One of the great accessibility features of macOS and Mac OS X is Dictation. Dictation on the Mac allows users to convert spoken words into text or interact with a computer by literally speaking to it. And for macOS users, just ask Siri to “turn on Dictation” for you. Remember that Siri isn’t the same as Dictation, but Siri does compose short messages, like texts for you.
Lately, though, several readers report problems with Dictation and Enhanced Dictation. Sometimes dictation is not working and users can’t enable dictation or discover that all of a sudden it’s grayed out. Many of these problems occur shortly after a macOS update, often leaving this valuable feature working improperly or not even working at all.
- Before troubleshooting
- Tips for when your Mac’s dictation is not working
- What is Enhanced Dictation on a Mac?
- What about macOS Catalina and above? Use Voice Control instead of Enhanced Dictation.
- If nothing worked to fix dictation on your Mac, try this!
- How to use dictation on Mac
- Use macOS and OS X Advanced Dictation Feature With Privacy
- All About Accessibility Features of iPad and iPhone
- How to Use Dictation on the iPad
- Make sure you are speaking at a normal volume into the microphone–watch out for being too loud or quiet.
- Check your environment for background noise. If there is a lot of noise, try to reduce it by shutting and covering windows, closing doors, using a headset microphone, or physically moving to a different space (if possible)
- Try turning dictation off then turning it back on. This action often solves the problem. And it’s an easy fix.
- If that doesn’t work, try turning off dictation and restarting your system. Then go back and turn on dictation. Setting dictation off and on without restarting sometimes doesn’t fix the problem, but rebooting between off and on often solves the issue.
- Go Finder >Top Menu > Edit > Select Start Dictation, then press your dictation shortcut (default is Function Key (Fn) Twice.)
- Manually change the microphone setting to the internal microphone or whatever microphone you use–do not select Automatic
- Check if an individual app is causing problems. Close all your open applications. Then try Dictation. If it works, test out each app one by one to see if there’s a particular app creating issues. This is time-consuming for sure but might provide valuable insight into what’s causing the problem
- If you identify a specific app that’s creating issues with Dictation, check if there is an update for that app or contact the app developer for further investigation
Tips for when your Mac’s dictation is not working
- Turn on Enhanced Dictation or toggle it off/on (or vice-versa). Enhanced dictation is not available in macOS Catalina+–instead, use Accessibility’s Voice Control
- Go to System Preferences > Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech > Dictation. On the left side, under the microphone icon, select Internal Microphone instead of Automatic or an external microphone. For many users, this was the fix that worked, either with or without Enhanced Dictation.
- Locate and delete the file: ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.assistant.plist
- From the Finder, Menu Select the “Go” menu and navigate down to the “Go to Folder.”
- Alternatively, press Command+Shift+G from your desktop or a Finder window
- Type in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.assistant.plist into the search bar and press “Go.”
- Then restart your Mac, turn off Dictation (Apple > System Preferences > Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech > Dictation) and reboot your Mac a second time and try again.
- Deleting your speech recognition user library cache folder at ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.SpeechRecognitionCore . Follow steps from the bullet point about using the “Go to Folder” function in the Go finder menu.
- Download another language. Readers say that when they downloaded another language pack, it installed and reset their native language pack too. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Language & Region and click the Plus (+) sign.
- Try disabling your antivirus software if you have one installed. Regular dictation (not enhanced) is often blocked by your antivirus software when the data comes back into the program from Apple Servers over the internet.
- Open the Sound control panel. Make sure the Internal Microphone is selected. Set the input volume to a level higher than the middle. Try turning on the ambient noise reduction setting, if available (not available on recent macOS versions)
- If your Mac isn’t using the built-in microphone, check with the microphone manufacturer’s support site on how to troubleshooting your particular microphone.
- Open your home folder (/Users/your username) in the Finder
- Depending on your Finder settings, open a new Finder window
- Or choose Home from the Finder’s Go menu (Go > Home); or press Shift-Command-H
- Choose View > Show View Options (or press Command-J)
- Find Show Library Folder
- Enable this option. And your Library folder should be visible
What is Enhanced Dictation on a Mac?
Enhanced Dictation is available in macOS Mojave and below and OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later.
For folks using macOS Catalina and above, Apple removed Enhanced Dictation and replaced it with greater voice control options in your Mac’s Accessibility settings.
Using Mac’s Enhanced Dictation for macOS Mojave and below
- You dictate continuously
- You dictate without being connected to the Internet
- Your words might convert to text more quickly
- You can use dictation commands to tell your Mac what to do
Without Enhanced Dictation, your spoken words and certain other data are sent to Apple Servers and then converted into text.
Hence, when using regular (not enhanced) dictation, your Mac must be connected to the Internet, your words might not convert to text as quickly, and limit your speaking to no more than 40 seconds at a time (30 seconds in OS X Yosemite or earlier).
