built-in commands when you ask Siri to take a note (e.g. Siri will open the Apple Notes app) or email yourself (Siri will open the native email app). I use a command that is sufficiently different with Siri’s built-in, preexisting commands. This results in more consistent activation of the Shortcut when using voice commands.
  • The control flow options available with Shortcuts are quite limited, so I’ve used a Repeat loop set to 3 times (you could increase this number if you like). I’ve done this as a workaround to Siri cutting me off. Since I cannot slow down Siri’s response time, the repeat loop forces Siri to ask me for my dictated text three times.
  • The Dictated Text is assigned to the variable “NoteBody” which, in turn, gets passed to the email action. I use an iOS email app, Note to Self, that sends mail to a designated inbox (Note to Self also supplies the Shortcut block embedded in the script). I also experimented with the built-in iOS “Send Email” action, but using this would throw repeated Siri errors when nested in the Repeat loop (I need to revisit this later).
  • Text gets added to NoteBody in an additive fashion. That is, with each pass through the repeat loop, any newly dictated text will be appended to the existing contents of the NoteBody variable.
  • The nested IF statement checks for the existence of a “period.” Siri won’t add periods automatically when dictating. Periods have to be explicitly dictated (e.g. the speaker must say the word “period” which will be transcribed as the punctuation mark). This provides a means of explicitly finishing a note and exiting the script. For instance, I might luck out and speak my complete thought to Siri in a single, uninterrupted pass. If that happens, I’ll say period (quickly) at the end of my dictation. When the script detects a period, it sends the message and exits the Shortcut.
  • The user need not include a period to ensure the message will be sent. I’ve included a send email action, the Note to Self block, in the “Otherwise” part of the statement (I don’t know why Apple opted for “IF...OTHERWISE” syntax rather than the more traditional “IF...ELSE” or “ELSEIF”). You’ll have to endure all 3 repetitions of the dictation query from Siri in order for it to happen.

It’s a kludgey solution, but it works. Moreover, it’s already reduced my frustration when using Siri to send email notes to myself.

I hope Apple adds more capabilities to Shortcuts in the future. Shortcuts integrates with Pythonista so there’s the potential to interact and run Python scripts (I haven’t played with this yet). There’s also a “Voice Control” mode in the accessibility settings that might offer a viable solution for voice only control. If either avenue proves fruitful, I’ll be sure to post a followup.

If you have any suggestions for improving my Shortcut or other strategies for dictating to an impatient Siri, let me know.

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