When you use Dictation, you choose to have either your Mac or Apple’s servers perform the speech recognition for you.
If you use Enhanced Dictation, your Mac converts what you say into text without sending your dictated speech to Apple.
Notes: If Dictation does not recognize what you are saying, it may be that you are speaking too loudly or quietly. Also, be sure to and avoid any background noise. Also, keep in mind that Regular Dictation only works when you have an active internet connection.
Is Enhanced Dictation not working?
Verify your Mac uses macOS Mojave or below. Enhanced dictation is not available for macOS Catalina+
Check your mic
- Open System Preferences > Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech
- Click on the Drop-Down menu for Mic Input and choose internal microphone
- Check if the mic works
Reinstalling often helps!
- Go to System Preferences >Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech: uncheck Enhanced DictationRestart your Mac
- Return to System Preferences >Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech and tick (check) the box for Enhanced Dictation
Try adding another language
- Switch Enhanced Dictation OFF and add another language
- Turn Enhanced back ON, and it should force Dictation to download a new language recognizer
- This process may take some time to download and set up
If that doesn’t work, turn Enhanced Dictation OFF again by unchecking it
- Then go to your System Folder > Library Folder > Speech Folder > Recognizers Folder > SpeechRecognitionCoreLanguages Folder > and delete the folder named en_US.SpeechRecognition (or whatever language you use routinely)
- Once deleted, restart your Mac and return to System Preferences > Keyboard OR Dictation & Speech
- Tick (check) the box for Enhanced Dictation. See if that downloads your language again.
What about macOS Catalina and above? Use Voice Control instead of Enhanced Dictation.
If you updated your Mac to Catalina only to discover that enhanced dictation is no longer available, it’s by design. Instead, use macOS’ accessibility settings for voice control.
In macOS Catalina+, Voice Control uses Siri’s speech-recognition engine for U.S. English. Other languages and dialects use Enhanced Dictation’s speech-recognition engine.
Unfortunately, when you enable Voice Control, it automatically disables keyboard dictation–you cannot use both.
- Make sure your Mac is connected to the internet, then go to the Accessibility > Voice Control
- Select your language and tick the box to Enable Voice Control
- Tick the box to show accessibility status in menu bar
- Wait for your Mac to download and install the additional language components
- When Voice Control is ready to use, a microphone icon appears
Once you install Voice Control, you don’t need to be connected to the internet to use it for your selected language. You can use commands to navigate the desktop and apps, edit and format text, and control your Mac. You can even create your own commands!
- Search for a command: Enter a word or phrase in the search field
- Select an item from the list to see its available commands
- To enable a command, tick its checkbox
- To disable a command, deselect its checkbox
You can also say “Show commands” or ”Show me what I can say” to see the list of voice commands available to you.
Or create your own voice control command!
- Go to Accessibility > Voice Control
- Click on the Commands… button
- Tap on the + sign in the bottom corner
- Add in your command options for: when I say, while using, and the action performed
If nothing worked to fix dictation on your Mac, try this!
- Create a new temporary admin account
- Reboot, login as that new temporary admin account
- Change your regular admin account to non-admin account
- Disable parental controls on your now non-admin account
- Change your regular account back to an admin account
- Reboot, login into your regular admin account
- Delete temporary admin account
- Enable Dictation
This fix worked for the folks when the other troubleshooting tips did not. Hopefully, this last one works for you too!
How to use dictation on Mac
Some folks don’t really know how to set-up and use their Mac’s dictation feature, so let’s review some basics.
First, set-up dictation on your Mac
- Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences >Keyboard > Dictation
- Tap the On radial button to turn on Dictation
- Tick the box for Enhanced Dictation, if you want to access this feature when not online. Enhanced Dictation is available in OS X Mavericks and above and macOS Mojave and below
- Select your language and regional dialect, if applicable
- Choose your preferred keyboard shortcut to launch dictation
- Tap the microphone icon if using a microphone, other than the Macs internal mic
Ask Siri to turn on dictation
For folks with macOS Sierra and above, you can also ask Siri to turn on Dictation for you!
Use dictation on your Mac
- Open a document, email, message, or other apps with text fields and place your cursor at the insertion point where you want your dictated text to appear
- Press your preferred keyboard shortcut or choose Edit > Start Dictation to start dictation
- When your Mac is ready for dictation, it shows a microphone icon on-screen
- Speak the words that you want your Mac to type–do this slowly
- To stop dictating, click Done just below the microphone icon
For most of her professional life, Amanda Elizabeth (Liz for short) trained all sorts of folks on how to use media as a tool to tell their own unique stories. She knows a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides!
Her clients include Edutopia, Scribe Video Center, Third Path Institute, Bracket, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Big Picture Alliance.
Elizabeth received her Master of Fine Arts degree in media making from Temple University, where she also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member in their department of Film and Media Arts.